Friday, August 22, 2008

Mekki's wedding

Well, it is a few days after Mekki's wedding, and I have finally been able to process all that I saw. Tunisian Bedouin weddings last 4 days (and go into the 5th day). The bride cannot be seen by anyone except her immediate family until after the four days is over.
The first night was a women's party that started at 10:30 or 11:00 PM, as it is too hot here to start earlier. There was a DJ who played modern Tunisian music all night. The party was in the courtyard of Mekki's family's home, and carpets, blankets and cushions were spread all around the courtyard, and it was packed with women. Women danced in the sand for many hours - women of all ages, from children to very old. Some were wearing traditional bedouin clothing, some modern.
I danced for hours, even though it was late at night, the desert air was still hot. Bikram's bellydance.
Day 2 started again late at night. We met at Mekki's house in Glissia (the bedouin village next to Douz) and the drumming from the musicians at the party were already heard, intensely playing, vibrating the sand as we walked. We walked to what was maybe the village square. Spread around the sides were again, cushions, blankets and carpets, already many women were seated, talking, and many men were standing around talking. The women sit separately from the men. At the back of the women's section, against a wall, was a beautifully decorated section of the wall - decorated with fabric, and in front of this was a few pieces of fabric, shaped like a box or tent, where the bride sat. The bride sits at the back, hearing the ceremonies, but is not seen. If I had heard another time about it, I would have thought it was maybe sexist, but it really adds to the mystery and beauty of the bride. There were four male musicians playing, all in traditional costume. Long white semi-full 'dresses', with red scarfs tied tightly around the waist, white and red hats.Three were playing drums, and the fourth a mizmar. The groom and a half dozen men (his friends? family? I still have many questions to ask) were standing in a line beside the musicians. The mizmar player would regularly walk past them and they would put tightly rolled money into his hat, I guess that is how the musicians are tipped. The women watched, zaghareeted, some danced, mostly talked, laughed and visited. Mekki's sisters and mother were dressed in traditional clothing. Absolutely beautiful and regal. Long swathes of fabric, some in shades of deep red, one in silvery white, some in deep turquoise blue. All wore many many many strands of gold necklaces, almost completely covering the front of the dresses, from the neck to the hips. As well, in front of the heavy headscarves, next to the face, were head jewellery, also gold chains with gold decorations dangling from the ends. I will post some photos in the next few days.
After the regular part of the ceremony, I was able to participate in the men's party afterward. Drumming, singing, dancing and gasbya playing. And eating couscous. Oh, and they had been practicing some bellydance beats for me to dance to, so of course I could not resist!
Day 3, same late start, same place, same people, but this time there was a band playing music, and many of the young men danced. I tell you, bedouin men can rival any bellydancer in moving their hips. I have never seen so many flexible hips on men (except latin salsa dancers). The music increased in intensity as the evening wore on, and the men performed. Very, um....intense and dare I say sexy!
Again, after the ceremony, I attended the men's party, watched the traditional mens dances, some stick dances, some where they hop up from a crouched position (incredibly hard on the thigh muscles!) and other dances. It was so much fun! Mekki's pinky finger was hennaed, and then bound with gauze, part of the tradition of being married. I danced with Mekki, and was so honoured to be part of this party, of this wedding, of being included in this community...
Day 4 started at dusk, around 7 PM, and I have to say this was my favourite night. It was a night I will never forget. We met at Mekki's family home again. Already there were many people gathered, there was an air of expectation and excitement, people talking. Also outside the gates of the home, was an ornately decorated camel, with a beautifully decorated box sitting on top. Mekki's mother came out of the gate, and was helped into the box. The camel stood, and led by drummers, she rode through the town, the procession of family, friends and community following, singing and talking in amongst other decorated camels and horses. You could still see Mekki's mother in the box, as it was decorated with mesh. THe evening was breezy, sand was blowing around, the air intense and building. After going through the town, we arrived at the brides family home. Mekki's mother got off, and all the women entered the gate into the family courtyard, waiting expectantly. Meanwhile, the camel box was being decorated more fully, and completely being covered up with red fabric, so no one could see inside the box. Soon, under canopy, the bride and Mekki's sister came out of the house, the bride still covered with fabric. She was led by her father. But as no man could touch her during the ceremony, he led her with a metal circular ornament. He led her to the camel, and she was helped inside. Then came the ceremony again, where she was led through the village, again led by drummers. Once we were in an open area, everyone parted into two sections and all was quiet waiting. Suddenly decorated camels raced through the pathway, dust and sand blowing around them. People cheered and zaghareeted. Then the same with horses. I know I have talked about how intense the feeling was in the air, but it really was. Intense, sexual, expectant, and happy. Very primal. Finally, the bride was led to the grooms home, she got out (again under cover), and wisked into what was to be their new home, within the compound of Mekki's family home. (I had seen Mekki and his brothers for a long time, building and creating this beautiful home for him and his wife). The women entered the courtyard, and through the open window of the home, I could see Mekki's sisters and mother helping to prepare the bride for her wedding night. Late into the night, the women left, and the men arrived, bringing Mekki. They brought him to the door of his home, and sang a traditional song to him.
Day 5 was not really part of the wedding per se, but in the moring, the bride sat outside of her home, on a decorated seat, fabric behind her on the wall, and women family and friends came to see her. She wore a beautiful white lacy dress, kind of a cross between a western wedding gown and a gypsy look. I dont know how else to describe it. Khol eyes, pointy silver shoes at the end of her dangling feet, her head covered in the gold head pieces, dangling gold chains, ending in gold hand of fatimas or fish, or some other lucky piece of gold, and of course gold jewellery covering her chest, her hands decorated in beautiful black mendhi patterns, weaving amongst her gold bracelets, and red henna'd fingers. I met her for the first time this morning. Her black eyes sparkled with a smile of recognition of me, she had seen my photos before. I can see from her eyes that she is a kind and good person, and also I can see that she has a good sense of humour. I am happy for Mekki as he is such an amazing person, and deserves to be happy. Tibur (the bride) is his cousin, he has known her all his life. But you can see they are in love, and happy.
There are many more things to tell, but I think I will stop for today, and just leave it at Mekki's beautiful wedding. Again, I am blessed.

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