Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Weddings- part3!

I thought I had talked about all there was to talk about concerning the custom of marriage here- but apparently there is more!!! Our teacher in Arabic class told us the story of how he met his wife and told us some stories about traditional Saaidi and Nubian weddings in Upper Egypt which is where he is from.

After a series of relationships, he wanted to marry, and seeing how it hadn’t worked for him going down a modern route of courtship he decided to go down the traditional one. So, he saw the girl over a crowded room at a wedding- asked around to find out who she was- then went to her father to ask to marry her. He had spoken to her once by this point! The father agreed, and so did the girl- even though it wouldn't have been a big problem from the families point of view if she hadn't since the father had agreed anyway!, and so a 6 month courtship began- with his visiting once a week for a couple of hours a time and sitting across the room from his future wife, with most of the family in the room at each visit. At no point were the 2 alone before the wedding. They are still now happily married with 3 children.

At a Saaidi wedding the bride and groom stand on their wedding night (Farah) in the centre of the party, with their parents either side of them, in front of 6 drummers, then all the youngest single people (teenagers) stand either side of them- boys on one side and girls at the other, with the older and married men and women behind them- each on their own side- imagine school disco to get the picture….. Everyone sings and dances. The oldest man in the family stands in the middle of the group beside the bride and groom, holding a whip- this he uses on the boys/men if they get too excited by the music and start dancing towards the girls………..Literally whips them back into place. If you see a girl on the other side of the circle you like you move back towards the older men- ask around who she is then tell her father you are interested – he walks around the outside of the circle to find the girls mother who agrees or not, and then the arrangement is made for the 2 of you (plus families) to meet the following Friday. The girl's agreement is seldom needed for such an arrangement to be complete.

Then there is the wedding gift money. 2 days after the wedding, the bride and groom and called to a meeting with the rest of their families and they sit with a long list of names and are given a bundle of envelopes, one from each man in the family, and from friends. Each envelope has the name on it and as you receive each one you write down how much that person has given you……… so that on their wedding day you have to give at least the same amount in return!!!

Another bizarre custom in traditional Nubian wedding is the whipping of the groom (called 'Bisharea') where the man is stripped to the waist and whipped 3 times- to prove to everyone that he is indeed a man and a strong brave one at that. This still happens to this day!

And that’s all for now……………………… but if I hear of anymore strange customs I'll be sure to pass them on!!!

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