Summer in Syria basically boils down to one thing: weddings. Everyone who is anyone gets married in the summer time, either in the many halls populating Damascus or at an outdoor wedding at some villa or other. The wedding itself ends in a flash, hardly worth the time and effort it takes you to make yourself up and look stellar. The up-side is dancing! The hall turns into a disco ball when the English music comes on and hey-presto! everyones dirty dancing and booty bouncing like frikin’ Fergie up in here! On the other hand they’re generally overcrowded, with loud jarring music, and cat fights to boot. The bride is displayed at her best on the stage in one ornate chair, surrounded by masses of flower displays, proudly barring a sash with the name of the buyer, the other chair awaiting her knight in shining armor. The masses come up kiss her and than dance till they drop on the dance floor while little children run back and forth between the fog machine and the bubble machine. Hijabs are employed as belly dancing belts and they all shake it like saltshakers! All this time you’re ducking from the camera that tracks the brides every movement and insists she pose in a series of, what I call, fob poses (ie. hands folded underneath her chin, a flower held gently near her face, etc etc). The food if offered in a quick succession with you gulping down what you can before the plate is whisked away and replaced by the next. It usually follows this routine: bitter coffee at the door, juice, ice cream with fruits, wedding cake.
That said, my favorite part of the wedding can be summed up quite quickly. The day before and the morning of the wedding. If you’re from the brides side (as I was on Thursday) the night before is a party at her house. Sometimes it’s segregated and others it’s mixed with the entire bride’s family present. The one I attended on Thursday was mixed but it was amazing!! Everyone was there and there was debkeh, joking, dancing, our cousin said a Arada and the other a Mawal. It was unbelievable.
An Arada is well, hmmm. It’s when all these men done up in traditional arabic clothing get their swords, horns, drums, and sometimes fire, and put on a show for the entertainment of the guests. If it’s a wedding, the lead singer goes on into this whole sort of repetitive song. He says one thing and the others clap after him and say it back. So my cousin used to work for an Arada back in his days and so, got down and dirty with the longest, funniest song I have ever heard!! I do have a video and I will try and upload it hopefully! The other one, the Mawal, is a little more complicated. If you listen to old Arabic songs, you’ll know what it is. It’s a sort of dedication back and forth. So my moms aunt started and said to my Grandpa something along the lines of “Oh, father of Saed! May your daughter be forever blessed. May your generosity continue to flow” etc. But it rhymes. And then everyone sings this short chorus that includes “Whenever our loved ones are present.” And then my Grandpa picks up. Then my uncle, then my cousin and so it goes on. They can go up to two hours, with people either substituting names to previously memorized verses or innovating on the spot. So with much oouufffs and to do the party finished. Oh! And I didn’t get to the strangest part! During the ceremony my moms aunt, with much to-do and dancing around, comes up to my moms sister, the bride, and paints her nails and sprays her with perfume. It was supposed to be henna but they improvised with nail polish. Then she done our pinkies and spritzed us and we were officially blessed!
Leaving the party, or any occasion for that matter in Syria, consists of somewhere near a thousand kisses always interspaced with “Oh, if I could kiss you on your wedding day!” or “May you be a bride the next time we kiss” or my all time favorite: the criticism. “You’re not married yet! (in my head I am strangling her) No, no, no, ya binti (my daughter – strangling in head is interspaced with banging of head on the wall) don’t worry, you’re time will come! Sawsan! What’s wrong with your daughter?!” and it could go on for ages. I get criticized for being too thin, too fat, too picky, too single from those I know. Those I don’t give me a once-over that takes in my eligibility, my Canadian-ness, my family, my worth – pretty much sums me up in a glance. The face in front of me either breaks out into a friendly, lecherous smile or a look of disapproval with a perfucntionary handshake depending on the verdict reached and whether or not I would suit her precious intended. And all the while I smile politely because, well they are family and murder isn’t a very productive solution. Besides if I were to start murdering, the entire society would have to go. And then it’s on to Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt… yeah. I’ll just grin and bare it.
But, I made it out alive. My feet were aching, my head was pounding, my eyes burning from three days of consecutive late night partying. I made it though. I stumbled into work on Saturday, at 7 pm, bleary eyed, a pale yellow color, and my every persistent head banging away. Yay, weddings….