Friday, April 16, 2010

His and hers

His wasn’t much to speak about – civilized, classy; otherwise dull.

But hers… hers was a cross between senior prom and a midnight buffet on a cruise ship. It was Moulin Rouge meets Arabian Nights. In a glittery hotel ballroom, 50 tables with towering floral centerpieces surrounded what can only be described as a catwalk (though somewhat disguised with more flowers and white tulle). A live band played behind a screen to hide the male musicians from view, and colored spotlights followed the beat of the music, changing the room’s hue from green to blue to pink.

Countless servants, shrouded in white silk and lace, swarmed the tables in choreographed stages bearing a series of traditional Arabic courses, sweets, fruit drinks, and even fragrances (honest to God, a perfume course!). Meanwhile, Emirati girls dressed in a kaleidoscope of taffeta, sequins and beads, hair extravagantly piled on their heads and necks weighed down with the family jewels, paraded around the room and danced provocatively on the catwalk, amid the watchful gazes of would-be mothers-in-law sitting quietly cloaked head to toe in black. It was a place to see and be seen, a “meat market” to put it more crudely, where mothers of single men could spy out suitable brides for their sons. It was also a place for the young to cut loose a bit, out of sight of husbands, brothers and fathers. There was a buzz of chatter and laughter, singing and kissing cheeks. It was a feast for the senses.

What I am describing is a traditional Muslim wedding, Emirati style. Sam and I were honored to be invited recently to the wedding of a colleague, an Emirati national, but a little apprehensive as we learned we would not be able to attend the blessed event together, or on the same night, for that matter. In fact, Muslim wedding celebrations typically occur well after the actual civil union, often several months later, and involve two completely separate events, one for the men and one for the women. His and hers weddings.

Toward the end of the evening, the bride arrived, bouquet in hand, and walked slowly down the catwalk to recline on the decorated chaise lounge on the "bridal stage". She sat while her guests lined up to congratulate her - similar to a receiving line, but made me think of a queen in her court.

Similar to tossing the bouquet and cutting the cake at an American wedding there were various traditions throughout the evening that appeared strange to me as an outsider but that everyone else knew well - at one point all of the unmarried girls did a dance for the bride.


  1. His and Hers weddings! Fascinating!

  2. Wow. It's amazing what we take for granted as being normal, isn't it.
    Not that I would know a whole lot about being normal...

  3. Sounds like an amazing event, a perfume course! That's awesome! Sounds like a fun way to get married...the bride gets the wedding she wants and the groom does too!