Getting Married in Al – Mahara? We Tell You How [Archives:1997/49/Culture]

December 8 1997

By: Saad Ali Mohaisin, Yemen Times, Al-Mahara
Al-Mahara, like other governorates, has its own old characteristic traditions and customs. These traditions, however, have been influenced by modernization. But Al-Mahara people still to a large extent adhere to the old ways of their forebearers. Marriage in Al-Mahara has its unique ceremonies and traditions. There are common traditions in Al-Mahara, but there are also few differences between rural and coastal areas. Marriage in the countryside is not as costly as it is in urban areas. Marriage invitations are not exclusive but rather open for everyone, where people in the village or neighborhood are invited to a lunch banquet. The bridegroom bears all expenses for a three-day banquet as well as the dowry and offerings of no less than three cows and a camel. The bridegroom also buys clothes and perfumes for all the bride’s relatives and friends along with gold for the bride. As far as the dowry is concerned, marriage to a relative is cheaper than to a non-relative where the bridegroom pays about one million riyals. Or he may present a new car instead of the money. The high cost of the dowry is actually due to price increases and the high cost of living. In some cases, the cost of marriage to a relative cannot exceed 20,000 riyals, provided that a big banquet is held with offerings which may include three camels and some sheep. The marriage starts by an engagement taking place through a matchmaker, a tribal sheikh, or the fathers of the bride and bridegroom-to-be. Marriage from outside the tribe is more costly than that from within it. The engagement, however, might be successful or unsuccessful from some reason or another. It may come to nothing because of an objection by the relatives, the tribesmen, or the bride herself. A girl’s opinion had rarely been taken into consideration in the past. If a marriage agreement is reached, the bride’s father unexpectedly throws a dress on her head, declaring marriage. The bride conceals herself for one or two months for beautification. Her mother gives her milk and honey. Some neighbors and friends lend the bride some kinds of gold jewelry on the wedding day. The wedding day in Al-Mahara is a celebration where many people from the countryside, towns and villages attend and perform Al-Zamel – groups of people eulogize the families of the newlyweds and compete in poetry and dancing, wearing daggers and other weapons. The bridegroom sits in the middle of these groups wearing his beautiful dress and holding his dagger and shotgun. This wedding ceremony can be a good occasion for friends, relatives and neighbors to meet each other. Many women attend the ceremony to watch the bride. They also perform Al-Mahari dances from morning till night. The bride’s mother presents drinks, sweets, juice and coffee. Also, she distributes clothes, perfumes and incense to relatives and neighbors. After that, the bride is shown to all the women in a special place, so that they have the last look at her, indicating the end of the marriage ceremony. At sunset, the marriage ceremony ends. The bride is given away to her bridegroom. In some other areas such as Ghedhak, the bride is given away after 3 days of celebrations.