Marriage Conventions in Taiz [Archives:1999/10/Culture]

March 8 1999

Most conventions differ from one country to another and from one region to another. In fact, it can be very amusing to look at others traditions.
Let’s look and see how people of Taiz hold their marriage festivities.
1- Engagement Stage
After the bride is chosen by the bridegroom’s family, the bridegroom’s mother and sisters go themselves to propose to the bride’s mother. When the bride’s family accepts the groom, betrothal day is assigned. Then the bridegroom’s father, in the company of some respected persons, and bringing with him Qat, sweets (Halawa), raisins, nuts, chocolates, and some other presents, comes. They sit together chewing Qat, talking, and arranging the dowry and the expenditures of the wedding.
The bride’s father introduces some conditions, he my ask for a dowry of YR 300,000, excluding the expense of marriage ceremony. In point of fact, the dowry differs from one family to another. It can extend to YR. 1,000,000. The two families agree on the day of the bridal as well as the wedding.
After that, the bride’s family invites the bridegroom’s family and some guests to a very colorful betrothal party. The bridegroom today has to give his bride a golden collar and ring. The drums, songs and dances go on till midnight.
2- Marriage Stage
The bride celebrates her marriage for about six days. Of course, the bridegroom is not supposed to see his bride for a month before the wedding.
Marriage festivals take several days, each with a special meaning. They are
1- The day called Al Zakarah is a traditional day in its atmosphere, bride’s clothes, guests’ clothes, songs, dances, gifts, etc. In the early morning of this day, cars full of girls singing, clapping and shrilling accompany the bride to a public bathroom. They bathe the bride, beautifying and dressing her in lovely clothes.
When the bride arrives home, her family and guests receive her with drums, cries of joy, songs and dances with swords, incense, and aloes. Her mother puts shathab, a small piece of cloth full of salt, some verses from the holy Quran, paper, needles and black cumin inside her clothes to protect her from the eyes of the wicked women.
After this, the bride has to shelter herself under a tent called Al-Mashara with a bowl full of flour, plaster, color candles, eggs, some papers, shathab and mashkor, or roses with beautiful scents.
The bride used to disappear there for some time, but this is rare now.
It is worth mentioning that all the guests are invited by a women called the Mokathia. About ten days before marriage, the bride’s mother asks this women to go to every house in the neighborhood, inviting them to the first three days of the marriage ceremony.
Also, this woman serves the bride during her marriage ceremony. While the bride decorates her hands and feet with henna and Alkhedhab, this woman carries the henna and decorate the bride’s friends hands in order to get the marriage done quickly.
When lunch is served, the bride’s friends hasten to feed the bride. The earlier a girl feeds the bride, the faster she will get married. After lunch, the hairdresser beautifies and puts traditional make-up on the bride. The bride also puts on traditional clothes, and decorates or ornaments herself with silver necklaces, collars, anklets and so on. When the bride sits down, the singers start drumming, singing special songs for her coming, and people dance and shrill.
When the bride dances, her friends and others dance with swords, shathab, bowls of henna, and Mabkhara, which produces beautiful scents of incense. The bride’s mother, her sisters, relatives, and the groom’s mother and her relatives have to shower the bride with money while the bride is dancing. The bride will also receive gifts and congratulations from her friends and relatives.
Everyone who goes to congratulate her will bite the bride’s knee in hopes of getting married next. The sense of happiness is indescribable. The excitement goes on until midnight.
The second day: “Youm Al Ghasl”
This day differs from the previous day. The bridegroom’s family is to be involved from the early morning. The bride’s family has to serve a hot delicious meal consisting of Zurbian; a mixture of meats and rice, Bint-Alsahn, Salta, and often different plates of food and sweets. Neighbors, relatives and the bride’s friends assist in preparing the meal and other things.
When the groom’s family and some of the other guests come, the singers receive them with welcoming songs. In the morning, the bride has to bathe and dress herself in a decorated green dress. During this time, the bride’s friends go on singing and dancing for some hours.
After coming out of the bathroom, her friends follow her in a procession, carrying a special incense with a strong bad smell which is supposed to protect the bride from the wicked eyes and Jinn. They also sing traditional songs and carry bowls of different roses. Then the bride puts on a collar of foll; small white flowers with a sweet scent.
After that, the bride is covered from head to feet with the green setara (dress).
She is supposed to cover her face till lunch is served.
When lunch is served, she has to take it herself. Then, the bride goes to beautify and dress herself in new expensive green clothes while the guests go to change their clothes. The bride should not smile or talk much during her marriage ceremony, or else people will laugh at her.
The whole day is spent in shrilling, dancing, singing, clapping and laughing, and other wise making merry. On this note, the day comes to and end.
The third day: Wedding Day
In this day, the bride will go to her groom’s house. This day opens with warm procession. It is the day when the groom is to see his bride. In the morning, the bride’s friends pack her bags.
They fill them with incense, perfumes and different kind of sweet smelling flowers. The bride on this day has to put on white clothes. Guests come and congratulate the bride, and then chew Qat, and smoke the Mada’a (Lookah) at 3 o’clock. The bride’s family has to distribute Qat, Pepsi, high quality chocolate, water, cardamom etc. The bride usually appears by 5 o’clock. Her friends and relatives welcome her with hearty songs and dances. They also meet her with incense of two kinds; the first kind has a good smell and the second one is of a strange scent which is meant to expel Jinn and protect the bride. They hold a Quran, swords, and candles. They follow her with songs and dances from the gate to the bridal throne. This bridal throne is full of flowers of different kinds and colors, candles, and other decorations.
Later on, the bride’s father, brothers, uncles and the groom’s father accompany the groom to the bridal throne where they congratulate them and wish them a happy life. The groom has to uncover his bride’s face. He also gives her a collar of flowers.
They sit for a while and take pictures. Then they take the bride on a journey around the town. Cars full of people singing, drumming, shrilling follow the decorated car of the bride and the groom.
When the bride arrives the groom’s home, a sheep must be slaughtered before she enters the door of the house.
The bride’s mother and sisters should not accompany the bride to her groom’s home. At this moment, the bridal comes to an end.
The forth day: “Al-Subhia”
In the morning, the bride’s mother goes to the bride’s house in order to bring her the breakfast consisting of meat, liver, cake, etc. Later on, the bride and the groom go to the bride’s father and brothers to give them gifts.
In the afternoon, the bride’s father gives the couple a number of sheep or a bull to congratulate his daughter.
The bride puts on a beautiful new dress. When the bride appears, songs and dances and drumming begin.
The fifth day: “Al Raba”
Today, the bride and the groom’s family go the bride’s home to give presents in return. Sheep and similar presents to those which were given by the bride’s father. Lunch is served in the groom’s house.
In the afternoon, the bride’s family and a company of guests go to the groom’s house to chew Qat, while males and the groom chew Qat in the bride’s house.
The sixth day: “Al Shekma”
The bride’s mother invites the groom’s family and other guests to the shekma party. This is the only custom which is still held rigidly. This party is held a week after the marriage ceremony. The bride’s mother distributes Qat, cake, sweets etc.
The day is spent in drumming, singing and dancing.
The party ends with the dawn’s breaking. At this point, the bridal is over.
By: Haifa Yahia Qanber of Taiz