The Heritage of Ibb Province (al- Nakeelaine) [Archives:2005/854/Reportage]

June 27 2005
Photo from archived article: photos/854/report2_1
Photo from archived article: photos/854/report2_1
By Thuraya Dammaj
For the Yemen Times

One of the most important advantages Yemen has over other countries is the cultural variety in general and public cultural variety particularity.

Also variety of social traditions, stories, decorations, poetry, and psalms like Mahgal, Zamal, public songs tc.

Throughout Yemen, there are several traditional arts but it differs from place to place, or from a countryside to another.

That is what we see from different dialects and Yemeni tongues from one country to another.

This issue, I have selected a place in Yemen, and attempt to describe it with some of its traditions, like weddings, folklore dances, traditional clothes, public poetry and stories, children plays, traditional meals etc.

The place is called Al- Nakeelaine. I tried to transfer the true picture of this area that pulls my attention by its various traditional arts.

It is located in the southwest of Ibb city, it encloses 22 countries, its population is 12 thousand.

Al-Nakeelaine is a green land throughout the year. Around it there are many high mountains, where the highest one is called Al- Taaker mountain.

We can find many heritage buildings with very nice decorations. One of these buildings, really pulled my attention by its traditional decoration and style. This building is called Al- Samsarah.

Even the name of the countries, which carry a beautiful meanings like The- Alneam country, which means with more blessings.

You can see also a number of development projects in this area such as, schools, water dams and stores, infirmaries and schools for illiteracy eradication.

Now we will talk about this area, starting with weeding convention.

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 Al- Nakeelaine hold their marriage festivities.

Engagement Stage

In the beginning the bridegroom's family choose the bride, then the bridegroom's mother and sisters go 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 people, bring with him Qat and some sweets (Halawiat). They sit together chewing Qat, talking, arranging the dowry and the expenditures of the wedding.

The bride's father introduces some conditions, he may ask for a dowry of YR 400,000, excluding the expense of the marriage ceremony. In point of fact, the dowry differs from one family to another. It can extend to YR. 8,000,00. For the groom that is very expensive. And we can say that is the most important cause of spinsterhood.

A groom, MN, says: My engagement period stayed three years till I could get the dowry and the expenses of the marriage ceremony. Even with my father's assistance I still need more money, because the total cost of wedding and the dowry was YR1000000. That needs hard work during the three years.

A bride LA, says: personally, I don't want a lot of money but the traditions of our families and area enjoin us to make a weeding ceremony and buy the gold and clothes, that delayed my wedding for two years.

Father of one groom NR,says :I have four boys, just one of them are married and I want to marry the rest but because of the expensive dowry, it is so difficult to get them married.

Regardless of all these difficulties, the two families agree on the assigned 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, ring, dress, watch, perfume and packet of makeup. The drums, songs and dances go on till midnight.

Marriage Stage

The bride celebrates her marriage for about five 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 Youm Al Henna

This is a traditional day. In the early morning of this day, cars full of girls singing, clapping and shrilling accompany the bride to a public bathroom. They shave the hair from all the bride's body by Halawa (kind of very sticky matter), bathe her, beautifying and dress her in lovely clothes.

After that, her family and guests receive her with drums, cries of joy, songs and dances with swords, incense, and aloes.

The guests are invited by a woman 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 decorates 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 bride wears a traditional dress with covers the face (Qena`a), and some roses on the head (Mashkur) with Shathab (kind of smelling plant).

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 evil eye.

The bride and her friends still dance and sing till midnight, then the guests leave her and the relatives stay there to spend the night with her.

2-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 evil eyes and Jinn. They also sing traditional songs and carry bowls of different roses. Then the bride puts on a collar of full; small white flowers with a sweet scent.

After that, the bride is covered from head to feet with the green dress.

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, laughter and merry making. On this note, the day comes to and end.

3-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 a white dress, crown on her head, jewelries and make- up.

Guests come and congratulate the bride, and then chew Qat, and smoke the Mada'a at 4 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 (traditional songs, called Zafa) 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.

When the bride arrives to her groom's house, the relatives and friends of groom receive her by air strong shooting fires.

(Despite this tradition is very dangerous for their life, they still practice.

In some areas, there are a different traditional ways to receive the bride, they make a small flame on the tops of the houses around the country.)

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 (Ful).

They sit for a while and take pictures. 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.

4- The forth day: “Al- Thaleth”

This day comes after three days from the wedding day. In the morning of this day, the bride's mother goes to the bride's house in order to prepare with her the afternoon party. The bride's sisters and friends make cakes, sweest and buy some sweets that the women chew Qat with.

After that, the bride goes to the hairdresser and puts on the same wedding dress, then back to groom's house to presence the final party.

In the evening, 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.

5-The fifth day: “Al Rabea”

Today, the bride and the groom's family go to 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.

6- Al Shakma

It is not a defined day, relatives of the bride may make this party in any time and the first one who does so is the bride's mother. She invites the groom's family and other guests to the shekma party. This is the only custom which is still held rigidly. The bride's mother distributes Qat, cakes, 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. The bride may be invited to another Shakma party done bys another person.