Wedding parties in Hadramout: Keeping with traditional rituals [Archives:2007/1018/Culture]

January 22 2007
While the groom, prepares for Al-Saherh Al-Henna
While the groom, prepares for Al-Saherh Al-Henna’a party, the men sing to liven it up. At the end of the party, the men put henna on the groom.
Fatima Awodh AlSubban
[email protected]
For Yemen Times

It is exciting to travel around Yemen, in every city and village you discover thrilling rituals that keep you amazed and eager to learn more. What you may see in one area, you will see differently in another area. It is because of Yemen's rich cultural heritage. In talking about wedding rituals in Yemen, you will find many differences.

Weddings in Hadramout feature such things as aldeqaqh, the cutting of the bride's hair. Hadramout weddings are usually four days long and the traditional practices are common, but now with economic constraints people tend to shorten their celebrations down to two days.

In the past, the wedding dress used was a green Sabaih, especially in Mukalla and its outskirts, considered an attractive color for the bride to wear on such a special day. However, in Al Wadi Hadramout brides could always chose among a wide selection of dress colors for the wedding party, at a time when women were not affected by new fashion trends. They never thought to imitate others in their fashion and were happy with their own styles. Yet nowadays, women have replaced the green Sabaih with other dresses for Al Sout Alhena'a, while maintaining the white dress for the bridal night.

In those days the bride had no idea about when her engagement or wedding party day would be or she hadn't met her groom. The time of the wedding was confirmed two years after the day of the engagement. If the girl was 10 years old at the time of engagement, the wedding would during her twelth birthday and normally she was unaware her wedding had been set.

During the preparations for the wedding, women would grind coffee and ginger in mortars with pestles in the groom's home in a custom called “Aldeqaqh.” Women would sing and dance accompanying a singer. This ritual would usually occur during the morning of the second day of the wedding.

Neighbors, relatives and friends attended the wedding celebrations alongside the families of the bride and groom. A tent was erected in the street, on top of the roof of the house or in the biggest room of the house to animate the wedding within it. Now however, some people will hire halls in big hotels even when they erect a tent. This tent is erected and tightened with ropes at the corners of the nearest houses and carpets are strewn across the floor within the tent. The tents are used for the women's parties that include Sout Al hena'a – the party for the girls, the bridal night, Alsubeh, and for the groom participation in the Aldeqaqh event as well.

The weddings in Tarim differ from the weddings of coastal Hadramout even though there are certain similarities in both cities.

According to some old female folklore, which describes the events of the wedding in the past, the four-day wedding parties for the bride moved from her home to the neighbor's home. She usually didn't know what was happening around her. Her family would not tell her anything because she was normally still a young girl. In those days it was believed it was better for her to be inexperienced in life and that it was better for the girl married early – usually between 10 and 12. With this in mind the family would order her out of her home when they called her.

When she reached the door of her home, one of her relatives, usually her uncle would carry her on his back. The women then covered her with the ''a green Sebaih, which usually had the girl crying by then. This ritual is called the ''Alrebout'' because the bride was unaware of her own wedding and no one would ask or take her opinion. And of course, there were no objections, no discussions. This is considered the first event in the wedding party and the most traditional. Alrebout is still one of the rituals in Hadramout still in practice until now.

The female guests, relatives and friends would start to sing and dance into the night. The next day, in the morning, the bride would prepare for the second party, in which she wore a green dress while her hands and legs were decorated with henna. The singers would sing wedding songs to the bride. This event is called “Sout Al Henna'a.” In the afternoon, the bride covered by the green alsebaih and with part of her hair exposed and dangling around her face, she would sit on a chair while they put a dish on her thighs. In the dish was a pair of scissors. Her father and relatives would then come one after the other and take the scissors to cut a little bit of the hair dangling by her face. After this ritual the bride was presented with gold rings, earrings and other jewelry.

During that night the bride would be prepared for bridal night, called “Leelth Al Dokhlh” because the groom would then come to take his bride to his new house. Naturally, the bride would be very afraid at the moment, yet curious to meet her husband. In the past, the bride would bring all her furniture, from her family, to her new house.

On foot the bride would walk the streets to reach the groom's home. There was no transportation and the bride and groom walked toward their new home while the women sang until they reached their destination. In modern times the bride usually rides in a luxurious car decorated with artificial flowers and writings in the mirror of the car wishing for a happy marriage

At the groom's house the ceremony would begin when he signs the wedding contract with the bride's father. The signing usually occured during the afternoon followed by the groom and a number of his relative visiting the bride's father, then going either to the masjid for Al Asha'a or after Magrib prayers.

In the night, the groom was prepared for Al-Saherh Al-Henna'a or ''Al – Makhderh.” Men gathered and sat the groom on a stage while a hired team sang to liven up Al-Saherh. In these teams a great singer would preside over the ceremony such as the likes of Muhammad Jeamh Khan or Abudalreb Edrees. He would sing until midnight and then the men would put henna on the groom at the end of the night's events.

The next day for the “Aldeqaqh,” relatives of the groom gathered in the tent, the women to grind the coffee and ginger. Each woman would place one hand on the hand of the other woman next to her, together hammering the coffee and then the ginger while singing at the beat of the drums until noon.

In the afternoon, all of the groom's family would go to the bride's home to have lunch. They would then go home to prepare for that night by outfitting the groom to receive his bride. His mother accompanied him to the bride's home for the bridal night as is customary in many places over the world.

On the third day all the events occur in the groom's home where everyone assembles for the lunch meal. The bride would then appear dressed in her jewels and beautiful dress. Smiling, she would dance among the women. This ritual is called “Al Subeh.”

On the fourth day, drums and songs could be heard in the groom's home. During the afternoon, all the women would gather at the home of the groom and make “Al Mould,” considered a religious party with religious songs and poems. The bride would then sit among her relatives looking wonderful while they congratulated her.

Unfortunately, some of these customs have fallen by the wayside. Things such as the the furniture a bride brings with her to her new house, the wearing of the green alsebaih and the aldeqaqh of the groom have suffered a cultural death these days. We can only hope the custom of Aldeqaqh reappear.

Customs and traditions are very important in our life. They reflect our original roots and our culture. Hopefully it will become a main stay that can influence this new age and its generation that needs to continue these customs and traditions.