(Please note: I forgot to take my camera to the wedding, so the photos are from another ceremony in the Douar - circumcision of cute little boys and other dress up parties I've had here, to give you an idea.)
I went to a Berber wedding last week. Quite a bizarre experience. A girl I had just met asked me to come to her house in the afternoon where she would dress me up and then we would go together. She put a fushia lace covered takshita on me, over sweater leggings (very unattractive I might add), and then over that tied a purple, sheer, flowered cape, tied at my waist and draped over shoulders. They put Berber make-up on me – coal lining the inside of my eyes, gloss and mascara. Someone tossed some too small black little pointed-toe heels at me and another girl sprayed some body mist stuff all over all of us. Off we headed. Every group of people we passed (all of them dressed similar to me, the whole village going to the wedding, apparently) smiled and then took a double-take as they saw the blonde American under the Berber wedding clothes. They would laugh and start chattering away with my host asking her what in the world she had done. We arrived in a building (not sure if it was a home, a community building or what, but similar to my association, it had several open rooms, to hold a large number of people. The floors were covered with carpets upon carpets. To one end two cushioned seats where covered with white and an embroidered sheet hung on the wall behind. This is where both brides would sit. Tonight was the night for young girls.
(Me in a Takshita in Khenifra.. the berbers wrapped another layer on top of this one..)
We crowded in, among about two hundred Berber women and girls. Everywhere I looked little girls and women were staring at me, smiling, quite amused. I smiled back, tried to act like it was a natural setting for me, going around greeting friends and strangers by bending down (everyone was sitting on the floor) with a kiss on each cheek. They were all chattering away in Shilha, not Arabic (this wedding was in the village right next to Agdz, and most the people are Berber, not Arabic) so I really didn’t understand a word. I realized that this was, in fact, a rather foreign situation for me, so there was no need for me to exhaust myself trying to pretend like I belonged. I sat in the corner quietly… until we were bidded to move to a different location. I wasn’t quite sure how the location indicated was possible. Every square inch was covered with girls legs and dresses and heels. Somehow they made room for us. I scrunched up my knees against my chest, but still some fat lady was sitting on my feet, another leaning on my back, another elbowing my other side. There was no thought as to worry about crowding or sitting on someone. If someone was in enough agony, they would shout at you, otherwise, just pile in and laugh.
Soon the folklore music started. (Ahawash) The band came in, blowing the looong horns (about eight feet long), drums and chanting. I really do love this earthy, African-like chanting and clapped along. One of the drummers was a friend, so I didn’t realize I had been watching him play (for a while) until one of my friends leaned over and said, do you know his name? That’s Archia’s son. He’s not married. Do you think he’s beautiful? I laughed and then tried to be as serious as I could in indicating I had no interest, without being rude, confirming that he was nice-looking without being overly affirmative about it. She stopped the questions. I tried to be careful about who I watched after that, letting my eyes roam all about the room, the hundreds of women and the musicians, realizing that many eyes were glued on me and any little clue would set them gossiping or chatting about me.
Then the dancing started. This is what I feared most. As much as I enjoy dancing, Moroccan dances are very difficult. The women here can move their hips and rear-ends in ways I did not know was possible. And of course, when there is one blonde, white girl among two hundred Berber women, they are going to think it quite entertaining to watch her try to dance like them. I remained scrunched in my position, clapping my hands and smiling as to appear as though I was enjoying myself without getting into it to much so that someone would feel inclined to pull me to my feet. I was unsuccessful. The dancing consisted of women, at random moments getting very excited and standing among a crowd of feet and bodies and shaking and twirling around in the midst of the crowd. Hardly anyone was dancing at this point and most eyes were on her. The lady next to me stood up and gave quite a performance. Then it happened. She grabbed my hands. I resisted for quite a while, begging to be left alone, but could not stay glued to the floor. The moment I stood, I heard gasps all about the room and did not want to look about to see how many pairs of eyes now stared at me. We danced. I shook my many Berber layers of lace and nylon, purples and pinks, and waved my hands. They laughed. We kept dancing. Finally the song ended and my partner let me retreat to the floor. Ahhh, you know how to dance! The girls proclaimed. They are very forgiving and easily entertained people. Nice enough not to laugh at a white girl trying to move her hips. J
The wedding lasted until the wee hours of the night, from what I heard, but I had been there since 6PM and by 9PM I was exhausted in such foreign surroundings and started my campaign to be permitted to leave. They insisted I wait until dinner was served, when we were hustled into another room, gathered around tables in groups of six, provided with a tagine of chicken, ate, drank and finally departed. The girls found a young many to accompany me back to Agdz, about a twenty minute walk. I did not refuse. A girl walking around at night here… it can be a bit scary.