Friday, November 28, 2008

A Gypsy Engagement Party

I just got back from Marwa's engagement party...what a cultural experience!

When I first arrived, I was hustled into a tiny back room of the house where all the other women were waiting. Marwa had her hair all curled and was wearing very heavy, elaborate make-up. Most of the other women were wearing brightly colored dresses with silk headscarves, lots of gold jewelry, and heavy make-up as well. All the children waited with us in the back room too. The small house was packed with at least 100 friends and family members, and it was fun to try to figure out who was with who.

Me, Marwa, and Katia at the Domari Center (bottom)

Marwa and I at her engagement party (top)

After a short wait, we heard the men started to read the Qur'an in the other room. All us women crowded near the door and tried to listen. After the recitation, all the men shot off guns into the air outside. Meanwhile, we women went even further back into another small room and crowded on small stools. Marwa's sister-in-law started the Arabic party music pumping, and Marwa started to dance while we all clapped. Different people--her mom, her grandmother, her cousin--got up and took turns dancing with her. I've never seen so much hip-shaking in all my life, and was certainly not expecting it here! Inevitably, Marwa pulled me up to dance with I did, laughing all the while. When one of the elderly veiled women saw me dance, she immediately called me over and asked if I would marry her son. I politely declined.

During the dancing, different food was served along with Arabic coffee, including baklava and some sort of pesto-type sauce on pita bread.

After the dance warm-up, the time came for Marwa's fiance to enter. She squeezed my hand and shot me a nervous look right before he came in. She barely met him last week. They danced around each other without touching for a few songs. Then, we stopped the was time for the engagement "ceremony." Zaki (her fiance) carefully adorned Marwa with gold jewelry: two necklaces, three rings, three bangles, and earrings. Two of the elderly women shrieked and made a tribal-sounding noise with their tongues--a joyous celebration sound. Then Marwa and Zaki danced again, this time cautiously holding hands, now an officially-engaged couple. After about an hour, he left the room, and we women got to have the floor again! One of the women handed me her three-month-old baby to hold while she danced. I couldn't stop smiling as I watched these beautiful women of all generations freely celebrate together.

After several hours of dancing, it was time to go. We took a few pictures, kissed each other on the cheeks, and said goodbye. I will never forget this night!

1 comment:

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