Wedding season is in full force here on the Souss plains. On Sunday, well into the wee hours of Monday, I accompanied my friend Malika to a wedding in a nearby village. This ceremony was traditional in most ways, with here and there a modern twist I wasn't expecting.
Malika picked me up in the early afternoon, and we walked the two kilometers or so to the duoar where Malika and her friend, the bride, live. We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and sharing a tagine with the bride and her family, having pancake makeup slathered on our faces, and making the rounds of other friends' homes. We returned to Malika's house to rest a bit and have some dinner ~ her teenage brother made the fries, while her father told me about serving with American soldiers in Kosovo in the '90s.
After dressing up, me in a used caftan and Malika in a modern, vividly patterened maxi sundress with a turtleneck and leggings underneath, we finally made our way to the wedding tent around 10 p.m. This is usually around the time I'm winding up my evening and making my way to bed, but here the festivities were just getting started.
The large, open tent eventually filled with perhaps 250 or so celebrants; women and children sat on the ground in the center, for the best view of the bride in all her finery, while men and boys lined the sides of the tent. This was a change from other weddings I've attended, where there are separate rooms for men and women, and while the genders didn't exactly mingle here either, it was nice to not feel as if I was missing any aspect of the celebration.
Five processionals were required for the bride and groom to make their entrance, each time the bride wearing a different, elaborately embroidered gown and stunning jewelry. The women of their families escorted them into the tent, carrying the bride's train and singing the glories of marriage. The two were guided up the steps of a giant "silver" (plastic) throne, where they held court with all the regal comportment that implies. The couple are encouraged not to smile but to look as elegant as possible. The bride occasionally made eye contact with a friendly face in the crowd and made a slight nod of acknowledgement.
The groom, however, often couldn't hold back his wide, blushing grin, and I felt a surge of affection for them both for that. For that and for the fact that they held hands the entire time, something else I hadn't seen before, and a symbol of affection that looked entirely mutual and heartfelt. I don't know the couple, and I don't know how they met, only that she is here in this very southern rural village, and he is from Casablanca and will be bringing his bride back north with him, far from her family. But I like to think that they might have a truly warm and reciprocal relationship ahead of them.
As the couple sat regarding the crowd and being regarded back, his mother got up to make an amazing dance in their honor. She's a large woman who looks like she's used to a life of hard work, but she can shake her hips better than I ever have. She was soon joined by another older woman, later the mother of the bride, and here and there for the rest of the evening, substantial, maternal-looking women occasionally rose to pay their respects in dance.
This opened the floor for a crowd of eager little girls to take to the dance floor. Some in miniature caftans, some in jeans, they too could sway and shimmy with natural abandon. Young boys on the perimeter leapt around, chased occasionally by men wielding heavy sticks. Older boys tried their best to look too cool for the whole thing, but after a few hours they too were circling and stomping. Women dance with women, men with men, all much more naturally than the self-conscious swaying I for one grew up with.
Finally, around 4 a.m., the happy couple entered for the last time, exchanged rings, and shared a cup of milk and an offering of dates to seal their union. We said our goodbyes and made our way through the dark lanes, guided by stars, and within an hour were fast asleep in Malika's salon. I don't think I've stayed up that late in decades, but I didn't really notice I was tired until I lay down, ears buzzing as if I'd been to a death metal concert.
I've added a few videos below; more photos and videos are on my Flickr page.