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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Traditional Damascene wedding

It is necessary to know the procedure which goes on before the actual wedding takes place.The business of match-making need to be, and still conducted by mothers in some parts of Damascus. Mothers and sisters assume the responsibility of finding suitable bride for their sons and brothers. All the prospective husband has to do is to name the specifications of the prospective bride, and he is sure to get one that answers to there specifications.The female match-makers conduct exploratory missions among relatives, neighbors and acquaint, and report to the anxious would-be bride grooms, who consider the pros and cons of prospective candidates. The type of information submitted for his consideration relates to the physical properties such as figure, color of skin, eyes and hair, shape, colors of eyes, mouth, teeth, nose, etc.; and to the social and financial status.Modern standards of evaluation consider such methods inadequate at first sight. Yet the various kinds of tricks and devices old females use to gain access information are surprising. Thus it is common practice for such females to surprise the bride before she has time to dress up and appear at her best. More over they make a point of kissing the bride in order to make sure that she has no bad breath or perspiration odors, some of them even arrange a seemingly coincidental visit to the public bath frequented by the bride and her family, in order to have a closer look at her.In addition to first hand information secondary sources are made use of. Those are found among neighbors and acquaintance of the future brides, who are usually only too willing to provide all sorts of information, relating to the girl's social and domestic qualities. Recently, a revolutionary method has bee introduced. Some people manage to obtain by fair or devious means, a photo of the bride to show to the man. This, it should be pointed out, was possible only among progressive families, that tolerate a picture of their daughter to be taken, provided the girl has scarf on her head to cover her hair.When all these operations are over, the prospective husband has to weigh the evidence presented to him, analyzes it, and scrutinize it, before he comes to an important decision, that of settling for wife. Then, another important step follows: negotiations relating to the dowry; the advance dowry which is to be paid and the late dowry which is to be paid in case of divorce.Negotiations concerning dowry are done be men: the father or the senior member of the bridegroom's family visit the father of the bride and officially proposes, or ask for the hand of the bride as they say in Arabic. Such negotiations are considered to be embarrassing. But fortunately, clichés and stereotyped expressions have been developed throughout the years and are used on such occasions. The bridegrooms, father would have learned the words he has to say, which run something like this: "We have come to be honored by asking the hand of your jewel of a daughter".The bride's father also knows the right words to say in reply something like this: "I offer you my daughter as a slave in your kitchen". This formalities and ceremonies completed, the actual hard bargaining takes place, at the end of which the amount of the dowry is fixed and the date of the wedding is set. The money paid by the bridegroom is spent on clothing for the bride, on furnishing a reception room, and on providing mattresses, pillows and sheets, and as a must. Pajamas a dressing gown and a pair of slippers for the bridegroom.The wedding takes place at the bridegroom's house. Only women are invited to the wedding. The bridegroom's guests come directly to his place first, and are then escorted to the weeding by a delegation comprising the senior female members of the bridegroom's family, who are sent to escort the bride, her family and her guests to the wedding, the delegation to provide the means of transport, formerly horse drawn carriages, and recently motor-cars.When the bridal procession arrives, the bride is received with cheers and songs, and is led to an elevated canopy but not before she sticks a piece of yeast on the door of the house, as a good omen. As she walks towards her appointed place, sugar coated almonds are sprinkled over her head and guests rush to pick-up as many as they can get held of. The procession stars from the house of one of the bridegroom's friends, where the pre wedding ceremony of the bridegroom's hair cut and dressing up is attended to by his friends and relatives, amidst cheers, reveling and dancing.On the arrival of the bridegroom, which is announced by a special messenger, the bride is supposed to proceed to the center of the courtyard of the house to meet him. The center of the house is a compromise position, compromise being reached after the bridegroom's family insisting on the bride not proceeding more than a few steps.The bridegroom the leads the bride to the elevated canopy, which is surrounded by relatives and guests. Before he sits next to her he takes out of his pocket a bracelet of a necklace, amidst cheers and rejoicing and presents it to her. This is followed by music and dancing, provided by professional group, if the family is well to do, or by amateur friends and relatives, if the family is not so rich. Singing and dancing last till after midnight, punctuated by intervals during which the pride-retries to change her white wedding dress and put on dresses of various colors.After midnight the bridegroom makes a move to withdraw with his bride but he meets with opposition on every side. After many resisted attempts, he manages to lead the bride to the bridle chamber, followed by female members of the family, who start offering their presents, usually in the form of gold sovereigns. The presents ceremony over, the family leaves the couple to themselves and continue the wedding celebrations until dawn.

Graduation paper 1998

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