Muslim Wedding Customs rss

The problem with Muslim weddings today – and three crazy ideas for fixing it!

So crazy, it just might work!

So crazy, it just might work!

Author Unknown – Edited by Zawaj.com for clarity

Assalamu Alaykom wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,

So here goes…

There’s a disturbing pattern/tendency to be found in Muslim weddings these days. People waste too much money!

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said that the least blessed weddings/waleemas are the ones were the rich are invited and the poor are not. And these days we’re seeing people who are spending tens of thousands of pounds on a wedding and they’re only inviting SOME of their friends.

Just some.

So it’s not just that they’re only inviting their friends, it’s that they’re inviting SOME of them.

This is really quite sad.

And of course, because they’re only inviting some, they don’t want to offend the others, so they don’t even tell them until AFTER the big event.

Which is even more offensive !

That’s the irony of lacking approval though – you get that which you were trying to run away from.

Why do they do this ?

1. “It’s MY big day.”

Actually, in Islam, the waleema is supposed to be for ish-har (to make the knowledge of your union public)
… so actually, it’s the community’s day.

Secondly, who benefits more? You or the hotel that’s receiving your 10 grand? So it’s not your big day, it’s the hotel’s big day.

2. “I want this to be the best day of my life!”

Are you sure about that? There will inshaAllah be many more days after you get married. Are you sure that you want them to be not as good as the day of your wedding?! Sounds like a bad deal to me!

And it probably will be the best day of your life with that attitude:

  • you will lose friends
  • the husband and his family, and maybe even the bride’s family are now steeped in debt and the stress makes it hard to enjoy your actual marriage and each others company!

3. “We can’t afford to invite everyone.”

Well, sure, if you’re giving all your money to a 5-star hotel, then it’s going to be kinda hard to invite everyone. They charge you per seat, so now people even say ‘no children’. Cos why should they pay for a full adult meal when the 3 yr old isn’t going to eat a full meal – let alone even know what’s happening! So now parents have to decide which one of their children goes and which one stays. Or they just respect themselves and none of them go.

The above 3 points and all their sub-points are just SOME of the problems that come with modern day marriages.

Just some.

Now imagine it differently:

Imagine that you didn’t so badly lack approval for yourself that you needed to be Cinderella.

Imagine that you didn’t lack approval for yourself that you felt obliged to pay so much money just to prove that “you’re worth it” (just buy some Loreal shampoo!)

Now here are three “crazy” ideas for fixing the whole problem:

1. Have the wedding in the mosque

  1. You give that same $10,000 you were going to spend to a mosque, even though they would only ask for $1,000 or $2,000.
  2. Non-Muslim friends come and it’s dawah.
  3. The mosque benefits and is able to provide more services.
  4. You are rewarded for every person that prays during your wedding, that wouldn’t have in the hotel.
  5. It’s still much cheaper than a hotel.

2. Employ Muslims

You want the place to look amazing, so why not employ low-wage local Muslims to set the hall up for you? You’ll be making their lives MUCH easier with that additional money and whoever brings a smile to a Muslim family, Allah (swt) finds NOTHING to give him/her worthy of that smile that’s less than JANNAH!

… no actually, maybe you want to do it in that big hotel and only invite 50 of your closest friends/family and fight about who gets invited !!! (sarcasm).

The thing about Hollywood weddings is that most of them end in divorce. …Good luck with that !

3. Don’t pay per head !

Just go to a Muslim catering company and ask to feed 300 people. It’ll come to the same price as the 50 that the hotel were going to charge you for! And all those people will make dua for you, and the barakah will mean that 300 people’s worth of food will probably feed about 700 !! … rich and poor.

Or… get the local Muslim community to cook it for you !! Buy high quality food, organic chicken, nice lamb, organic vegetables, and get them to cook it for you !

Pay them per hour. That’s even cheaper, and you’re employing your brothers and sisters, and the community becomes cohesive.

SubhanAllah… marriage.

Marriage… that which is meant to bring two families together and glue society together has now become a reason not to invite people !!

That’s disgusting.

There’s something else:  Why should you invite people by name? Why should you pay stupid money to print cards and then deliver them ? Facebook, tweet, tell everyone to tell everyone else… and make it an open invite.

If anyone finds this offensive (that they didn’t receive a card)… well you could employ your local gangster to stand by you on your big day and to answer those people back for you.

And don’t just invite the poor Muslims. Take it even further! How many homeless NON-MUSLIMS exist within the district/area that the mosque resides in? There are homeless people two streets away from the white house ! I’m sure there are some near your mosque too! In Western countries, these homeless people will see the joy that comes from Muslims…

… THIS is dawah.

NOT annoying people on the street with a stall:   “What if you die tonight as you think about it? … say the shahadah now !!!”

lol. such low calibre dawah. Better than no dawah I guess.

Marriage. Everyone repeats with an accent as they bop their heads left to right: “marriage is half of your path.” Do it this way and the blessings from it will create your akhira (here-after) insha Allah. Bless your union, bless your life, bless your community, bless your here-after … with a blessed wedding. (the opposite is true also).

Learn to think this way by eliminating your whims and desires.

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Is this the best mahr in the world?

Muslim woman signs marriage contract

Muslim bride signs the marriage contract.

Hiba Ammar writes:

When my father proposed to my mother, he dedicated Surah Al-Imran, which he memorized by heart, as her “Mahr” (dowry).

Many years later, when my husband proposed to me, my father told him that he would have to memorize a surah of the Quran as my mahr. The wedding would not take place unless I received my mahr.

I was asked to pick one of the surahs. I chose Surah Al-Noor, for all the laws that surah contained within it and for the fact that it seemed hard to memorize on my behalf.

Before our wedding day, besides being busy preparing for our “newlywed nest”, my husband was constantly memorizing Quran. The Quran did not leave my husband’s hand an entire month as he was memorizing the surah.

A few days before our wedding day, my husband came to recite to my father the surah which he had completed.

My father told him every time you make a mistake, you must start from the beginning all over again :))

My husband began reciting Surat Al-Noor with his calm and gentle voice in such a beautiful scene which I will never forget. My mother and I would look at one another and would smile awaiting my husband to make a mistake so he would have to start all over again and by that increase my reward.

But my husband – may Allah bless him – had memorized the surah by heart and didn’t forget one single verse.

Once he finished my father hugged him and said to him: “Today I shall marry my daughter to you, for you have fulfilled her mahr and your pledge to me.”

He didn’t pay me a financial mahr… And we didn’t buy gold worth tens of thousands. He sufficed me with Allah’s words as an oath/contract between us.

The question is…. I wonder what surah my daughter will chose as her mahr in the future?

Zawaj.com Editor’s Comments:

What do you think of this practice? Some have pointed out that the mahr is required in Islam because it provides some financial security to the bride in case of divorce. Therefore reciting a surah a as a mahr bypasses this important function.

Also, a substantial monetary mahr may restrain the husband from divorcing too quickly or in a moment of anger, as he will lose his investment, so to speak.

Others feel that in a world consumed by materialism and greed, this practice reminds us of what is truly important. It also avoids placing an undue burden on a young groom who may not be wealthy or who is just getting started in his career.

What do you say, readers?

Wael
Zawaj.com Editor

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Islamic Marriage Khutbah (Wedding Speech)

An Egyptian open air wedding

Women celebrating at an Egyptian open air wedding

This is a typical Muslim nikah khutbah (wedding speech) that would be given by an Imam at a Muslim wedding. This particular speech was translated from Arabic, I believe. I do not know the author’s name:

Wedding Khutbah

“Thanks be to Allah that we praise Him, pray to Him for help; ask Him for pardon; we believe in Him, We trust Him; and ask Him to guard us from the evil of our own souls and from the evil consequences of our own deeds. Whomsoever He leaves straying no one can guide him. I bear witness that there is no God save Allah, who has no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, whom He has sent with truth as a bringer of good news and a warner.

The best word is the book of Allah, and the best way is that of Muhammad, on whom be peace. The worst of all things are innovations and every innovation leads astray, and every thing that leads astray leads to Hell.

Whosoever obeys Allah and His messenger will be guided aright and whosoever disobeys will cause loss to his own self (and thereafter). Hereafter, I ask the refuge of Allah from Shaytan, the outcast.

O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. be careful of your duty towards Allah in whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bear you). Lo, Allah hath been a watcher over you. [Surah Al Nisa’ 4:1]

O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah with right observance, and die not save as those who have surrendered (unto Him). [Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:102]

O ye who believe! Guard your duty to Allah, and speak words straight to the point; He will adjust your works for you and will forgive you your sins. Whosoever obeyeth Allah and His messenger, he verily hath gained a signal victory. [Surah Al Ahzab 33:70-71]“

Marriage is one of the most important acts of worship in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu layhi Wasallam) has told us how to live as Muslims. One of the branches of faith is marriage. It has been thus narrated in a Hadeeth that when a person marries, he has complete half of his religion and so he should fear Allah regarding the remaining half.

Shame, modesty, moral and social values and control of self desire are just a few of the many teachings of Islam. Furthermore, these are just a few of the many worships that a person can complete by performing the ritual of marriage. Through marriage a person can be saved from many shameless and immoral sins and through marriage he has is more able to control his desire. Therefore, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) has said:

“O young men! Whoever is able to marry should marry, for that will help him to lower his gaze and guard his modesty.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Marriage is a strong oath that takes place between the man and women in this world, but its blessings and contract continues even in Jannah. It is the way of our beloved Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), and whosoever goes against this practice has been reprimanded.

Hadhrat Anas ibn Malik narrates:

A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (Sallallaahu layhi Wasallam) asking how the Prophet worshipped (Allah), and when they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said:

“Where are we compared to the Prophet as his past and future sins have been forgiven?”

Then one of them said: “I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever.”

The other said: “I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast.”

The third said: “I will keep away from the women and will not marry forever.”

Allah’s Apostle came to them and said, “Are you the same people who said so-and-so? By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my tradition in religion, is not from me (from my followers).” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Therefore, Islamically, we are all encouraged to get married and not turn away from the ways of our beloved Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Salaam). It should be remembered that this duty of marriage is for both men and women. Just as men complete half their religion through this act, it is also the same for women. However, in today’s time, there are many marriage-related issues which arise in people’s lives, as today we see many people abusing the laws of marriage in Islam.

When marrying, each becomes the other’s lifetime companion. Each should understand and appreciate that Allah has brought them both together and that their destiny in life has now become one. Whatever the circumstances: happiness or sorrow; health or sickness; wealth or poverty; comfort or hardship; trial or ease; all events are to be confronted together as a team with mutual affection and respect.

No matter how wealthy, affluent, materially prosperous and “better-off” another couple may appear, one’s circumstances are to be happily accepted with qanã‘at (contentment upon the Choice of Allah). The wife should happily accept her husband, his home and income as her lot and should always feel that her husband is her true beloved and best friend and well-wisher in all family decisions. The husband too should accept his wife as his partner-for-life and not cast a glance towards another.

Allah’s Messenger (Sallallaahu layhi Wasallam) said, “The best of you is he who is best to his family”. (Mishkat)

It was the noble practice of Nabi (Sallallaahu layhi Wasallam) to counsel spouses about the awareness of Allah before performing a Nikah by reciting the verses (Nisa v14, Ahzab v69, Al-Imraan v101) from the Quran. All the verses are common in the message of Taqwa (consciousness of Allah). The spouses will be first committed to Allah before being committed to their partner. There can be no doubt in the success of a marriage governed by the consciousness of Allah. I hope and wish every person a very happy and prosperous married life. May peace and Allah’s blessing be upon you.

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Tanzania Muslim Wedding, and Beautiful Nature Photos

Traditional Muslim wedding celebration in Zanzibar

At a traditional Muslim wedding celebration in Zanzibar, thumping music, ululating women, and spirited shouts fill the air. Nearly all of Zanzibar's and much of Tanzania’s coastal inhabitants adhere to Islam, while inland populations follow Christianity, Hinduism, and indigenous faiths.

Tanzania is an East African nation one of the oldest inhabited places on earth. Today it has a population of about 45 million, of which Muslims are about 35%. The official languages are Swahili and English. It’s an incredibly beautiful country, with the stunning Mount Kilimanjaro, rain forest, desert plains, and an abundance of wildlife. Dar es Salaam (“Home of Peace” in Arabic) is the largest city and is the commercial center, though it is not the political capital.

The African population of Tanzania consists of over 120 ethnic groups. There are large groups that are descended from Arabs, Indians, and Pakistanis, and there are also small European and Chinese communities. The people of Tanzania pride themselves on their diversity and their ability to live together in peace.

Here are some photos of this beautiful nation and its wonderful people:

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Egyptian Wedding and Other Cairo Photos

An Egyptian open air wedding

Women celebrating at an Egyptian open air wedding

This lovely collection of Cairo photos was posted on Flickr by RvDario, a world traveler and photographer.

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A Kerala Muslim Wedding

A view of a Muslim wedding in Kerala, India, from somewhere near the inner family circle – but not quite inside…

Bride at a Muslim wedding in Kerala, India

The bride and friends at a Muslim wedding in Kerala, India

Barnaby Haszard Morris
December 18, 2010

The Hindu and Christian weddings I wrote about earlier were the ceremonies of the more ubiquitous and integrated faiths of Kerala. If a visitor stays here for any length of time longer than a month, he or she will invariably be invited to a Hindu and/or a Christian marriage by some open and welcoming new friend, such is the ease of meeting and befriending members of both faiths. Kerala’s Muslims, on the other hand, live their lives largely behind closed doors – as a group they are both ostracised and withdrawn, generally living in segregated communities. Grand old mosques dot the landscape and announce their presence five times a day over a loudspeaker, but in public, their faithful tend to keep a dignified and impenetrable silence.

Map of Kerala India

Kerala is a state along the south western coast of India

I am fortunate that my good friend Shibu, who works in the tourist trade on Varkala’s cliff, is Muslim, and has invited me into his life in every manner possible, including the marriage of his youngest sister last year.

In contrast to the Hindu and Christian weddings I have been to, where I was merely an observer, this time I was invited to be an active part of proceedings. Shibu’s family is not wealthy, so the function was to be held at his home in a small village near Varkala; this meant a full night’s work for almost everyone. A couple of cousins joined the catering team and made a massive batch of parathas, the bride-to-be (in her sparkling wedding sari) sat cross-legged and made flower garlands of all colours, and Em and I helped the older kids decorate a bedroom for the new couple. We spent hours taping paper streamers and bright plastic decorations to the walls.

All this was done with an overriding calmness and lack of fuss, even by Shibu as he flitted from station to station checking on progress and performing all unfilled tasks. This carried through to the next day, when I was asked to join the men of the family as they travelled to the groom’s house and formally invited them to come for the ceremony. Before that, however, came an important prayer to remind everyone that we owe all of this to Allah and hope that he will bless the occasion. A priest led our select group, sitting in a rough circle on plastic chairs in Shibu’s yard, his voice deep and barely above a whisper. As he gently intoned his words of praise, the other men quietly responded with ‘Insh’Allah’ and other phrases where appropriate. These were a few moments of near stillness and utter peace; all sounds in the neighbourhood seemed to cease.

We left, and 45 minutes later we arrived at the groom’s house to formally invite him. An economy of words were spoken on either side; everyone seemed to know their lines by heart. After a quick cup of pink water, we 12 piled back into our minivan, and the groom’s extended family clambered aboard four full-size, brightly coloured buses bearing slogans like ‘Total Travel Solutions’ and ‘Executive Coach’. Another 45 minutes and we’d arrived back at Shibu’s, where half of us were dropped and the other half – Shibu and a few seniors – headed to the nearby mosque to meet with the groom and his respected elders to carry out the marriage proper. Neither the congregation nor the bride were present, which I suppose makes the Muslim wedding the shortest of all I’ve been to from an observer’s point of view.

Varkala Beach in Kerala

Varkala Beach. Kerala state is known for its beaches, backwater rivers and lagoons, Ayurvedic treatments, high literacy rate, and cultural diversity.

With both sides of the congregation together at Shibu’s, we milled about under a huge tarp drinking water and exchanging a few words, while the children played (mostly) nicely. As with the Hindu and Christian ceremonies, the women of the congregation wore saris of all colours and designs, while the men stuck to plain pastel dress shirts and starched white mundus. The colour that was so prevalent at the weddings of those other two faiths wasn’t the same here; it was in the trees that surrounded us in the open air. Looking at some of the elderly women sitting patiently, it struck me that perhaps the colour of this particular wedding lay not in the here and now, but in the pasts of their weathered faces.

A short while later the couple arrived, the bride having first gotten married in absentia then met her husband for the first time on the street round the corner. They walked slowly and silently past us, looking very young and uncertain, but a flicker of a smile crossed the bride’s lips as she glanced at her friends and family watching her pass. The couple were seated next to each other at a specially decorated table and served a helping of parathas and beef. As the rest of us moved to sit at the other tables, a chatter started up and grew into a happy, noisy ambience: the calm and dignified air lifted. At last, it was time to eat, to talk, to laugh and to celebrate.

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A Malay Wedding in Singapore

Malay wedding in Singapore

Iqbal and Haslina arrived in traditional Malay costume for the bersanding ceremony, the day's main event.

by Sharifah
reprinted from building bridges

A wedding is like a microcosm of life. Family, friends, hope, past, present and future all meet on that special day.

On my recent trip home, I was fortunate to attend the wedding of my cousin’s daughter, Haslina. It was wonderful to meet again so many people who have been a part of my life, including former neighbors whom I have not met in years.

Though the Malay community in Singapore lives in a thoroughly modern city, much of our heritage still permeates our lives. For instance, weddings still remain big, community affairs. This dates back from the kampung (which means village) days when all the neighbors and relatives pitched in to help with the preparations and celebrations. And relatives from Malaysia, and sometimes Indonesia, made the trip over to spend a few days with their relatives on the island.

The number of guests can easily be between 500 to 1,000 people. We have a large extended family, and my cousin Rashid is active in the community, so his guest list was quite extensive. There was a constant stream of guests from lunch time till dinner time.

Malays have been pretty adaptable people and have found ways to merge or synthesize the new and the old. In the old days, tents were set up in the front yard for the wedding celebrations. Today, most Singaporeans live in high-rise flats and apartments. To accommodate the number of guests, the spacious lobby of the apartment building, or what is known locally as the void deck, is utilized as the wedding venue. I think this is a uniquely Singaporean feature.

Weddings used to be the launching pad for budding musicians who entertained the guests. Today, live music is not such a common feature of weddings. Haslina’s wedding had a band which played Hindi songs, and it was really fun listening to the popular hits.

On Haslina’s side, we celebrate our Malay and Indian Muslim roots, while the groom, Iqbal, celebrates his Pakistani traditions. And this was seen in the costumes and the two groups of musicians and dancers, the kompang and the bhangra, that heralded the arrival of the couple.

Haslina and Iqbal make a wonderful couple, adding another branch to our kinship tree. And thanks to my cousin Rashid and his wife Masita for giving me an opportunity to get close to my heritage and all the folks that I cherish.

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Mass Weddings Grow Popular in Yemen

”]Mass wedding in Yemen

Mass weddings grow in Yemen

In the Arab world’s poorest state, a new breed of wedding ceremony has emerged out of financial hardship.
Oliver Holmes for Al Jazeera, 15 Nov 2010 13:54 GMT

As is customary in Yemen’s highly conservative culture, Muhammed al-Khouja has never met his fiancée. The couple have been engaged for almost two years and set multiple wedding dates, but every time the day draws near, the wedding is delayed. Yemen is full of single young men like Muhammed who cannot afford to marry.

Weddings are pricey in Yemen – bachelors have to pay their fiancée’s family to marry their daughter. The groom and his father split the cost of a dowry to the bride’s father, normally around $5,000, and the family of the groom is also expected to pay for the wedding expenses.

In the capital Sana’a, this means renting a giant beige tent, filling it with cushions, hiring a local band, covering the surrounding alleyways in light bulbs and blaring music out of colossal speakers fixed to street lamps for three days.

Until recently, the groom’s side also paid for sizeable lamb lunches and the guests’ qat, a mildly narcotic leaf chewed during afternoons and especially at weddings, but it is now generally acknowledged that these are unreasonable additional expenses.

In March, Muhammed’s father told him that to cut costs, Muhammed would get married jointly with his three brothers, a growing trend in Yemen, the poorest of all the Arab states. Now the idea has been taken a step further and a new breed of ceremony has emerged out of hardship – mass weddings ranging from 10 to more than 1,500 couples.

1,600 grooms

Last month, in Yemen’s largest mass wedding to date, 1,600 couples tied the knot. The grooms filled a sports hall in the capital, each dressed in traditional flowing robes, with black and green scarves wrapped around their heads and holding long, curved golden swords.

In Yemen, weddings are a single-sex affair and the brides had their own separate parties at home. The couples were to meet later that night, many for the first time.

Yemeni grooms in traditional dress

Yemeni grooms wearing traditional dress and carrying ceremonial swords, take part in a mass wedding in the capital San'a, Yemen Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. The mass wedding was organized by a local non-governmental group aiming to help young couples facing difficulties with the high cost of weddings and marriage, and was funded by Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, according to the organizers. (AP Photo)

The event was organised by the Orphans Charitable Organisation and sponsored by Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, a brother of the Saudi sovereign.

“All the grooms are orphans,” organiser Abdul Rajeh explained. “Orphans have a really hard time getting married as they don’t have the financial support of a father to help them with the dowry.”

The festivities included a morning of dancing, poetry and short comedic plays and the front few rows of seats were filled with Saudi dignitaries with a sea of the grooms’ black and green headscarves behind them. Even leading Yemeni Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani attended, a man the US has labelled a “specifically designated global terrorist”.

Spirits were high and the grooms unsheathed their swords and danced with them above their heads for some of the more popular songs. Verses of the Quran were read and VIP guests delivered long speeches filled with accolades to Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is also Yemen’s biggest funder of Islamic institutions and analysts say Saudi Arabia’s philanthropic work here is part of a wider scheme to exert influence in the Arabian Peninsula.

In addition to funding the event, Prince Aziz donated a generous sum of 200,000 Yemeni Rials ($900) to each groom as a contribution to his dowry.

“By funding our wedding and helping us with the dowry, Prince Aziz is showing us that he is the father of Yemen’s orphans,” said 25-year-old groom Abdul Ghani at the wedding feast. After the morning’s entertainment, the grooms were bused over to a hall on the other side of the capital to enjoy a lunch of tender lamb, soft Yemeni bread drenched in spicy yogurt and sweet pomegranates.

The donation will only cover a fifth of the cost of the dowry Abdul Ghani will have to pay, but he says the money helps. “I’ve been dreaming of marriage since I was a boy. This is the happiest day of my life, we are all so happy,” he said.

Growing trend

Mass weddings are not only a Yemeni phenomenon. Iran has hosted mass weddings since the mid-1990s, in part to aid the poor and in part to prevent young people from marrying late, fearing premarital sex.

In South Korea, controversial Unification Church founder and self-proclaimed “Messiah” Reverend Sun Myung Moon has married tens of thousands of young couples from around the globe.

But mass weddings in Yemen are a cultural craze. As in Iran, there is a fear among Yemenis that if a man cannot afford to marry he will look for sex elsewhere. In much of the country, friendship with a woman before marriage is considered shameful and worried parents endeavour to marry off their sons and daughters as fast as possible.

Bridegrooms at mass wedding in Yemen

Bridegrooms take part in a mass wedding in Attawila, Yemen in 2007. Some 250 couples were married in a celebration funded by a charity run by the eldest son of the Yemeni president.

There is no stigma attached to marrying en-mass and local charities, the government, tribal sheikhs and the military have started organising weddings.

Even private companies have jumped on the bandwagon in a bizarre gesture of corporate social responsibility.

A corporate wedding

MTN, a South Africa-based telecommunications company that operates mobile phone networks in Yemen, has organised an annual mass wedding for its local Yemeni staff for the past few years. At the most recent ceremony, 30 colleagues were married simultaneously.

A senior development manager at MTN Yemen said that the aim of the wedding was to “make employees loyal to the company and to raise morale”.

Yellow posters baring the MTN logo covered the walls of the hall and an MTN jingle from a TV advertisement would occasionally blast out of the speakers. At one point during the ceremony, the CEO of MTN in Yemen appeared on televisions positioned around the room and talked at length about how MTN is “allowing its employees to settle down”.

But at this corporate wedding, the grooms make relatively decent salaries and are not trapped into single life like many of those at Yemen’s charity-organised weddings.

“This is not my real wedding day,” whispered one of the grooms, adding with a smile: “I’ll be married in a couple months, this is just a good party.”

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Sexy secrets of the Syrian souk

Sexy bra sold in a Syrian souk

An example of Syrian lingerie design for the bedroom

By Martin Asser, reporting from Damascus
Reprinted from BBC News Online

Just off the crowded central market in Old Damascus, a sales assistant called Mahmoud is giving me my first introduction into an unusual Syrian speciality – musical knickers.

The garments come in many different shapes and colours, and play little tunes – or other extraneous noises like telephone ringtones – all made by small electronic devices hidden in the lining.

Singing underwear isn’t the only item on sale at the “Fatin Shop for Ladies Indoor Clothing”, where Mahmoud is proudly showing off his product lines.

He’s got knickers with flashing fairy lights, others that glow in the dark, a bra-and-knickers set shaped like manicured women’s hands enveloping the wearer’s body.

In a slightly higher price range, he’s got remote-controlled bras and knickers, designed to spring open and fall to the floor with a clap of the hands or a press of a button.

Welcome to the no-frills world of Syrian lingerie – no frills, but plenty of tassels, and feathers, and zips, and bras which open like curtains, and…

There’s a whole street off the historic Hamadiyeh Souk selling this genre of clothing – all outfits manufactured in Syria, some that Madonna herself might blush to wear, all showing bawdy creativity and a wicked sense of humour.

Culture shock

Forthright displays of the some world’s raciest “leisure wear” have long been a feature of Syrian souks – though many tourists don’t notice the hot knickers and PVC French maid outfits among the more traditional inlaid backgammon sets and textiles.

Remote controlled sexy underwear in a Syrian souk

Mahmoud demonstrates various styles, including remote-controlled knickers

It stems from the Syrian tradition for brides-to-be to be given a trousseau of exotic underwear – sometimes dozens of items – usually by girlfriends, aunties and cousins, to add spice to their wedding nights, honeymoons and beyond.

With a glint in his eye, Mahmoud, who’s barely out of school himself, says “some ladies keep coming back until their 30s”.

Now two London-based Arab women, Rana Salam and Malu Halasa, are shining a spotlight on this little-known local speciality, with a new book called The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie.

“They used to tell me at art school: ‘Look within your culture’. So I looked and I was in for a big surprise,” graphic designer Ms Salam told me at the launch in London last month.

“The point of the book is to go beyond politics, to break stereotypes and celebrate Middle Eastern romanticism and pleasure. Call it kitsch, call it whatever you like, but I think this attire is superb, spontaneous, pure art.”

On display at the launch party are a few of the most elaborate (but silent) designs, framed on the wall as works of art, including the “hands” bikini.

“I mean, Jean Paul Gaultier eat your heart out,” she says pointing to another exhibit, a bright red wire spiral bra, with white roses at the center and covered in a host of plastic butterflies.

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Wedding Photos of the Fula People of Senegal, West Africa

Fula bride in The Gambia

The bride uncovered (in white in the middle)

Alex Silvester spent some time in The Gambia, West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, working on tree-planting and vegetable-planting projects. During that time he traveled extensively in West Africa. In November 2009 he attended a wedding of the Fula people in Gambia. The Fula, also known as Fulani, are a nomadic or semi-nomadic people scattered all across the desert areas of Africa. They were among the first African peoples to accept Islam and today are 99% Muslim, though their actual practice of Islam varies widely.

The bride was Alex’s “host sister.”

Here is Alex’s story. Make sure to click on the photos, as they are quite large and interesting:

A Fula Wedding

I had been waiting all day for this moment. I watched as the women filed into the compound. I asked the man next to me where the bride was. He pointed to a brightly clothed woman. I was confused. My host sister was getting married, but the woman he pointed to was not my host sister. I asked again and this time he said look behind. Then I saw her, my host sister. She stood huddled behind the women wrapped from head to toe in fula fabric (Fula fabric is traditional fabric made by hand by the Fulas). She reminded me of a mummy because I could not see any skin. I do not know how she breathed. It was a hot day and the fabric covered her face. A man picked her up and laid her down on a prayer mat and the official tying of the knot started.

The bride, completely covered in white

The bride, completely covered in white

The wedding began the day before in the bride’s father’s compound (where I lived). It started with a big lunch for all the guests. My compound killed two goats. I never saw my host sister the whole day. She stayed in the house, while everyone else was dancing, cooking, talking, and having a good time. Right before dark, the gifts were brought out and a crier started to count all the presents. My host sister had over 40 buckets, 250 meters of fabric, and 70 bowls not to mention the other household items she received. Each guest brought a present. To me, it seemed such a waste to have some items of the same kind because these people do not have enough money to replace their own broken bowls and buckets, but one woman gets more buckets, meters of fabric and bowls than she could use in her entire life. Later I learned the presents are actually shared with the family and friends.

Around 1 am, a gele (bush taxi) showed up with the groom contingent. After a couple of hours the groom left taking the bride to his village. Women, the bride’s family and friends, go in the car to the groom’s village. The bride’s parents do not go. The women were all crying (extremely uncommon in Gambian culture) because my host sister was leaving her village for good and may be visiting only rarely. Men usually do not go, but my family encouraged me to go to the groom’s village to see what happens next.

Fula groom in traditional wedding costume

The Fula groom in a traditional wedding costume (the fellow on the left, obviously)

The bride contingent stayed the entire morning in a different compound while people arrived in the groom’s compound. The women cooked. The men chatted. The kids chased each other around. Around two, the bride’s contingent showed up in the compound to look at the cow to be slaughtered for the meal. They approved and the dancing began. I helped a man from my village kill the cow and cut up the meat. In the evening the bride and her contingent showed up in the compound as the sun was going down.

I sat in the back watching as a family friend picked my host sister up to lay her down on the prayer mat. All the men were sitting around her. The groom was sitting a couple of rows back. Many men spoke and blessed the two. Then everyone got up and I could not see where my host sister went. Luckily a woman explained to me what was going to happen. I quickly followed a bunch of people as they headed to the open well.

My host sister went through the ritual of what she must do before she can enter in her “married” house. She knelt on each side of the well. She washed her husband’s clothes splashing everyone when she finished. She then went to the cattle field where a kid milked a cow. She finally was able to take off the fabric around her head and put it on the cow. Now she was ready to enter her house. As she approached the door, the groom’s friends would not let her in. The women’s friends must pay the fee to enter which is not more than 2 or 3 dollars but there was a lot of negotiating the price down. Then the women ran in trying to smear cream on the groom’s friends as they tried to escape. The women then took over the house. The bride was in her house and the women stayed there all night talking, eating, and congratulating the bride. The party continued the next day. Fula weddings are always three days, with much eating, dancing and celebrating.

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A Moroccan Wedding from the Medina of Fez

Gate to the old city of Fez, Morocco

Gate to the old city of Fez, Morocco

A blog called “The View from Fez: Observations from the Medina of Fez in Morocco” published a nice series of photos of a traditional (if somewhat lavish) Moroccan wedding in the city of Fez. The authors of the blog were invited in 2009 to attend the wedding of Si Mohamed and Hakima, a Moroccan couple. Tom Fakler took the photographs.

The bride and groom were married a few months ago, but according to Moroccan and Islamic tradition, couldn’t begin their life together until they had celebrated properly with family and friends. The party, known as a walimah, took place at one of the wedding halls in the new city of Fez.

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