Wednesday 25 April 2018

Traditional Marriages in Qatar

When it comes to weddings in the Peninsula, a foreigner's imagination goes immediately to the fabled '1001 Arabian nights'.
Often poetically called Farhat al Hayat, or life's joy in Arabic, marriage is the crucial event that signals the end of a stage in a person's life and the beginning of a new one.

The book Marraige in Qatar beautifully describes the regulations, customs and traditions surrounding nuptials in the country.

The mediation, the acceptance and announcement, the engagement, the bride's trousseau, the spouses' house, the banquet and wedding night, the entry of the groom to the Khella, the bedroom of the new couple, first morning and embellishing the bride, reward for the groom to Ajjafa, hairdresser, each step before the marriage ceremony requires preparation and includes taking care of many details, elements and cultural patterns.

But times are changing. In earlier days, while the criteria and preferences of families to choose the bride or the groom were shyness and decency, they have since got replaced by beauty and education. The concern is that compatibility and attraction will work to build a strong and happy family.

'If he is educated and has a job, he will be able to safeguard the girl's interests and protect her,' is the common thought when choosing a boy.

Ethnographic material shows that the bride is to be embellished only the day after the ceremony. It was a custom for certain families in urban areas not to inform the girl of her marriage until one day prior to the wedding, or may not even inform her at all.

In such case, no preparations for the wedding used to take place. The same would apply to Bedouin areas where the bride was brought to the groom's house in a procession without embellishments.

Once married, traditions would give her permission to use kohl (eye make-up) and perfume. Yet, the morning after the wedding night, the bride is taken, bathed, beautified and dressed.

'They wake up in the morning, and enter her room one after another, this is when the bride looks her best, as beautiful as a full moon,' the book describes.

In the past, the Qatari bride's embellishment rituals were Warss (Curcuma), Mashmoom (Basil), Henna, rose water and perfumes.

The groom is perfumed by his mother.
Till recently, the Qatari community was accustomed to holding more than one celebration on the wedding day. For instance, a celebration for women only used to be held at the bride's house, where women folk bands would perform. On the day following the wedding, another celebration would be held at the bride's house that begins in the afternoon and lasts until sunset.

The other part of celebrations was held at the groom's house in two stages, the first would be one night before the wedding, in which men sing Samiri, Liwa, Habban or Tamboura all old dances performed at weddings before dinner is served.

"On the wedding day, a Zarif dance, dancing with swords, is performed in front of the groom's house, and after dinner, members of the band walk with him in procession if the house is close until they reach the bride's house," the book describes.

It is noted that the groom's celebration is held in an open area outside the house, where sword-dancing, rifle and trumpet performances can be seen.
Depending upon the weather and social status, the duration of the wedding ceremonies can take a week or according to Bedouin tradition, three days.

In Bedouin areas, men gather in the Majlis and clap their hands and sing and dance to a song that says:
Oh God, may it be blessed and joyful
The boy and girl's wedding
May she have a child
And be guided left and right.

The following morning, called Sabahiyya, is considered the effective start of the marriage parties and the bride embellishments.

There is a consensus referring to the gift the groom is offering to the bride before exiting the room after the wedding night. The gift tradition is registering offers like precious watches, gold and diamonds, pearls, artifacts, cars and cash of course.

After this moment, the first morning the couple will have a traditional breakfast with balaleet and traditional dishes. Then, the groom goes out to prayer where his father asks"if things went well."

By Elsa Exarhu

*culled from

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