Berber Lovin’

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The big day has come and passed! I took my final exam for the first “semester” on Friday morning, shoveled too much couscous in my mouth, then showered and prepared for the Berber wedding. I planned on bringing an extra set of clothing in case I felt very out of place in the Moroccan dress, but my clothes were wrinkly and not exactly sparkling clean. I followed Amina’s directions and placed a rough rug on the floor, laid my clothes on top of it, and ironed away on my hands and knees. Why do we buy ironing boards again?

Mama Hakima and I packed the robe and headed to the riad across town where my French host parents from last summer, Nadine and Antoine, waited. It was so refreshing and fantastic to see Antoine—his red-brown hair flopping across his forehead, looking so silly in a white polo and blue and white striped jacket. Nadine looked absolutely beautiful. I can’t even express how wonderful and heartening this reunion was after over a year passed. The best part for me was introducing Mama Hakima to Nadine and taking a photo with my two host mothers!

Mama Hakima and I met the other members of Antoine’s family also here for the wedding—his brother and wife, his Swiss cousin Catherine and her husband, and another brother. All were dressed just as I imagined classy Europeans dress for such occasions (the big brown-lensed glasses, crisp button-down, simple timeless jacket…) and they all looked very beautiful. I felt very privileged to attend the wedding with them. After Mama Hakima left the riad, I caught up with Antoine and Nadine and dug deep in my brain for the French I once could speak comfortably. I think half of those nerve endings have been replaced by Arabic. The eight of us piled into a van and headed to the wedding!

I spent the first hour at the wedding munching on dates and sipping avocado juice as the band set up and women arrived in packs—heading straight to the changing room to dress up. Having arrived 45 minutes late, we were still the first guests. Antoine’s cousin Pacome, the groom, was 50 years old, converted to Islam, and spoke only French. Maria, the bride, was a twenty year-old Moroccan gal from a Berber family. Pacome could not communicate well with Maria’s family; on top of that, his close family was not there, only a few cousins. The wedding was not nearly as elaborate as the celebration I saw in Myriem’s wedding video, but it had no less charm or amusement! In the six hours that followed, Maria changed five times! It became a game among us, what color would be next? Lots of Moroccan dancing ensued, by us amateurs and professional folklore dancers alike.

I stayed close to the French family members at first but decided, if I was going to be at a Moroccan wedding wearing a sparkly red caftan, I best be speaking some Arabic. I squeezed in between a few girls my age and we talked about America, university, traditional weddings, and life in Fes. We laughed, tasted platters of sweet finger food, and gestured exuberantly to one another. At a few points during the night I was approached by women, clearly on a man’s behalf, asking if I was married. No introduction, just in Arabic “hello, are you married? Do you want  to be married?” as they glanced at my left hand. One man was particularly adamant in his pursuit and commented on my “beauty” incessantly, as if he had never seen a white-skinned girl before. Flattered, embarrassed, uncomfortable. Insisting I have a boyfriend in America does little more than prompt, “but you’re single in Morocco!”

Between the five outfit changes, constant sugar-high, and constant translating from Arabic to French, I was exhausted by the time we left around midnight. It was an experience, as is every day here, and I’m fortunate to have been welcomed into such a sacred, momentous event by strangers.