I walked carefully in the dark between the houses, through rough alleyways on stony ground, the sound of the Egyptian pop music getting louder. Finally I saw the tent walls and the hanging lights. Little boys hung around outside, as they always do, eager to get a glimpse of the girls as they anonymously entered the tent, and excited by the vibe of the party. Weddings are one of the few things Bedouins have to look forward to in their simple lives.
Inside the high tent walls, with no roof, just a starry night above, I could see a stage at one end with a double seater chair for the bride and groom. Women sat cross-legged on the floor in large clumps, wearing their abeyas and black scarves, under which were hidden fancy, sparkling, sequined dresses in all colours. Some had abandoned their abeya on floor and were dancing. Wow. It looked like a Bedouin night at the Oscars. I tried to spot someone I knew, but when you can only see their eyes and nose, some black hair, some hands and a sea of abeyas….it’s quite difficult to my untrained eye to differentiate everyone. They are used to recognizing each other like this though, which always amazes me!
Eventually someone saw me, the “obvious” blonde-haired foreigner and called me over to sit with the family group. Women came around with tea and coffee, and as I lowered myself to the floor, I put my shoes close behind me. (I’m always paranoid about losing my shoes with Bedouins, because they just get carelessly kicked around, and I imagine myself limping home in one shoe). I’ve known this family a few years now so I get greeted like a Bedouin: we touch the backs of each others heads and draw them close, then lightly touch the shoulder of the other person and then a soft handshake, almost non-existent. It’s nice to be greeted like this and be treated like one of them. Loud, pulsating Egyptian music fills the air, little girls and young women are all up in their fines outfits shaking their booties so exotically, so very sexily….Their thick, black hair is immaculately done, as is their makeup and eyebrows. They are such beautiful girls.
I get up to dance (everyone turns to have a look at the spectacle!) and immediately am surrounded by a wall of small girls all wanting to dance with me. Some greet me in Hebrew, Jews being their main source of tourism in Nuweiba. They are amazing to watch, but they all vie for my attention, pushing each other out the way to be the one that dances in front of me. After a while it gets ridiculous as I have to break up a couple of fights, but I do learn some good dance moves and feel less embarrassed dancing with these little girls than with the “pro” bigger girls. Even though the little girls are all pros themselves!
Eventually there is some beeping outside, the tent walls are drawn back, women cover their faces, and the bride and groom are driven in and dropped off. They shyly go onto the stage and sit on their throne. Throngs of women make their way onto the stage to congratulate them, whilst the mother of the groom throws sweets and biscuits into the audience. After a while the new couple stand up and dance awkwardly in front of the crowd of women, everyone sits down and watches. Probably having romantic thoughts about it all. The bride is unrecognizable with thick make-up on making her look white like a geisha, she is wearing a wedding cake white wedding dress. He is in his white headscarf and white gallibeya. It’s a big day for them as until this point they have little real contact with each other.
The party and dancing continues on, wedding cake is passed around; there must have been 200 or more women there, so not everyone got some. Tea, coffee, water, coke, and sharbat (a sickly-sweet, rose flavored drink) is passed through the seated ladies. It’s a warm night and dancing makes it even warmer. Some of the small children have passed out with exhaustion and there are soundly sleeping babies and children strewn amongst the seated ladies.
It’s 10.30pm by now, wedding parties usually finish by 11pm. The crowd has thinned out. Suddenly the electricity unexpectedly goes off. Oh well, it’s time to go home anyway.
What a beautiful, special night it was. And soon there will be new Bedouin babies on the way.