That title should have you all fall off your chairs. For those of you who know me in real life, take a deep breath. ‘Twas a wedding I attended in jeans and sneakers and no, I wasn’t the bride.
But the very fact that I was able to participate in this wedding was, for me, the simply the culmination of generosity and hospitality that I experienced during the 10 days I stayed there. And one of those weird spurts of luck that seem to happen only to me.
My first impressions of Algeria -and Algerians – were not very good. My first impressions of Algeria consisted a whole lot of confusion at the airport. It turned out that not even being fluent in French was enough to make the customs entry process remotely comprehensible. I stood by the X-ray which awaited me after having my visa stamped on entry and wondered where people got the blue forms they were filling out and did I also have to, someone borrowed my only pen, many others jostled me, and when my purse with all my documents (and phone) was being screened, someone else (but in uniform) took my passport away, and another person (also in uniform) pointed out my host who waved to me from behind many other men (in uniform). After gathering my belongings including my suitcase, I had to relinquish my passport yet again with the mysterious blue form I had somehow miraculously acquired because the form had not been stamped. Much more jostling and nervous eyeing of men (in uniform) running around with my passport took place before I finally set my feet outside the airport.
Thankfully, things only got steadily better in culminating with my being invited to the wedding of one of Algeria’s greatest singers (the Algerian “Bob Dylan”) simply by virtue of standing in the lobby one evening and watching a colorful entrance wedding procession. A very kind groomsman took me under his care and invited me to the actual ceremony in spite of my less-than-adequate attire. Although he insisted I stay the whole night to witness everything, I had to remind myself it was a work trip and therefore it would probably not be a good idea to dance the night away. Especially since it was midnight before the hors-d’oeuvre arrived, and I slipped away.
But before midnight, I saw many beautiful women decked out in traditional Algerian dresses.
There were men in white robes who mostly took photos of other men in white robes.
Soon women’s cries rang out, and the lobby was flooded with bejewelled women crying out as in the background of this video (sung by the groom!). At the entrance, a woman whose face was covered with a gold headdress stopped to eat dates and drink milk which she was served. The bride – for it was indeed she – continued on in a stately walk which was entirely obstructed by arms holding iphones, ipads and cameras but which looked something like this:
The women only entered the ballroom, and I was directed by my groomsman host to enter as well. I stood on the sidelines and observed as the bride’s headdress was unraveled to become a very large piece of material (hard to name) under which successively disappeared, brandishing make-up tools, first one and then another of the bride’s relatives. As other women chanted, swayed their hips and rotated the cloth above her head in the rhythm of the music, the bride was undergoing a very intensive make-up session. She emerged from it only half an hour later, beautiful, stately and majestic. The last two adjectives are particularly appropriate since she was wearing another headdress (weighing, as my host informed me, well over 10 kg) as well as many karats embroidered into or draping from the front of her dress. Propelling her around the room to greet guests were her mother and other relatives. Her smile, although painted, looked sincere, but it was obvious she was walking under a heavy weight.
I ducked out to talk to my host who was outside with the groomsmen. He showed me the groom’s songs on youtube and introduced me to a host of other groomsmen before walking me up to the groom and insisting I have a photo with him.
So, for the record, I have a photo with the Algerian Bob Dylan taken on his wedding night, and I can sell it to the highest bidder.
Just kidding. I’ll keep it as a beautiful memory of a fun and unexpected night.
For your listening pleasure:
Sidi Boumediene (considered the ‘patron saint’) of the city where I stayed and where he has a beautiful mausoleum/mosque in his name.
And to the kind groomsman who invited a young American in jeans and sneakers to attend the wedding of his best friend “just so she could see and experience Algerian culture and hospitality” – thank you, I most certainly did.