When you are in Mogadishu and the television crew you are with asks whether you’d love to go to a wedding, while warning you that weddings here drag on, genders are separated and food takes ages before it’s served; you say a resounding yes, because you are here in search of stories such as these, and if anything, you’d love the whole nine yards.
Amira Hotel is a fitting venue for this wedding, with an African ambiance that draws you in, the minute you arrive. The shape of one of the buildings coupled with the bamboo stick exterior as well as the palm trees with ripe fruits hanging, loops me in. We join the groups already milling around and strike conversation. I am asked a few minutes later if I’d like to eat and immediately whisked upstairs where I find plates already arranged and Somali ladies seated patiently. The ladies are elaborately garbed in wedding attendance attire; a kaleidoscope of colourful abayas and hijabs, with lots of jewelry on -gold rings, bangles, necklaces and beautifully decorated hennaed hands. The melange of strong perfume oils give out a heady mix of fragrances in the air.
Uniformed waiters surface from the kitchen bearing jugs of fresh lemonade and watermelon juice which they swiftly place on each of the tables. Hardly a minute goes by before they return with platters of rice and macaroni which they serve the guests according to how much each desires to eat. The waiters return to the kitchen and now come out balancing meat platters consisting of grilled chicken and mutton, as well as different salads which they leave at the centre of each table. Everything tastes so good and in a few minutes, plates are cleared and we all troop downstairs to a separate hall where the performers are getting prepared.
Somali music comes on and the performers dressed in bright red costumes dance in with their umbrellas. I enjoy their singing and dancing, but the arrival of bride Aniisa, electrifies the atmosphere. She dances in happily just behind her bridesmaids who are adorned in animal print dresses with their long black hair bouncing down to their shoulders in beautiful waves. We all follow the bride to the front of the room and dance with her. Its laughter and merriment, and after the bride and her maids sit down, the lead singer doles out beautiful tunes kicking up the performance a notch higher.
The singer cum poet I’m told, is praising the families of the bride and groom, as she goes on for a few hours in rich oral tradition narrating their background and ancestry.
The older ladies have so much fun that they often get up, dance to the front and spray the artistes with dollars and Somali shillings to show pleasure with their singing.
After sometime, the bride and her entourage walk out to get changed, and get back to the hall with the groom. They are all dressed up in white and march slowly and purposefully under a white sheet held up for them by the bridesmaids and groomsmen. The oral tradition continues with the dance revolving around the concept of village activities; there’s the churning of milk, sifting of maize and pounding of grains.
The poet takes the bowl of milk which she hands over to the groom. The groom and bride hold the bowl together and lovingly take sips from it, each helping the other. They are now man and wife in this symbolic act.
Congratulations to the bride and groom: Abdinuur and Aniisa. I wish you many years of happily wedded bliss!