Final Glimpses Through the Emirati Window

I was lucky enough to be invited to an Emirati wedding in the “town” of Gayathi, really more of a spattering of apartments, schools and mom-and-pop shops to support us migrant workers.  It was held at the large community hall, where all weddings, exhibitions and events take place.  We arrived by two taxis, at about 8pm, and were the only foreigners, save the Malaysian and Filipino waitresses.

Below is the only photo I was able to take without any local women’s faces in the background (they aren’t allowed to be photographed for public viewing):

Hummus, tabouleh, camel, rice, fruits and sweets were served until the bride arrived at 11pm.

All guests at the party were women, as is the tradition in Emirati culture, and the men were partying at another venue nearby.  It may be of no surprise that the men are allowed to have female guests, but only those hired as dancers. Go figure.

Servants snaked through round tables offering perfume and burning oud, a hardcore incense cone that permeates the air with no mercy for the lungs.  On top of that, it was Day 2 of my cleanse so I had to turn down just about all the food, especially the cultural gem of camel’s meat.  Add these two factors with the ban on booze, and this made for the toughest wedding I’d ever been to!

By the time the bride made her grand entrance (and mama, was it grand!), we’d been dancing on the red carpet and raised stage with children, aunties, neighbors and friends for hours.

I felt honored to have been a part of the festivities and thought this would probably be the last time I really got to see the “real Emirati” life.  Thankfully, I was wrong!

The birthday girl of honor and some very pretty camels.

A Bedouin Birthday

Just a few weeks later, to celebrate my friend Nelressa’s birthday, we planned a surprise BBQ.  The big surprise was meeting an Emirati dude at the pool of the Danat that day, and getting invited to take our party to his tent and camel farm out in the desert.

Can I get a “hells yeeeeeah!”?

So we piled in four cars, packed in our BBQ accoutrement and booked it out to Gayathi (or somewhere beyond the city) yet again.  We were met in the middle of nowhere by a man with a big white SUV of some kind.  On the side of the one road in and out of . . . somewhere . . . we squeezed 10 people in one car, and one crazy mo’ fo’ hanging off the outside!

It was a sweet moonlit night of curious kiddies and fireside chattin’.  We dabbled in camel’s milk, and most guests (except for this rude little vegetarian) dug into fresh roasted goat and homemade bread before we returned to our hotel oasis, across warm sandy dunes in the back of a camel transport truck (with ALL lady guests on board, despite proposals from our already-married host!).

I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story …

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3 thoughts on “Final Glimpses Through the Emirati Window”

  1. Of all the ingredients used as incense, none is as precious and revered as Oud wood. The story of Oud (also known as Agarwood or Aloeswood) is an interesting one. A fungus (Phialophora parasitica) infects the tree and the heartwood responds by creating an aromatic resin. Nature provides an interesting metaphor for managing life’s tribulations with the story of Oud. Consider the facts. Something foreign and dangerous attacks the tree. The tree responds from its heart and produces something more precious and powerful than the very thing that invades it. Imagine what the world would be like if each of us could respond to negative forces with such grace.
    The Muslim world has embraced Oud as a sacred ingredient for thousands of years. Infected wood from trees of the Aquilaria family is burned over charcoal in a portable censor called a mabkhara and is wafted around one’s person to scent hair, skin and clothing. Worshippers who come to Mecca and Medina encounter the scent of burning Oud wood at the Great Mosque during Hajj and often return home with a souvenir of Oud wood chips from their pilgrimage. Oud is also ritually used to greet guests in the home, at wedding celebrations and in the home of a newborn child.

    1. Wow, thank you for the oud lesson, Larry, really fascinating! What a beautiful metaphor for soaring above and beyond life’s challenges. Inspiring…

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