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):
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!
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 …