I went to three weddings in Jordan. It was really an awesome, awesome cultural experience, but of course came with lots and lots of awkward stories.
The first wedding I went to was fine. I don't remember much about it, though, so it must not have been anything special.
The second and third weddings, though, I and my friend Lorien were guests of honor. (Even though we didn't know the bride or the groom...minor detail.) You see, I had many, many friends at the University of Jordan. This happened because I would walk up to groups of girls daily and basically ask them to talk to me. In Arabic. For two hours.
I spent a little bit more time than usual with one of these groups of girls (they were so nice! Really, really nice) and one day one of them invited me and my friend Lorien to her cousin's wedding.
We were ecstatic.
The day appointed for said wedding was Friday and was out in the middle of nowhere. We didn't really know where it was, but the girl gave us the name of the "village" and told us that it was the only wedding that Friday in that village, so we should be able to find it just fine.
So, after church (church is on Friday in Jordan--but Lorien and I decided that attending this wedding would be a good cultural outreach and we considered it a Sabbath-worthy activity) we got in a taxi and told the taxi driver where to go. We were hoping he knew where it was because we sure didn't.
Well, after driving for more than 30 minutes and getting farther and farther out into the middle of nowhere (and racking up the dinar on the taxi meter!) we finally drove up to this hill in the middle of nowhere. The taxi driver told us that this was probably it, since there were tarps set up and people sitting around, and then tried to charge us for more than the meter price, "because I won't have any customers on the way back in, we are so far in the middle of nowhere!"
Well, you should have thought of that before, buddy! After arguing with him for a minute, I gave him 10 cents more than the meter said. It's really not my problem that he didn't agree to a price beforehand.
When we stepped out of the taxi, we suddenly became the object of everyone's attention. We didn't know we were the guests of honor before (we didn't even know the bride or the groom!) but when two American females (who speak Arabic) attend a wedding in the middle of nowhere, it equals "instant celebrity." Mothers were bringing their children over to touch us and our hair and take pictures with us. And after the meal of mansaf, we found out that we had 2.5 hours of waiting time until the actual wedding.
Let me explain a little. Up to this point we had seen neither the bride nor the groom--we had just eaten mansaf (a traditional meal at more traditional (ie country-ish) weddings). There were about 200 women in attendance, and it was an outdoor setting, with tarps set up like canopies. We all sat on plastic chairs scattered around. And sat. Overall, we were in this hot dry desert hill for about 4 hours.
Which might explain why we all got so bored. The Arab women started singing, and soon they turned and looked at us--two American females at a Jordanian wedding--and figured that we must be able to sing. They finally convinced us to sing--but what? Lorien and I could only think of hymns, which didn't quite seem appropriate in this situation...
Finally I decided on "Eidleweiss" and "When You Say Nothing At All" (the only songs I could remember all the words to)--and sang them over and over again as the women recorded us singing on their cell phones.
What can I say, we were the guests of honor!
After the singing was the photo shoot, where everyone wanted to take pictures with us.
By this point, it was getting a little awkward. Lorien and I were relieved when the attention turned from us to the micro-busses pulling up in front of the tarps. When we asked what they were, we were told that these busses (all 4 of them) would take the women (all 200 of us) to the place of the wedding. Did I mention these busses nomally only fit 20 people?
Again, minor detail.
We shoved everyone onto the busses for the 15 minute ride. And what do Jordanian females do at a wedding when they are bored? Sing and dance, of course!
When we finally arrived, it was a mad house to try and shove everyone (all the females--the only male there was the groom) into this small house which was either the place of the ceremony or just a greeting area--with all the mass confusion, I wasn't quite sure what was going on. All I know is that we were pushed to the front of the crowd, my camera was taken by someone even closer to the front than me (so she could get "better pictures"), it was incredibly hot and stuffy in that little room, and the bride did not look happy. Not one bit.
Which is why I was so shocked and panicked when the girls we knew (the groom's cousin) shoved us to the front of the crowd after the ceremonial things (all I could see was that the groom put a lot of gold jewelry on the bride) to take pictures with the bride. I want you to notice my arm gripping Lorien's in a death grip and the look of extreme awkwardness on my face.
In case you are wondering about the bad Paint job I did, the bride is a muhajjibiya, which means that she only wears clothing that completely covers her body and a veil (hijab) that covers her neck and hair when males are present. At weddings, the only male present is her husband, so she (the bride) and the female members of the groom's family do their hair down or in updos. But I wanted to put this incredibly awkward picture on my blog, so I covered her hair and skin. I am not trying to mock or anything else at all--I just wanted you to get a glimpse of how awkward the moment was for us while still keeping the bride modest.
Well, after that ordeal, we told our most gracious hosts that we did need to return to Amman and asked if there were busses, or taxis, or anything that would come out to this area in the next half hour or so. Did I mention we were in the middle of nowhere and about 30 minutes outside of Amman?
Well, the girls were rather resourceful and told us that someone was going to town and would give us a ride in.
That "someone" happened to be the chauffer for the newly married couple, and the getaway car was already decorated!!
Once again, we were mortified, but they were already opening the doors for us. No, it wasn't a sign of chivalry, the car was falling apart.
Which we found out 15 minutes later as we were still travelling to Amman and had to pull over to replace the flat tire!!!
Could this trip get any more strange?
We finally made it back to a bus station on the outskirts of Amman, where they let us off and went back to the wedding.
As incredibly odd as the experience was, I was really so impressed at their hospitality and going way out of their way for their guests (us)--even when we had no relation whatsoever to the couple.
The other wedding, which happened two weeks later (another girl in the same group's relative--but luckily it was her sister this time and not a distant cousin), was much less awkward. It was in a wedding center just outside of Amman, and we went with two of the Jordanian girls in the taxi this time (so no fear of getting lost).
The bride looked much happier (perhaps due to the fact that the building was airconditioned!!) and instead of eating mansaf, we ate cake.
They took us up again to take a picture with the bride, but since she is also a muhajjibiya and I did such a bad Paint job with the last one, I will just leave you with these two pictures taken of us at the wedding (this is the group of friends that always hung out together).