Tuesday, July 31, 2007

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the wedding...

Lately, my wife and I seem to have a knack for missing bad parties. We missed a real bust during the Beach Rugby tournament in Agadir over a month ago, and missed another one this Saturday for a cousin's wedding.

It was stiflingly hot in the historic medieval city of Fez. For the part of the wedding that we missed, it was so hot that the guests were uncomfortable, bored, sweating... and getting hungrier by the minute.
Men and women were separated for the proceedings, which was the reason we decided to skip the ceremony. While the women danced and had fun, the men sat, uncomfortable, exhausted, squirming, checking their watches... and getting hungrier by the minute.

Girls just want to have fun, and they did. The men meanwhile, especially two joining families, one conservative Muslim, the other modern and liberal, sussed each other out, sitting and sweating... and sussing... and getting hungrier by the minute.

It wasn't until 1am before the food finally arrived. Moroccans are polite, especially during the special day of someone's wedding. So even starving and waiting hours longer than usual, nobody spoke out of turn and and said, "This sucks, where's the fucking food."

I knew how it worked, and that's the very reason I often cringe at going to Moroccan weddings. Food, if on time, doesn't come until 10pm. 1am would be excruciating.

We made it for the second part of the wedding on the Sunday, where Siham's side of the family threw a bash of their own to make up for the sexual separation of the Bride's conservative family.

It was hot enough to fry an omlet on a dark rock, and guests were told to arrive just in time to really appreciate the midday summer heat. We showed up an hour late. If I could do it again, I'd show up two hours late. The given time was 1pm. Nothing happened until 4pm.

People sat in the meagre shade of the common room, hoping for a gust of air to provide some respite from the suffocating heat.

A blurry family connection owned the giant house. Siham tried to explain, but lost me somewhere between inlaws and nephews and grandparents. In the reception room, elaborate arabic tapestries were carved throughout the ceiling and along the walls.

Some genius decided it wasn't hot enough to have an afternoon wedding meal on the first floor, where people were suffering from the beginning stages of heat stroke. Instead, we went up a floor, where it was a few degrees hotter, and without a huge door to send gusts of wind onto the guests. My legs felt like I'd been forced to wear my pants for a month strait, burning, itchy, sweat-caked, and I'd only been there two hours.

Food was served. I was hungry. There was a lot. First a beef tagine, with almonds and an olive-oil-based onion sauce, later there was a similar chicken tagine with olives. My appetite was appeased. Perhaps the cooks were suffering from heat stroke too, because guests quietly whispered that it wasn't up to the succulent wedding standard they expected.

Whoever planned the food supplies, seemed to have neglected the drink supplies. Hint: In fifty degree heat, people are thirsty. The two one-litre bottles of soda and one bottle of water lasted half a minute at our table of ten. We waited anxiously for fillups that never came. The image of ice cold beer ran through my head, and Western weddings, and air conditioning.

Afterwards, Siham and I went to the local cafe and downed bottles of water and soda. I contemplated buying a cold beer from the nearby supermarket, but didn't.

The evening provided some respite as chairs were set up on the lawn outside. The dancing and clapping crowd in the common room seemed to replace the sun's power with the stuffiness of body heat in an enclosed space.

A Moroccan band bleated horns and pounded hand drums. The bride and groom were carried around the room on Palanquins. Dancing ensued, and continued late into the night.

At least nobody was hungry, and when something ends on a memorable note, all the previous little troubles seem to fade away.

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