The map told us to turn after the school. My kindergarten level Arabic skills actually proved useful in spotting the school. We passed a big building after the police station (just about the only building with a sign in English.) It looked like it could maybe be a school, but the sign was in Arabic. Driving two miles an hour, I peered out the window, slowly sounding out the words on the sign - happily, I eventually recognized "madrassa" (school). After that, the map went to pot. So we wandered around slowly in the town until we found what we thought was the mosque she had marked (there were several mosques in the town, but this one was named Sheikh Khalifa mosque, so we looked for the biggest looking one). After finding the biggest mosque the map told us the house should be just next to it, unfortunately, all we saw were a row of little shops. We stopped to look at the map again and caught the attention of some Arab boys. We tried asking them if they knew where a wedding was being held nearby, but they didn't speak English. Suddenly the idea popped into my head to try to remember the Swahili word for wedding. I don't really know why, but I said "harusi?" to the boy. A look of recognition passed across his face and he smiled and said "Ah ok.., Ah-rus!" and pointed the way to the house.
Though we ended up being quite late, the party hadn't even begun to start. We sat a table with other people from work, the Deputy Director - a local lady, the Commercial Consultant, a Czech lady, and her two small blond children, Cleo, who is from the Philippines, a recruitment officer from Mauritius, and the woman in charge of the Administration department, another Local lady. My little one checked out the whole scene. After a while of observing as ladies, all local entered and took their seats, he asked loudly:
"Why are there so many Arabs here?"
"Because it is an Arab wedding."
The party took place in an enclosed courtyard of the house - perhaps it is intended to be the car park, I am not sure. There tables were arranged around a small decorated tent with open sides. Inside the tent was a red sofa sprinkled with rose petals. This was where the bride would sit and the groom would come to join her once he arrived.
Most of the guests wore abayas that they did not remove at all, but a few younger ladies, especially those in the bride's and groom's families were dressed (and made up) to the hilt in figure hugging sparking gowns with their hair piled high on their heads. Some of the teenagers of this group were carrying around a giant fake shell displaying the white gold and diamond jewelry set the groom had sent for the bride that he would present to her when he arrived.
After some time, the buffet table at the corner of the courtyard opened and we ate. The food was a selection of Arabic dishes and a couple of Indian ones.
It was only at about 10:30 that Fatema finally appeared. She looked very different from how I am used to seeing her every day at work, in her Abaya. She wore a pale green dress, which was form fitting through the torso and poofed out at the bottom - like a ball gown. Her arms and back were exposed - and I realized she had a much higher forehead the she seems to have when wearing Hijab. The dress must have been heavy or getting caught on her shoes, because she walked stiffly and had to stop every few steps so that one of the girls attending to her could adjust her skirt at the bottom. As she walked, someone started ululating.
"What the heck?!", said my little one.
Salman wasn't too interested in all the fan fare of the emergence of the bride, but my little guy was staring at her intently over the back of his seat. After the bride came out, my coworkers all wanted to leave, they said they thought it would be long before the groom came and the children were getting sleepy. So I took the boys over to greet her and tell her thank you for inviting us and that we were leaving. My little one stared at her in awe the whole time.
That night, back in my room, he snuggled next to me and asked me:
"Yes my little love?"
"Can I get married when I am 20"
"Um, I guess so honey."
He smiled in satisfaction, as if he was hatching some plan and everything was falling into place.
The next day, as we were driving to the supermarket, he asked again:
"Um, Mommy, can I get married at 19?"
I said, "well, yes but it is a better idea to wait until you are a little bit older so you have a good job and can support your wife and kids."
"okay, you know who I am going to marry?"
I didn't have the heart to tell him that wasn't going to happen, he looked so pleased with himself and I remembered how my younger brother, at this same age, had been certain that he would marry Wonder Woman.