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Fassi Wedding

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In Fez, marriage combines the festive side with the religious, giving rise to a complicated sequence of carefully prepared ceremonies, beginning before the announcement of the engagement and ending with the seven wedding nights.

In a well-documented study published in 1947, Roger Le Tourneau, had described at length the ceremony of the Moroccan wedding in Fez, at the beginning of the last century.

It was usually the mother who chose her son's fiancée.

It could happen that his choice was guided by tradition: the cousin's daughter, often also the mother of the family, during the receptions to which she was invited, had noticed an accomplished, reserved, obliging young girl, with good manners, or at the bath, she had distinguished a particularly healthy and well-made young person.

If, for some reason, she could not decide on her own, she resorted to friends, matchmakers or, in the case of modest families, to the "dellalat" second-hand dealers who know a lot of people and can give useful indications.

Once she had made her choice, the mother talked to her husband about it and, if he approved of the planned marriage, they both decided to tell their son.

If the young man was persuaded, his parents immediately began negotiations for engagement, the proposal of marriage (khotba).

It was her mother again who took the first step: accompanied by several relatives in their best finery, she went to visit the girl's mother and, after the customary compliments, informed her of her views; she sometimes met with a polite but clear-cut refusal, otherwise the girl's mother said she would consult her husband and that in a few days she could give an answer in principle, after which "the men" would have to work it out among themselves.

That's when the fathers came into the picture.

Preferably on a Friday because we have more leisure time on that day the father of the young man came to find the father of the girl, he had been accompanied for the circumstance by four or five people, relatives or influential friends among whom, very often, a sheriff.

As soon as the happy news was known in both houses, the youyous broke out and the young man's mother prepared to pay a new visit to the girl's mother (kmalat el-atiya: the fulfillment of the promise), she had a few presents carried beforehand for her future daughter-in-law: fabric coupons, dates, candles, henna (hennat en-nisba = the henna of the alliance). The handing over of these presents, which was done under the supervision of a matchmaker, was the occasion of a family celebration.

The dowry ballet

Then, in the company of several relatives, she would go on her way, she would be offered a choice meal and, after drinking tea, under the pretext of visiting the house, she would go in search of her future daughter-in-law who, as a young, well-bred person, had hidden herself to escape the gaze of the visitors, when at last she was discovered, she would let herself be kissed without saying a word, because decorum imposed silence on her.

The official engagement was celebrated shortly afterwards, on a Friday, in a mosque where the "Fatiha" was recited.

The duration of the engagement was fixed by the families, from six months to two years depending on the circumstances.

Throughout this period, the fiancé did not fail, on the occasion of Muslim holidays, to send his future wife gifts (tafkirat): fabric coupons, dresses, jewellery.

It was not just a matter of the fiancé pleasing his bride-to-be, but of publicly demonstrating that he still held their commitment to be valid.

The dowry and the contract.

The payment of the dowry marked the end of the engagement and the beginning of the wedding feast and was accompanied by the drafting of the contract.

The date was set by both fathers two or three weeks in advance, as invitations and preparations had to be made.

There was a big lunch in both houses with a traditional menu: stuffed chickens, sheep with almonds and briwat.

Two notaries had been invited to the young man's father's house, at the end of the meal, their host would have the agreed sum of money counted in front of them in ringing cash, put it in bags to take it to the girl's father's house, escorted by the two notaries and four or five trusted friends.

The father of the girl is bound by custom, unless otherwise expressly stated in the contract, to spend for the establishment of the young household a sum at least equal (mithl) to that which he received in dowry.

This includes not only the girl's actual trousseau, but also the furniture deemed necessary, given the social background of the young couple.

Once the dowry was paid, the date of the wedding was fixed: it almost always took place in the summer to avoid the rain interrupting the many ceremonies that took place in the patios.


Five days before the wedding night, the bridesmaids would bring everything they needed to furnish the bridegroom's room to the bridegroom's house.

This day was called nahar and tankil (moving day) and was the occasion for two parties with musicians (tabbalat) in each of the two families.

The next day was called nahar ez-zina (the day of beautification) or nahar el-farch (the day of mattresses): the matchmakers carefully prepared everything the girl had to take to her new home (sofas, cushions, carpets, pins, nails, curtain rings, etc.) and sent her there.

They went there themselves to make the bridal alcove (dakhchusha): for this purpose, they stacked mattresses one on top of the other to form a partition leaving between them and the wall only the width of one mattress, the bridal bed; the mattress partition and the walls of the room were decorated with embroidered fabrics and drapes (haiti).

A meticulously prepared ceremony

Fifteen days in advance, the young girl went every two nights to the bath for the seven ritual ablutions. The last session, which corresponded to the day before her entry into the marital home, was marked by the Takbib ceremony (washing with buckets).

The bride arrived, escorted by relatives and friends; the bathing staff (tayyabat) waited for her at the door and led her in procession to the farthest room, singing the praises of the Prophet (pbuh) and shouting youyous.

Two female relatives undressed the girl who kept her eyes closed and her lips shut for fear of the geniuses of the place.

Seven buckets of lukewarm water were lined up there; the maids drew from each one successively using a container brought from Mecca (tasa mekkawiya) and poured the water over the bride's head, who, at the end of the ceremony, was now under the protection of the angels.

She was dressed in new clothes and "coiffed in sumptuous black embroidered cloth (mharma)".

The employees of the bathhouse resumed their singing: after having spoken the beauty of the girl and reiterated the praises of the Prophet, they received some money, as well as the garment worn by the girl when she arrived and which she was not to wear any more.

We can see that this was a rite of purification and passage: the young girl had just entered a new phase of her life, breaking cleanly with the past.

The following day, or rather the following evening (for it was at the end of the day and during the night that almost all these ceremonies took place), was called kwaleb sghar.

By five o'clock, the patio was filled with elegant women who came to have tea, while the young girl remained behind the curtain with her best friends, her confidants who supported and encouraged her in this great ordeal.

From that day on, and during all the ceremonies, two guests (barzat) played a special role.

They were two close relatives of the husband, recently married, who, without make-up, but dressed like the bride, stood on either side of the door, inside the bridal room.

Each of them had a matchmaker to help her dress.

All the while, the fiancé was leading an unusual life: his father had lent him a house next door, which for a few days sheltered the young man and his friends, and was called dar islan, while the bridal home, the young man's father's home, was called dar el-'ors.

The groom would go there in the afternoon before the wedding night, or even the day before, accompanied by young men of his own age (middle-aged men were his father's guests at dar el-'ors).

On the evening before the first meeting of husband and wife, the family barber would bring a large wooden chair painted in light colours to dar el-'ors and then have the young man picked up in dar islan. A procession would form, some of the groomsmen would take the bridegroom on their shoulders amidst the laughter and carry him, hood folded over his head, to the barber's chair in the patio.

The bride was dressed like a doll...

This ceremony was called el-ghrama e'ala el-'aris fi 'ch-chliya (the contribution in honor of the groom on the chair), or simply ech-chliya (the chair).

When it was over, the hairdresser performed his duties, shaving the head of the bridegroom and making a beard, if necessary, and then the procession returned to dar-islan, in the same way as before.

Wedding ceremonies

All these preparations having been completed, we finally arrived at the wedding proper (Lilet es-dkhoul: the night of the arrival).

That night there was a party in the three houses where the wedding was held, the two family houses and the house where the wedding was held, the two family houses and the house of the groom.

At the beginning of the night, the girl's home was the main stage.

Until about one o'clock in the morning, the patio and the ground floor were reserved for men: all the women, including the fiancée, retired to the first floor.

The bridal procession was formed: first came the men of the groom's family, then the bridesmaids, followed by the bride and six or eight of her relatives, dressed exactly as she was, so that the geniuses did not know who to take if they came to meet the procession, the bride's parents, men and young boys, would close the march.

Candles carried by the matchmakers and children illuminated this joyful theory.

They then led her veiled to the threshold of the bridal chamber and presented her with two loaves of bread (khobza) that she held under each arm and a bunch of keys, two of which framed her, one holding a bowl of milk, the other a tray of dates.

The mother-in-law would come forward, give a silver coin to the matchmakers,

lifted the veil that covered the face of her daughter-in-law who held her eyes closed, kissed her lightly on the cheek and let the veil fall back, then she took a sip of milk from the bowl handed to her by the negafa, took a date from the tray presented to her by the other negafa and returned to her place.

Thus the bride received from the outset the welcome greetings (slam) from her mother-in-law: even before being united to her husband, she was adopted by her family.

In the meantime, two bridesmaids went to dar islan to fetch the bridegroom at about five o'clock in the morning, they brought him a jellaba and a burnous of fine wool and white silk (ksa) which his friends helped him to put on his clothes; all then, young men and bridesmaids, accompanied him to the door of the bridal house, the young men did not enter, but paid tribute to the bridesmaids, only the groom entered the patio and, with his hood folded over his eyes, made his way among the crowd of guests to reach his wife's room.

He stood behind her, and the bridesmaids praised her again.

Then the bridesmaids turned the young woman to her husband's side and lifted the veil that covered her face, for the first time, in most cases the two spouses looked at each other.

The first day after the "night of arrival" was called sbah (morning).

Early in the morning, the husband would go to dar Islam where he would meet his closest friends, then return for lunch in the bridal alcove.

After dinner, the husband would return to the alcove, that night was usually the night of the consummation of the marriage.

Early the next morning (sbohi), all the married women were gathered, waiting for the bridesmaids, who soon brought the young bride's blood-stained underpants, which they had first shown to the groom's parents, who had given them money as a sign of joy. The same ceremony (es-sarwal: the pants) was repeated at the bride's parents' home, where their guests immediately left and the house resumed its customary life.

On the afternoon of the same day, at the bridal home, the gifts given by the husband to his wife were presented: this ceremony took place during the exhibition of the bride, according to the same rite as the day before.

On the following two days (nahar thani sbohi and nahar thaleth sbohi: the day after and the day after the sbohi), the bride was exposed in the late afternoon and visited by her husband, while the guests continued to flock to the bridal house.

From the day after the sbohi (nahar thani sbohi), dar islan lost its special character, but the groom continued to spend all his days there with some of his dearest friends, playing cards, joking and joking.

The fifth day was called nahar hall er-ras (the day of the release of the head): the bridesmaids undid the bride's special hairstyle (selta) and replaced it with the hairstyle of married women, a braid on each side of the head.

The guests were numerous to attend this ceremony which consecrated the change of state of the young woman, they were very elegantly dressed.

The bride, always richly adorned, was however dressed in simpler clothes.

The bridesmaids made her sit on the threshold of the room, with her back to the patio, the husband would arrive and, having taken a braid of his wife's hair from the hands of a bridesmaid, he would untie a few braids, having done so, he would glue a gold coin on her forehead and let the bridesmaids do her hair, after which she would be presented to the guests without make-up, and with her eyes open.

On the second day, called nahar el-ghsil (the day of the toilet), because of the night's bath, the bridesmaids, before exposing the bride, fitted her head with the bonnet of elderly women of good family (hantouz).

Then the exhibition took place, but three times in a row, with the bride wearing a different costume each time (Ibasat).

Finally, on the seventh day, after the bride and groom had spent one last night in the bridal alcove, the bridesmaids came to put everything in order and left the bridal house.

Henceforth, the spouses were once again like other people, after having satisfied the rites that accompanied their change of state.

However, on the ninth day, the bride baked bread "so that there would always be plenty of bread in the house" and prepared a fish dish, as "eating fish brings good luck".


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