Monday, October 28, 2013

I DO - Part III (Last one)


Your Big Fat Kurdish Wedding

Helloooo Hellooo Helloo Loyal Blog Readers!

(Yes. Yes. I know. I know. Late again. This post was supposed to be made a few Wednesdays back.)
Sorry not the Kurdish way

So. You said "I do" and now it's time for the wedding. The beauty of a Kurdish wedding is that it is not just a one-day big event. No, there are many occasions that build to that big day in the white dress.

We will fast forward the proposing part, because it has become so confusing, there is almost no uniform way of doing it among younger generation Kurds*. But if you're a Kurdish girl then don't expect a Kurdish man to fall on his knees when you least expect it to ask you "will you marry me?" and you being in tears saying: "Oh you surprised me.. y-y-yes!" You know the things you see in movies. Well, yes, that's just in movies.
Dear Kurdish Girl: In your dreams!

The Men
After an indication has been made to the groom-to-be (from this point onwards referred to as zawa, Kurdish word for groom) or a final yes is given to his family (through the women) then the men come. This is usually a big deal. Sometimes 50 cars filled with men arrive to the girl's house, this is slowly changing and now four or five men is sometimes seen as enough. They sit separately in a room, and after making the zawa sound like Prince William by all the complements all the men give him in front of the girl's father, brothers and uncles, they finally ask for the girl's hand. Since they know they are receiving an approval, after some talks from the girl's father (or older brother, uncle etc..) a lot of things are said but in the end it's a "yes" (sometimes the father places conditions on the marriage. Other times they may discuss the dowry etc. but girls these days make an effort to make sure this is not discussed among the men... after all, it is embarrassing!)

They read the Fatiha (sura from the Quraan) and sometimes on the same day, or after few days, a religious man comes (Mala or Mullah) this is when the couple are Islamically declared husband and wife (except there is no "you may kiss the bride").

The Mala 
In my opinion the most difficult part of the entire marriage process is when you wear white, with a veil on your head and you reply a 'yes' to the Mala. Then the zawa and bride-to-be's (bwk in Kurdish. Pronounced: book) father lock hands, say few words after the Mala, everyone reads fatiha and then you here something like: klelelelelelelelellelelelelelelelele from all the women. And that, my dear reader, signifies the fact that you are now a fiancé (or a wife). Sweets, drinks and food follow. Sometimes there is music and dance, sometimes there isn't. It's all choice.
After mara brin - Islamic I DO in the presence of the Mulla

Often, on a separate day a party is made, where the bride-to-be wears all the gold the groom's family have given her. Sometimes this is done at the day of the wedding, or other times, this is not done at all. But sadly, this culture of showing off is still evident!

Then the next day you need to take sweets to your workplace, to share the celebration. Everyone says 'piroza' (congratulations) and be prepared to answer a lot of questions A) about our Mr. Prince and B) about the details of when the wedding will take place.

The Wedding
Unlike the West where people plan their weddings one year in advance, here an entire wedding can be planned and undertaken in 8 weeks or less. In one year, the couple probably got to know each other, got engaged, got married and have a baby as well.
Wedding in Kurdistan, no hassle?!

After a few weeks you will find yourself in your fiancé's car every evening driving the streets of Ainkawa stopping at every single bridal shop. And of course, complaining that you will never find the right dress. Because lets be honest the choices are... not the best! You soon realize saying 'yes' to the Man was easier than saying 'yes' to any white dress you will try on.
Good luck with wedding-dress shops
The Venue
Type A: This all depends on the family, and the budget. Sometimes families decide to go outdoors in a garden, mountain or any green area with chairs, music and a big celebration of the bwk w zawa as they all dance in their beautiful Kurdish clothes.

Type B: Other times, event halls are booked, there is no wedding planner! No. Not at all. Just the hall, food is either sandwiches or one dish for everyone. There is music, pictures and lots and lots of dancing.
What an outdoor wedding might look like in Kurdistan

Type C: Recently, with the fancy hotels opening in the Region, those who have the budget undertake their weddings in hotels. The guest list is sometimes restricted to close family and friends (still reaches 200 people) food is catered for, there is live singing (this is sometimes also the case for Type B weddings) and lots and lots of dancing.
Many hotel options in available in Erbil (note, this is not one)

Aaahhh... The Guest LIST!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
In Type A and B weddings usually everyone is invited including the neighbors, the neighbor's cousin, and so many others that the bwk w zawa (bride and groom) don't even know. 

Be sure, all the kids will invite themselves too. Sadly, the culture of KIDS ARENT INVITED TO WEDDINGS is still not clear to many people. And yes, you will have a crying toddler at your wedding, and as you cut your cake the little princes and princesses will surround the cake (argh!).

Invitations usually given a week in advance
The Party
No matter what type of wedding party you go to, if the budget is half a million dollars or $500 you come back with your feet swollen and your voice lost because of the dancing, singing, shouting and you know.. that klelelelel sound us women do!
I love the dahol w zurna at Kurdish weddings! 

Usually there is a khana-bandan, which is a night before the wedding where the girl and her good friends get together to put henna on the bride-to-be's hands. There is dancing, and food exclusive for the girls.

The following morning the bride and some of her friends or family go to the salon where her hair and makeup is done (OVER DONE), the groom and few members of his family pick her up. The car is decorated, music is loud, horns are on, you drive around to a pre-booked studio to get the wedding pictures done (nowadays outdoor photography is becoming popular, so the photographer joins the bride and groom in one of the bigger parks, i.e. Martyr Sami Abdul Rahman Park) after the photo shoot they make their way to the wedding venue.

Our salons and make up artists need serious training!

Rings are exchanged, cake is cut, people take pictures with the bwk w zawa, food is eaten, shoulders ache, feet ache (did I mention there is dancing?) and slowly people leave.

Considering this is a Middle Eastern society always expect the few people who never dance and just use the occasion to watch everyone, who is wearing what and who is doing what and who has come and who has not (this will be the gossip for the next week). Usually, older mums take the opportunity to look around for a pretty girl for their son (because he is so gunaaaha, can't find a bride for himself). And if you're single, whoever sees you they wish for you to be a bride/groom soon.
Bride and groom through the streets in Kurdistan

Soon there are few close friends left that take the bride and groom to the hotel.

And then... let's hope they live happily ever after.

By the way: There is no Best Man Speech, or Maid of honor speech or even groom's speech! Which is something I like about Western Weddings!

After Party with One Month
"Baby on the way?"

If you dare say "I am not well" everyone will ask if there is a baby on the way. If after a few months there is no baby, some will ask if there is something wrong with you, or if you want the name of the great doctor that her cousin's friend went to, then got pregnant after few months.

Yup. Society will ask, you answer! 

Oh yes! Some people have a day after the wedding for the gifts at the bride and groom's place. This is called haftana (usually happens seven days after the wedding) some refuse to hold this tradition, and therefore, gifts are also welcome on the wedding day or  they are taken to the new couple's place after the wedding. You must also invite the new couple for a meal out or at your house! Maybe so the bride doesn't need to cook for a while :)

Gifts usually money or house needs, sometimes gold jewelry 

And that, my dear reader is your Big Fat Kurdish Wedding

*Please note, wedding traditions vary greatly among different parts of Kurdistan, among different villages and even different families. The younger generation Kurds who are familiar with the west sometimes create their own trend of a wedding culture (of course, where the family does not appose). 

NOTE: ALL pictures taken from google images. Sorry, internet way too slow for me to put the link of each of the sources for the image. Let's hope no one charges me with any copy right issues. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I DO - Part II

Helllooo Loyal Blog Reader,

Last Wednesday I wrote an entry for a group of desperate Western girls who had emailed over time asking how it is to be married into a Kurdish family, since Mr. Prince Charming (who happens to be a Kurd) had proposed!

Your fairytale with Mr. Kurd begins...
You know the drill, let's start with #TwitterKurds hints

Tip Number 6 from @AlanMAziz - "Keep an open mind realize that it's a completely different culture and there's different expectations for women." 
This we can argue about. Yes, be open minded, and yes you might not be able to feel entirely comfortable riding your bike in the early mornings through the streets of this beautiful city with your other half. But let's be honest, this does not mean it is the end of the world. You can freely go for walks in the evenings, sit at a cafe (outdoor or indoor), go watch movies (Empire Cinemas in Family Mall best option so far), go ice-skating, and what else is there? Basically, even if you are the type who likes to enjoy a drink at the bar on Thursday afternoons (NOTE: It will take a while after you arrive in Kurdistan to learn that Thursday is Friday, and Sunday is actually Monday) there are options for that as well. Although, I am definitely the wrong person to give you advice on these places.

Liana emailed saying she could not stop laughing reading the previous entry because she actually went through all the stages, and her advice is: You must study Mr. Prince's family well (So this is Tip Number 7 from Liana) I guess you can ask him how open minded his family members are. For example, some will not mind if Mr. Prince helps out in the kitchen, while other families (well, the mother-in-law in particular) might see this as the end of the world. After all, her poor, sweet son after so long finally got married only to end up in the kitchen. Hence, you might like to take on roles such as washing dishes, cooking, and doing the laundry when you sense there is a CIA member around.

Your dream Mr. Kurd 
Now I have not seen this myself.* However, what I know to be very true is that it is expected of a woman to be the loving parent to her children, to sacrifice for her children's sake and she should respect her partner. It is essential for women in my society, those who are in the golden cage, (this term is used to refer to the married life for a girl. Please don't get me started on this one, I don't see the point, a cage is a cage whether it is gold, diamond or plastic, anywayyyy) they prioritize their time for their family, even if they are working. While some perceive this as negative, I see it as one of the beautiful attributes that keeps the family bond strong (though the man of the house should do the same. That's just my opinion).

Tip Number 8 from Nicole - "Let him know from the start what you are not willing to compromise in your life."  
Since these wise words came from someone who has already been through the experience, all I can add is that you can make it clear to your Kurdish Prince early on, before you say "I do", what you are and what you are not willing to change in yourself and your life. For example, if you are not willing to have a baby (boy!) at least three years into the marriage let him know (because two days after you are declared as husband and wife every person in the neighborhood wants to know if you are expecting yet or not, and if not, then why not? hehe. Yup!). So, if at anytime your Mr. Prince gets affected by those side-talks from those who can't wait for him to be a father  you can just kindly remind him of you prior agreements. (By the way, to be honest, I didn't think people would ask a western bride why she doesn't have a baby bump yet, but Nicole brought it up in her email. Looks like beautiful Miss Blonde gets treated the same as any Kurdish girl.)

Tip Number 9 from Mariana - "The good side is you can get away with many things."
 I am not sure what you can get away with, but maybe Mariana means when you have a chance to use the excuse "I didn't know, I have not grown up here" just use it.

Nicole and Mariana shared their amazing experience in marrying Mr. Kurd (one in UK the other in Australia) and then returning to Kurdsitan to live here for good. Nicole is a mother of three children (two births given in Erbil) and is happier than she can ever be though she did say "tell all those girls who are in love and lost as you put it not to worry, nothing is scarier than the moment your mother drops her mouth wide open 'Kazakhstan?!!!!!!!!'" Hence, if you have got through introducing Mr. Kurd to your family (and your family come to believe that Kurdistan does exist in this planet) then everything after that is a piece of cake (or a dish of dolma? Sorry, lame again? SK?!?!).  At the end of her email she signed off: "Sazan, tell your Loyal Readers after saying "I do" to my Mr. Kurd, him, his family and life in Kurdistan has given me some headache at some points, but if I was asked again, still I would say I DO. LOUD AND CLEAR."

Best way to finish off, next stop your wedding!!

Till next Wednesday
keep smiling,

* But I must admit I do have the best mother-in-law one can wish for!