A Moroccan Wedding

Posted by len on November 20th, 2006

Last thursday I had the opportunity to go to a Moroccan wedding here in Fez. I was invited by a man, Nabil, about 27 I’d guess, whom we met on the train back from Meknes. He was recently married to an American woman living in Florida but grew up and lived his whole life in Fez, Morocco. He spoke English very well. His friend Joseph’s cousin was getting married and that was the happy occasion that let me experience Morocco from the inside. The first bizarre part of the whole experience was telling Nabil I could probably not go since I had French class until 9pm. Not a problem for Morocco. All Moroccan weddings start around 11pm at night and go until about 7am! So he picked me up at 10:30pm and we arrived at a reception hall, not unlike the ‘event spaces’ you can rent around America for large groups. Large tables filled the floor and each table was full. Women filled the tables on the left and men on the right. Just as we made our way across the red carpeting to our table, about 15 catering staff, each carrying a large covered silver serving dish, flooded from the back in a choreographed stream. I was squeezed in next to Nabil and Joseph at a large round table with about 15 Moroccan men. Seconds after sitting down the first course appeared from the caterers: a one and half foot diameter seafood pastilla, looking very much like a huge covered pie outside its pie tin. Pastilla is a pastry-covered sweet and savory dish usually with chicken or pigeon that also liberally employs confectioners sugar. It’s a very uniquely Moroccan dish and supposedly a specialty of Fez. This pastilla was somewhat different: it had seafood inside, along with a thin pasta and other seasonings. It was very spicy (which seems rare for Morocco) but fantastic. Everyone cut themselves a slice and washed it down with bottled water and Fanta. That dish was replaced with half a lamb, surrounded by olives and a small plate containing salt and cumin to sprinkle over your meat. Everyone attacked it only with their right hands, trying to peel meat away onto their plates. Using the left hand is seen as ill-mannered since it is considered the cleaning hand and not the one for eating. Sometimes a fork was employed to help scrape meat off. Also, everyone got a large round of bread, a very typical Moroccan serving. The lamb dish was reduced to bones before it was replaced by three chickens, covered in a savory sauce and topped with olives. I was amused by Joseph trying at one point to get meat off using only one hand. It can be as problematic as you imagine. He struggled a bit with a twisting motion trying to tear meat away. A lifetime of similar weddings has given all Moroccans the ability to persevere I imagine. Luckily, Joseph usually did the tearing for me as well. After the chicken came the final course: a pile of fruit. After dinner all the women moved into a connected chamber where the band had set up and the men congregated around the dinner tables. The band began playing what my friend Nabil said was ‘pop music’. It was a very Moroccan sounding up-tempo kind of music mostly based around triplets. Meanwhile we moved to one of the closer tables to be able to see the band and were served espresso and small cookies and pastries. Another interesting difference of Moroccan eating I had heard about showed up here: shared water. There were about 7 men sitting at my table but only 3 water glasses. I filled one and took a sip. A moment after putting it down, still half full, another man snatched it up and took a drink. After about 15 minutes of listening to the band a procession of the betrothed couple occurred. The bride, sitting cross-legged in an ornate box, was raised up by four men and paraded outside. The groom was put on a decorated horse and the fassi folk music kicked in. The music now became very medieval: Two long horns that could only play one note each; Two of those shrill snake-charmer pipes, and very large, very loud tambourines. This music got louder and faster as the bride swayed gently in her box and waved. The groom sat smiling on his horse, quietly acknowledging the friends and family surrounding him. The whole time the bride looked incredibly unhappy. I have no idea if that’s the case but she had the most sour expression on her heavily made-up face. She also wore a crown and elaborate jewelry. The man was much more simply decked out, with only a fancy shirt and vest. The horse and box were moved inside while the music reached a crescendo of speed and loudness. It was so intense that it dawned on me at that moment how it was possible to keep an entire wedding awake from 11pm to 7am: you make it get incredibly loud now and again. Nabil told me that this procession is repeated throughout the night, each time the bride changing outfits. Next the original band kicked in again but now with Berber dancers from the middle Atlas mountains (since some of the family were from there, I was told). Three black-haired dancers, who were all fairly heavy women, made the most of their long hair, at times whipping it around in a frenzy and even twice whipping it at men watching. Nabil’s friend Joseph grinned ear-to-ear with delight at watching them. Nabil decided to leave the wedding around 2:15 and we went to a nearby nightclub for a brief close to the evening. Before I left the wedding I noticed a large, American-style white wedding cake waiting in the corner. Nabil said it would be much later in the evening (or morning) that they would finally get to the cake. Though I was ready for bed I was a little saddened to miss what I heard was a nice benefit of attending a Moroccan wedding: come 6 am they give you breakfast.

4 Responses to “A Moroccan Wedding”

  1. Mom White Says:

    Len, loved your writeup on Moroccan wedding. Food sounded great. I am having chili beans tonight I think for dinner.

    By the way, mail I replied to at lenwhite.com was returned. I used the reply from one of your letters to me, so there was no error.

    xxoo MOM

  2. Dawn Says:

    wow, great story! Weddings are a fantastic way to observe other cultures and I’m glad you got to experience that one.

  3. Daniel Says:

    Hey len. If many people drink out of the same glass, then it seems like it would be difficult put posion in your neighbors drink. Good thinking Len. Stay safe.

  4. leslie Says:

    < a href = “http://google.com/?p=42&lol= overseas@shames.octavia“>.< / a >…

    ñïñ!!…

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