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Getting engaged the Emirati way

06/20/2009 12:32 AM

Dubai: As in other cultures, weddings always play an important role in traditional Emirati society.

A wedding is an opportunity for tribes to unite and celebrate.

A traditional wedding involved a number of elaborate rituals and ceremonies with proper etiquette and protocol to be observed throughout the process which includes a chain of preparations.

The engagement is the initial step.

This is how the initial process of a wedding in the UAE society goes.

Traditionally, the man's father meets the woman's father to ask for his daughter's hand for marriage.

In the past, women have no say in their marriage and family life plans as fathers dictate on what they believe are best for them.

At times, the man's parents send over a "wise lady" to meet face to face with the bride-to-be.

The emissary then goes back to the man's parents and report her impressions of the woman.

If the parents get a positive feedback, they send over an elderly emissary to discuss with the woman's father the possibility of entering into marriage.

The woman's father would either consult his wife or decide on his own.

Among the criteria for accepting a marriage proposal are the man's reputation, manners, origin and tribe.

Nowadays, women enjoy total freedom.

They may accept or reject a marriage proposal.

If there was no intention to go ahead with the marriage proposal, the man's father should give a good reason why they're calling off the offer.

If the man's family agrees to take the proposal forward, they offer a certain amount of money as dowry (mahr) as a sign of gratitude and commitment.

Like in the past, when an engagement proposal is accepted, tribesmen fire three shots from their guns, symbolising an announcement to the tribe that a wedding will take place soon.

Villagers rush out to greet the bride and groom's parents.

The dowry finances the wedding preparation.

In addition to the dowry, the groom's family also present gifts - called zehbah - from which an elaborate trousseau is created for the bride.

Zehbah consists of fine pieces of jewelry, perfume and clothes.

The bride's gold accessories include a head piece, earrings, necklace, bracelets and rings while the wardrobe items include abayas (black costume for women) and jalabiyas.

The groom's family usually delivers the zehba to the bride's house on a Wednesday.

A big feast takes place at the bride's house to honour the guests who came to see the groom's gifts which are put on display by women from the bride's family.

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