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Traditional weddings a time of camaraderie

06/26/2009 11:23 PM

Dubai: Last week we walked you through the way Emirati couples get engaged.

Today we'll take a quick look at how Emiratis prepare for weddings.

In the days running up to the wedding, the bride traditionally was seen only by family members.

For four to five days the bride was anointed with traditional oils and perfumes from head to toe and her body wrapped in a black transparent cloth.

On Wednesday and Thursday night, the bride's hands and feet were decorated with elaborate henna patterns and her hair washed with special herb extracts and conditioners.

But that was the traditional way of doing things.

Nowadays, brides are no longer required to stay in seclusion in the days prior to her wedding. They also no longer undergo the elaborate anointing process.

Modern brides prepare for the big day by visiting spas where they can relax and undergo beauty enhancing treatments.

The religious ceremony, called the Milkah or Milchah - as pronounced the Emirati way - traditionally takes place either on the day before the wedding or prior to evening prayers on the day of the wedding.

Most families prefer to hold weddings on either Thursdays, Fridays or Mondays.

Most couples allow at least a month's gap between the Milkah and the wedding date.

The Milkah would be attended by the bride and groom, their fathers, two male witnesses and the Mutawa'a (Court registrar).

The bride's father, groom and court registrar stack their hands together as the groom, or one of his family members, fires three gun-shots to mark the completion of the religious rituals.

Today, very few families still abide by the tradition of firing gunshots as a way of celebrating this occasion.

Wedding celebrations usually start about a week before the wedding.

During that week, there will be continuous playing of traditional music 'called Ayyalah', singing, and dancing to share the happiness and joy of the families of the bride and groom.

The celebration is usually held on a Thursday and all the women in the village come to the groom's house to help prepare an assortment of local dishes for the wedding guests.

At night, the women sing to the bride and the men perform a local dance called Razfa, which includes singing two poetic verses.

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