Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"She Is Our Jewel and We Know That God Has Put Her in the Right Place."~Uncle Ibraheem

Last weekend we had the joy of attending our dear sister's engagement ceremony and party. This woman has been a "friend closer than a sister" since she lived with our family for two years some ten years ago. We first met her when I was looking for a creative way to improve my Arabic while being a stay-at-home, home-educating mom of four, and she was looking for room and board while attending seminary. It was a match made in heaven. Our friend spoke only Arabic with us (as she does to this day) even though she speaks and understands English as well. She adopted our family and we adopted her.

We've prayed along with our friend for some years that God would bring her a good man who loved the Lord with all his heart and shared her desire to serve Him with his whole life. Last year that man came into her life, and this winter we had the pleasure of meeting him. After having dinner with them for the first time, we all pronounced them a wonderful match!

After visiting our friend's family,  the suitor was given a green light. Planning for the formal engagement ceremony/party commenced. In the Arab world, an engagement is as important as the actually wedding--in some ways it is more important. It is the joining of two families in agreement that a good match has been made. Unlike our western custom, the engagement is a community event including both sides of the family and other close friends.

The engagement was such a joyful time, such a true vision of the good, that I thought it would be nice to share it here, introducing some to a beautiful tradition of the Arab world.

On the evening of the engagement, Dear Husband and I, our friend's suitor and his father, newly arrived from the US on his first visit to the Middle East, and five other friends, drove from Tiberius to a village outside of Nazareth. We arrived at our friend's family home at precisely 8 p.m. As expected, the stairs up to the house were lined with family waiting to greet us. The men from our contingent first approached and greeted the group of  Arab men waiting to greet and receive them. We then proceeded up the stairs and into the house.

Tayta and I each carried a large vase of flowers, purchased by the suitor, and two other women carried the jewelry: one on a wooden tray, and the other in small inlaid wooden chest. Tayta heard one of the aunts remark as we proceeded up the stairs, "Look, they even have the (expected) flowers and jewelry box!" We placed the flowers and jewelry in front of the our friend and our suitor, the prince and princess of the evening, who had taken their honored place at the head of the room.

The ceremony began with Uncle Ibraheem, a Baptist pastor, giving some words of welcome to the suitor and his father, after which Scripture passages were read in Arabic and English.

  "She is our jewel..."

Next, the suitor's father stood to give his greetings to my friend's family and to formally request her hand in marriage to his son. Dear Husband translated for the father. Despite the meaningful words spoken by all, our hearts were light with joy and so smiles and laughter were never far from us the entire evening.

After this official "tulbeh" or "requesting", an American-pastor-friend-from-Jordan shared some words about marriage and presented the engagement bands. These are also the wedding bands; the engaged couple wears them on their right hands and moves them to their left hand when they are married.

Following the expected presentation of the bands, the suitor rose to say some occasional word and to make an unexpected presentation: he explained that while they were following the Middle Eastern traditions of engagement, he wanted to include an American engagement tradition.

He got down on one knee and asked our friend if she would marry him. Oh, my goodness, the smiles on everyone's faces!

When she said yes, he put a beautiful solitaire diamond engagement ring on her finger. 

 Uncle Ibraheem prayed for the newly-engaged couple...

And our friend's aunt sang some traditional Arabic blessings over them.

Next came the traditional presentation of gold and jewelry. Our friend received a set of white gold: necklace, bracelet, and matching earrings, as well as a double strand or pearls with a matching bracelet--that was from the tray.

The jewelry box was opened, and the suitor's father made a presentation of some family jewelry to our friend and read a personal note from the suitor's mother.

Our friend's mother added one of her own gold necklaces to her daughter's new collection of jewelry. 

The rest of the evening was filled with greeting the engaged couple, visiting with each other...

...taking pictures, and more pictures...

...and of course, lots of food. All these delectable sweets were made by family members.

The baklava, tabbouleh, and stuffed grape leaves kept coming.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding anyone? 

All the good feelings, and more importantly, the new relationships forged and formalized that evening, were sealed with cups of Arab coffee.

Photo credits for all these pictures goes to Tayta, who creatively arranged these and a few more into a wonderful slideshow for the happy couple. I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face.


Alf Mabruuk (A thousand congratulations/blessings) to the happy couple! May God bless you and make you a blessing to all touched by your relationship with each other.

1 comment:

Joseph B. said...

Yes yes yes!