Saharawi women begin to prepare the bride for the wedding celebration
Islam was introduced into the Sahara in the eighth century by tribes from Arabia. The dominant variety is Sunni, of the maleki rite.
Since then, the TALEB, or master of the Koran, has taught children from 5 to 13 years old the rudiments of writing and how to recite by memory the verses written in the LAUJ, or Koranic tables, in return for a small stipend in the form of cattle. In the Sahara, the taleb were also men of the book, the governing class, and enjoyed certain privileges.
For the Sahrawi nomad, the emptiness of this immense desert makes mysticism and dialogue with God easier to achieve. The wedding ceremony is still important in traditional society, maintained despite the now sedentary lifestyle the Sahrawi people have been forced to adopt.
The cadí, after recording in writing that none of the participants in the ceremony have raised any objection, confirms that the act is legal and the marriage valid.
The cries of joy from the sahrawi women watching spread the news of the union to the entire fric.
But it is one of the witnesses who makes the official announced, firing shots into the air with an old Mauser gun.
This characteristic howl of the Sahrawi women, called INSHID, is a public manifestation of joy, which they also made when the warriors went into combat.
When the requirements of the Koran and tradition have been fulfilled, the women serve large trays of ISSAN, camel meat with rice. The eagerly-awaited banquet has finally begun, and it must be as copious as possible, to demonstrate the generosity of the bride’s family, who are the hosts.
In accordance with custom, the men and women eat separately. Some traditional customs still remain, though they now form part of the past, the old tribal divisions of nobles, descendents of Yemeni Arabs, tributary tribes and slaves. The drums and music sound out in the desert.
After the copious feast, Shelej, the bridegroom, accompanied by the AUSIR, his inseparable companion, other friends and some divorced women, goes round his own jaima three times, in a ritual to ward off any spell or evil eye, which is a very deep-rooted belief in the Sahara.
Meanwhile, in another tent, Suqueina, the bride, is pretending to hide. The women of her family are making her up with NILA and HENNA powders. Shelej is being given advice on how to behave in his marriage. His friends tell him they are ready to go in search of the bride whenever he asks them to. Finally, they enter the jaima to join the party. The entertainment is provided by an IGGAUEN, a minstrel who plays the traditional TIDINIT, the four-stringed lute of Mauritanian origin, with which he accompanies these love poems the Sahrawis are so fond of.
The hypnotic harmonies of the HOUL music transport the imagination to the beautiful lands of Mauritania.