Weddings in Morocco's southern provinces, rich palette of rites and symbols

Laayoune - Similarly to the natural diversity and geographical vastness of the southern provinces of the Kingdom, traditions and customs related to wedding in this southern part of Morocco have been over the years characterized by strong cultural, social and religious connotations translated into symbols, rites and different forms of festivities.

Religion is the one and only reference in all social activities in these conformist regions. No wonder then that the Sahrawi traditions of weddings are closely tied to values inspired by the Islamic teachings.

Based on these religious prerequisites, marriage as well as its rites and festivities is a transition from one stage to another following an agreement between the parents of the groom and bride but also of the notables of the tribe or two tribes.

Traditionally, married and experienced women have a vital role in the choice of the spouse in a traditional and conservative society where opportunities of meetings between young men and women are particularly rare.

Following the mediation efforts and the agreement of all parties, the official engagement ceremony is announced to the family members as well as the tribe.

Then comes the rite of "Al Wajeb" (the duty) . The groom is expected to lead a procession of the "Dfou'e" (gift-offering) ceremony to his fiancée's home marking the kick-off of long preparations for the wedding ceremonies.

In the southern provinces of the Kingdom, the Dfou'e includes, in addition to "Mlahfas" (traditional Sahrawi female dress), jewelry, handmade carpets, shoes, perfumes, sugar, henna and sometimes even camels and "Sdaq" (the dowry) which, although never publicly revealed, may reach up to 100.000 dirhams.

Wedding ceremonies in the Sahrawi regions traditionally last for three days at the bride's family home. Folk groups entertain the wedding nights with local songs and dances.

At the nightfall of the third day, the groom called "Moulay" is joined in his tent called "Regg" by his closest friends. He dons a white traditional Sahrawi "Derraa" and gets ready for the long-awaited moment.

"Lamâalma" (wedding planner) which is equivalent to "Neggafa" in the other parts of Morocco is responsible for the bride's make-up and hair-do. She clads her in the smallest details and prepares her for what will be the most memorable day of her life.

If wedding ceremonies in the southern provinces have certainly gone through many transformations as it is the case in other Moroccan regions, they have still preserved their value as strong representation of the profound aspect of this sacred bond in the Moroccan cultural and religious heritage and civilization.