One of the village girls is getting married and the entire village seems to be attending the wedding. On the main road from Deir Istiya to Biddiya, where the wedding will take place, cars full of families and even a whole bus are speeding, bumper to bumper, towards the celebrations.
My chaperone is Badriya, a friend of IWPS who lives in the village. In her sixties, she is unusual around here as she lives alone, having never married or had children, and like many Palestinians, her family is spread all over the world. Before she retired she was headmistress of the local girl’s school, where she taught maths and science. She chain smokes using a cigarette holder and has a voice like a man. Her garden is her passion; she grows fruit and vegetables which she cooks into incredible food, and tonight she has made up a bouquet of stunning, colourful flowers to give to the bride.
We arrive at the venue, a large room packed full of women. I have no idea where the men are; they must be having a party of their own somewhere else. As it’s women only no-one is taking any photos, as some people are without their hijabs. The bride and groom enter and walk through the room to an Arabic version of ‘Here Comes the Bride,’ accompanied by the bride’s four sisters, who are all in tears.
There’s loud music, lots of dancing, and a huge cake. Some women are dancing together in the centre of the room, and I join them at the insistence of the bride’s grandmother, who I met at last night’s women-only, pre-wedding party. The mother of the groom is dancing on the stage at the front, smiling.
Westerners sometimes find it odd, even unhealthy, that in the Arab world social activities are segregated according to gender, but I’m not sure why this any more problematic than our Western custom of segregating our social lives according to age group. Here older women, younger women and little girls all dance together, enjoying the same music and the same company. Babies and toddlers are also entirely welcome at this party.
Last week we had a picnic with an extended family who were making music together and singing. The elderly grandmother was using an empty water container as a drum, beating out a rhythm for her small granddaughter to dance to. I love the way there seems to be no age limits here on having fun.