It’s not hard to get an invite to a Yemeni wedding. I was hanging out after belly dancing class and someone said “hey, wanna go to a wedding?”
Sure! So I borrowed a sparkly top and some harem pants (yeah—I know) from a friend, slapped on some makeup and popped into the Doctors Without Borders party wagon. We made a slight detour on the way to buy some qat (more on that in later posts).
Before I describe my first impressions of the PAR-TAY, let me note that interacting with Yemeni women can depress your spirits. The streets in Yemen are full of two things:
Most conversations and articles about what muslim women do/don’t/can/can’t/should wear bore the snot out of me. I care a lot more about Arab women’s employment opportunities than their fashion choices. But the Niqab is a killer. It’s hard to interact with women when you can’t see them grin, talk, or stick their tongues out at you. I would venture that 95+% of Yemeni women wear the full Niqab.
Yemeni weddings are segregated, which means that the NIQABS COME OFF. The reception hall was a shock of color. Drag queens could learn a thing or two from these girls. Outfits ran the gamut from short shorts and newsboy caps to gold sequin minidresses and everything in between. Short multi-tiered sherbet-colored cocktail dresses? Check. Long black and orangeish gown with inexplicable yellow feathers all over the place? Check. Skirt, bra, and utterly sheer cow-print mumu? Check. If RuPaul ever runs out of lamet I’ll know why.
Music was a mix of East and West. At one point I rushed over to join the electric slide but the music stopped before I got there.
About an hour after we got there, the hired dancers came out to perform. Dressed in pink robes, with matching pink niqabs, and pointy pink princess hats, they looked exactly like sparkling, bubblegum-hued Klansmen.
In any case, after their unimpressive performance, the bride made her entrance with the help of both smog and bubble machines, down a long catwalk in the center of the room. Her snail-like progress toward the sparkly princess sofa on the other side of the hall was fastidiously, excruciatingly documented by an earnest photographer lady. (They do indeed take photos, which are apparently shown only to family. Word on the street is that any strange women who make it into the photos are photoshopped out).
At this point the brides duty is, apparently, to sit on her throne and pose for photos. She does not get to dance or talk to anyone.
Also, she wears whiteface. Full forehead-to-chest makeup a good four shades lighter than her natural skin tone. How whack is that? ZOMBIE BRIDE IS COMING FOR YOU.