For the weekend our great friend Mussa invited us to go to Dar Es Salaam to attend his neice’s wedding. Jill and I had never been to Dar so we accepted his invite and at 4am Sat. morning we jumped in the car to make the 10 hour drive to Dar Es Salaam. Dar Es Salaam is the business capital of Tanzania and the largest city in the country. There are 5 million people that live there and it is full of craziness. Everywhere you look there are people, cars, buses, carts, shops, markets, generators pumping out power, and the full swing of African life. We arrived around 2pm and made our way to visit some of Mussa’s family prior to going to the place we were staying. One thing about this wedding and these family visits that made it a bit different for us was that Mussa is Muslim and although he is not very religious his family is. We were not sure what to expect with this visit or the wedding but when we arrived at his brothers house the first day we were happy to find very friendly people who welcomed us into their homes and showed us the Tanzanian hospitality that we have come to love. We visited with the family for a while and then made our way to the place we were staying. Mussa had arranged for us to stay with his cousin in an area of Dar called Kariakoo. It is an area full of shops selling all types of clothes and electronics and his cousin Shomi lived at the top of a 6 story apartment in the middle of the craziness of this area. We were greeted and given a nice room to sleep in again with all the Tanzanian hospitality. Shomi made us dinners and breakfasts and was so great about making sure we had anything we needed. He was a great person to stay with and now a good friend.
My great day happened the second day we were in Dar. I wasn’t sure how this weekend would be for me as it was the weekend of my wedding anniversary and the first year of my divorce. Attending another wedding at the same time was not my idea of a distraction from my feelings about things but I was open minded and I had never been to a Muslim wedding in Tanzania so I was willing to see what happened. The day started out with Shomi making us breakfast and then Mussas brother meeting us and taking us in a taxi to the ferry that would take us across the bay to his sister’s house. On the way out of the house it started raining. Jillian and I were already not sure what we should wear to a Muslim wedding and had on some cotton dresses. We made it to the crazy ferry stop were amazed by the 1000 of people moving like cattle quickly to jump on the ferry even as it started moving from the shore. Once across the bay we exited the ferry and had to walk in torrential downpour to a car that was waiting for us. In the walk the rain was so hard we got soaked and all we could do was laugh. When we arrived at Mussa’s sisters house we were still soaked and needed some new clothes. Since we were already not sure what we were supposed to be wearing we thought this would be a good time to ask for clothes that might be appropriate for a religious Muslim wedding. Mussa’s sisters are all so kind and sweet that they were so happy to lend us some of their clothes and help us dress up for the wedding. In the end Jillian and I were draped in Muslim gowns and head wraps and looked like Mzungu (foreign) Muslims. Everyone was so happy to see us in the Muslim gear that it was a relief that we got soaked in the first place and finally had appropriate clothese. After wearing the traditional clothing people were much more at ease with our presence and happy to have us there. When Mussa came to see how we were doing he was shocked and surprised at what we were wearing and started laughing at us. It was a hilarious moment.
After getting dressed Mussa’s friend ChuChu explained to us how Muslim weddings work in Tanzania. She informed us that the men and woman stay separate throughout the entire time and that the bride stays in a room. She often wears green and has henna painted on her hands and feet. Everyone contributes money to the wedding to ensure there is enough food and that the bride and groom look good. The husband and some witnesses come with the Mosque leader and the woman’s father to ask if the woman approves of the marriage. When she says yes the men go back to the mosque and draw up the marriage documents with the father and the husband. After the documents are signed the people eat. After everyone has eaten the men come back and collect the bride and the husband and wife leave for the honeymoon. It was a bit strange to not be with the men and be separate but it was also a lot of fun. While the woman waited to hear back from the men they danced and sang and invited us to participate. We danced with the woman and everyone thought it was so funny to have us participating but they welcomed us with open arms. It was fun to experience something so different but be accepted without any hesitation. We were also able to sit and talk to some of the woman with the help of Mussa’s sister and ChuChu who translated and were happy to have been invited to participate.
After things were over Jillian and I changed back into our normal clothes and headed with Mussa to the beach. We got to the beach around sunset and walked up and down in the beautiful water of the Indian Ocean watching the sun change colors around us. We then went to one of the resorts that had a DJ and hung out for a while next to the ocean dancing. As the night wound down I realized that although the weekend made me sad thinking about my past that I could not have asked for better friends. Coming to Africa is a decision that I am so happy I made and living with Jillian and Mussa has shown me that true friends are always there to cheer you up and make the hard times you experience much better. Whether it was laughing at our Muslim wear, or dancing under the stars I am so happy to have people in my life that love me unconditionally and are willing to do what ever is needed to support me.
Siku Nzuri Sana (a Great Day!)