For Zaatari camp’s first groom, displacement means an untraditional wedding (in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan)

by Muath Freij JORDAN TIMES

MAFRAQ — When Syrian newlywed Huthaifa Hariri got engaged nine months ago in Daraa, he did not imagine that his wedding would be held in a different country, much less a refugee camp.

Hariri, who fled his home with his family due to the ongoing violence in Syria, got married last Sunday at the Zaatari Refugee Camp — the first such event to take place there since its opening.

“I had my engagement in Daraa. My mother met the girl and told me about her,” the 23-year-old carpenter told The Jordan Times in an interview in his tent on Thursday.

But amid fierce fighting between Syrian regime forces and rebels, Hariri’s wedding was repeatedly delayed.

“Every month, we said: ‘This month we will hold the wedding,’ but we postponed it. We kept doing that for nine months,” Abu Huthaifa, the bridegroom’s father, told The Jordan Times.

Abu Huthaifa explained that long engagements are seen as shameful in Syrian society.

“When any man gets engaged, he should get married as soon as possible,” the 40-year-old said.

Last month, the family decided to hold the wedding on the first day of Eid Al Fitr.

“Despite the bloodshed, my family and I thought we would have the chance to celebrate both occasions, Eid Al Fitr and the wedding,” Abu Huthaifa noted.

Instead, an escalation in violence changed their plans dramatically.

“It was so violent on the first day of Eid, we were forced not only to postpone the event, but also to leave our home and move to Jordan,” Abu Huthaifa stated.

The bride’s parents fled to Kuwait, but she decided to join her fiancé in Jordan.

“My wife and her sister joined us at the Zaatari camp. I decided to wait for a suitable moment and see how things went,” Hariri recalled.

After realising that the revolution would take longer than he expected and his prospects for a speedy return to Syria dimmed, he decided to go ahead with the wedding anyway.

“I contacted my wife’s family and informed them that I wanted to get married. Her father agreed because he wanted to ensure the safety of his daughter as well, since she had moved to a refugee camp,” he noted.

Although his wedding was attended by hundreds of refugees, Hariri said he had to forgo many celebratory traditions.

“Syrians have special traditions when they want to hold a wedding,” Hariri said.

Most weddings take place over two days, usually Thursday and Friday, he explained.

On the first day, the bride’s friends assemble at her family’s home to prepare for the event, helping her into her white wedding dress and decorating her skin with henna. Meanwhile, the groom’s friends give him a ritual bath.

On the second day, the groom’s father invites everyone from the mosque for lunch after Friday prayers, and at night, the families and their friends drive around the neighbourhood in their cars, honking their horns and cheering to celebrate the marriage.

Getting married in a refugee camp, however, forced Hariri and his wife to do without these traditions.

“We held a simple wedding on Sunday at 4:00pm. Although my wife does not know anyone in the camp, many girls and women attended the wedding and stayed with her to celebrate,” he noted.

Abu Huthaifa added that the couple did not wear new garments for their wedding, as is customary, but rather got married in the clothes they were wearing when they fled Syria.

Despite the lack of amenities, the groom’s father said, the wedding was a rare chance for the refugees to experience a joyful event, even though it was in a camp far from home.

As for the groom, while his tent is not the new home he had hoped for, he is still happy that his dream of getting married has finally come true.

When the violence comes to an end in Syria and the refugees are able to return, he plans to have a proper wedding in accordance with Syrian traditions.

“I hope that I will go back and celebrate my wedding and our freedom,” Hariri said.

Huthaifa Hariri, the first man to get married while living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, stands outside his tent on Thursday. Hariri’s wedding went ahead despite lacking the necessities for a traditional celebration (Photo by Muath Freij)

Categories: Arab World, Asia, Jordan, Syria

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