Cultural Snap Shot : Getting Engaged in Morocco

Back dated to Sept 30th

Getting married always is a huge deal no matter where you live, whom you are marrying and what socio – religious -cultural traditions you are following.

Morocco is no exception.  Being that I had only been with my host family for a couple of weeks it was surprising to be absorbed into the fabric of the family so quickly.  Indeed to find out that my host cousin was having a sit down with a prospective husband was VERY surprising.  Of course I was curious from a religious and cultural perspective how the process was different from the American Muslim culture I had witnessed in comparison to Morocco.

Well the first difference with my host family is that the women themselves don’t go out seeking a husband.  They tell the head of the family – which in this case is my host father – although he isn’t the oldest of the men in the family he has the most status- and then he starts seeking out a man interested in marriage.

I am not clear on how he finds a man – mostly from my understanding networking through the extended family.   In the Moroccan understanding of family and the Islamic law perspective even your first cousin is ok to marry – which is the case of my host parents.  I was surprised to learn my host mom was married at the age of fourteen – yes you read that right – fourteen.   Its not uncommon for there to be a huge age gap between the man and the woman getting married as it often takes a long time for the man to save enough money to purchase a home, have enough for a dowry etc…

Through family in Casablanca he found a man and the man – I should say young man as he is only 22 and my cousin is 19 – met the following criteria – he didn’t mind my cousin doesn’t wear the headscarf, he has a good job as a captain of his own boat, he has his own apartment in Casablanca that he purchased recently and his family has a good reputation in the community.

What was confusing was that I understood this to mean it was a first meeting and my cousin could see the man in question and speak with him before saying yes but she had said she said yes to the marriage already.  I then asked if she could still say no.. and she said yes.  Confusing??  Yes!

In the end the young man in question never came because he was out at sea – so instead his mother and aunt came to look over my cousin and speak with her.

They were very insistent that she has a baby as quick as possible after the marriage and she was trying to indirectly say.. she wanted to wait but the mother was pretty insistent saying she would do everything in the house as long as she had a baby as soon as possible after the wedding.

My cousin in question is very smart and was pulled out of school at the age of fourteen because the harassment on the way to and from school was getting dangerous.  She spends her days cooking and cleaning in her father’s house, napping, watching TV  specifically Mexican soap operas dubbed in Darija and on Face book in the afternoons.  Her best friend is her cousin who lives in the house attached to hers in the compound and they study English together.  Together these cousins have learned enough English in one year to communicate at an Intermediate Mid to High level through their own self-motivated study.

She enjoys children and is the more adventurous of the two.

At the end of the night an agreement for engagement with the young man from Casablanca had been reached and they “friended” each other on Facebook by the end of the week to begin talking.

In January, they will have an engagement party and I am sure by next autumn they will be married.

I hope she will be happy although I couldn’t see myself in her shoes – she seems pleased and ready to experience change even though she is scared at moving away from all that she has known her whole life to start something new with a man who is essentially a  stranger.

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3 thoughts on “Cultural Snap Shot : Getting Engaged in Morocco

  1. She’s in good hands bc we know that you are certified at “keeping the bride with cold feet from running away.” Interesting how similar some of some of this is to my family, for instance my grandmother was also married at fourteen. I got to see a Moroccan friend’s wedding on VHS so I know it will be a blast and a half.

  2. I am Moroccan and this is not the moroccan way at all.

    The womans family never ever go “looking” for a husband. it is desperation in our culture to do this. Why is the father looking? are the desperate… is there something wrong with their daughter. Never ever do they look for the man. Never!

    How it happens in Traditional morocco. IS the Groom/Brother and his family will pick the girl either they seen her in the streets, at school, at work, in the souq, at a wedding or through mutual friends.

    The first step is the boy and his family going to the Girls house, they find out where they live from the mosque or locals.
    This is a total shock to the family and the father… if the father is interested he will let them in. If not then he turns them away.

    Then the boy and his family need to work hard to impress the father. Some fathers only give them one chance. So they will bring lots of lavish gifts and be sweet as pie.

    If the father accepts and is pleased with the family and boy he will accept him as a fiance. Not in the western sense but islamic sense… that the brother can no longer seek another hand in marriage.

    The next stage is more meetings with the family. The girl will not see the man directly, she may be permitted to spy on him through a window/door.

    She will meet the women of the mans side of the family.
    If the mans side of the family are pleased with her beauty and think she seems ok. They will allow the two to meet face to face… but with a room full of witnesses. The two usually too shy to talk and barely manage a salams. The families speak over one another and this meeting may last 3-5 hours.

    At the end of this meeting both think if they are happy with the choice. And make a decision based on that one face to face meeting.

    If they are happy they do the Nikkah…. and within a short time the walima will be done. Traditionally in Morocco walima is usually 1-2 weeks after nikkah. But more recently it is 1-3 months after Nikkah/Agkid.

    The modern day the girl will go out looking. But in traditional morocco this is 7ashuma a big 7ashuma on the family and this will result in the girl never getting married. Traditionally the girl or her family never ever seek a man. The man must chase her and seek her.

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