Getting Engaged

So I am so happy to share wonderful news with my readers.  After 29 years of being single and rarely dating during my pre Muslimah days – I am happily engaged to be married as of September 6th, 2012.

My fiancé Omar S. is a funny 27, hardworking, Moroccan fire fighter with the Genedarmes/ Protection de Civile.

How we met-

We met in early Spring 2012 at his family’s house in my site.  Ironically, his family was the host family of my then site mate – Matt B.  I had come over to their house to use the WiFi and get some home cooked Moroccan food with my site mate.  Omar happened to be home on vacation from work in Tangier for a couple of days.  So the first time I met him it was really low key and I wasn’t thinking – hey this guy could be my future husband.

It was Omar’s father who broached the subject of marriage with me first – in a joking manner– first suggesting the other cousin who lives in the house – Younes.  I told him – that I am sure Younes is very nice but he isn’t religious and he didn’t at that time have a job.  I also said – I have more teeth than Younes – so he needs to marry someone who would match him in the number of teeth he has. – j/k.

I also very seriously told him that I wasn’t looking to get married right now because I was focused on my work – learning Darija and just trying to understand how things work at the Dar Chabab.  I also said, “Yeah I am old for a Moroccan lady (on the shelf by many North African, Arab and Muslim individuals standards) – at 29 but I don’t need to get married – whats the rush?”

Then the last day before Omar left for work again in Tangier- I was visiting once again – and watching TV in a back room of the house.

Omar and his father joined me and his father asked what I thought of Omar.  I said he seems nice but I didn’t know him that well – he then asked if I would consider marrying Omar.

I said – maybe – I was pretty hesitant about the whole thing-I would need time to get to know him and then listed my conditions for marriage and made it clear I wasn’t in a rush – I had just over two years to go in Morocco with Peace Corps at that time.

So we swapped Facebook’s and tried our hand at two busy people – one on a 24/6 on call schedule and the other doing community integration while learning a new language to keep in touch and get to know each other.  It failed of course – I being the more tech savvy of the two finally called it quits and just said to his father – here is my phone number – have him call me when he isn’t so busy.

Omar being who he is – instead began including me on his weekly phone call home – always checking in on me if I wasn’t visiting his parents house and if I was speaking with me directly.  Our phone calls were about as private as the President’s weekly press conference.

He then came home for a visit after his father asked if I was interested in getting engaged in May because his sister and her husband who live in America would be visiting Morocco with their son Anas.

It was a crazy time for him to visit because a fellow PCV then announced she was getting married and invited me to her wedding – last minute as everything in Morocco is and being her friend I of course said yes I am coming – your family!

So as I was getting on the train for a ten hour ride – he was arriving in Fez from Tangier on his way to my site.  I spent two days attending my friends wedding and then returning to site – during which Omar hung out in Fez with his sister, husband and her in laws.

I arrived back in the early evening hoping he would be back from Fez but he wasn’t yet – so I messaged him asking him where he was – Fez and he said he would be back that night.  So I spent the night at his parents house – and stayed up till he arrived at 2 am – said Salaam alaikum and hit the sack.

The next day he had to leave to get back to work in Tangier.  So we finally got permission to talk alone – in the backyard.  I told him I thought we needed more time to talk and get to know each other – I also was really honest with him – that he needed to make time for our relationship otherwise there wouldn’t be one.  I also Hshuma’d him on his smoking habit and told him he needed to quit – yep that’s one of my conditions for marriage.

So he left at 10pm that night on the train to return to work in Tangier.  We kept in touch this time both by the family phone calls and the occasional phone call between ourselves or texts.  Mr Busy  as I nicknamed him – is takes his work very seriously.

Summer came in June with its intense heat and followed with Ramadan.  During which my future husband fasted and worked through Ramadan while I attempted to beat the heat with fans.  I am so proud of him for doing that – yes its Sunnah but knowing he juggles duties as an EMT, Life Guard, Rescue Scuba Diver and Fires as thats what it means to be a firefighter in Morocco – I can’t help but be very proud.

During the whole summer I mulled over the idea of getting engaged and married to Omar.  I talked and emailed with my family about it.  I also did quite a bit of asking around about him – former coworkers, mul hanuts, friends of Omar’s etc   I also was given over 100 question by my mother to have him answer.

Everything from – Where will we live?  Define marriage? to sexual history and goals for the future.

So I know many people are probably shocked by the grilling he got from my mother but – when you don’t date – you do questions – basically an interview like you were trying to get hired for a job as someone’s spouse.

If marriage is work – then more conservative religious communities such as the Muslims – have got the interview portion down to an art.

I also have a list of questions that I pick from and throw at Omar – even now.  I recently asked him would it be ok if I posted photos without hijab on Facebook.  He freaked – as much as Omar – freaks (he’s pretty much a quiet guy) and said – he would be VERY unhappy and sad because it would mean my iman must be very low.

He has asked me questions such as – Do I always wear hijab – even in America? The answer is of course.  Although I was honest and told him because America is more liberal and there isn’t harassment on the street the way there is in Morocco – that I wear clothes such as a scarf, long sleeved t shirt and jeans (I prefer pants) to skirts any day.  While in Morocco I wear more culturally Muslim clothing such as abayas as well as skirts to blend in.

I can proudly say that I blend so well that follow PCV’s and Moroccan’s assume that I am Moroccan on the street or until they talk to me.

So finally I said to myself – you have been doing prayer about this and everything has been positive except for his level of regular communication due to his work schedule.  He has been a complete gentleman – his family is AWESOME – religious, generous, kind – MashaAllah.   He accepts your family.  This is a no brainer.  Say yes already!

So then slow rush to get engaged started – first the question is always – when can Omar get time off from work?  Because his boss can be really strict – there is never anyway Omar can say – Yes I will be there on X date.  So Omar said he would inshaAllah arrive by Thursday.

Three days before Omar’s arrival-

The issue of my outfit – I said do I really need a new outfit?   Yes! said his sister and all the women of the family – its tradition.  Ok .. who am I to fight tradition? especially when it’s the eldest son getting engaged.

Plus I was excited to have another traditional piece of Moroccan clothing!

But I am picky about the color – and I wanted something that was a really rich color like turquoise.  So I found two great fabrics and took them to a tailor to make a tekshayta– which I was hesitant about – because this same tailor made my jaliabya HUGE the first time and had to fix it.

Long story short – same thing happened to the tekshayta but with no time to make alterations before the engagement.  It was finished the day of the engagement and the belt that is supposed to go with it – I have yet to see.  I still don’t have a photo in the outfit that makes me happy – so sorry readers you will have to wait for that photo.

I also went shopping to create some decorations – I wanted to make paper pom poms – that didn’t work out since all they had was vellum paper.

So I improvised making a star garland, using glitter to decorate white silk rose petals and tea lights because I couldn’t afford to purchase a bunch of holders for them.

The day Omar arrived from Tangier-

During all of this – at the house a deep cleaning had ensued and baking had started.  All of the food at the engagement party was cooked from scratch by the women of Omar’s family.  This included 3 types of cookies, 2 meat dishes and assorted items.

I had no idea but his cousins mother sent fresh flowers all the way from outside Rabat to decorate the salon with.  So I then had to make a last minute run to get vases.

Omar arrived and promptly disappeared with his friends to a café and then slept like sleep was going out of style.

So although that night I was supposed to get my henna done  – we all passed out from exhaustion.

The day before the engagement-

Omar had told his mom he wanted to surprise me with the ring – and I was like that’s nice but my fingers are huge – I got the Johnson family hands – and all the women in Morocco have tiny fingers – so I told his mom – lets go find a ring I like – get it sized and he can worry about picking it up and paying for it.

So after spending something like three hours going store to store in the gold section of the souq – I found a ring I liked and we talked the owner into sizing it for the next day.  I really got fed up and I was ready to throw in the towel – as I don’t have patience for bargaining or anything like that – I want to get in and out when I have a specific item in mind.  I said to his mom at one point – do we really need rings?

Its tradition in Morocco for the man when he gets engaged to purchase as we would call it in the US –the bridal set – engagement ring and wedding band.  He gives those to his fiancé on the day of the engagement.

I already had my mother’s old wedding band- which I had been wearing to ward off harassment – so when I went ring shopping I was looking for only the “engagement” part of the set.

My personal taste is pretty simple and I don’t like having a raised center stone for the engagement ring – since it makes it difficult to slide your hand into your pocket and it snags on things.  So I went for a low set diamond band.

This day I also got an irate email from my mother saying – YOU GOT MARRIED?! and didn’t tell me – because that night we changed our Facebook relationship status to “Married,” but that was only after my mom ignored me for a couple of days and I didn’t know why.

So I had to deal with putting out that fire.  Good thing the future hubby is a fireman.

We were still so busy and tired – henna again was put off.

Day of the Engagement-

I woke up at 8 am realizing I still needed a scarf to match the tekshayta – so I ran out of the house and picked one up first thing in the morning.

I then began the process of flat ironing my hair with the help of Omar’s sisters and cousins – it took three of them switching off two hours to do my hair – yes I have REALLY thick hair.

I then after the hair was done and I was trying to figure out my makeup situation – and being rushed because I still needed to get henna done– I had a moment where I got overwhelmed by all the pressure and walked out of the house and into the garden – to get some space.

Omar’s dad came out of the bathroom and saw me sitting there and asked “What’s wrong?”  I replied,” Too many people.  I need space.”  Omar was called over by his dad and he asked,” What are you going to do when we have our wedding?”  I said,” One word. Vegas.”  Omar laughed and I laughed too.  But then I said in all seriousness,” I might sleep through it.”

I was exhausted by the time I was dressed and primped for the henna.  But wait there is more – soon neighbors began to arrive – women as henna is a women’s event.  The Moroccan wedding music started blasting and I caught my second wind.

I sat impatiently waiting for my henna to dry – so I could dance with the women even though the room was muggy and only getting hotter as more people arrived and began to dance.

Finally my henna was dry – and I washed it off and began to dance although not as energetically as I would if I had slept well and not woken up at 8 am when I didn’t have to.

During this time I was also balancing keeping in communication with the group of PCV’s who were arriving in my site for Volunteer Support Network training and seeing when they were coming to the engagement party.

I had to take off the top layer of the Tekshayta – it was just TOO BIG

We took many photographs – and Skyped with Omar’s sister in America.   Then finally we got to exchange rings in a flurry of camera flashes, the traditional Moroccan wedding chant, milk, dates and trilling from all the women in attendance.

The party continued with the arrival of the PCV’s and although tired were convinced to dance a little and eat a lot.

Finally the party wrapped up around midnight.

Omar then had to disappear to check in with his work as they need his help here in Taza – and I changed out of my clothing and tried to get some sleep except I was grilled by the Moroccan girls on all the male PCV’s availability for relationships or marriage.

I finally fell asleep around 4 am engaged to Omar S.

I woke up the next morning with a dream of this photo in my head. So I went and pestered Omar to take this photo with me. *Note the dork – has purchased a ring to large for his ring finger and so wears it on his middle one- but I finally found a firefighter safe ring alternative – so I will be purchase him one of those!