Courtship and Marriage

Rashaida Nomad Wedding


Courtship and Marriage

The Rashaida nomads, a Bedouin tribe from Saudi Arabia, crossed the Red Sea more than one hundred and fifty years ago and entered Eritrea and Sudan. A tough race of desert dwellers who lay no claim to owning land, they have survived by carrying out a lucrative camel trade with Egypt along the coastal desert of Sudan.

To protect their traditions the Rashaida marry exclusively within their own community. As the sexes do not mix freely in Rashaida culture, young men and women have few chances to meet of their own accord. Marriages are usually arranged by families and brides as young as sixteen may be married to men of fifty years or more, who can afford the large dowry of jewelry, camels, cloth and cash.

Rashaida wedding rites take place over a period of up to seven days in a large tent decorated by the bride in the days before the wedding. Festivities begin with the slaughter of a camel by the groom, and continue with feasting, dancing and camel racing to entertain the guests. The marriage ceremony itself is performed on the first day, when the girl is asked by the holy men if she is being forced to marry against her will. If so, the proceedings will end immediately. If not, the marriage will be blessed with a benediction. Special prayers for water, health, long life, camels and children are added to the usual daily morning and evening prayers.