Photos On her wedding day, a Rashaida bride wears an elaborate veil, called ‘burqa’, given to her by her mother. Stitched with silver threads and decorated with silver pendants, this veil covers her forhead as well as her face.A married couple converse outside their traditional tent covered with woven goat-hair blankets.A Rashaida wedding guest arrives on camelback accompanied by his three wives. Traditionally a Rashaida man may marry as many as four women, but today, because of the tremendous cost, men are taking fewer wives, and forbidden to marry more than once a year, regardless of their wealth.The Rashaida nomads migrated to the Horn of Africa from Saudi Arabia 150 years ago and now live as desert dwellers in Eritrea. They have survived by carrying out a lucrative camel trade with Egypt along the coastal desert of Sudan.On the first evening of the wedding celebration, male guests of the groom arrive from neighbouring villages to attend an exclusively male gathering.In the shade of a large tent, the men present the groom with gifts of money which they tuck into his turban ad waistcoat pockets while the attendees shout cheers of success.The men enjoy an evening of revelry, joking and dancing, which culminates in a feast of goat meat, wheat porridge, sand-baked bread, and sweet tea. As the men celebrate, the bride remains secluded in her tent. She is not permitted to be seen by anyone except her mothers and sisters.Surrounded by admiring guests a girl twirls in circles and claps her hands rhythmically. The many layers of colorful fabrics she wears, including her richly appliqued skirt, enhance her movements.Reserved for special occasions, dances such as this are only performed at weddings and important Islamic holidays. Here a young girl dances to the accompaniment of her male admirers clapping and singing. The men wear cotton tunics, sometimes an embroidered waitcoast and turbans. They often carry ceremonial swords which they show off in the male dance.A veiled Rashaida girl dances at a desert wedding surrounded by admiring men who inspire her movements.Exchanging intimacies, two female guests wear elaborate veils stitched with silver threads and decorated with sequins and gold and silver pendants.The silver bracelets worn by a bride are gifts from her husband, along with the silver pendants used to decorate her mask.The Rashaida view the Burqa mask as an expression of female beauty, and its elaborate style has remained unchanged for more than one hundred and fifty years. The Rashaida believe that showing a smile, a sign of happiness, would be disrespectful to the Prophet Mohammed.A Rashaida bride is never seen publicly at her wedding, and she may visit her husband only after dark. For six nights she sleeps with him, rising before dawn to return to her tent. On the seventh day the couple begin to live openly as man and wife.Portrait of a young Rashaida bride and groom in their wedding tent.