Photos An Ait Hadiddou Berber bride wears a traditional silk veil, along with the silver and amber jewelry symbolic of her virginal status. The colorful veil will conceal her face until the nuptial rites are concluded. Her handwoven woolen indigo cloak is embellished with a pair of silver fibula clasps connected by a chain symbolising her purity and honesty.A young Berber couple meets outside their casbah to court in the barley and parsnip fields where they work. Owing to the importance of the girl’s status as a virgin, this open-air meeting place provides a perfect solution to courtship. Far enough away not to be overheard, they are still in plain view so as not to be accused of any impropriety.A Berber mother prepares her virgin daughter for marriage. She tenderly kisses the girl’s limbs before massaging them with henna, which symbolizes cleanliness and is said to protect her from danger in married life.A veiled Berber bride travels on mule back from her parent’s home to the village of her husband’s family. Inside the grooms’s house, female relatives prepare the bride for her marriage ceremony by applying henna to her hands and feet. They also pin money to her veil as a symbol of prosperity, and serve dates, almonds, cakes and tea.Traditionally, the groom wears two wedding robes and a silk veil over his nose and mouth. Twice the bride’s age, he will be expected to provide for her every need once they are married. In preparation for the wedding, his fingers are ritually bound with string, and for a five day period he is rendered helpless. During this time he is fed and cared for exclusively by his fiancee so that the couple can get to know one another better before the marriage begins. After the wedding rituals, the bride is permitted to remove her veil, in this instance, revealing the childlike beauty of a twelve-year old girl.In the high Atlas Mountains, at the annual Berber Brides Fair in Imichil, virgin girls, divorcees and widows come together to find partners. Young Berber girls, who are recognisible by their round hoods, inspect silver bracelets & sashes at the open market.In Berber tradition, a divorcee or widow wears a pointed hood, unlike the rounded hood of a virgin girl. In hope of finding a suitor, a young widow veils her face, revealing herself only when she wishes. She is permitted to make an instant marriage at the fair and go home with her husband that very night.Virgin girls with rouged cheeks attend the Imilchil Bride Fair in The High Atlas Mountains. For these girls, marriages will occur after a year long courtship, following the initial payment of the dowry.Reflecting the ideal of Berber beauty, a girl’s lips are colored with crushed walnut root to plump them, her eyes are oulined with antimony to whiten them, and her complexion is brightened with ocher painted in a traditional pattern on her cheeks.A man meets a divorced woman whom he has chosen from among the many cloaked and hooded figures. He is attracted by the sound of her voice and the look in her eye. Women with pointed hoods, indicating they are divorcees, are particularly desirable because they are instantly available at the fair without the need for a long courtship or the payment of a bride-price. The interested suitor touches her hand and says to her “You have captured my liver” (the organ of love for the Berber). If she responds “You have caught mine too” the couple may formalise their vows.At the Imilchil Brides Fair, the shrine of the holy man Sidi Mohammed El Merheni is the focus of both devotional and social activity. This revered saint was believed to bestow grace and blessings on couples who wed in his shrine.The Hassania people of southern Morocco, Mauretania, and the Sahara Desert of Algeria and Mali trace their descent from the ancient race of Berbers. The Guedra is their traditional dance of love, performed at weddings as an expression of feminine grace and seduction. In preparation for the Guedra, a dancer’s hair is embellished with precious beads and shells.A Guedra dancers hair is braided and adorned with glass talimans, shell disks , amber beads and tiny gold pendants. The large frontal bun, fashioned from fake hair, is studded with jewelry, each colored bead is symbolic of female virtue.A Guedra dancer reveals only her beautifully decorated hands and feet decorated with the ancient art of henna painting. An artisan masks off areas of the dancer’s skin with geometric motifs and then paints the skin with henna paste. When the tapes are removed an intricate geometric design is revealed.The Guedra is performed by up to seventeen women at a time accompanied by musicians who chant the dancers praises and privide rhythmic accompanyment, A Hassania drummist and women clap and ululate to the mesmerizing beat of the Guedra dance.A group of Hassania musicians and dancers from southern Morocco celebrate the Guedra in the courtyard of the their home. A ritual dance of love, performed by women for the benefit of men, the Guedra is a ballet of the hands and feet. At the climax of the dance, a performer removes her veil and her long strands of beautifully decorated hair swing wildly from side to side emphasising the sinuous movement of her body.The Guedra begins with the dancer completely cocooned in an indigo dyed cloth revealing only her hennaed hands and feet. Sadly today, there are only 60 women in southern Morocco who perform the Guedra to perfection.Swaying back and forth, a woman dances erotically to the accompanyment of the drummers while women clap and ullulate to the rhythm of the mesmerising beat. Women performing the Guedra display an alluring feminity and are often highly emotional. The Guedra is danced to traditional songs about the loves, lives, and hardships of the Hassania people.In Marrakech, in the spacious courtyard of the 16th Century El Bedi Palace, traditional Berber dancers perform regional dances at the magnificent Moroccan Folklore Festival.Two Berber women in traditional dress affectionately relax together in the El Bedi Palace. Their lavish silver jewelry, including antique silver Moroccan coins, is worn only at ceremonial times, and otherwise kept safe in a cedarwood box at home. It is believed that silver is blessed by the Prophet, whereas gold is the metal of the devil and believed to bring bad luck.