Photos Portrait of an eighteen-year-old Somali bride, Amina Mohamed Mohamud, from Gudmo Biyo As.A Somali woman with a herd of camels; the Somali are known as the great camel herders of Africa. In the past as many as one hundred camels could be given as dowry for a bride, but today six to eight camels are normal.The famous neolithic rock art site at Laas Geel, estimated to be between four and ten thousand-years-old, features paintings of long-horned cattle once inhabiting a landscape greener than the dry stony plains of today. The name Laas Geel means “where the camels once watered.” and is the site of some of the earliest known cave paintings in the Horn of Africa.Details of the four to ten thousandyear-old rock art site at Laas Geel,where one finds hundreds of horned cattle of various sizes, some with humans standing inbetween, with their arms raised as in worship. Elaborate neck decorations and even robes adorn some of the cows on the walls of the rock shelters.Amina and Salaad’s wedding takes place at Gudmo Biyo As, which means “water from the cliffs,” a region near the legendary Land of Punt.The five-day wedding at Gudmo Biyo As begins with a gathering of women who perform twirling dances accompanied by singing, clapping, and drumming in celebration of the bride.Admired for their brightly colored gowns and veils, the women perform traditional Somali dances honoring the bride.In preparation for the wedding, women of the bride’s family braid each other’s hair into long tresses.As the women of the bride’s family tress their hair in preparation for the wedding, the bride is secluded in her home and made up by female members of the family.In the privacy of her home, the bride’s hands are decorated with fine henna designs typically seen at weddings and other important occasions.The groom’s party arrives at the wedding site, robed in pink and carrying spears. The groom then enters the Aqul ritual house for marital blessings.Dressed in white, the bride leaves her home under the protection of a colorful, handheld canopy and proceeds with female relatives to the Aqal, the ritual wedding hut made of intricately woven mats.In a procession to the Aqul, elder female family members carry tall Xeedho basket containers covered in colorful netting. These containers resemble the hourglass figures of young females and are considered to be symbols of the bride. Each one is tightly wrapped with a long cord and filled with an assortment of delicacies.The wedding festivities begin inside the Aqal and carry on for five days. Especially constructed for each marriage, the Aqul is decorated with hundreds of hand woven grass mats. By day, the women lead the ceremonies, singing and blessing the bride with camel’s milk and butter.The women have their own Xeedho, which they untie separately from the men, revealing a tasty assortment of sweets.The men, in turn, gather in the Aqal to receive their Xeedho, which is bound with cords tied into complicated knots. The groom’s best man is required to find a way to untie these knots. If he fails, he is disgraced, but if he succeeds the strings fall away from the basket with erotic symbolism, revealing inside a store of dates, spices and sweetmeats for the male guests to consume.As the chants and clapping increase in intensity, the Erigaabo dancers become more energetic, continuing for hours, from late afternoon into the night.Throughout the celebrations, the men perform the vigorous Erigaabo dance, stamping their feet, twirling their walking sticks, and whirling around in circles, their scarves flying.Twirling their walking sticks and stamping their feet, the elders display great stamina as they perform the Erigaabo dance.Throughout the wedding night, guests recite lines of poetry that they have composed in honor of the married couple. It is the richness of a speaker’s praise, the insight of his wisdom, and the acuity of his intellect that impresses the guests. Renowned for his talent in creating poetry, a wedding guest (at left) chants verses in honor of the bride and groom.