The wedding was attended by close to 300 guests on the male side and everybody was spread amongst the sprawling lawns and date palms, relaxing, drinking coffee and tea and congratulating the groom and the family.
Food was awesome as usual, a traditional style meal of Lamb on rice, with sides of fruit and dates. they fed us almost as soon as we walked in the place and didn't stop until we were ready to burst (as I've said many times, food is not a problem in Saudi). We took dozens if not hundreds of pictures and spent the rest of the night being shown around the facility by the Grooms brother and relaxing in the cool evening breeze on the grass under a date palm.
A few things occurred to me throughout the night, first and foremost was the fact that I was welcomed so openly. In fact, welcomed doesn't even describe it. I was treated like an honored guest. People were so glad that I decided to come and I just was ushered around to meet everybody. So why then don't I get to do more of these things? Saudi's seem to mistakenly think that as westerners we would rather hang around on compounds, get drunk and hang out with scantily glad loose women. Is this really the image we portray to the world? Is this really what you think? Don't get me wrong, I don't look a gift beer or gift woman in the mouth, but c'mon! Being invited to cultural events, seeing the actual Kingdom, visiting new places...these are the things we want to do, and they are the things we cannot usually do on our own. Please keep inviting me to these types of things. Believe me, I can find plenty of booze and women and boring old compound conversations when I get back to the states. After I leave Saudi, I will never again get the chance to attend a Saudi wedding!
One of the other things that occurred to me throughout the evening was how similar people everywhere are. This may sound strange to some,who've never been anywhere quite as culturally 180 as this; they probably believe while looking through their bong smoke that "people are people man". The truth is, people aren't just people. I've been all around the world and never have I seen a place where some of the basics are so different from my home than here. I walk to work and walk home every day, I live in an apartment off compound, I run at night on the beach and I'm normally struck by the sense of just how different we are from each other, therefore, its really cool when I get to see our similarities instead of our differences. Watching children chase each other around the lawn, old men sit and laugh and talk, young men congratulate the groom and ask if he'll be "up to the task tonight". Men dancing, hugging, cheek kissing, playing music and taking pictures, it all served to bridge a gap and all in all, I felt very at home and loved the entire event.
Considering that my own marriage just imploded after nearly 10 years, I was tempted to yell to the groom "don't do it!", but I quickly remembered the good that comes with the bad and held my tongue. It was also the couple's second wedding, so technically they'd already been "married" for years. Not to mention, who am I to tell a man when enough punishment is enough?