On October 27th, Abdallah (Ovadia) bin Suleiman Marhabi got married to a young woman named Bracha, from the village of Raida. He is 24, and was one of our closest friends (being the same age as us) in Yemen. The wedding was spectacular. Since the community has close contact with the government and the security apparatus, the wedding was attended by many upper-echelon government officials. Every so often, an entourage of well-dressed men would arrive, walk to the podium where Abdallah and his family sat, shake their hands and have their pictures taken.
Held in a long hall full of cushions provided for gat-chewing comfort, a large contingent of Jews from Raida also attended, many of whom were Abdallah’s age. Some of them remembered me from when I was there two years earlier. We spent hours there, bouncing between people, chewing gat and enjoying the festivities.
The previous day, the groom’s family drove to Raida and had a smaller wedding there. As foreigners, we were unable to go, unfortunately. The government provided them protection in the form of a truckload of soldiers who accompanied the cars to the village. Before they left, the kids were horsing around on the jeep, and the soldiers seemed happy to oblige. Most Yemenis have never seen a Jew, let alone a Yemeni Jew, so the soldiers assigned to the convoy were genuinely intrigued.
The wedding was gender-segregated, and on the women’s side, the daughter of a neighbor of the Jews from Saadah painted the women with naqsh, a henna-like decorative embellishment used around holidays and special occasions. Bracha sat on a podium alone, looking bored.
All photographs by Rachael Strecher.