I wanted to write about weddings, mostly because I have so many photos of brides in fabulous dresses that I really wanted to share! I thought hard about how to do it - I didn't want to be dishonest to the realities of young women effectively forced to marry men they didn’t know or want, the comically-told tragic stories of henpecked husbands, couples trapped in poor, loveless marriages and even a couple of messy divorces.
On the other hand, we’ve had enough sad stories in the last few posts, and for every story I was told about a marriage that left much to be desired, I have been told of a genuine & happy love match. Couples who met or were introduced as teenagers and celebrated 50, 60 and even 65 years together - still as in love as the day they married. These are the weddings I’m going to write about today, because they make me smile.
Gabi & Lina Tamman
In this extract, Lina Tamman is in Italics, her mother Lola Eleini in Bold and Gabi Tamman in standard font.
The weddings there were very, very nice actually. They used to put fairy lights and all different colours of lamps hanging on top of the walls in the outside part of the club. The synagogue was a small one, not a big synagogue, and the bride and groom used to stand at the front. But it was not a long thing the wedding, not more than 10 or 15 minutes, and they sign the ketubah, as everywhere. Actually the whole community used to cram up inside, one on top of the other, all to fit in. It was a big event for the whole community.
The first weddings were not even like this. They used to get two big chairs like you see in the Arabic films now, one for the bride and one for the groom. Then they will invite everybody, and give petit fours and ice cream and lemonade. That’s it, no dinners.
Yes, that was before. But me, I had a bad reputation. Lola knew about it, about this bad reputation and she said, 'I want this guy' for Lina.
She knows of my bad reputation and she says, ‘I want this guy'! (laughs)
Well he was normal, he liked nice girls.
Lina, did you know?
I liked him, I was attracted to him, I didn’t know all that! Nobody told me.
She had an Auntie, an English woman, she came and told her,
‘How can you marry a man like this?’
to try and convince you not to marry me
But I didn't know! She didn't tell me about this reputation.
Anyway, she is still the most beautiful woman, don't you think?
My wife, I knew her since we were children, and we were in love but we didn't know even how to kiss! I had horses, I used to go by horse at 7 in the morning to meet her, when she was going to school, but she doesn’t go on horses - that’s the biggest thing! She never ever goes on horses - she used to go to by bicycle to school. She was a lovely girl, very pretty. So, little by little we learned how to kiss each other, it was a real love affair. We married she was 24 I think and I was 27. Her name was Mary. We got married in Alexandria, we were there for holiday with our families and then we decided to get married. We had cousins and things like that in Egypt so we did it there and Rabbi Malka organised to have the top Rabbi in Alexandria to come and make our wedding. We didn’t want a big wedding, a big fuss because we wanted to be together every minute, not every day, every minute! She was a truly great woman. Any case, we loved each other very much and we had five children. I tell you…we were very happy; it really was a big love affair.
Zaki & Viola Gabra
In this extract, Viola Gabra is in Italics and Zaki Gabra is in standard font.
When I married Viola she didn’t know how to even make a fried egg, and now she is the best one at cooking!
He says it because every husband has to say this about his wife! I used to call my sisters and ask them how to do this or that until I learned.
You asked how did we meet? Ahh, very nice. You know it was the feast, Rosh Hashanah, and I was in the synagogue of Khartoum. She was not coming to the synagogue, but she was coming out from the house of Lola nearby it, and she was walking from the house, past the synagogue to the university.
Up to now I don’t go to the synagogue often. I keep religion, kosher, everything, but the synagogue is not for me.
And I saw her walking and I know that this is the girl of Omdurman, her mother is related to my mother so I go to my mother and I tell her that I like the girl from Omdurman and I want to marry her. She is happy so she took me, hmm,…where did she take me?
I don’t know! (laughs) How can I remember from so long ago?
Ahhhh yes! They took us to a trip! Touring to Jabal Awliya, all the family. And after that we were speaking for two or three months and we were married. She was in college, in the University and each day I told my father,
‘I am going to see Viola’.
So I took my car and I go to see her there and the girls from the University they laugh,
'Aha! The boyfriend came!'
My friend, she was English.
What was her name? She came to me and she said,
‘Be careful with Viola! Be careful with Viola’.
She told me like this.
I was studying economics but I didn’t finish. I did two years and I had one year left but I couldn’t finish because I got pregnant and we had a very difficult pregnancy. But come on! It doesn't matter! I am not a person of a career; I like to study for my enjoyment. Even now I go to lectures in the university of things that interest me.
We made the wedding in the Sudan, in the synagogue of Sudan.
It was 1963. March. 23 of March 1963! We made a small party after, it was in the synagogue, all of the Jews in the community went there,
and also a lot of Sudanese. Friends from the university, my lecturers I invited also, Zaki's clients, neighbours and so on. We had a small party in the synagogue and then we gave each person - that’s what they used to do - they give each a small box with white sugar almonds, the sweets, inside.
Each box has a small card with our names and the date on.
And then after that we went at 8 or 9 o’clock to the St. James Hotel. They booked there for us and we had dinner for the close family.
Until 12 or 1 o’clock.
And then we went for our honeymoon to Asmara. The very rich people went to England or Europe, and the medium go either somewhere in Sudan or to Asmara. We went to Asmara! For about 10 days or so, it was very nice. We went touring there.