The Jaha (For Abood)

Last night I attended the jaha for my best friend Abdullah, who was visiting here from Canada for a few weeks. I’ve known Abood for over 13 years and so I can safely say this is definitely the only jaha I’ve been to in Jordan where I was actually happy for someone and/or happy to be there. To my non-Arab readers, I’ll make an attempt at explaining what it is, and to the Arab readers, specifically Jordanian readers, this should sound familiar.

A Jaha is essentially a “group of men” who get together for a certain social purpose. In most cases, that purpose is designated to getting two people married. The groom’s family, lead by family or tribal elders, heads towards the bride’s house in jaha-form, where they are received. This is all prearranged beforehand, so it’s not like they just show up on the doorstep like Ed McMahon. The jaha is meant to be an official coronation if you will; a public demonstration.

At the jaha, the men and women are seated separately, although in most jahas you’ll find a lot of the younger women gathering around the doorway to eavesdrop on the most important part of the ceremony. This is the part when most of the men are seated, and the hosts serve everyone coffee, but the sheik or the oldest man in the groom’s family doesn’t drink. He instead puts down his cup and stands, and a quiet falls upon the room. This is supposed to signify that “something is up”.

At this point the man begins to speak, usually saying something along the lines of not being able to accept the hospitality of the hosts until they have met their demands, in this case being their daughters hand in marriage. Usually a similar family-elder from the bride’s side is there to respond and for a moment it looks like a play, which I suppose, technically it is. The details vary according to the family and their origin, size and/or importance. At times, the Quran is often quoted, usually related verses that concern the event at hand. When the bride’s family accept, the fatha – the opening chapter of the Quran – is read by everyone in the room and the deed is done. Screaming women and fireworks ensue.

Now…

What follows is what can only be described as an ass-whooping of awkwardness for the groom who has to shake hands and kiss-on-the-cheek every person in the room. This feat is nothing compared to what happens to him when he enters the room full of women, who converge on him like a defensive line tackling a quarterback, smothering him with kisses. He will often emerge sweaty, disheveled, with his face covered in red prints and his eyes in a daze of confusion. Later, they might force him to dance in the middle of the room like a monkey. Meanwhile, his friends – his primary support system – are enjoying knafa, chocolates, candy-coated almonds, drinks and coffee, while usually making fun of him every time he looks to them for support.

Them’s the rules.

So what made this jaha so special for me was the fact that years and years ago, me and Abood had attended a wedding where we spent most of our time pointing out all the awkward situations that take place. Situations we ourselves would love to avoid if humanly possible. But on the jaha-ride in the car from his home to the bride’s home, my friends and I reminded him of these situations, which is like telling a guy who’s about to go into surgery just what kind of pain to expect! Suffice to say it was hilarious. For us.

I should also point out that in this case, the marriage was between two cousins, which is not only very common in Jordan but I would argue (based on nothing more than observation) is becoming more common due to the economic status quo. I mention this because it was interesting to see the family-elder who came to ask for the hand, jokingly say it was his duty to also accept the request. Kind of a schizophrenic but unique, ceremonial procedure.

That being said, it was a fun night for me and my friends.

And a great-big congrats to Abood, who in a few years, as we have all generally agreed, will have a belly, gray hair, 6 kids and having to ask his wife if he’s allowed to go out with the rest of us on a Thursday night!

Here’s to you bro!

Thought Is Free...

19 Comments

  1. Nas, that was a fun read!
    Mabrook to Abood!
    “And a great-big congrats to Abood, who in a few years, as we have all generally agreed, will have a belly, gray hair, 6 kids and having to ask his wife if he’s allowed to go out with the rest of us on a Thursday night!”
    two questions:
    is that what guys imagine marriage does to them? If yes, imagine how girls feel about it all, especially when the couple plan on kids (what pregnancy may do to the wife’s body). I don’t even know how safe it is to say “plan,” since it’s mostly an obligation in Arab society, whether the couple like it or not due to family and society attitudes towards having kids !

    What are those Thursday nights all about that gets y’all concerned min halla2? :)

  2. Mabrook to your friend!

    You’ve forgotten the part where usually both of these two men have no clue of the bride’s or groom’s name, some smart ones would have them written on a piece of paper hidden (or as they think so) in their palms.

    It’s getting awkward for your seeing your friends getting married! Peer pressure ? :D, wow people just get married very young in this nation!

  3. Hehehhee. Must save link to this post so I can forward it on to Western friends when (if) it’s ever my turn and I’m forced to explain to people what, exactly, a jaha is. Man, I didn’t even get it till I read this. :D

  4. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL @
    “What follows is what can only be described as an ass-whooping of awkwardness for the groom who has to shake hands and kiss-on-the-cheek every person in the room. This feat is nothing compared to what happens to him when he enters the room full of women, who converge on him like a defensive line tackling a quarterback, smothering him with kisses. He will often emerge sweaty, disheveled, with his face covered in red prints and his eyes in a daze of confusion. Later, they might force him to dance in the middle of the room like a monkey.”

    For some reason i missed this part the first time i read the post ( I was kinda sleepy lol). Nas, when reading your description about what happens once the groom enters the women’s sphere, I can’t but imagine him entering a jungle of some sort…”dance in the middle of the room like a monkey”?? I do understand how awkward the situation is for him when forced to dance, but seriously, is that really how grooms feel? It can’t be that bad!
    this is really scary and evil on your behalf! Your description would make any guy thinking of marriage freak out! Nonetheless, it cracked me up, hehehe

  5. So this is what goes on in the other ‘room’ in Jahat….No matter how much my dad explained it to me, I never actually believed that people will stand there and act it out. I think seeing the men in the family all dressed up in suites is the best part of a Jaha.

    ‘he enters the room full of women, who converge on him like a defensive line tackling a quarterback, smothering him with kisses. He will often emerge sweaty, disheveled, with his face covered in red prints and his eyes in a daze of confusion. Later, they might force him to dance in the middle of the room like a monkey.’
    I feel sorry for the brides who have to set next to their groom after receiving all those kisses. Think of all the germs.

  6. Hal: lol well i doubt your friends will get to witness it since what happens in the females-only room stays in the females-only room. but i trust that room will also smother your husband-to-be from here to tuesday :-D

    mohannad: lool, funny :-D

    secratea: you see what happens when you read my blog as soon as you wake up? you miss all the good parts! lol. well my description is just as realistic as I can make it, so me being evil is neither here nor there. i’m suspect (for assurances) that those who have been through it can back me up here (ask those around you that have) ;-)

    Dana: keep in mind that this jaha was a tad bit more modern than the “ordinary” ones that are more common in Jordan. They are usually too big to fit in a house, which is why they do them in tents or canopies, outside (but not in january) :-D

  7. Nas, pass my congrats to Abood..I never thought he would be one of the first guys in our class to do this!! thanks for posting this, at least we shared it with him in some way after such a long time!!

    3o2balak naseem, i’ll be waiting for the knafeh, and i’ll still keep poking u then :D

  8. Mabrook Abdoooooo!!!!!!!! i cant beleive this is the way i had to find out! but really i hope ur happy! :) thanks nas for the info! inshalla well talk soon abdo :) TC all.

  9. Iman A: thanks! 3ogbalek inti kaman! as for invites…that will take some thought :-D

    Iman K: loool your first sentence has become a standard sentiment! lol thanks and 3ogbalek inti kaman.

    the 3ogbalak/ek syndrome has begun :-D

    Diane S: ouf ouf ouf…THE Diane S is writing on my blog? and in the same post as Iman K?! aish fee ya jama3a? It’s a special occasion! :-D

  10. An insider view of the cultural niceties of Jordanian society. You should all attend an American Muslim wedding–all it takes is a masjid after prayer time and whomever came to the prayer is invited. Kitb al Kitab right there and then off to the honeymoon. Allahu akbar. And the husband sure gets off cheap in the gold department. Alhamdulillah. Pity things are so complicated around here.

  11. Um Omar: what you just described was truly awesome :-D

    although i suppose, despite its shortfalls, there is something memorable about the way its done here ;-)

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