Ayoub bought me a beautiful engagement ring in the souks of the Rabat medina. A ring I wasn't allowed to wear, at least not until Saturday. As the weekend approached I found myself at the mercy of Ayoub's plan to orchestrate an engagement party at his parent's home.
I'd already spent a good amount of time with Ayoub's family. They immediately loved me like their own and even call me Caría, a loose Arabic form of Carrie. Extended family members started visiting just to meet me. They gave Ayoub and I blessings for a beautiful life together. It was both surreal and overwhelming the love that was poured over us.
Meanwhile, Ayoub consulted with his mom and her sister, Mina, about the engagement party. All the details involved seemed important because conversations were always in escalated tones (later I discovered that ALL conversations in Darija are in escalated tones, i.e. sounds like yelling). The biggest challenge was finding a dress that would fit me. In an ideal world, I would've had enough time to have a dress custom made, but since Ayoub wanted to be "spontaneous", I was about to embark on finding a fat needle in a skinny Moroccan haystack.
" . . . I was about to embark on finding a fat needle in a skinny Moroccan haystack. "
Aunt Mina was on a mission. I knew if anyone could find me a dress, Aunt Mina could. She is the kind of aunt that takes matters into her own hands and gets things done, just get out of her way. I, along with Ayoub's sister Khawla, his mom, and Aunt Mina, walked arm in arm through the streets visiting several local dress shops. It was the moment of truth: time to try on dresses. The first dress was so tight on the boobs that for the first time in my life I felt like I was big-busted. The second dress never made it passed the hips, then there was the dress that actually fit, but I'm sure if I sat down I would resemble an exploding tube of buttermilk biscuits. I was beginning to lose hope, but at our last stop I immediately fell in love with a farasha (kaftan) on display: creamy white satin embroidered with dark pink cord and sequin detail. Aunt Mina slipped it over my head and it fit . . . perfectly. I was a Moroccan Princess. As an engagement gift, Aunt Mina and my future mother-in-law bought it for me.
Saturday arrived and Ayoub and I had a list of things to do, pack, and pick up. By the time we got to his parent's home, it was bustling with people and the aroma of my favorite tajine. Aunt Mina enlisted the best henna artist in the community to decorate the girls' hands and feet. Khawla had her hands done, while I had both my hands and feet. I felt bad that the artist had to touch a million blisters I had from breaking in new shoes. No amount of henna was going to make them look any better.
I had changed into my dress and emerged into the living room where the entire family was waiting. It was Ayoub's first time seeing me in my dress and anything traditional of his culture. He just looked at me. It was THEE look. Every woman knows that look, the look that only the man you love can give you, and it melts you on contact.
As Aunt Mina recited excerpts from the Qu'ran, Ayoub and I partook in the traditional Moroccan customs of feeding each other dates and drinking milk, the symbols of hospitality and peace. And FINALLY, it was time to exchange our rings.
I can't describe what it felt like at that moment. I experienced flashbacks of my life's many difficult times all of which lead me here. It's a true testament that you never know where life takes you, but trusting in the bigger picture, your higher power, your God, always leads you to exactly where you should be. And for me, I found myself in a foreign land, speaking a foreign language, and surrounded by so much love.