But we got to the hotel and our concierge was unusually accommodating - and it was obvious why. He told us that he saw us arrive in a government vehicle (with a "red coat," he said) and asked us who we knew in the royal court. We chatted briefly and, soon, we had free breakfast and early check-in. This is what privilege feels like! We ate, we slept, and we visited the local mall a few minutes away.
Now I'm sure our driver was not actually a general, but he sure as hell looked like one. Moustache, beret, full military uniform. He drove us over to pick up a few other guests, three ladies about our age. They were all about as nervous as we were, which made for great camaraderie on the drive over.
The house we arrived at was breathtaking. You enter through a series of Arabic-style arches, swerve around a tiny bubbling fountain at your feet, through a mosaic-tiled entryway, and into a living room made entirely of window-doored walls that you could open to let air flow through the house. The whole place was strung up with glowing lights. We made our way to the back yard, which featured three or four seating areas of low couches, standing heaters, and a massive weeping willow tree that draped over the space. The ambiance was intimate, romantic, gorgeous.
When the bride and groom were on their way, her sister and party hostess drew us to the front door again and explained we would be greeting her with a traditional Bedouin procession - "she'll hate it," Yasmine said, with a conspiratorial giggle.
After that, bride and groom participated in a short but lovely ritual that included salt on the shoulders, sprinklings of rosewater, sharing cubes of sugar, and taking a shot of holy water from Mecca - all symbols for a sweet, happy, long life together. Jokes were made about mother-in-laws always hovering over your shoulder, much laughter was shared, and I was fortunate that there was a friendly woman who translated and explained the significance of it all to us privately.
Then dinner was served! It was a catered sort of buffet, with a salad bar featuring hummus, tomato-cucumber-cheese mix, and roasted, curried cauliflower, but that was the only part that was unmanned. The other stations had cooks grilling meats, wrapping pitas and shawarmas, slicing meat off the spit, wrapping and frying pastries. It was half dinner and half cooking demo - my favorite! It was a culinary adventure, trying so many new tastes and textures, all delicious.
This was just party number one! Being here is unreal. I think I expected the environment to be more pretentious (I mean come on, royalty!) than it is. This is a family coming together in a joyous time, to celebrate the love of two awesome people who couldn't be happier. Cheers, to the bride and groom!