While the bleak picture I drew in my prologue is not exclusive to Tartous, I prefer to remain within the comfortable geographical confines of my beloved city. I am certain that “culture”, in its fundamental essence, has fallen victim to the marauding waves of globalization. Those who can still claim that they come from an unchanged small town, anywhere in the world, might be the last fortunate survivors. I wish them and their cities the best of luck. Yet, these folks are normally so passive and naive; they would not realize the scope of the danger until it is too late.
With that in mind, what has become of our simple Tartoussi wedding? Why has it been replaced by cloned versions from the hinterland, from landlocked Syrian cities and even from as afar as the
Traditionally, young men left Tartous immediately after high school. The choice to leave is a common trait among dwellers of coastal cities the world over, whether to expand their horizons or to travel the sea for a few years (in Tartoussi – Msafar bil Ba7er = Traveling the sea, literally means working on a ship in any capacity). With either some money or knowledge under their belts, the men returned and got engaged to their sweethearts for a year or more until they could stand alone on their own two feet. They courted openly in Tartous under the watchful eyes of loving parents and the benevolent gaze of an accepting society. When the time came to get married, both families, neighbors and personal friends celebrated the cozy wedding party together. It was a party where everybody knew everybody else. Men and women either mingled with reserved respect or kept to their own, yet under one roof, or the open sky as the case might be. It was not an occasion to invite business relations or “prominent” members of society (we were still very fortunate then as we didn’t have prominent assholes yet). Tartous did not practice segregated religious rituals or hybrid prostituted banquets until more recent times. More often than not, the official registration of the marriage took place a week or fortnight before the wedding ceremony. A notary public from the civil registrar came to the house of the bride and went through the motions (Islamic in this case) without a Sheikh in sight and declared the couple husband and wife according to the Sunnah of Mohamad (PBOH). And that was the end of that, no Mawled (a segregated religious chanting ritual), no Khitbet Niswan (a fruity engagement party celebrated by crazy women and noisy children) and no Kitab Rijal (a somber and boring affair attended exclusively by grave looking men). A Tartoussi wedding was very much like a traditional Greek, a Southern Italian or an Andalusian wedding, a casual and simple affair, full of fun and in harmony with the gentle waves washing the golden sands of a magical city.
Our way of life has been under relentless attack long before the Neo Conservatives decided to join in with their own sick version of constructive chaos. Read me well and make no second guess about my intention. Judeo-Christian Neo Conservatives and Neo Islamists are two sides of the same single coin. Pure Islamic traditions did neither interfere nor attempt to end our Mediterranean social fabric. Neo Islamists, on the other hand, have been undermining our entire
Did I write this article just so I can lament the loss of the nuptials of the olden days? I leave that entirely up to you.