A celebration of “International Culture- Arabian Culture” at Grossmont College

By Lucia*

On May 13, 2010, Grossmont College staff and students celebrated International Culture Day by promoting “Arabian Culture Day” at the college educational center. In doing so, the staff devised a refreshing idea – to present a theatrical wedding. The event would include a bride, groom, wedding party, guests and performers to congregate and to celebrate ethnic diversity and traditional family-marital values. I was asked to perform in a zeffa (a Middle Eastern traditional wedding procession) and to wear a beledy dress (long dress, covers midsection) with a shemadan (candelabra) on top of my head.

The event was well attended, drawing over 100 guests who danced, sang, laughed and joined in the fun for a very memorable occasion. As the lovely bride, (Gloria Launza) walked in the procession line, the audience shared several zagareets of joy. The groom, (Rami Hanna), looked on proudly. The happy couple wore traditional clothing – a black suit and white bridal gown. As we danced to traditional Arabic zeffa music, the crowd participated. It was a delight to meet people from the U.S. and Middle East including nationals from India, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, Israel, Syria, Morrocco and Yemen. They all shared a common bond – marriage is celebration of love, family and closely held values. These diverse groups all acknowledge that music, joy and traditional religious values were common ingredients to a successful marriage celebration. After the zeffa, I belly danced and students also performed Iraqi debke and other folkloric dances. It was an exciting day for many to perform dances from their heritage.

Although I have performed in many weddings, this event was unique because it was theatrical – but the energy from the participants was very real. When several observers discovered the event was theatrical, they were disappointed. They wanted it to be a real ceremony. I pondered why – and then it struck me. Because around the world, people value marriage as an important, traditional event – everyone wants to see couples share commitment and dedication to each other and to celebrate that union. Many believe that marriage should be real, not imitated and the vows are so important, they should not be recited unless they are genuine. But since the purpose of this event was to celebrate Arabian culture and everyone was happy to dance and sing, they understood why the event was coordinated in that manner. They hoped to attend a real zeffa soon. :)   

The energy and joy was effervescent. Now that is an everlasting memory and tribute to culture, tradition and family.