I recall: "To a Tunisian wedding, you invite your family, your friends, everyone you know, and everyone you don't know." And, of course, everyone else as well. It is true. So so true.
A knock on the door. The words that ring through the loud "music" (a mix of African drum, Scottish bagpipe and religious chanting) from outside are: "manger" and "marriage." Eat. Wedding. Okay. The 20-something year old in blue leads us out of my friend's place to the streets. "Les femmes ici," men and women eat separately. Through the narrow hall ways of a neighboring house we reach a little court yard, which is packed with four white plastic tables and countless chairs around them. One woman, black and veiled, is eating, and two plastic plates are sitting by themselves; the perfect small compartments frame salad, couscous and tajine -- the same meal that was offered at last week's Islamic wedding that I attended uninvited. "Mange, mange!" The plates are for us.
"Looks a little bit like airplane food," we laugh. Silly jokes to overplay our slight discomfort with having involuntarily joined yet another stranger's wedding. "That really wasn't necessary," says my friend, and she is right. Then I recall what Manneou told me: "In Islam, you get married by telling everyone about it and by feeding everyone." And here is an additional consideration: the music outside really is much louder than just blasted. Having been feed and invited, though, how could anyone object? So feeding even the most distant strangers might be a mix of utility and culture. Still, try to imagine your hometown with a wedding in the main street; dinner at 10pm music until who knows when until then finally the ceremony, maybe after midnight? Unthinkable.
This wedding, however, was also not the actual wedding. It was the bachelor party. (I.e., slowly, slowly I will "collect" all the many parts of a full Tunisian many-day wedding.) This also explain why the main square is filled with chairs that chattering women and younger kids have taken over, while towards one end -- by the stage with the strange-sound-producing band -- most men have gathered: dancing. The ban things "ayywa" and "aruus" ("yes" and "groom") and the jumping up and down gets livelier and livelier until finally the protagonist is thrown up into the air several times. Breatheless, the bachelor and his companions then take seat by an adorned table. The women of his family, it seems, stand around and behind him, while the remaining men of the party line up to approach the groom, congratulate, and stuff some money in a basket next to him. Around 20 dinar each; 20 dinar is the biggest bill here and it's the equivalent of 10 euros.
Eventually, we decide to leave, even though the music will accompany us into our sleeps well into the night (since window glass and properly closing shutters are unheard off here). Before reaching our safe home, however, two young men manage to stop us. Attempts to start a conversation despite language barriers, and even more arduous attempts to get our Facebook, phone or other information later (disregarding that the language problem only will get better once transformed to social media where gesturing with hands and feet will no longer be possible), we finally get back. My friend sums it up quite perfectly: "If only it wasn't always the same story -- I'm a nice guy (the others are not), but I want to leave to Tunisia, and by the way you're beautiful -- then maybe I'd start listening again. But like this…" Maybe Hitch should come along and give some people here a hint. Or maybe not.