On the weekend I travelled to Aleppo to see friends Bangali and Celine again. The journey there on Friday consisted of a bus to Antakya (10,000,000 TRL) followed by a taxi to Aleppo (USD $15 or 750 Syrian pounds or 22,500,000 TRL or 22.50 YTL). The visa at the border now costs the equivalent of USD $32 versus the $30 from last year.
That night we, along with Yuko, Bangali and Celine’s Japanese neighbour, were to attend the wedding reception of their landlord’s son. He was marrying the daughter of the owner of Aleppo’s 2nd largest hotel, the Pullman Al Shahba. The reception was to begin at 10, yes, 10 pm!
After some difficulty finding the Aleppo Club, we eventually arrived at the venue. Through the door, past the jacket counter and up the dual twirling staircases the bride and groom’s families greeted us at the half tacky, half sophisticated function room entrance. The ‘handshakes’ by a few of the women were the limpest I have ever felt. Culture, I guess. I did not felt ultra comfortable, not knowing anybody whose hard earned $$$ were paying for my entertainment tonight. Still, I was very much looking forward to the experience.
The four of us were placed at a table with 3 middle-aged German couples (the landlord was first married to a now deceased German lady, so the children are half-German). This was the foreigner table, located in the corner close to the drink stand from where the waiters obtained the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Out of respect, I remained completely sober.
Approximately 150-200 formally dressed guests were seated. Most of the women did not wear headscarves and I believe it was a mixed Muslim and Christian audience. As Celine stated, the “creme de la creme” of Aleppian society were in attendance. Trade wise, I would love to be on a friendly basis with all the business people in the room.
Salads, cheese and cold meat platters covered the tablecloths. For an event beginning at 10 pm, the 5 courses lasted well into the night. A copy of the menu is below. Even though the international audience of the reception was just one table with only one native English speaker, the menu is in both Arabic and English.
Fresh dill and rind less lemon slices complemented the fish well. The lemon sorbet, I was told, pushed the previously eaten food down, creating an appetite for the following courses. I don’t recall eating truffles before, not in Syria, anyway!
The dessert consisted of a flat apple pie with ice cream along, a piece of wedding cake and exotic fruits. The fruits included delicious custard apple (new to my 3 companions), pineapple, an out of season hard but edible mango, kiwi fruit and the usual banana and apple.
Music, Ceremony and Dancing
Near the start of the evening, a violinist played a few tunes to add to the atmosphere.
The music the couple arrived to was actually the same classical tune my work uses for its radio advertisements. I do not recall its name, but it is not a tune I would normally associate with either radio commercials or weddings.
Around the 3 layers of wedding cake, glorified sparklers lit up the central area and grabbed everyone’s attention.
The second live music act was a singer who sang old European standards, largely French, but also the odd English, Spanish and Italian song.
The third, main and final music group included a guitarist, percussionist, keyboardist and singer. This quartet played music very similar to the music at many Turkish weddings, a kind of Arabesque. According to Bangali (who is fluent in Arabic) the singer entertained the audience very well with his singing, quips and remarks.
Unsurprisingly, the couple were the first on the dance floor. Following them were immediate family couples and then other couples joined fray, waltzing to the European standards.
With the Arabesque, more of the guests (including myself) went on the dance floor and danced similarly to the Turkish style I had seen so many times before. I was actually surprised at how many people did dance. I expected the affair to be a bit more conservative.
By 3 am the night was winding down and the four of us joined many of the other guests in exiting the building, saying good bye to the wedding couple and immediate family on the way. Waiting outside for the newly married husband and wife was a Lebanese number plated stretch limousine. I guess the vehicle was going to head to the Pullman hotel, where the husband and wife would enjoy their night together in the penthouse suite …… THE END
I will write more about the trip to Syria and catch up with my emails soon, I promise!