The Sahraoui marriage begins with the Mahr (or, dowry) ceremony, which is also called as Dufu`. A major procession, comprising the bridegroom’s family members, relatives, and close friends, sets off from his home and heads for the bride’s. The dower, which increases in value depending on the social status of the bridegroom, consists of: camels and sheep; fabrics and materials used in sewing the Malhafa (or the traditional Sahraoui woman’s gown); several bottles of refined locally manufactured perfumes, called Al-Khameera; incense; and several kilograms of tea and sugar.
The dower also comprises jewelry, clothes especially made for the bride, and some pieces of furniture. Special and utmost care is given to the dower in the Saharan Provinces because it is loaded with tribal symbolism: respectability and generosity in addition to the bridegroom’s love for his bride and his consideration for her family and tribe. The dower is also significant for other reasons having to do with the standing of the woman in the Sahraoui society.
In anticipation of the arrival of the bridegroom’s procession, the family of the bride prepares a large tent, known as Kheimat Ar-Rak, where the bridegroom is received and the dower is presented. The occasion is marked by the organization of banquet, the beating of the drums, as well as festive celebration.
On the wedding night, the M`almah (the beauty trade mistress) sets out to beautify the bride, using Henne, local hair tresses and sophisticated perfumes. The bridegroom is expected to reward the M`almah very generously for her work because the beauty session and the reward offered soon become the talk of the two tribes, especially the women.
The wedding ceremony in the Sahraoui Provinces lasts three full and successive days. On the second day, the bride’s friends “hide” the bride from her husband. The game, known as At-Tarawugh (artifice or furtive departure), is intended to confer on the marriage ceremony a measure of fun and thrill. Indeed, the bride’s friends challenge the bridegroom to find his bride and the former has to make his uttermost efforts in order to find the latter, out of love and consideration for her.
The bride is indeed hidden in one of the tents belonging to one of the neighboring tribes. There the bride enjoys special care: she is given presents and perfume because the tribe which is chosen to “hide” the bride considers the choice a kind of honor conferred on it. In the meantime, the bride strives to find the hidden bride, aided in this by his closest friends who resort to “spying” and the gathering of information in an attempt to figure out the bride’s exact whereabouts.
The bride is not given out in marriage until the third night of the wedding ceremony. She is conducted in a joyous process to her bridegroom, amidst women’s trilling cries of joys, beating of drums, Hassani wedding songs, and poems celebrating the virtues of the two tribes (notably, their generosity and bravery). Among the traditions observed by the Sahraouis is that the actual wedding night should take place in the bride’s family home and that the bride should not leave her father’s tent until she has given birth to her first child and named it.
The last wedding day is called Ahashlaf, meaning (completion and conclusion). Other people also call it Laylat al-Jaddah or Laylat al-Jaddate. On that night, the newly-weds spend the night together as husband and wife. Thereafter, everybody goes to where the husband resides. There, the wife is put on a large piece of white fabric and lifted up while she attempt to “symbolically” refuse. On the same night, a present, called Amrouk is given to the newly-wed woman. The present is followed by another gift called Al-Faskhah, sent by the bride’s mother to the family of the bridegroom. The gift consists of half of the goods which have been offered by the bridegroom on the occasion of the presentation of the dower. To these goods, other things may be added or some of them may be modified. Then some serious thinking is given to the departure of the bride to the matrimonial home –a weighty matter which calls for special preparations and management which may sometimes require considerable time.