All dancers had sat down wiping sweat off their foreheads and guzzling water. I was amazed at their energy but I thought to myself, “Was there more to the occasion?” I knew for a fact that there would be foods and beverages served but I didn’t know when and I probably assumed it to be the last part of the event. Everybody looked busy and was speaking to each other in Arabic which made me feel pretty left out and confused. I didn’t know what was going on but I didn’t dare to ask either. My best friends were still sitting beside me and since they were there I told myself that there was nothing to worry about. Surely, they would let me know if the occasion was over and what’s going to happen next.
As I found out, the occasion was far from over. Some of the men left for a change of clothes and some of us went to start the cars. I didn’t know where we were going but I was told that the evening was just beginning. I had no idea what to expect and followed the crowd. I got in a car with one of my friends behind the wheel. He already had the music on full blast and some of his friends had already begun to sing. We drove off back to Serdang and they asked me to sing with them along the way. I felt really shy partaking in all that they were doing so the most I did was clap along as they sang their heart out (sometimes out the window). The liveliness and energy were bizarre to me but from experience, I learned that it’s common in Arabic weddings. I was even told them it even gets rowdier in their home countries! The whole purpose of the convoy, singing, dancing and honking was to make it known to the world that it was the groom’s special day. It was very heart-warming.
We arrived at Al-Saraya restaurant in Serdang where the area in front of the restaurant had been cleared up. There were plastic chairs arranged in a semicircle and cartons on plastic water bottles were laid out on the table. There was a sound system set up and a platform for the singer and an empty space in the middle. It immediately made sense to me about what I would be doing that evening. More dancing. And I wasn’t sure if I could sit this one out. I had invited my roommate from my country to join me in this experience. He was new to UCSI and I wanted him to meet my friends so he wouldn’t feel lonely. I thought he might have a hard time adjusting to my friends but we were having fun and started to dance before anyone could. He’s a free spirit and I love that about him. But as for me…as much as extroverted as people think I am, I am very much always closed off to a fun and any sort of physical activity. I guess I am not confident enough to bust moves in front of a crowd of most faces that I didn’t recognize.
The dance was a Yemeni dance that involved a lot of footwork. I didn’t even think that my foot could move like that. The festivities began as the groom arrived looking all dashing and composed in his blue suit. He had entered with his father and set on the special platform decorated for him. Everyone got up to talk to him, to wish him in his marriage. He was smothered with compliments and kisses (yes, Arab men are affectionate) and I could clearly tell that he was blushing. As soon as he sat down, the music started and cheers erupted for the groom. Then the whole scene literally exploded with energy. The active ones all gathered in the middle and started to dance. The songs they played on the speaker were new to me but I think I’ve heard them all now. I stood by the side just clapping and cheering while they were dancing. Suddenly, someone dragged me into the dance circle! I jerked my hand back because I knew I was going to embarrass myself. But they weren’t taking no for an answer.
I was paired off with a few Yemeni guys that I had never seen before. I told them that I didn’t know how to dance and I wanted to sit the dance out. I think they didn’t heard me. They took my hand and started to dance and I shuffled across the dance floor with them. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was trying my best to imitate their foot movement. I was scared for my life but everyone around me hadn’t stopped cheering. In fact, they were cheering even louder that I was in the dancing. They hadn’t expected me to go through with the dance and they were delighted that I was taking part in the festivities. It was reassuring to see that everyone was smiling and cheering me on. It made me feel a little bit at ease knowing that I wasn’t embarrassing myself at least. I actually started to loosen up a little and tried harder to follow in the footsteps of the dancers beside me. After a while, I seem to get the hang of it and actually started to enjoy myself.
I would occasionally shoot up glances at Mohsen who was watching us. He was grinning from ear to ear as he spotted me in the crowd. He probably had never expected that I would join in on the fun. I was happy that he felt happy looking at me. It was his big day after all and I wanted him to know that I was having the time of my life. I found that it was harder to dance with my suit on so I took it off. I was really getting into the groove. I felt like I had lightning on my feet and found it impossible to stop dancing. Before I knew it, I was the one pulling other people into the dance circle. Through dancing, I get to know most of the people there and they became my closest friends. As I continued dancing, one of my friends cheered and asked a group of his friends to lift me up. One moment I was on the ground, the next I was in the air! I hadn’t expected this at all! It felt exhilarating! And one of my best friends captured the whole thing on camera. It was definitely a moment I will treasure for the rest of my life as not only was the experience new, bizarre and amazing but everybody treated me so special that day and it’s a kindness that I could never repay.
Our friends got the groom to join in the dance too! They lifted him on their shoulders and he was in the air truly living his moment. Suddenly, I was on someone’s shoulders too! I was holding hands with the groom and dancing in the air as more of my friends joined in. After a while, we took a break to take photos with the groom. Everybody was extremely cheerful and there were a lot of smiles captured in every flash of the camera. Around 9:00 PM we had taken a break from dancing and proceeded inside to enjoy authentic Yemeni cuisines. After dinner, we proceeded to send the groom back home and it was a cheerful experience. We were all chanting well wishes for the groom blessing his marriage.
Afterwards, we had proceeded back to our cars to return home. One of my best friends carefully reminded his friend to take me back home. It was incredible to feel cared for and the friends I’ve made in my university years have all treated me like their younger brother. On our way back home, my friend who was behind the wheel asked me if I wanted to take a test drive (I never learned how to drive by the way). He said he was going to teach me and I decline vehemently because I was afraid that we would get into an accident. He assured me that nothing could go wrong as there were no cars on the road as it was approaching midnight. The night had been amazing so far and I really wanted it to end on a good note. I declined politely and to my relief, he listened. My roommate and I returned to our hostel exactly at midnight to meet the curfew. We were both exhausted from all the fun we had and fell asleep soon after.
Until this day, if someone asked me what is my happiest experience in university, I definitely will tell them it is my best friend’s wedding. My best friend recently celebrated his 3rd wedding anniversary and his baby boy would be turning one soon in August. May Allah bless his marriage with everlasting happiness and success.