Pupils at the all-girls school experienced a traditional Emirati wedding as part of their Heritage Week.
School 'wedding' steps back in time with singing, dancing
ABU DHABI // A young veiled Emirati bride walked across a school playground in Bani Yas yesterday, bidding farewell to family members before leaving for her husband's home.
The pupils gathered in the school compound, beating the doumbek (goblet drum) and chanting Arabic songs.
The "wedding" was part of an elaborate role-playing exercise to bring a page from UAE history books to life at Salamah Bint Buti School.
The bridesmaids wore golden burkas and rainbow-coloured sequinned gowns.
For Najat Abdul Aziz, a Grade 11 student at the girls public school on Bani Yas Island, the experience provided a window to her heritage. "It is like going back in time and doing it the way our forefathers did," said Najat, as she followed the bride while she took the final round of the set-up village.
Some students brought their siblings to school to help perform the ayala, a dance in which girls swing their hair and move in circles to local tunes.
"This is how marriages were conducted before," said Najat. "The woman of the village take the bride in a procession to the husband's house and all the families joined in the festivities."
The school tried to recreate a tribal village atmosphere for Heritage Week to instil a sense of national identity among the students and connect them to their roots. Chai (tea) was served to those gathered in a thatched tent and motifs like fishing nets and dallahs (coffee pots) were put up on the walls of the playground.
"The decorations change the whole school environment. It's not a school any more," said Samira al Nuaimi, the vice principal.
She said some students were unaware of the origins and stories behind the Emirati traditions."The best way to teach them about it is by making them live it for some time."
As part of the week-long celebration, the school organised activities around various local themes. They were shown how to make luqeymat (fried balls of pancakes rolled in syrup) and khameer (bread) and introduced to the occupation of pearl diving.
Khawla Ahmed, 17, said she enjoyed the different activities. "We know these concepts, but we never tried finding out more," she said. "This week I learnt how to differentiate between Arabian oud (perfume) and other varieties."
She would happily incorporate some of rituals at her own wedding, she said. "Why not? I want to do it the same way with all the song and dance. It is beautiful."