Combining both love and happiness for two human beings who decide to tie the knot and get married. What makes it more special is the details that people make sure they have on their special day (they can be days by the way!). Weddings play an essential role in any country’s traditions. Libya is definitely not excluded and we know how to celebrate our weddings very well.
Regardless of how time changed and many things have been introduced to how weddings are but traditions are still important and are preserved dearly from one generation to another. Libya is a country that is very diverse and multi-cultural and I am still amazed until this day about everything new I find about any tradition or historical detail and I love to share those with you in any of my articles.
Back in the days, Libyan weddings expanded to the span of almost seven days but now, it is reduced to only three days depending on the family and what they can do or cover. I will share with you the details of this special day and the traditions, traditional attires, and any unique practices done during the celebration. I previously wrote an article about The Traditional Amazigh Wedding in Libya and it made a huge success since it was published in 2017. You can read it for more details. I shared pictures from my mom’s and uncle’s weddings back in the 90s and it is one of the dearest articles to my heart.
I asked my mom about these days even though I have been to those long weddings when I was young but in recent years, as I mentioned, things changed and the number of days has been reduced and also, the variety of traditions is huge. My mom told me that usually, the wedding starts on a Monday, it is the day of Hammam and Sahriya.
The bride must go to Hammam Bukhari (Turkish Bath). She goes with her best friends and she must wear a pink ethnic dress which is my absolute favorite of the diverse traditional attires in Libya, you can see the picture on the left. Older women must sing special songs on this day which is the henna day. According to traditions, the bride must only wear a golden bracelet in her left arm until the Najma day. For Lunch, when the bride comes back from Hammam, it should be Reshta/Reshdit burma (Pronunciation differs amongst Libyans) and it is a traditional dish that consists of a cooked shredded dough in a special gravy.
Tuesday is the day of Najma Saghira and Wednesday is the day of Najma Kibira. However, it is not done now in one day. On the Najma day, according to Tripolitanian traditions, which comes on a Wednesday, the groom’s family comes to the bride’s house and this day is for young brides and it is considered an official night. The majority of attending brides wear traditional attire and it is a silk robe with a shirt made of silver and a trouser with gold jewelry and this attire is called Badla Kabiraor Badlit Hasira.
The groom’s family stays throughout the night until the bride comes out wearing the attire and her face should be covered. She must sit on a traditional red chair while other women sing and move around her. They would bring her a big basket filled with Henna leaves and inside there are some makeup kit and a small mirror she should look for.
When she finds the mirror, she must look at herself in it. Also, she should get henna leaves with one hand and throw them behind her back seven times as indicated in the picture above and usually, there should be someone holding a fabric where they collect those leaves in. When the bride completes the tradition, she should stand up and after that single ladies rush to the chair and whoever sits on it will get married after her. The groom’s mother must put a little bit of henna on her hand while other women sing and she gives the bride her gift.
The gift is a gold tiara which is called Shenbeir or Khenaj which is a big gold or silver necklace and it weighs around 1 kilogram after that women get ready to leave, leaving the bride’s family to do other traditions special for the bride. This tradition is called Sarir where the bride comes out with her face covered again and a knife in her hand and family members would follow the bride to take her Najma (it means star).
During this, she reveals her face seven times while looking at the sky and directs the knife at the brightest star in the sky as if she captures the wedding star. The bride will have henna on her hands and they would take a little from it and give it to single ladies wishing them to get married after her and the night continues with singing and dancing until dawn.
In addition, the bride should not leave the house until the wedding day. However, many things have changed and brides in recent years have modified some parts of these traditions which show that the Libyan heritage can be updated and it surely depends on the family itself and what they want to do on this day.
On the night of Henna day, there is the Tripolitanian Noba where men play traditional music on specific instruments outside of the bride’s house and women would dance with the bride in the house’s yard and of course men and women are separated. For people in Benghazi, Henna day, they have an extra tradition they do which the bride must put her feet in the water and it indicates starting a new life.
The bowl she puts her feet in must be from silver and have a mirror in front of her and a knife and she must position it at the mirror as if she is slicing through the mirror and I means that the groom won’t see anyone but you and Quran must be kept open next to the mirror and the bride must not speak until Alfatiha is recruited and they are announced officially married. However, it still differs from one family to another.
After that comes the wedding day, before having wedding halls, families would set up a wedding tent, one for men and another for women, but after investing in wedding halls, you can still find them in many cities around the country and families will have a bigger celebration with lots of music and dancing until the bride comes in the wedding dress and her husband. In some parts of the country, the bride goes back home with her family on her wedding night. And the day after the wedding is Mahdir day and the bride wears an attire called Jilwa (As the picture below) and again, it differs from one place to another. Usually, on this day, the bride will wear multiple dresses then the Jilwa comes after with a special ceremony.
This happens in the south. The bride would go back with her husband on Mahdir day which is the day after the wedding and she should wear Badla Kbira or some would have a separate day from Mahdir where the bride would get herself ready to go to her home with her husband when the groom comes with women from his family to pick her up. On this separate day, the bride can wear Badla Kabira or Badla Saghira or another attire called ‘Elmur’’ and it is an Arabic attire.
The diversity of weddings in Libya is mind-blowing and at the same time heartwarming to know that we still hold them dearly. I would like to thank Dr. Joury who provided me with the majority of these details and some are from my mother. And also photographers Hanan Esbaga, Alla Omran, and details photography for the pictures and some friends as well.
You can follow the photographers on Instagram: hesbaga – allaomran –issra.abu –s_details