Friday, June 17, 2005

WEDDINGS IN IRAQ Via the L.A. Times:
In Baghdad, business is booming for the wedding DJ. Overwhelmed by the demand for marriage contracts, two judges in Basra are turning away would-be brides and grooms. The party planner at the capital's upscale Hunting Club can't find enough floral designers to keep up with decoration demands. And a reality series following couples as they plan their weddings is among the most popular shows on Iraqi TV. Since Saddam Hussein was ousted two years ago, the number of nuptials in Iraq has soared, say party planners, judges and clergy members. Although there are no reliable countrywide statistics, those in the business estimate that "I do's"have doubled since the uneasy months before and after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some say a better living standard is driving Iraqis to the altar. Others speculate that many weddings were postponed because of the war, and couples are catching up. And there are those with a more existential bent, who see wedding celebration as a retort to death itself. "People tend to compensate for their losses," said Nagham Azzawi, whose sister is getting married later this year. "This is the natural response to all the deaths we're facing." Beneath crystal chandeliers, Wisam Hajjaj was spinning a funky mix of traditional and Western music. At 48, he claimed to be "the oldest DJ in Baghdad." At a recent engagement party, he sounded like the loudest as he cranked the sound to deafening levels. Heading for the dance floor, older women with hennaed hands and flowing black abayas grabbed younger relatives in colorful - and tight - clothing, their heads bare.
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