Once settled in the campsite, we all joined the guys from Desert Detours who had cooked up (well, Hamid had cooked up) some traditional Moroccan soup. Thick and spicy and with some round bread, it was all we needed for dinner.
We were told that there was a wedding in the function centre associated with the campsite and we could already hear the music starting up at around 8pm. At 9 we decide to go and have a look. We watched guests arrive, walking along a red carpet to the entrance and being announced by 4 women all in the same costume with singing. We moved a bit to try to see through the doors, still hanging quite a bit back so that we were not in the way or even too noticeable. A tall, slender young woman dressed in a stunning gown of bright blue embroidered in gold approached us - would we like to come to the wedding? We protested that we would be intruding but she insisted that it would be a great honour to have us join the wedding as a guest. We were ushered into the door and introduced to a young man whose sister was getting married. We were led to a table which was for 10, set with fine china, glasses, flowers and candles. We enjoyed mint tea and sweet pastries for what seemed like - and was - hours. A live band played traditional music at full volume - even though we were as far from them as we could be, our ears tingled whenever they stopped for a break. Gradually more and more guests arrived. There was no seating plan - it was wherever you fancied sitting. The men were mostly in suits but the women - what clothes! They dress in all manner of superb traditional dress, brilliant colours and adorned with gold and silver. The outer garment was in sumptuous fabric, long sleeved mostly, and with a modest neckline. The skirt was split to the waist in front to reveal an underskirt either matching the outer part or in riotous contrast. A brilliant turquoise and silver our dress could have a magenta underskirt. Shoes were either traditional flat pointy-toes slippers or else the latest, highest-heeled, glitter platforms. Around every waist was a wide belt of stiff brocade or gold metal often with silver and gold thread or jewels. Simply stunning. Less than half of the women wore headscarves. Many that did chose gold or silver lame or they were decorated with bows or ribbons or jewelled clips.
We felt pretty ordinary in our trousers and shirts in dull colours!
Eventually, at about 10.30, the groom arrived in a pale yellow and white djellaba. Accompanying him were bearers of large trays with high conical tops all on white and gold. Under these were glittery women's evening shoes and bogs, silk scarves and velvet boxes which women opened and gasped at. These were the groom's gifts to the bride.
He left and a short while later, bride and groom arrived, carried aloft on sparkling while palanquins each with four white-coated, red-hatted bearers. The bride was in a western style wedding dress but full of sparkles and crystals and gems. After much toing and froing to the very loud music, they were let down and walked up to a double throne on a dais with white and gold cushions, and fairy lights twinkling behind on the wall. The four attendants fussed and fiddled with the bride and her dress so that she was sitting just right. Then an endless procession of photo ops with friends and family. And all the while the music played to deafen.
After this the couple left again through a small door behind us. An age later, and after yet more mint tea and sweet pastries, the attendants carried large trays on legs that were all green and gold. On them were various objects of unknown purpose except for some bowls of henna and application tools. The couple arrived once more, the bride this time paraded around the room high on a multi-coloured palanquin, while the groom was riding a white horse right into the room. He was still in the same gear but the bride now in vivid dark green and gold with a gold crown and ostentatious gold jewellery.
A woman then painted henna patterns on the backs and palms of both hands and covered the henna with green and gold glitter while it was still wet. Of course that was the cue for more photos and videos that took another hour.
All the time, photographers did the rounds of the tables. Three video operators walked the room with cable trailing behind them. A suite of monitors were supervised and live pictures were beamed onto four large TV screens scattered around the room. We could see what was going on elsewhere or when the crown was too big by checking the nearest screen. We made it onto the screen ourselves a couple of times! People no doubt wondered who on earth we were.
It appeared that the marriage service had actually taken place in the last break (ie between the white and the green dress) as fancy certificates were brought out for the families and the couple to sign. Then they were off again.
More music and the women were often up dancing. No men, at least not till much later. And so we passed more time waiting for something else to happen but watching the passing parade of fabulous costumes. And we weren't the only ones to be wondering when dinner was coming - the table was set with three plates at each setting but all we were served was more mint tea and pastries.
Hours had passed by now and it was after midnight. The music kept up its cacophony, women danced happily and people chatted (when the musicians paused). Next they arrived, the bride now in a beautiful hot pink and gold-beaded dress. New hair, new jewellery, more photos, more music.
So outfit number three - and more to come. Next the couple emerged from the room behind us. He was changed into a western suit, while she was in the most extraordinary outfit yet. She was enveloped in stiff, gold brocade that covered her like a half tent. She had net pieces hanging over her ears and the whole was over a long, straight skirt of traditional embroidered material. She could hardly move and couldn't turn her head at all. She looked like Cleopatra! Both sat down on a large cylindrical palanquin and both were again hoisted up by bearers to be paraded around the room to music.
By now it was 3am and still no food! After disappearing again, they emerged once more (after quite a long time!), he in another western-style suit and she in a bright turquoise and silver embroidered dress. At 3.30am the band finished and it looked like we might be having, quite literally, the wedding breakfast. At four, the first course arrived. With great ceremony, waiters carried silver platters with a chased silver cover to each table and whipped off the lid (before I could get a good photo!). This was a mixture of lightly spiced chicken and minced meat covered with sheets of filo pastry and glazed with honey and sprinkled with pistachio nuts. The other eight on our table bogged in fast and indicated we should do the same! The second course came on a huge oval platter and was a complete half lamb which had been slow backed and just fell off the bone. Both dishes were very tasty. The third was a bit of a disappointment - simply a plate of oranges, apples and bananas! No booze anywhere of course but plenty of soft drink and the ubiquitous mint tea. This all took, of course, quite some time to serve.
At 5am, we decided we had really better get back to the van and grab at least a couple of hours sleep! People were leaving so we took the opportunity to slip out with the crowd. But as we said au revoir to our table companions they exclaimed, 'Le gateau!' They were waiting for the cutting of the cake.
It was all extraordinary - and we were extraordinarily lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
After exactly three hours sleep, we joined the rest of the group for a mini-bus tour of Fès with a guide. It was the usual tour of this kind with a reasonably knowledgeable and interesting guide. We visited a lookout, the tanneries, silk weavers, a pottery where tiles and mosaics are made, a carpet shop, and a general walk through tiny lanes and the souk in the old city.