A journey through cultural traditions, unexpected dance moves, and a touch of humor that marked the union of two hearts.
The evening sun cast a warm, golden glow as it began its descent over the bustling streets of Dubai. Inside our modest apartment, the aroma of a home-cooked meal filled the air, a comforting embrace amidst the chaos of the city. My wife, Sauda, moved gracefully around the kitchen, serving up dinner for our small family.
As I settled into my seat at the dining table, my thoughts drifted back to the events that had brought us here. Three years had passed since Mayi and her friend Aida took it upon themselves to negotiate for my marriage to Sauda, bridging cultures and continents. It was a union rooted in tradition, one that had brought me a sense of stability and companionship that I had never known before.
Tonight, however, was different. An undercurrent of tension hung in the air, barely perceptible yet palpable. Sauda’s usually cheerful demeanor seemed to be veiled by a weighty concern, one that demanded my attention.
“Do you realize you have not met anyone in my family?” Sauda’s words sliced through the air, her voice laden with a mix of frustration and hurt.
I paused, a bite of food halfway to my mouth, caught off guard by her abrupt statement. It was true. Despite the years that had passed, I had yet to make the journey to Uganda to meet her family formally. In my mind, I justified it as a financial challenge, a hurdle I was not yet equipped to overcome.
Before I could respond, Sauda continued, her tone shifting from a conversation to something more intense. “You simply do not respect my family, and they all know it.”
The weight of her words hung in the air like a heavy fog. I understood the significance of family ties in Ugandan culture, and I had unwittingly been disregarding that. This was not merely about a formality; it was about demonstrating commitment, respect, and honor to the people who were now my own.
My children, Latifa and Taqiudin, paused in their eating, their young eyes trained on us. I could sense their confusion, even if they were too young to fully comprehend the conversation. This was a moment that could shape our family’s dynamics, and I needed to address it with care.
Sauda’s frustration was understandable, yet I couldn’t simply capitulate. “Sauda, I hear you,” I began, my tone steady as I chose my words carefully. “I know this is important to you and your family. But we also need to consider the financial realities.”
Sauda’s eyes flashed with a hint of defiance. “I’ve seen people doing much worse than us, struggling far more than we are. Yet they manage to make it happen. I just want us to have a proper introduction (Kwajula), to celebrate with our families.”
I sighed, my mind racing with calculations and possibilities. Sauda’s wish was reasonable, yet I couldn’t ignore the weight of financial responsibility that pressed upon me. Dubai was a city of grandeur and luxury, but it was also a city of fierce competition and economic challenges. I was determined to provide for my family, but I also needed to be realistic about what I could afford.
“I want to make you happy, Sauda,” I said softly, meeting her gaze with sincerity. “I’m willing to find a way to do the introduction, but we need to be mindful of our finances. Perhaps we can come up with a plan, a celebration that reflects our commitment while also being within our means.”
Sauda’s expression softened, her eyes searching mine for the truth behind my words. I could sense the internal struggle within her, torn between her desire for Kwajula and the practicality of our circumstances.
Ali Mazrui, an African scholar, had described Africans as being “triple heritage,” in that for a wedding they had the formal traditional stage of an introduction or Kwanjula in my culture, then the religious one called Nikkah in Islam, where in church they must also have a name, and, finally, the last—the Western part they call reception or wedding. I considered the Nikkah already accomplished by the family’s senior Islamist Mayi and what I needed now was just Kwanjula. Sauda agreed that if I did this, she would pardon me from the responsibilities of organizing a reception wedding.
There was yet another calculation in waiting and this was the most important one: money. It was not that cool or appropriate in terms of etiquette for a man working in Dubai to be seen fundraising so I had to ensure I could foot the bill or,
at least, most of it. I took a loan from the office to be repaid in four months, as Sauda had advised.
All functions, regardless of their nature, carried an air of anticipation, and Sauda’s kwanjula was no exception. The weeks leading up to the event had been a whirlwind of preparations, each task carrying its own tensions, even though I had almost all the money I needed according to my budget. Despite being home in Uganda just a week before the big day, I found myself ensnared in a maze of arrangements, an intricate web of details that required careful execution.
Amidst the hustle and bustle, I reached out to Kiseka Mudashiru, a former school friend, and appointed him as the chairman of the organizing committee. Kwanjula, a celebration that carries profound significance in our culture, demanded meticulous planning. The party would be held at Sauda’s family home, and as per tradition, I would present gifts to her family as an expression of gratitude for this ceremony.
Choosing Kiseka was a wise decision, as he expertly managed the responsibilities on my behalf. The weight of preparations was shared, and while I contributed to the overall planning, the majority of the tasks fell on Sauda’s family. My primary focus was the gifts, a gesture that symbolized my readiness to take on the responsibility of a husband. In our culture, these gifts represented more than just material offerings; they signified the qualities of a man ready to embrace his new role.
Much of the groundwork had been accomplished during our time in Dubai. Sauda and I had embarked on a shopping spree to ensure we had everything required. However, the final touches, the finer details, were left to Kiseka, who took charge of the shopping required in Kampala.
As the sun rose on the day of the kwanjula, uncertainty lingered in the air. Rain had fallen relentlessly the previous night, casting a shadow of doubt on the proceedings. The precariousness of weather had consequences, evident in the lorry that was meant to transport the gifts from my home. Its journey was hindered by a slippery road, resulting in an unfortunate collision with a small house in the neighborhood.
Kiseka, a man of resourcefulness and charisma, sprung into action. He negotiated with the neighbors, beseeching them to grant us permission to carry out repairs upon our return. His ability to navigate through challenges with such ease was both impressive and reassuring.
“Give me that phone, Yasin,” Kiseka’s firm voice cut through the ambient tension. He snatched my phone from my hand, noticing the stress etched on my face from a succession of last-minute phone calls. Kiseka was adamant that I must appear carefree and joyful throughout the event, projecting an aura of calmness and positivity.
our convoy commenced its journey from the Wandegeya mosque. Our destination: Kiboga, the town where Sauda’s parents resided, lay about 120 kilometers ahead. The road stretched before us, winding its way through the landscape, a journey that symbolized the union of two lives and families.
As we approached the district town, an imposing structure stood out like a beacon of opulence against the backdrop of the neighborhood. This majestic residence, unparalleled in the vicinity and the entire district, belonged to Al Hajj Mawejje. A name synonymous with prosperity, Al Hajj Mawejje was among the wealthiest businessmen in Kiboga, his success casting a long shadow that few could rival.
The anticipation in the air was palpable, and it was evident that Al Hajj Mawejje had orchestrated a celebration of grandeur that surpassed even our wildest expectations. The vibrancy of colors, the elegance of design, and the meticulous attention to detail were indicative of the effort and resources invested in this occasion.
Prominent figures from the district had converged, representing a spectrum of influence and leadership. Former cabinet ministers, including the likes of Ruth Nankabirwa, who had held positions in security and fisheries, mingled with district leaders such as the chairman and the Kadhis. The convergence of dignitaries was a testament to the significance of this celebration, uniting not just two families but the community at large.
Entertainment flowed through the air, a harmonious medley of voices and melodies. A trio of musicians graced the event, their performances captivating the audience’s attention. Stabua Natooro and Al Hajj Harouna Mubiru, a singer turned Hajj who was beloved among Muslims, lent their talents to this joyful occasion. His transition from mainstream music to a pious path had endeared him to the hearts of many, his dedication to his faith resonating with the Muslim community.
The charismatic Hajji beckoned for my wife and her matron to join him in the spotlight as music filled the air, and suddenly, my wife unveiled a side of herself I hadn’t known existed. It was as if she had been hiding a secret stash of dance moves, and now, in the glow of the celebration, she was letting them all out.
But as the song continued, something unexpected happened. Her matron, who had started off alongside her, decided that she had done her part and took a seat. Sauda, however, wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. With a mischievous glint in her eye, she continued to dominate the dance floor, her energy unwavering.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the scene before me. It was a sight to behold—my wife, in her element, taking over the dance floor with moves I hadn’t even known she had in her repertoire.
In the midst of the celebration, I leaned in and whispered to her, “You know, if you had pursued a career in dancing, you might have been starving to death by now.”
She shot me a playful look, a mix of mock offense and amusement dancing in her eyes. “Oh, come on. I could’ve been a star,” she retorted, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
Yet, among the glittering performances, a central figure emerged, one whose presence commanded attention and laughter in equal measure. Sheikh Buyodo, a revered Ugandan preacher known for infusing his messages with humor, stepped forward. His mastery over the intricate teachings of Islam, both serious and lighthearted, had earned him a place of admiration.
As Sheikh Buyodo took the microphone, a mixture of excitement and apprehension swept through me. He had mastered Islam’s marriage bedroom teachings as my grandfather the Late Sheikh Hood had mastered teachings on life after death. I had not noticed that he was seated in the front row but as soon as he stood and took the microphone my heartbeat accelerated. I was seated to the opposite of my father-in-law, looking straight at Al Hajj Mawejje. If Sheikh Buyondo had looked into
my face he would have read the panic suggesting, “Please spare us some details of what Islam teaches married people to do in their bed. It is going to be inconvenient for my father-in-law in front of me, but he didn’t look to read it.”
He started with teachings of why Islam allowed polygamy, advising that the best practices were to mix tribes and races of women. I realized he was sounding more inconveniencing to Sauda not that I had feared the same for her father and me. My wife, like all Muslim women, has difficulties accepting the teachings of polygamy. He then to my discomfort launched into matters of bedroom hygiene, remarks which earned him applause from the audience, mostly those Kampala guys in my convoy, for a number of them knew him quite well.
In the aftermath of the grand celebration, a sense of contentment washed over me. As I looked back on the elaborate event that marked the union of Sauda and me, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. It was as if all the victories I had achieved in the past were finally being celebrated in one glorious gathering.
Sauda had been right. Throughout my life, there had been moments that deserved festivities, moments of triumph and achievement, but I had never really indulged in them. Even though I had excelled in school exams and earned university degrees, the idea of throwing a party had always seemed like a distant luxury. Financial constraints had often stood in the way of my desires to celebrate.
But this time, for Sauda’s sake, I had thrown caution to the wind and hosted a wedding celebration that surpassed my wildest expectations. The satisfaction I felt was immeasurable. As I replayed the DVD of the event, I found myself sharing it proudly with anyone who came to my home. The colorful dances, the joyous laughter, and the heartwarming speeches were all a testament to the love and unity that our celebration had encapsulated.
However, not everything on the DVD brought me pure delight. Watching myself speak into the microphone made my nerves resurface. My attempts to speak in public had always been marked by a peculiar nervousness that transformed my voice into a caricature of its usual self. Despite my efforts to quell this nervous energy, it had only exacerbated the situation, leaving me sounding awkward and uncertain. The memory of those moments was a source of both embarrassment and self-deprecating humor. The DVDs bore witness to my struggle with public speaking, and I couldn’t help but cringe at my own performance. If I could have muted my voice on those recordings, I would have done so in an instant, sparing myself the awkwardness of hearing my own stumbling words.
Amid the joy and laughter, there was a tinge of sadness as well. The absence of my mother was deeply felt. Local customs dictated that a mother should not escort her son to the in-laws’ home, and so she had bid us farewell at Wandegeya. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that she had missed out on witnessing the culmination of my journey to marriage.
Mayi, my caring sister who had played a pivotal role in bringing Sauda into my life, was also absent from the celebration. Heavy with the imminent arrival of her third child, she had been unable to attend. Despite her absence, her presence was felt in the joyous atmosphere that enveloped the gathering.
As the villagers of Kiboga continued to talk about the grand celebration for months on end, I held onto the memories as some of the most significant of my life. The wedding had not only marked the union of Sauda and me, but it had also provided me with a chance to finally revel in my achievements, celebrate with loved ones, and create cherished memories that would last a lifetime.