Um Nafisi (Kabri)



Q: What’s your name?


A: Fatima Abed Jibril.


Q: Where are you from?


A: I am from Kabri, ‘Akka.


Q: How old were you when you left Palestine?


A: I was twenty years old.


Q: What do you remember about Palestine?


A: Like what?


Q: What did you use to do for weddings?


A: Sing, dance the dabkeh, and fetch the bride.


Q: What were the songs that you sang for the bride?  Do you remember any of them?


A: Yes, there were a lot of songs


Q: When they went to fetch the bride, what did they sing? Do you remember these songs?


A: Yes. They would sing “A’rousetna, ya mbarhej, ija al-a’rees, wa marheji, a’rousetna ya mzayani bi rijalha, ya mzayani bi rijalha” [Our bride, oh happy one, the groom has arrived, be happy, our bride is made beautiful by her man, our bride is made beautiful by her man].


Q: What kinds of food were offered at the wedding?


A: Food, rice. They would distribute the mats, and cook the rice, and put it out on them. And there would be kibbeh and chicken.


Q: The zaghaleet, what special songs did they sing for her?[1]


A: They would sing: “A’rousetna malla a’rous, a’rousetna mena’dilha lil-flus” [What a bride is ours, our bride is as precious as money.]


Q: When the bride walks out of her father’s house, what did they sing for her?


A: “Men tale’tik ya jawhara ija al- a’rees wa marheji” [When you came out oh jewel, the groom comes out and rejoices].


Q: And what did they sing for the groom?


A: They would bathe the groom and sing “A’reesna malla a’rees, a’reesna ba’’t al-flus, a’reesna lil a’rous” [Oh what a groom is ours, our groom gave money, our groom is for the bride.]


Q: Good. And when the groom goes to the bride what would they sing?


A: “A’rees, a’rees, la tandam a’la al-mal, a’la a’roustak hawaji wa hut li’lami a’la al-a’rous hawaji, wa rous mehniyi teswa banat, binat dirtak miye a’la miyeh” [Groom, oh groom, don’t regret the money, your bride has needs, and put the a’lami [2] to your bride’s needs, bowed heads are worth more than girls, girls from your family are one hundred percent [ie. the best]].


Q: You got married in Palestine?


A: Yes in Palestine


Q: How was your wedding?


A: I didn’t have a wedding.


Q: Why didn’t you have one?


A: No, because my husband was a widower.


Q: So if a widower gets married he doesn’t have a wedding? Was that a tradition in Palestine?


A: Yes, a widower and a divorced man wouldn’t have a wedding.


Q: So you didn’t have a wedding?


A: No I didn’t. But my parents made a small party for me at home; little girls danced, and I sat on a big chair. Then they took me to my father-in-law’s house. But no wedding, nothing.


Q: What did they sing to you when they took you to your husband’s house?


A: Dakhal al-a’rees a’la a’rous, wa itla’u ya immat al-fasous” [The groom has come to the bride; so leave you farting mothers].


Q: How did you get to know your husband?


A: I’m originally from Kafr Qar’a in the Tulkaram district, and my husband is my cousin. I was engaged at the age of thirteen.


Q: You were engaged for seven years?


A: No, a bit less.


Q: And for how many days did a wedding continue?


A: Not even a day for a widower.


Q: Okay, in Kabri, when there was a wedding how long would it last?


A: The wedding, well some people would celebrate for seven days.


Q: What did they do?


A: They would sing and dance, and young men and girls would do the dabkeh.


Q: Weddings were mixed? Young men and girls danced together?


A: Yes.


Q: What did they sing? What were the songs for the dabkeh?


A: “‘Ala dal’aouna, ya dala’ouniyi, al-armal bi shalen wa al-bint bi miyeh” [To the dala’ouna, oh my dala’ouna, the widower for a shilling, and the girl for a hundred].[3]


Q: What did you use to wear in Palestine?


A: We wore dresses, and shanatin.[4]


Q: What would you wear for a wedding?


A: The groom would wear trousers and a jacket, and they would get the bride a wedding dress.


Q: And what would she wear for the sahra?


A: Her usual clothes.


Q: They wouldn’t make her a special dress?


A: No, but when she went to her husband’s house (yom al-dakhleh) she would wear a special dress.


Q: What would they do when they went to ask a girl’s hand in marriage?


A: The man would go to her father, they would read the fatiha,[5]and they’d bring the sheikh to write the marriage contract, that’s all.


Q: Did they ask the girl if she accepted or not?


A: No, no, they didn’t ask the girl. With us it wasn’t like today. If they wanted to give her to a donkey she’d have to take him.


Q: Okay, did boys and girls love each other?


A: No, we didn’t have that. If a girl loved someone she would be slaughtered.


Q: What kind of gold would they buy for the bride?


A: It depended on their means. Some people would get earrings, a watch, bracelets. There were money gifts too [naqout]. For example you might give her a ring, and I would give her earrings or a bracelet. Each person according to his means.


Q: What did they say when giving gifts to the bride?


A: “Khalafallah a’layki ya a’rous, wa hay naqout lil-a’rous, wa yukatir khayrik, wa yukhalif a’layki, wal-a’kiba la awladik” [God bless you, oh bride, and this is a gift for the bride, and may your prosperity be increased, and God bless you, and the next [ie. wedding] is for your children.]


Q: Was there a party for the engagement?


A: No, they’d bring the sheikh to the house and he’d write the contract, that’s all.


Q: Did you have a lot of clothes?


A: No we didn’t. We just wore a dress, and shentian under it, and underwear, and panties.


Q: What did you wear in winter?


A: Dresses of velvet and faladina,[6] something that’s warm.


Q: What did you use to do during the feasts?


A: For the feasts they would buy dresses with crocheted frills for the young children. We used to rear animals for slaughter, a goat and a sheep. The goat would be slaughtered for the little feast (Fitr), and the sheep for the big feast (Adha).


Q: If your neighbor was poor and didn’t have animals to kill, what would you do?


A: We used to give to those who didn’t have.


Q: Did you make holiday sweets?


A: Yes, we used to make ka’k, and buy cakes and sweets and other things.


Q: Where would you buy the sweets?


A: From shops.


Q: How was the ka’k prepared?


A:  From dates — dried dates, anise, mahlab,[7] and cinnamon.


Q: Did everyone make ka’k?


A: Yes, it would take three or four days just to make the ka’k.


Q: If someone didn’t have money to make ka’k, what would he do?


A: It wasn’t possible that someone couldn’t afford to make ka’k, there wasn’t anyone poor, because we were all fellahin, and every one had his own farm. Everyone was well off and happy.


Q: What kinds of food were there other than the rice?


A: Meat, they would slaughter an animal if they could afford it, and stuff it with rice.


Q: Did they invite people from other villages and welcome them to the wedding?


A: Yes they would get with them baskets[8] ofcoffee, and animals for slaughter, and have lunch with them.


Q: What food was al-Kabri famous for?


A: Rice, meat, kibbeh, moghrabieh, kroush, [9] bamieh, mloukieh.


Q: How did they do the henna for the bride?


A: They would get the henna, and invite her closest friends to stay the night. They would sing to her: “hennaki mrattab ya fulani” [Your henna is well made, Oh so-and-so.]


Q: Did you use to do henna at ordinary times?


A: At feasts they used to henna the children. If someone didn’t have children would make henna for the watad.


Q: What does watad means?


A: Watad means donkey.


Q: Where there people who didn’t have children?


A: Yes, there were people deprived of children.


Q: If someone got sick what did you use to do?


A: No one got sick. We were fellahin, we used to sow and plough wheat and barley, we never knew sickness.


Q: Okay, if someone broke a limb or had a cut, what would you do?


A: There was a woman doctor who could mend broken bones, and in case of a wound they would grind a tablet of selfat and put it on the cut.[10]


Q: In the season of the hajj, what did the people do?


A: They used to pay the sheikh who was organizing the hajj.


Q: You didn’t go by plane?


A: No, there weren’t planes. We used to go by car to Jordan, and then from Jordan to Saudi Arabia.


Q: What did they use to sing for the pilgrims?


A: “Ma ahla haninak wa ma ahla mawsamek, ya hajji wa inshallah trouhi wa tarja’i bil-salama, Hajayti wa ijiti ya hajji, jibti masari ya hajji” [How beautiful is your yearning, and your hajj season, oh hajji, inshallah you will go and come back safe. Oh hajji you made your hajj and you came, oh hajji, you brought money, oh hajji]


Q: Did girls put on make-up?


A: No, not with us. Only a bride would put it.


Q: If a girl wore make-up, what would happen?


A: Nothing would happen. But it wasn’t customary for us to put it.


Q: After getting married, could you wear make-up?


A: Yes, once a bride was married, she could put on make-up.


Q: When a woman gives birth to a boy, what did you use to do?


A: When a woman delivered a boy they would sing to her; when she delivered a girl they would say yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Girls were not welcomed.


Q: What would they sing for a boy’s circumcision?


A: “Ma ahla tahurak ya sheikh, ideyk mdiyyi ya sheikh [How beautiful is your circumcision oh sheikh, your hands are soft oh sheikh)


Q: Do you remember the sheikh’s name?


A: Yes, he was called Nur al-Din. When a woman delivers a boy, they would distribute baqlawah, sweets, ma’moul. But if she delivers a girl, nothing. Only for a boy.


Q: If a woman had a difficult delivery, what would you do?


A:  We had certified midwives, and if it was very complicated they would take her to ‘Akka.


Q: Did people from other villages come to you?


A: No, only relatives. Everyone was busy with his farm.


Q: What did you do when somebody died?


A: Nothing. They wash him and go and bury him.


Q: How long did the mourning last?


A: Forty days. After the fortieth day they would make a mowled.[11]


Q: How did they wail and what did they say?


A: His sister would say “Al-beit beit immi wa abui, ma tizaali ya mart akhui” [The house is my mother’s and my father’s, don’t be upset, my brother’s wife.]


Q: If someone’s husband died what would she say?


A: “Between me and my family there are mountains/I feel sorrow for myself”.


Q: What happened to make you leave Palestine?


A: There was war, there was bombing in the mountains, the Jews were on the roads. People were running away. I escaped with my two daughters. We left Kabri for Sohmata, and from Sohmata to Jwayeh.


Q: Your husband died in Palestine?


A: Yes, there was a bus coming from Beirut to ‘Akka. On its way back they mined the road, he died from the explosion.


Q: Did you work to feed your children?


A: No, my father-in-law wouldn’t let me. With us women didn’t work. UNWA took us to Anjar, we stayed there seven months. After that we came to Bourj, took some tents, and stayed here.


Q: When you were in Palestine were there Jews or Christians living near you?


A: No there weren’t any, only bedouin. Christians lived in the mountains, and Jews used to go to the mountains for holidays. They used to live in Nahariya, and the Christians in the mountains.


Q: How was your social life? Did you visit each other?


A: Yes, neighbors would come over, and we made them coffee or tea.


Q: Where did you sit? In the garden?


A: No, no, we sat at home.


Q: Did you visit every day?


A.No, just when we had time. We used to plant the earth and sow. We visited each other only when we had time.



[1] Zaghaleet is an alternative form of zaghareed. The verb here is hahoula, a special type of vocalization believed to give strength to the bride.

[2] The a’lami is the jewelry that the groom offers to the bride before the wedding.

[3]  The word dal’ouna has no translation. The song is sung in all the Mashreq countries – Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq.

[4]  Shentian,  pl. shenatin, were cotton trousers worn by women under their dresses, wide at the waist and reaching to below the knee.

[5] The fatiha is the first verse of the Qu’ran.

[6] Needs translation.

[7] A spice made from sour cherry stones, used across the Middle East in breads and cakes.

[8]  The word used here — (q)ufaf – was a basket woven from straw or reeds used for carrying goods.

[9]  Kroush are the stuffed intestines of lamb, served with a sauce of garlic, lemon and olive oil.

[10]  Selfat is an aspirin-like medication, used to disinfect cuts, still found in camps.

[11] A mowled is a religious ceremony that could be carried out at home, an invocation of God in cases of sickness, bereavement, or marriage if the family can’t afford to hire a hall..


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