IDPs celebrate joyous traditions in northern Syria

A wedding celebration for a young displaced man from southern Aleppo to northern Idlib - February 2024 (Enab Baladi/Abdul Karim al-Thalji)

A wedding celebration for a young displaced man from southern Aleppo to northern Idlib - February 2024 (Enab Baladi/Abdul Karim al-Thalji)


As you sit in the men’s tent prepared by the groom’s father for his son’s wedding ceremony, waiting for the groom and the marriage official (mazoun) to arrive, you hear the ululations of women echoing through the recently built modest residential blocks for displaced people in northwest Syria, instilling in your heart and soul a joy lost throughout the years of displacement, reminding you that life goes on despite all the suffering and wars.

This is how one of the attendees described the celebratory atmosphere at twenty-something Hassan’s wedding ceremony, an event hosted by the groom’s father, Khalaf al-Hussein.

Al-Hussein, displaced from southern Aleppo to the al-Bir camp in the Jabal Kafr Karmin area of western Aleppo countryside, invited his relatives and friends, also displaced to various areas in Idlib, to share in the joy of celebrating his eldest son Hassan’s marriage, who invited the guests via the messaging app WhatsApp.

An opportunity to renew life

Mustafa al-Hamid, a relative of Khalaf al-Hussein, told Enab Baladi that he was keen to accept the invitation even though he did not own a car, relying on one of his relatives to get to the celebration. He expressed regret that gatherings with them have been solely for funerals throughout the years of displacement, noting that this occasion is a chance to rejoice and bring back the brighter side of life after a decade filled with tragedies and sorrows.

According to al-Hamid, his relative Khalaf al-Hussein lives under difficult displacement conditions and must be supported in the joy of his eldest son, as he lost his only brother and his two sons to a landmine explosion left by regime forces in the town of al-Nairab east of Idlib, years ago when they had been displaced there. His third son also lost an eye in the same explosion. Thus, al-Hamid feels obligated to participate in the joy to restore his relative’s psychological balance and to let him feel surrounded by people.

Khalaf al-Hussein left his tent where he lived for about five years in the Kafr Yahmoul area north of Idlib and recently moved to Kafr Karmin in the western countryside of Aleppo, after receiving a residential block built by a humanitarian organization. He pointed out that the space was too small to accommodate several people, but there was an open area in front of the residential block. Thus, he rented a large tent, 16 meters in length, for one day, at a cost of 50 US dollars.

Cars lined up during a wedding ceremony for a displaced young man from southern Aleppo to northern Idlib - February 2024 (Enab Baladi/ Abdul Karim al-Thalji)

Cars lined up during a wedding ceremony for a displaced young man from southern Aleppo to northern Idlib – February 2024 (Enab Baladi/ Abdul Karim al-Thalji)

Reviving traditions and memories

Hassan Khalaf al-Hussein (the groom) mentioned that his family did not want to burden the guests with any gift obligations since their presence at the celebration was the greatest gain, and the joy of reuniting with friends after years of displacement was indescribable.

He told Enab Baladi that his family held a simple party at home to express their happiness and revive joyful memories and customs. He and his father made every effort to have the marriage contract signed at the bride’s residence in Kafr Karmin, following their custom that this event should take place at the bride’s home. However, since her family currently lives in the rural Afrin area north of Aleppo, the bride’s legal guardian came to the groom’s family’s place in Kafr Karmin to avoid burdening people with travel.

Previously working in agriculture, with approximately 20 hectares, Khalaf al-Hussein could not find any work after being displaced, leading him to sell two of his agricultural tractors to secure living expenses, provide for his deceased brother’s family, cover surgery costs for his son who lost an eye, and pay for his eldest son’s wedding expenses. 

Al-Hussein hopes to return to his homeland and land soon, and leave everything behind, as he expressed it himself.

Despite the conditions of war and displacement, many families in northern Syria still maintain inherited joyous traditions, enduring travel hardships to attend a relative’s or friend’s wedding. However, the war and its consequences have significantly affected these traditions and customs across all provinces without exception.

In northern Syria, the average dowries range between 500 to 3000 US dollars, varying according to the family’s financial situation, while Hassan offered a dowry of 1000 US dollars upfront and another 1000 US dollars as deferred payment.

“Rejoicing despite the war”

Khaled Attallah, a displaced person from the western countryside of Aleppo to the al-Dana area north of Idlib, said his relatives are eager to hold celebrations for their children’s weddings to forget the bitterness of displacement and war, reunite with their relatives, and check on each other through the invitation.

He added, where they live now in displacement, they cannot set up large tents due to the lack of wide-open spaces as in their village previously. However, they rent halls for men and separate halls for women, at approximately 100 US dollars per hall per night, with the hall’s management providing full hospitality to the guests.

He recounted that in the past, they would set up large Arab tents or spacious enclosures for the dabke dances and festive songs, with all relatives sharing the wedding expenses and providing hospitality.

Safi al-Jabal, a displaced person from the Abu al-Duhur area in eastern Idlib countryside, mentioned that he had been invited to a wedding for his sister’s sons after returning to Idlib following a decade of being abroad. He explained that his happiness on reuniting after years of absence was so intense that he fired gunshots in the air during the wedding celebration, leading to a police patrol fining him 100 US dollars and confiscating the pistol. He admitted his unawareness of the prohibition on this practice, as it was a familiar custom before the displacement from the rural areas of eastern Idlib.

The celebration brought back al-Jabal beautiful memories of the good old times, as he had not felt such joy of family and friends gathering since a decade. According to him, a distinctive feature of the current celebrations is the separation of wedding halls for men and women, which has greatly reduced the costs compared to the past.

He noted that many still hold banquets after weddings, slaughtering animals to serve guests after the ceremonies, with people helping each other share the expenses. A significant amount of this support comes from emigrant relatives involved in the wedding plans.

Wedding customs, traditions, and rituals vary across Syrian regions but have converged in the northwest after many displacements and migrations. As a result, weddings in Idlib or northern Aleppo now witness Damascene or Homs processions.

Arabian-style seating arrangements, with coal pots and coffee pots for Arab coffee, have become typical during wedding feasts or marriage parties, as part of customs and traditions brought by the displaced to northwest Syria.

According to the United Nations, 4.5 million people live in northwest Syria, with 4.1 million in need of assistance and 3.3 million suffering from food insecurity. Among them, 2.9 million are internally displaced, and two million live in camps, while local statistics report about 5.5 to 6 million people.


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