Limousines, finery, feast, new features of weddings in Ethiopia
APA - Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) One Saturday afternoon on Bole Road, a street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the admiring look and cheers of passers-by, an endless convoy of immaculate limousines and gleaming Mercedes Benz cars appear suddenly, with a blare of horns.
Driving in one of those limousines, which was snowed under with sprays
of flowers, a smiling couple of Ethiopian newly-weds were giving
cheerful waves to onlookers, who were greeting them as they drove
Newly-weds’ parades in shiny limousines and other luxury cars, which
have been very popular during the past few years in Addis Ababa, the
African Union’s headquarters, also appeal to the visitors by their
exuberance and originality.
The length of the convoy of limousines and state-of the-art Mercedes Benz cars, making up the young couples’ procession is a token of the new couples’ wealth.
A limousine is rented for US$1,000 (about 450,000 francs CFA) for half
a day, while a Mercedes Benz would cost half that amount, for the same
period of time.
“Some well-off couples would rent two limousines and five to seven
Mercedes Benz cars for their wedding,” Dagnachew Teklu, a young Ethiopian journalist said, adding that “other couples would rent the same number of luxury cars for the third day of their wedding, when the couple is introduced to
their respective in-laws.”
The fancy fuelled by this new fashion has seen the mushrooming of car
rental offices in Addis Ababa.
Neon signs and billboards praising the latest makes of limousines and
other luxury cars are visible on almost every street corner in the capital.
In addition, Ethiopian young couples generally spend two or three days
at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, which is considered one of the
most sumptuous hotels in Africa.
In this five-star hotel, one night costs roughly €297 (195,000 francs CFA).
The hotel gardens in bloom the refinement of its premises give them the opportunity to have endless sessions of photos-souvenirs.
Such extravagant weddings require large budgets. Unofficial estimates set those budgets to around US$40,000 (19 million francs CFA) paid by some couples to celebrate their golden weddings.
The cost of the festivities is mainly covered by the groom and in some cases, with a contribution of the bride’s family, Mr. Teklu explained.
This amount of money is judged as astronomical in a country strangled by extreme poverty and whose most striking features are measured by the level of destitution, visible in the main streets of the capital.
Ethiopia, with its population of 85 million people and 80 ethnic groups is one of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Ethiopian society represents a double face: the face of a wealthy class, which never misses a chance to show its wealth and a more important group, resigned to its fate, which can hardly get the daily “injera,” the cereal pancake, which is the country’s staple food.
“It’s essentially a tiny minority of Ethiopians of the Diaspora, rich local farmers or merchants who organize such extravagant weddings, Haimmanot Turney, an Ethiopian student argues, insisting that her fellow country people are “rather worried about surviving than showing off in the streets.”
For her, the current economic crisis deters many young couples from making such foolish expenses.
“Nobody is forced to make extravagances when getting married, only ostentatious people continue to believe that it is very classy and smarter to rent limousines and make a tour of the town,” she said, with a shrug of contempt.
For many people, religion is an important aspect of the wedding ceremonies in a country where the Orthodox Church seems to regulate the society.
Orthodox Christians, who are the majority in Ethiopia, choose the month of January to celebrate their weddings. In fact, this period of the Ethiopian calendar coincides with Christmas and Epiphany celebrations. January is harvest time and the rains are few.
This month also announces the two-month Lent within the Orthodox community, which makes up a majority of the Ethiopian people.
There are so many reasons for the Ethiopians of the Diaspora to return home in January to get married or attend relatives’ weddings.
Another highly prized period for the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to tie the knot is the month of April, which coincides with the end of the two-month Lent.
The astronomical sums spent in weddings ceremonies do not help bind the couples together. On the contrary, the cases of divorces are in the rise, year after year.
About 45 per cent of the weddings in Ethiopia end up in divorce after 30 years, and two thirds of women get divorced within five years, according to a national survey on family and fecundity launched in 1990 by the Ethiopian government.
According to Tesema Lakew, the officer in charge of the certification of marriages at Yeka Sub City, a district in Addis Ababa, about 15 to 20 per cent of the new weddings celebrated break up every year, which he considers as a “very high” rate.
The financial difficulties within the couples are generally considered the main reasons for the divorces.
“Some couples borrow money for their wedding ceremonies, and when they fail to pay back, their union is in danger,” he said.
In Ethiopia, people, especially within the Muslim community try to avoid such extravagant marriages. Instead, they continue to celebrate low-key weddings, in line with their customs and religion.
However, due to modern life, some Ethiopians Muslims try to follow the new era by celebrating their marriage in tailor-made suits and wedding gowns.