It's a joyful occasion when a daughter decides to get married. Mothers instantly cast their minds about as to what they can do to help. However, when the mother in question lives in Saudi, and the wedding is in New Zealand, this isn't easy.
I love Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, and one of my favourites is How the Whale Got His Throat.
The sailor in this story is a man of ‘infinite-resource-and-sagacity’. He's like me. (It’s a developed personality trait that’s come from living in Saudi.) So a plan very quickly sprang to mind.Every bride-to-be needs a wedding dress: it's generally white or cream, has to be beautiful and there’s usually a train or veil. Fortunately, my daughter and I think pretty much alike. I know that when it comes to wedding dresses, we’ll share the same sentiments. No plunging necklines for instance.
Armed with this certainty, I headed off last weekend to the Princess Souk. I was a Mother with a Mission. The Mission was to scope out wedding gowns. After all, weddings are expensive affairs, wedding dresses even more so and the prospect of finding a dress with all the requisite qualities, for a typical Princess Souk price of around SAR 40 (NZ$15.00), tempting indeed.
For those of you who don't know, the Princess Souk is literally teeming with all sorts of amazing gowns, that quite simply have been worn, or sometimes not worn, often by Saudi princesses, and then discarded. I hoped that the perfect gown would be there, just waiting. At first glance there were plenty to choose from, but most were hung very close to the ceiling and involved a lot of neck craning and upward stretching to see properly.
Some were displayed to better advantage than others. I rather liked this airborne gown.It brought back a moment in my daughter's early childhood when she'd told me could fly and wanted to show me by leaping from the window of her second story bedroom. I kept looking.
This gown caught my eye immediately. There was something about it that made me think of Ariel in Shakespeare's The Tempest. I think it was the random scattering across the bodice and front of what looked like silver sea debris. It was quite magical and definitely one for The List.
This, I loved. It was a true fairy tale wedding dress. Masses of tulle and an exquisitely beaded bodice. Saudi taste goes to the elaborate and ostentatious but this was simple and classic. By this time I was feeling quite good in my Mother with a Mission role. Success was just around the corner. I could feel it. I realigned my focus. There were many more racks of gowns and fabric.
Swathed in protective covering, sometimes it was hard to see clearly whether there was potential, like these...
...or hideousness. Some, that I asked to be brought down so I could inspect them more closely, were just plain wrong.
There was more ball than wedding about this gown. I was channelling my daughter and knew without any shade of doubt that this was not one for The List. Mother with a Mission moved on.
This however, was different.
It was another example of the sort of detail that Princess Souk gowns characteristically display. So much artistry and skill for so few riyals.
Eventually, after still much more looking, choices were made, bargains struck and money changed hands. A frock was placed, a little unceremoniously I admit, into a plastic bag.
I’m on the way to New Zealand tomorrow and it's in my suitcase. As for the success of my mission... well, that will be entirely up to my daughter. I'm happy to wait and see. Either way, I've had yet another extraordinary Saudi experience. There was only one thing that would have made it perfect, and my daughter put it into words, "It sounds like such fun. I wish I could have been there with you too."