The wedding traditions around the world can be diverse and curious. And they always reflect the culture of a country, its historical and ethnic peculiarities. In the United Arab Emirates, there is an old wedding tradition that has almost vanished by now – applying a unique paste called “Mahleb” to the bride’s hair. But why did women do it and why this tradition is disappearing more and more each year? Let’s find out.
Mahleb or Mahalepi is a special aromatic spice made from seeds of cherry – Prunus mahaleb (the Mahaleb or St Lucie cherry). The seeds are cracked, kernels ground, and a paste is made. The smell of this paste is similar to a combination of bitter almond and cherry, and also the flavor seems like marzipan. The paste is put onto the bride’s hair to make it smell specially.
Sheikha Saeed Al Mansoori, a woman from the UAE, is among those who still remember and support this wedding tradition.
Her mother taught her to make Mahleb when she was 7.
Mahleb is a paste used to prepare brides in the UAE for the wedding. The smell lasts for a week, unchanged.
Now, this tradition is gone. Local girls today never apply it to their hair. Only older women use it. Young women don’t – they say they don’t like the smell.
Women who still apply Mahleb do it with a prayer to Allah. When an older woman applied it to her daughter’s hair or other bride’s hair, she blessed the girl and prayed for her well-being, wished her to be a good mother.
In the past, women used Mahleb all the time. Let’s just hope that this unique tradition won’t fully disappear.