My husband gave them to me for my birthday, and I cannot believe how well he knows me, and what a perfect gift they are, and that a man who will eat weevils with his breakfast rather than throw out perfectly good breakfast cereal (see the last blog) would spend so much on such a fanciful and evocative and useless gift.
They are Syrian wedding shoes, almost eight inches long and made of wood, and camel bone, and inlaid with mother of pearl and low grade silver metal. The soles are raised above the ground - not just at the heel, but at the toe and the heel. This was to make the bride taller and more visible. In somewhat more recent pairs the shoes are bigger and the stilt sections are very high. My tiny shoes are only two inches higher.
They are held on with a single strap, which was deep red velvet, rich and lush, It is embroidered in couched gold thread, now worn and dull, and the red velvet has faded to a soft greyed ashes-of-roses pink. The sequins look like celluloid, and are curled with age, each attached with a single stitch through a tiny clear bead. Under the sequins in a few places is one jewel-like spot of red.
They are the most endearing shoes. The little bride must have been all of eleven years old, pre- pubertal, innocent and a child. My grandchildren at the same age probably know more about sex and marriage than she did.
For one day she must have been so special. She would have been dressed up, put into the most beautiful clothes and shoes and fussed over. Her younger sisters might have envied her. She might have had every hair taken from her body, and the hair on her head washed and scented with rose water or orange-flower. Her mother would have brushed it, proud of her daughter and perhaps given her some advice on marriage and the handling of husbands. She probably advised her daughter on how to cope with him once she was ready for a marriage bed, because I have been amazed in the past about how explicit advice on such matters are in the Middle East. Perhaps her mother cried.
The little bride probably, like the child-wife of the Prophet, was not expected to share her husband's bed until after she hit puberty. She probably married a cousin - as he would be known to the family, and also it was a way to keep the large amount of money and jewelery that the groom had to pay to her, and her parents, in the family. From that day on she lived with her husband and his family, and was possibly an unpaid servant and kitchen hand to his mother. I hope her mother-in-law was kind and patient to such a young girl, but that was not always the way.
I do not actually know any of this, but I can hold those shoes in my hand and there is a lump in my throat for the little girl who wore them.