Egyptian rahat or “skirt,” 20th century, leather, glass beads, cowrie shells, gift of Catherine Ann Taylor Miller, 1945.2.134.
Marital traditions such as tossing the bouquet have their own equivalents across the globe. The significance of the union and more importantly, of the bride’s reproductive potential, can be celebrated in a variety of ways. The rahat or “skirt” shown here is just one example of the many ways young girls become women through marriage. Worn by the young maidens in some Egyptian and Sudanese societies, a ceremony known as gutaa ar-rahat, or “breaking the rahat,” where in which the groom breaks off seven strands of leather that will then be tossed to into the crowd, signifies the loss of the bride’s virginity. Akin to the bouquet toss, the girls who catch the clothes will be the next to marry. Once wed, the groom provides the white dress and veil that she will wear for the nuptial celebrations. This exchange is maintained throughout the marriage, where by the woman continues to surrender her fertility to her husband and he in turn, presents her with gifts of clothing or jewelry.