Residents told AFP that Ahmed and Heba’s wedding, held Friday in Raqqa’s western neighborhood of Jazra, was the first in the city since US-backed forces seized it on Oct. 17.
Out on the patio, a man in a dark robe and a thick puffer vest spun his prayer beads to the beat as he led a line of men and women in the dabke, a Levantine dance performed at celebrations.
The dancers hopped and swayed to-and-fro as children ran around. Elders looked on approvingly from seats and benches on the edge of the makeshift dancefloor.
Almost everything in the scene would have been impossible during the three years of brutal Daesh rule.
The group banned music and dancing, imposed a strict dress code, prevented women from wearing makeup, and forcefully prohibited the mixing of men and women.
But in Jazra on Friday, music mingled with the sound of generators providing the only electricity in the ravaged district, which like much of the city was heavily damaged during more than four months of fighting.
Jazra was one of the first districts of Raqqa to be captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters that broke into the city in June.
The groom’s family, unlike many others who fled Raqqa during the fighting, were able to return to their neighborhood and celebrate.
“We’re very happy, it’s the first wedding since the terrorists left,” Ahmed’s father Uthman Ibrahim said as he received guests.
“Before Daesh, there was dabke, songs and the traditional rituals of the region at our marriages, but Daesh banned everything, there was not a single celebration,” the man in his fifties told AFP.
“Today it’s a return to joy,” he added, his face lit up with happiness.
An elderly man, wearing a long robe and a pristine white headscarf, performed mawals, unaccompanied poetic songs sung across the Middle East.
Female guests, forced under terrorist rule to wear all-enveloping black including gloves and face veils, took obvious delight in sporting patterned robes and bright red lipstick.
Some covered their hair with matching patterned scarves, while others, including the bride, had their locks coiffed for the occasion.
Seated on plastic chairs, the young bride and groom looked slightly nervous.
Eighteen-year-old Ahmed wore a traditional brown robe, while his new wife was dressed in a frothy white wedding dress, a layer of tulle embroidered with a floral pattern draped over its ballgown bottom.
A delicate veil edged with white flowers rested on her tightly curled hair, and a gold headpiece dangled over her eyebrows, darkened with makeup.
Her hands were painted with henna patterns and she fiddled nervously with a bouquet of artificial flowers. Around the couple, guests took photos with mobile phones while little girls also made-up with darkened eyebrows and colored lips danced to the beat of the music.