Women do not join their husband's tribe or clan unless they are already a member.Marriage among first cousins is common, as is polygamy, which is allowed under Islam.My dad worked door-to-door selling soda and seltzer. My husband’s father owns a compound comprised of numerous two-story European-style houses where the various families sleep with patios, expensive Afghan wool carpeting, indoor gardens, and verandas. Because of my foreign stomach, the foods — kebabs, rice dishes, yogurts, nuts — are baked with Crisco instead of ghee, an evil-smelling, rancid, clarified butter that is loved by locals but wreaks havoc on a non-native’s stomach.I am only 20, and I am now a member of this household, which consists of one patriarch, three wives, 21 children (who range in age from infancy to their 30s), two grandchildren, at least one son-in-law, one daughter-in-law and an unknown number of servants and relatives. The smell of ghee alone can make you throw up if you’re unused to it. He speaks Dari (even though I cannot) and leaves me with the other women. And I will spend every morning and afternoon that follows alone with my mother-in-law and female relatives. Secretly I stow away canned goods that I indulge on in the brief moments that I’m left alone.I am unprepared for my first-ever Muslim prayer service. As the excitement over our arrival wears off, so does my special treatment. Two weeks into my confinement and I have only left the compound twice — both times with a calvary of people guarding and watching. One day, I decide to sunbathe on the private terrace that adjoins my bedroom. Then I hear a loud commotion that sounds like men yelling at each other. You have managed to upset all of Kabul,” my husband says. I discover that mother-in-law has instructed the servants to stop boiling my drinking water.Suddenly, all the men drop to the floor on all fours, prostrating themselves. He explains that a group of workmen a quarter-mile away caught sight of a “naked woman” and could not concentrate on work. Because the sewage system consists of open irrigation ditches that are used as public bathrooms and for drinking water, I contract dysentery. She gives me prayer rugs and prayer beads and urges me to convert to Islam.The bride and groom's families greet and escort the guests to their tables.Guests in an Afghan wedding are dressed in their best clothes and jewelry.
Marriage is expected of everyone and children belong to their father's family.Marriages are typically arranged by the family in Afghanistan.The marriage is typically the first contact the bride and groom have with anyone of the opposite sex who is not related to them.I came as a young Jewish bride of the son of one of the country’s wealthiest men. I am only 18 when my prince — a dark, older, handsome, westernized foreigner who had traveled abroad from his native home in Afghanistan — bedazzles me. We marry in a civil ceremony in Poughkeepsie with no family present.I was held in a type of captivity — but it’s not as if I had been kidnapped. We meet at Bard College, where he is studying economics and politics and I am studying literature on scholarship. For our honeymoon, we travel around Europe with a plan to stop off in Kabul to meet his family. I am too shocked to speak, too shocked to question what these three women might mean for my future. The family is warm and inviting — I try to forget about my husband’s glaring omission. Both the official and my husband assure me that this is a mere formality.