Hard times lead 21 couples to share wedding

HARGEISA, Somalia Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:58am EDT

Somali women dressed in brightly coloured gowns with golden jewellery and elaborate hairstyles dance with men to a slow tune of Somali love songs in this July 25, 2007, file photo. REUTERS/Edward Ou

Somali women dressed in brightly coloured gowns with golden jewellery and elaborate hairstyles dance with men to a slow tune of Somali love songs in this July 25, 2007, file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Edward Ou

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HARGEISA, Somalia (Reuters) - Twenty-one couples have shared a joint wedding in Somalia, where the traditional lavish celebrations are increasingly unaffordable at a time of economic slump.

The function was held on Tuesday at a hotel in Hargeisa, capital of Somalia's breakaway region of Somaliland, and was arranged by Telsom, a telecoms company that employs all the bridegrooms.

The Horn of Africa region is staunchly Muslim, so the men and women celebrated separately.

The expense of a traditional wedding, especially when economic times are hard, is driving some young Somalis to leave their homeland.

"One of the reasons why the youth migrate is weddings are expensive, and I appeal to the community to simplify marriage by reducing the cost," Sheikh Mohamed Sheikh Omar Dirir, one of the area's most prominent religious leaders, told guests.

(Reporting by Husein Ali Nur; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Phakamisa Ndzamela)

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