These one-of-a-kind, antique wedding chests, originating from Syria from around the turn of the 20th century, represent the age-old tradition of preparing a bride’s dowry for her marriage and eventual transition to live with the family of the groom. Girls in rural villages would begin to prepare their trousseau at the age of 12 or 13. Their fathers or the family of the prospective groom would make a wedding chest to store the bride’s clothes, fabrics and other items, in preparation for her new life as a wife. Made of mother-of-pearl, inlaid into walnut wood, the “sunduk al arus” (chest for the bride) was often the most impressive and important piece of furniture in a room. Another word for these chests was “mattwa”, taken from the verb “to fold”, and meaning “things folded into place”. Typically, bedding that was used during the night was folded neatly on top of the mattwa, to clear the floor during the day.
– excerpt from “The Mattwa or Bridal Chest of North Jordan and Southern Syria, circa 1900-1960.” by Jonathan Harris