Street Wedding

يا واخد القرد على ماله يروح المال ويقعد القرد على حاله. = (ya waaxod il-‘ird 3ala maalu yiruuH il-maal wa yi’3od il-‘ird 3ala Haalu) 

If you marry a monkey (i.e. someone ugly) for his money, the money will go away and the monkey will stay the same (as ugly as ever). (Don’t marry for money.)

Good morning, class! Your questions were great and have once again given me a lot to think about. I didn’t have time to put myself into this new video, but I promise that my next video will feature me a bit so you know who is behind the camera. The new video is about the wedding of my next door neighbor that took over the entire street and night.

Actually, Ali, the groom, is not my neighbor anymore. That’s because one aspect of traditional, Muslim and Egyptian weddings is that the groom must have a suitable place for the bride to live immediately upon marriage. In Egypt, the norm is for young men and women to live at home with their parents until they are married. So before any wedding takes place, a home or apartment needs to be built or bought (or sometimes rented) and engagements can sometimes go on for years waiting for all the pieces to fall into place. When Ali got married, he officially moved somewhere else in the neighborhood to begin life with his wife.

My landlord, Thomas, watching the wedding party from his roof.

ImageMy housemates and I were invited to attend the public wedding party in the street the day after the wedding, so I didn’t actually see what happened during Ali’s ceremony and what customs they specifically followed. But there were certainly many Muslim traditions as well as traditions that are actually rooted in Ancient Egypt. Ali and the other horse stable families around here originally come from an area of Egypt called “Upper Egypt.” The name can be a little confusing because it is south of Cairo and Cairo is considered “Lower Egypt.” But it refers to the flow of the Nile river, which famously flows form South to North.

Upper Egypt is where much of ancient Egyptian history took place, more so than Cairo and Giza despite the massive pyramids. Therefore, many of the rural traditions of families in Upper Egypt have links to the very distant past. And you can see some of these links in the weddings that take place today. One such event is henna parties. Have you tried henna before? Here is a video about it. It’s basically a temporary tattoo, and women get together the night before the wedding and draw henna on each other. At the same time, the men will gather together as well and dance together. In some Middle Eastern countries, the men and women will bathe the groom and bridge, respectively, while singing and clapping. The wedding party, however, is more similar than the wedding itself, which is actually a simple affair in a mosque and quite similar to weddings in churches. I would have loved to attend that and see it for myself, but I am not close enough to the family.

Have you been to a wedding before? Was it religious? What were some traditions that went on there and do you know the history of them?

Ancient Egypt has the oldest marriage contracts in the world.

One tradition that simply could not have existed in ancient Egypt is the shooting of guns at the end. According to my Egyptian Arabic professor, shooting guns is a show of power for the family, while the wedding party itself is supposed to show off the family’s wealth. It came as quite a shock to me, an American boy who has never shot a gun, to hear a gun shot twenty feet behind me into the air around midnight. I didn’t capture any of it on film, but I fell asleep to the sound of many bullets being shot over the wall surrounding the pyramids and landing who-knows-where.

Thanks again for reading and for your questions!



2 thoughts on “Street Wedding

  1. Ms Burgoine

    Hi Seth,
    We all enjoyed your blog and video again! We all especially loved the music under the lights and the dancing horses, and agreed that none of us had been to a wedding with dancing horses before. Quite a number of students had never been to a wedding here, but for those who had, similarities we noticed were evening celebrations, dancing, and the bride wearing white. I wonder if the bride wearing white is a Western-influenced “new” tradition. Perhaps that’s something that one of us can investigate on this side of the world! Some students also wondered if there were ever injuries or deaths from the shooting of the guns, and whether (and how) wedding guests might or might not be held responsible.
    Thanks so much for all of your hard work with writing the blog, making the videos, and answering our questions!
    Take care,
    Ms. Burgoine and all the students

    1. scthomas90 Post author

      Good point about the clothing. The bride and groom, with their white dress and black suit, could both easily be in an American wedding, a tradition probably picked up when Egypt was ruled by England and France. Interestingly, the guests are wearing all sorts of clothes. The groom’s brother wore a “galebeya” (Egyptian prononciation):
      Since he wears a galebeya most days while taking care of the horses, I didn’t know what it meant that he was wearing what looked like the same thing to me. My landlord had to point out to my untrained eyes that everyone was actually wearing very expensive and nice galebeyas.


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