A few days ago I attended my first Egyptian wedding. It was actually an engagement party, but quite extravagant in its execution, I’m wondering if this can be surpassed on the ‘Big Day’. Half of the couple in question, Huda, is our classmate. She is half Austrian with an Egyptian father. We girls, Anna, Jameela, Nadia, queen of glam of the North (of England, as she has a very charming Yorkshire accent) and me, who are all in the same class since the second term, got very excited as we know that Egyptians take these affairs very seriously and it was a good occasion to dress up. We all had haircuts, pedi and manicures and/or Moroccan baths and got ready at Nadia’s.
Location was an upmarket hotel in Mamoura, an area in the city close to Montazah, which has an enclosed compound full of condos that serve as holiday homes. The whole affair was a pretty good show, because that’s what it was, a spectacle. Twenty minutes or so after our arrival Huda and her groom arrived accompanied by a drum band and a camera crew. The band’s show, in which the couple was the centre of attention lasted for around 20 minutes. I’ve never clapped continuously for that long in my life. Then we went back to our seats and the couple disappeared only to appear again after a few minutes set in dramatic sound and lighting while making their way to an elaborately decorated bench that was set on a sort of stage in front of the hall. There the groom offered his bride the engagement ring, which was a massive piece of bling of the sort you would be scared to wander the streets with, but this is Egypt. Crime of that sort is very rare. After that it was time for a boogie. The couple made their way to the dance floor in the middle of the hall. After one song other guests joined. The dancing was a joyous yet tamed affair. The couple danced in the middle with the guests in a circle around them. The women in the inner circle and the men around it. The music consisted of Arabic pop only, to which the guests were very receptive except us Westerners, who were completely unknown to the songs. Although Jameela, who we call ‘fake Arab’, because she passes for an Egyptian and her Masree is very good -but is actually a real Arab since her tribe in East Africa is an Arab tribe from Yemeni origin – could sing along to a few tunes. After 40 minutes of boogie it was time for some food announced by a little choreography performed by the waiters, who were carrying torches. Behind the hall a lavish buffet had been stalled out after which there was more boogie-ing to be done.
Although the event was quite extravagant I found it very ‘Egyptian’ in the sense that it wasn’t pretentious. Almost all women were covered up in the sense that although not all wore hijabs non of them with one or two exceptions showed any flesh in the form of bare arms, shoulders and/ or uncovered back and cleavage. We on the other hand, except Jameela, who looked like an newly crowned Nubian queen, had relatively quite a lot of flesh on display but didn’t feel horribly out of place. Considering the amount of money I imagine this event might have cost I would think either or both families must have quite some money, but the atmosphere of pretentiousness, which is often present when you go to places where it is pretty obvious people have plenty of money to spend, was completely absent. Yet another side of Egypt.