I want to point out that this is not about the problems faced by Egyptians when it comes to getting married, this is rather about the process itself. This is also from an upper-middle class point of view, it is totally different for those richer and those poorer than I am.
Before you proceed please note:
- Arranged marriages still exist here in Egypt, yet they are mostly confined to the relatively narrow minded families.
- I am Muslim, so this is how it goes for me, it's the same for people of other religions, excluding the actual recital of Fat-ha.
- This is under the assumption that it is not an arranged marriage. (Will make a post about this)
- Egyptians (the majority) don't usually engage in premarital sex. And they don't live together before getting married. Each lives with his/her parents (Yes, we don't usually move out either)
- Physical contact in a relationship (boyfriend/girlfriend) is optional and limited to any base prior the fourth. It varies from one couple to the other. But it does exist.( Behind the parents' backs)
- PDA is not very socially accepted here in Egypt.
- Our first job is usually after we graduate university.
Step 1: The Fat-ha
The Fat-ha is basically, Y's family going over to X's in order for the two families to get to know eachother, and of course, if x's daddy has no idea they ahve been seeing eachother for the past, let's say, two years, x has to act all uneasy. So they get to know eachother, and y's dad would say "Shall we recite the Fat-ha?" normally x's dad would submit to that and everyone starts reciting, in a whisper. The Fatiha is actually the first chapter of the Quran, it literally means "the opening" [translations] They have their tea and chit-chat, and then a zaghrouta*(plural zaghareet) from the mothers; x and y are all smiles. They're happy, they're blushing; this is their first step on the road of being a bride and groom!
all dressed up at her place
What is the significance of such a visit? Some people actually get their engagement rings on such a visit, and since Egyptians don't really "propose" in the Western way, this is considered your proposal!If you don't get your engagement ring then, you get it on your engagement day/party. After such a visit your status changes to "ma'reya fat-hetek" or "Have had your fat-ha read" I know it sounds funny. But you're somewhere in between being engaged and committed. Also, during that visit, the parents talk about issues like whether Y has his own apartment (usually a must) and the wedding/engagement date, also they discuss his salary and what both parents are willing to do to help the couple start their lives off. It varies really, but that's basically it. Family is a very important pillar of life here, and you just have to engage them in everything and they have to bless whatever it is you are doing (more or less).
* "Zaghareet are done by women as a celebratory exclamation. Weddings, graduations, births, good shoe sales, are all good reasons to let loose a zaghroota. In Egypt, we do them almost like a tongue vibration. Other Arabic countries do them differently. In Morocco, for instance, there is no tongue and the sound is almost a high pitched aye aye sound. My Sudanese friend they pucker the lips and place their forefinger and thumb in front of their mouth and do it."
PS This post was getting increasingly long, so I decided I would turn this into a series! Next post: Rings!
I am looking forward for your input and please stay tuned!
PPS Pictures are courtesy of Passant Rabie, and are of YET ANOTHER AIESEC COUPLE!(boyfriend and I met through AIESEC as well) Hossam and Heba whose Fat-ha was held last week.
PPPS at the end of this series, I have an announcement to make :)