Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Marriage in Egypt (Part 1)

I am in love with listography, I made a primary list of the steps of getting married in Egypt as an introduction to my post.

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:
  1. Arranged marriages still exist here in Egypt, yet they are mostly confined to the relatively narrow minded families.
  2. 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.
  3. This is under the assumption that it is not an arranged marriage. (Will make a post about this)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. PDA is not very socially accepted here in Egypt.
  7. Our first job is usually after we graduate university.
Lets call our girl x and our guy y( note the gene relevance, haha). X and Y met a couple of years ago and her mother knows about it but not necessarily her father (this would get him angry and disappointed, to think that his daughter at least holds hands with a "boy"). Naturally, Y would be at least a year older than X and either works or would graduate soon, after he does, the pressure starts building up. It's Xs mother. She wants the engagement, or at least the Fat-ha.Sometimes x is the one who pressures y, mainly because everyone around her is getting engaged, or she wants an assuring sign that this is not just another passing relationship, and that y is serious about her.

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 :)


Anonymous said...

it has a lot of similarities to what we have in India, plus a lot less or more in other terms.. but a general confluence is the mainstream view of mine... well, a nice post and worth a read ! ty

Belle said...

Wow, I love this insight into your culture!!

One of my best friends is from Singapore and she is Muslim (and now married.. kind of..) I am fascinated to hear about the different steps.
(She told me she is having 3 weddings but the most important one was the final because that would be the religious ceremony.)

Can't wait to hear the next part about rings!!

I'm excited to hear your announcment to.. are you about to participate in your very own fat-ha??

Have a great day darling xoxox

WS said...

Very nice post,but marriage in Egypt sucks,I am sorry to say that,and divorce too.

Anonymous said...

This is a really interesting read, Sara! I eagerly await the next part of the series as I find it really interesting to learn more about the differences between our cultures.

<3 Liz A.

Maria-Thérèse said...

Very interesting!
Do the families need to agree and approve of the bride and groom - and each other - then?

Ania said...

One of the reasons why I love your blog is getting insight into daily life/traditions in Egypt. It's amazing how different things are in a country that's not even so far away from where I am now :)

alissa said...

This is so cool! Thank you so much for sharing, its really interesting to hear about it - and from your perspective. Cant wait for the next post :)
I cant wait to hear the announcement!

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for this. i love reading about other cultures and traditions. in this case it is especially meaningful to me because my best friend just had a fat-ha (is that what you said it's called, i forgot!?) with her Muslim boyfriend in morocco.

Anonymous said...

This was so interesting to read, it sounds like a very special...but complicated time!x

Belle said...

Wooo thank you for the link darling!! Haha you know me well!!

Miss B said...

Hello, hello!

Off topic completely -- but I'm so pleased you were pleased with the postcard. You had a posting of that package you received, last month, and I thought...well, if she's okay with showing her address on her site, then I'm okay with sending something random to it. (also, you're the first and only person who has even bothered to look at the website after getting a random card in the mail)

Warm thoughts and a quiet smile...

Underfunded Heiress said...

Wow, that's a lot of rules. I just got engaged -thank you for your congratulations- and I'm ready just to elope. Does this mean you are getting married? If so congrats! I will have to read more of your blog on my next visit.

Lolla Moon said...

That was really interesting to read, I'll be looking forward the next chapters! It's a lot more complicated than in Brazil or England, but also sounds more meaningful. :)

in company with sparkles said...

Very interesting Sara! Especially as I've grown up in the middle east. I look forward to the rest of the series and your announcement!

kerri ní dochartaigh said...

that eating bit is soooo funny little lady! how are things with you?

big big love xxxxxxx

A "cheery" disposition said...

Love your dress and your blog is very good.

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