Egyptian Engagement Parties....
Egyptian engagement parties can be quiet funny. I was invited to one last week. Engagement parties here are a little bit like wedding parties, just that the bride (this is how they call the fiancee) does not wear white but any other color of dress.... the puffy arms, glittery and floury details, net lace, and kitschy finishing of the dress stay the same, though.
Often engagements are "arranged", meaning that the the guy and the girl don't know each other that well before hand. Don't get me wrong.... no one is forced to do anything. It is just that here the concept of marriage is quiet different from the one we are used to in the western world. Here, it is not so much important to marry "the love of your life", but to find the person you will be able to bare living with the rest of your life and found a solid partnership.
Considering these perspectives, it happens quiet often that young people are looking for the "right one" through a middleman or a middle woman (who usually enjoy this task a lot).
"She is well educated and comes from a good family" This sentence is often the first step leading to an engagement and later on to a wedding, inshallah (God willing ;-))
Usually the two young people are engaged for 2 years, this is the time they get to know each other and see if they will be able to stand each other for the rest of their lives. They can talk, go to the cinema, go and have a coffee, but strictly seen, not more than holding hands is allowed... practically, this is not always followed, but this is a different story ;-)
As the engagement is seen as a way of getting to know each other, it is not dramatic if an engagement is broken, it just means, it did not work out and they both will have another try with another person.
Coming back to the original topic: the engagement party: this is the way of making it official that these two people will get to know each other and that their families are happy about it. Their families are even so happy about it, they organise this party, dance and sing, invite all family and friends and pay for a nice dinner.
Everyone has a lot of fun.... just not always the young couple... they seem tense, almost petrified, timidly holding on to each other's hands.... Not surprising actually! How would you feel if all your family and friends would watch you on your first date with someone, making you hold hands, dance together, drink out of one cup and at the end make you announce how much you love the other one in a microphone???