love is in the air, anywhere you look around, dadam, dadam.... It is true! At the moment, everyone around me is getting engaged, married or pregnant and as it looks like I am not getting any of these three in the near future, at least I get to share the joy of my dear friends.Last friday I was invited to another engagement party. This time it was the turn of Jeny and Ahmed (more widely known as Metallica), my former colleague from the New Palace.As Jeny is Australian, the party was not 100% Egyptian. At least from her side, the puffy, glittery, pinky dress stayed unbought in the store and was replaced by a summer dress, barely covering the knees - A'eeeb! (expression used for something "immoral") ;-)For the rest, the party was quiet Egyptian.... arabic music coming from huge, HUGE boxes, way too big in proportion to the roof garden, where the party was held, happy crowed of family and friends, loooooong photo sessions (couple with parents, couple with friends, couple with cousins, couple with brothers and sisters, couple with colleagues, couples with only female friends, couple with only male friends, etc. etc., etc.....)Jeny had made clear from the beginning, that she would refuse to dance and would stand all pressure coming from any side, so she had the privelege of staying seated, watching her fiance having to dance with friends, family, dancing alone in a cercle of clapping people and in the end beeing thrown 2 meters in the air a couple of times. For the rest, the Egyptian men proved again that they were the better and bolder dancers, performing belly dancing of the finest. For us westerners it is still surprising to see men twisting body and shaking butt and belly to arabic rythms, but absolutely normal over here.In the end everyone congratulates the couple and as I am still neither engaged nor married (a fact that many Egyptians can not understand, especially as i am already "soooooo old" - about 6 years older than the average age of marriage here)some of the guests wished me the traditional "Aabalik" (may you marry soon as well)to this occasion. I asked what I have to answer to these well ment wishes. "Inshallah" (God willing), of course, I should have known! ;-)Leaves me to wish you, my dear unmarried friends, Aabalku! May you all marry soon :)
Why are you staying so long in Egypt? This is the question most of the people I meet here ask me. My answer: I find it fascinating.... even after 1,5 years I still discover new things, I don't have the impression I know all about the culture nor do I understand everything. Almost everyday I can find something that still surprises me, small scenes from everyday life, things I would never see back home, ways of working, speaking, handeling things.... and as long as there are surprises, it stays interesting. And then, I usually give a big smile ;-))
I would like to share some of these things with you, like the art of taking a taxi, funny stories of Egyptian Banks, annoyances with the male population, pictures of 3 little boys pulling and pushing a kart 5 times bigger than them, carrying a huge pile of about 150 shoe boxes, or the big setting sun right behind the statue of Talaat Harb, fitting right inbetween the rows of buildings on Mahmoud Bassiony street.... all these small and big wonders I am seeing every day and which make my life in Egypt fascinating....
.... so stay tuned :)
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???