Friday, July 9, 2010

Egyptian Engagement Parties

Tim and I with the happy couple.

The young lady at the hair salon. It is a very special day for her, so she wants to look her best. BTW, this is my hair dresser Osama.

The women's room.

You are never too young to dance.

All over the world, I'm sure that all little girls like to think about getting married in the future. From what I've seen, this is an understatement in Egypt. Marriage is considered one of the most important, if not THE most important event in a person's life. Little girls are taught from a very early age that their goal in life is to be a wife and a mom. Now, I am not saying this is wrong, but to plant the idea in a little girl's head that she will amount to nothing unless she is married is wrong, and this is exactly what they are taught.

While I am no expert on the subject, I am writing about what I have observed since being in Egypt. You have probably heard yourself that most marriages are arranged. Arranged marriages still do go on today, mostly in the villages and among the poorer and more conservative people. From what I understand, things have changed some, and young people now have a little more say in the matter of who they marry. It is still a very strict routine though of how they go about this. If two young people start to have an interest in each other, they are not allowed to date, at least alone that is. They may go places with a group of friends, but you would hardly ever see them holding hands or even sitting close to each other. Usually the girls stick close to the girls and the boys stick close to the boys. (This is changing somewhat though as Westernization slowly creeps in and among the wealthier and more liberal.)

When they are old enough, and the young man has purchased a place for them to live, the parents of the young man go to the house of the young woman to get her family's approval to begin wedding preparations. After this meeting, the young couple is considered engaged. Usually a big engagement party is held with dancing and very loud music. For the most part, men and women are separated into different rooms for this, but there is a little intermingling allowed depending on how conservative the family is.

We had the privilege of attending one of these engagement parties while in Egypt. It was definately an amazing, cultural experience. While it was amazing, I don't think I would want to attend many of these. First of all, this particular engagement party was held in a small apartment on around the 5th floor. (Some are held in hotels or clubs.) The apartment was packed to what would probably be considered over capacity. It was hard just to move because of the number of people. Secondly, the music was very, very loud. Finally, the party went on till the wee hours of the next morning. Now, I don't mind being around people, but I am not a fan of anything loud, and I am not a night person. Needless to say, we left before the party was finished, and I do have to say I had quite a headache when we left.


  1. Sounds like their parties are good fun. I found it interesting that the prospective husband has to own a home before marrying.

  2. Dedene, yes, and this is making it hard right now for couples to even get married. Usually, the man has to borrow money from family, and sometimes friends to get the process going.

  3. lol- I love your pictures!!
    It's interesting (at least in Jordan and the Levant region) because I have never felt like you are nothing if you don't get married- although it's VERY important and you run the risk of basically being a burden to your family if you don't get married OR don't get a career. Because of the economic difficulties, I feel like career has really gained strength in overall identity... BUT marriage is still of course SUPER important...
    I also find the 'dating after engaged' concept pretty interesting- both my brother in law and sister in law got engaged and then broke up after they started 'dating' and it's interesting to me because it's not quite as big of a deal as it would be in the U.S.'s still something serious, but that's kinda' the point of getting 'engaged' first. :)