Yes, I would like to say that these past few months have been dull, but a jealous Egyptian bride in my memories proves me wrong. Visiting a wedding during my trip to Egypt was a surprise for both me, the bride and in fact for everyone involved. I went to Egypt mainly to practice my Arabic. In addition to a nice field trip and some immigration troubles (thanks to my fun passport full of…rather unattractive visas), I also spent an extended time in Cairo with some local friends. That’s the charm of international life - even crazy cities like Cairo become bearable when familiar faces are driving you around and guide you through the most enthusiastic tourist traps.
Anyway - the wedding! Me and Nora, my loyal travel mate who always follows even my craziest plans, spent our time in Cairo with Youssef and Halim, who had huge families all across Northern Egypt. So on a random Thursday afternoon we received a call from the guys telling us to get quickly dressed in order to make it to a wedding the same night. We were in the middle of a shopping street and I was currently attending a crucial conference call, so for a moment out there it wasn’t sure we would make it. We hurried back to our hotel, put on some wedding-appropriate dresses and jumped into an Uber. Let’s just say that the traffic in Cairo is i n s a n e and just crossing one district could take several hours.
That was our reality - it took at least an hour to get to the bus terminal with minibuses leaving for every possible destination in Egypt. The sun had already set when we finally arrived. As we met our friends, it turned out that the wedding venue was three hours away. Three hours! One way! My enthusiasm started to wear off quickly, however we were wearing our dresses and attending an Egyptian wedding was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we squeezed all four of us to the backseat of a mini van and the journey began. The bus journey through the villages of Northern Egypt was a unique experience in itself, especially when it was time to pay and the driver asked multiple times more than the ticket prices was supposed to be and local travellers almost attacked the driver. In these moments it’s quite comfortable to be a tourist. I just shrugged my shoulders in the backseat and waited for being able to breathe again.
In approximately three hours, late at night, we had finally arrived to the village. The very first moments in the wedding hassle brought up quite a cultural shock. Turned out that men and women were separated, indicating that the family was a rather conservative one. All women had been hidden from any curious eyes. At first we could only see men, an enormous number of men sitting under loud speakers smoking shiisha. Men very clearly interested in the late guests; especially in us, European girls. Luckily the women took us under their wing quite quickly and took us to the women’s courtyard where a big dance party was going on. The bride was dancing on an actual podium with twenty of her closest girlfriends and about a hundred women were sitting in front of the podium, enjoying the party. Women were also using a multiple story house to freshen up and take care of little babies. Those feeling more shy could also dance on the balcony of said house, where no eyes could reach them.
The bride wasn’t wearing a Western white dress, but was entirely clothed in purple. She looked incredible in her full length lace gown and silk headscarf. By the way, me and Nora were the only women in the whole crowd that didn’t cover their hair, making us stand out even more. Quite soon we were dragged to the podium to dance with the bride and the women didn’t take no as an answer. For quite a while we had a lot of fun, despite the fact that five year olds were trying to teach us how to use our hips when dancing. What can I do, I will never learn to dance the way Middle Eastern women dance the moment they’re born.
Yet it turned out quite quickly that us showing up brought a lot of attention; so much that the bride started feeling left out. All the girls were trying to dance with me and Nora and the guys were trying to sneak some photos and videos of us. Only when the bride started aggressively squeezing herself between me and Nora to at least be part of the attention we received, did I realised that we had actually put her in quite a difficult situation. So not to do any further harm, we decided to sneak off the dance floor and let the young bride enjoy her night. Let’s just say that the groom didn’t seem to interest her one bit.