Susanna On the Go
Valge minibuss linnatänavatel

Egyptian wedding: The time we weren't allowed to leave the wedding

As a short sequel, I will continue my story from March about the time I ended up at an Egyptian wedding.Namely, my local friends took us to a village wedding three hours from Cairo. Everything was nice until it started to seem that we had taken too much attention away from the bride (two European women with uncovered hair at an strict and conservative country wedding - we looked like intruders) and in solidarity decided to leave the dance floor so that the young bride could enjoy her spotlight.

But the misunderstandings didn’t end there: it was past midnight and it seemed like a good time to return to Cairo, because the early morning we had to leave the city and travel to Alexandria by the Mediterranean Sea. However, our friends put on innocent smiles and announced that we would not be able to get Cairo so late at night, since buses didn’t go anymore. Nora looked like she was about to blow up: all our belongings were at the hotel, and the guys had promised us earlier that we will be able return. Additionally, we had to follow the etiquette; it would have been profoundly rude of us to just walk away from the party. So, despite the confusing situation, we first had to go out to dinner with the wedding party. If midnight is not a usual dinner time for Estonians, then for Egyptians it might even be too early sometimes. We were the first guests to be led to the dinner table. After embarrassing myself on the dance floor, it was a pretty good timing.

The table was covered with wonderful Egyptian delicacies, all of which I no longer name. My favourites were the tiny aubergines stuffed with sticky rice. Fried rice, dolmas and piles of meat were also served. Along with dinner, a heated discussion continued about how it would be polite for us to stay in the bride's family cottage and join them at a barbeque by the Nile in the morning. The plan was clearly tempting, especially spending time by the Nile. At any other time we would have gladly accepted this invitation, but we were really in trouble with time: we had to take off towards the Sinai Peninsula the next evening at the latest in order to catch our flight from Israel on time.

Koosa - riisiga täidetud köögiviljad
My favourite Egyptian delicacy. This is koosa from Syria. 

Had we only known before that the presence of strangers at the wedding was considered so important, we probably wouldn’t have gone to the wedding. Or taken our bags and checked out of the hotel. However, knowing Egyptian schedule, we knew that the "morning" barbeque by the river would start in the afternoon at best, and more likely at sunset. There was no way we could take the risk of crossing the border too late and missing our flights, so we emphasised how important it was for us to get back to the city. However, the locals didn't seem to like it very much.

In terms of conflict resolution, something interesting happened. Our hosts demanded that under no circumstances we could leave that evening, because it was simply impossible. Nora and I became increasingly upset, because it was not a very comfortable idea to be stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere overnight with a strangers. At one point, however, I decided to take the time to thank the whole crowd for hosting us, emphasising how special it had been for us as foreigners to attend an Egyptian wedding and how much we would like to stay longer, but unfortunately could not afford it time-wise. After that, things started to move fast.

Valge minibuss linnatänavatel
Egyptian minibuses with a random schedule and a random route

In terms of conflict resolution, something interesting happened. Our hosts demanded that under no circumstances we could leave that evening, because it was simply impossible. Nora and I became increasingly upset, because it was not a very comfortable idea to be stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere overnight with a strangers. At one point, however, I decided to take the time to thank the whole crowd for hosting us, emphasising how special it had been for us as foreigners to attend an Egyptian wedding and how much we would like to stay longer, but unfortunately could not afford it time-wise. After that, things started to move fast. Suddenly everyone got up from the table, took us to the street and just as a miracle, a bus passed from us. Turned out the bus was heading towards Cairo! All of this happened within a three minute time. Honestly, I’m still not sure what happened. Was it planned like this all along, did the locals test our manners or was it the intervention of Allah (as my friends claimed, since they had said inshallah - if Allah wants, we could get to Cairo). Just a few minutes after explaining our hurry at the dinner table, we were already sitting in the bus.

I still didn’t quite understand the reason we had gone through all this trouble. However I think that first and foremost the hosts simply wanted to spend more time with us as wedding guests. It is a pity that we had to break the local traditions, but in some sense I also blame the boys who took us there in the first place. They could have given us a little introduction on local wedding customs. Yet in the future I will know that attending a wedding in the Middle East is great fun, but it definitely deserves more time than just one evening.

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