Losing Face: Weddings in Egypt

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Image from Scoop Empire

In Egypt, there are one or two main seasons throughout the year that invite a barrage of weddings set on every weekend and every holiday available, ruining your plans to travel because you have to stay in town for an event where - even though more than 300 people have been invited - you would feel guilty not showing up because…I really don’t know why. I’m just parroting what people say to me.

So you get dressed up in a suit or a dress or whatever people wear at weddings now and you get in your car or an Uber and make your way to one of Egypt’s many wedding venues (generally a hotel, but a couple of villas exist here and there). You then arrive at a place that is either simply or heavily decorated (depending on the happy couple’s taste) and leave your car in a place that is far more expensive to park in than anywhere else.

Making your way through the entrance, you will see a photo stand and maybe some flowers, candy or anything that seemingly sets this wedding apart from all of the others. You go in and see the dance floor; the old people sitting down on round tables and the young people standing at high tables mingling. Afterwards, you continue to have a bunch of meaningless and inane conversations about superficial topics because it’s too loud to talk about anything worth discussing in the first place.

This miserable experience (which you claim to like) costs the happy couple an exorbitant amount of money that they both do not actually have. Or - on the off chance that they do have it - it’s still too much to spend on flowers, decorations, a DJ, and some food for more than 300 people.

Every wedding must be better than the one before, it must be set apart from all that have come before it. “Did you go to X’s wedding? They had a fire show and a guy on a unicycle giving out cards with the bride and groom’s name on it,” to which my immediate response is: “Why?” This is usually met with confusion and sometimes anger, “People do what they want to do on their big day!” This is perfectly understandable, but my issue is that it isn’t a big day. It’s just a day; winning the Nobel Prize is a big day; getting married is just the blind continuation of a tradition with no basis.

If you are married or know anyone close to you who has gotten married, you understand that weddings are expensive (expensive here being an understatement; this is not an issue with upper class Egyptians or middle class Egyptians, this is a problem with Egyptians). We will throw weddings for an amount of money that the bride and groom (more often than not) do not possess so we can carry our head high amongst our friends and relatives.

It is an epidemic and it is unclear to me why everyone is still participating in it; it seems to take on the character of an alternate version of Stockholm syndrome where we are deeply infatuated by this thing that makes no sense and that does more harm than good. Celebrating one’s union with another is worth the fuss, but not worth the extravagant amount of money we spend on others not involved in the union. So why do we do it? I don’t know. Tradition? Pride? Mindlessness? Belief that this is how unions should occur? I can’t answer that, but it is worth asking why we make these decisions that seem counter to logic and feasibility.

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