Saturday, August 07, 2004

Back to the Wedding

GirlsHajAbdou, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Once the airconditioning installers packed up (leaving an airconditioner that still doesn't exactly work...they come back tonight), I grabbed my camera and car keys to go over to my friend Janie's house. She lives just behind Haj Abdou in a house with stables that she and her late husband built about 8 years ago, and from her house, the wedding was within walking distance, albeit down a dirt road. No high heels in this crowd, for sure.

I left the dogs to supervise the house and as I was locking the gate, the power cut. But not all of it as the lights were still on at the wedding because of the generator that Haj Abdou had rented for the night. Obviously, the wedding was THE place to be, and it had the additional plus of being outside in the cool breeze. So I headed down the road.

Within a hundred metres of the road to Janie's and the wedding site, I thought I'd dropped into a used truck lot. There were pickups, dump trucks, and a variety of the more battered automotive issues of the past 30 years along the road. As I crawled past all of these cars, I thanked heaven for mobile phones and called Janie's nephew Morad who was one of the few individuals in a suit at the wedding since he was acting as an usher of sorts. I had to wait for a pickup truck that was discharging yet another load of chairs and then I squeaked my jeep between the trucks and tootled down the track to Janie's house.

I found my daughter Yasmine, her friend Emily, a friend of Janie's daughter, and Morad's wife Hortense all sitting up on Janie's second floor balcony enjoying the sight of the wedding lights and the quiet of the country air. The power cut had killed the microphones and the music wasn't "wafting" out into the ether any more. Actually, music doesn't really "waft" in Egypt. It is more of a projectile, since for some unknown reason, there is an addiction to high volumes of noise here.

Janie, Hortense, and I opted to go down to pay our respects at the wedding while the younger women offered to hold the balcony down. (We have a serious problem with floating balconies here.) They'd had enough of the dowsha (noise) and the microphones had just come back on. So there we were in our nice clothing tripping, sometimes literally, down a jeep track to a spot with enough candlepower for a supernova. If you looked up towards the lights, you would be blinded, so we all kept our eyes on the road.

Morad and one of the cousins of the groom met us at the outskirts....there wasn't really a door or anything, hence the real need for ushers. After all, how would you find someone in an acre of chairs and people? We were escorted to the stage so that I could give my congratulations to the bride and groom who were in the middle of one of the typical humiliations of an Egyptian wedding. The hired singer had them performing for the audience, attempting to sing love songs to each other to the immense hilarity of the gathered audience.

I could hear puzzled whispers as I went up the stairs to the stage, "El Hawagaya gaya." The foreign woman is coming. As I reached the stage and stuck my head into the circle of light that was burning up the bride and groom, Mohamed Abdou was just crooning to his new bride. A loud "Ya Khalti!" rang out through the microphone and he shoved the instrument of torture at his new wife so that he could give me a kiss on the cheek and a hug.

"Ya Khalti" is Arabic for "Auntie", specifically his mother's sister, and it is quite an honor. Janie was impressed and explained it to me afterwards. She is called "Ya Hajja" or "Ya Beya" as she took her status from her husband, a man loved and respected by all of us. Women are usually given honorifics and are rarely called by their first names by men outside of their immediate family. So I could be Um Nadim or Nadim 's Mother, or as I am called at my fruitseller in Maadi, Um Ali, after my African Grey parrot who they know eats most of my fruit.

Leaving the bride and groom croaking away at their love songs, we went to find the father of the bride. The mother and many of the women had gone inside to serve some dinner to immediate family. The crowd was amazing with people still arriving at midnight. We spotted two young men in dreadlocks sitting on chairs at the side of the crowd and asked who they were. Morad checked around and they turned out to be a couple of tourists that some boys had brought along for the evening.

Once we'd made the rounds of the hosts, we headed back to Janie's to wait for the crowd to thin enough that I could drive the girls back home. We finally got through at about 1:30 am, an early evening by Egyptian wedding standards, but Haj Abdou doesn't believe in dancing til dawn. Later this week Janie and I will go over to the Haj's house to watch the video with the women. Apparently there is some great footage of Janie dancing with Haj Abdou's wife. Janie is quite the dancer.


Anonymous said...

So how often do you see foreigners (people not from Egypt) come to Egypt to get their wedding photos taken? It's a pretty popular custom in Asia to get your wedding photos done professionally involving only the bride and the groom and a scenery (fake or real).

Ron Southern said...

I've only read a few of your posts so far, but will come back for more. I've marked your blog in my Favorites and listed it as one of my "Intelligent Blogs" links on my web site. Maybe someone will find it and like you even better than I do. You never know. I often drop or add blogs on that list, so I'm not intimating it's of more than passing consequence.

Ashley said...

How magical! :D

ermyrukmana said...


I've never went to Egypt before, so, I think I could planned to Egypt on the coming holidays. I think Egypt is a cool and fantastic place. By the way which hotel are living or what kind of house are you living in Egypt?

JJ said...

I have been to Egypt on business trips this year for the first time and while they have been very short trips ie a couple of days or so, they have bene enjoyable.

My first impressions were how huge Cairo is - we stayed at one of the large hotels by the River Nile and me not being very good at heights was alittle concerned to begin with but did get used to it.

We were working in Giza and luckily it was not too hot the first time as we were wearing suits but the second time it was into the high 90's.

Well we did get some time off at least to visit the Pyramids and they are an amazing sight - maybe one day will go back and spend time there as a tourist.

But tell me? How do you deal with the millions of people and the heat and the cars every day? Guess you get used to it - I was born in London and live on the outskirts and that is a very busy also and you get used to it as it is a way of life - but i do not think it is as busy as Cairo.