Saturday, December 25, 2004

What's Sauce For The Goose...

I received an email from a man who was curious what the situation for a non-Egyptian male wanting to marry an Egyptian woman was. I do know of circumstances where such marriages have taken place, but to be very honest they are discouraged both in tradition and in law. Until very recently, Egyptian women who married non-Egyptians could not pass on their Egyptian nationality to their children. This may not seem like a serious problem, but even if the children were living in another country it can cause problems. If they stood to inherit farmland in the Nile Valley through their mother, they would not be able to since foreigners cannot own Old Valley land. They could come and live in Egypt, but they would have to go through the same procedures for residence visas and so on as any other foreigner. There seems to be an assumption that a foreign passport is an advantage that overcomes any difficulties, but this is not always the case.

An additional issue for Egyptian women who have married non-Egyptians is that their children as non-Egyptians were not eligible for public schools. To be honest, Egyptian public schools are not to be recommended by most educators, but for women married to men who were not earning a foreign exchange salary, having to pay for private schools could be a major economic drain. So the legal and social services have, until very recently, discouraged Egyptian women from marrying non-Egyptians. Recent changes to social laws have loosened the strictures somewhat and now in most cases Egyptian women can pass their nationality to their children.

This, however, does not change the social problems. While it is socially considered to be acceptable for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman, the same does not hold true for a Muslim woman. I know that my late husband's family showed a great deal more concern over this issue when we announced that our daughter would join her brother at an American university than they did over the possibility that her brother might choose to marry a foreigner. For Muslim women it is usually recommended, if not required, that the prospective husband convert to Islam. There are, needless to say, many women in Egypt who are not Muslim, but many Coptic families are similarly unwelcoming to a prospective bridegroom who is not Coptic, just as Catholic families prefer their daughters marry Catholics. Many of the attitudes about inter-religious marriage are very similar to those that I recall in my childhood in North America.

The practical reality for a single man living and working in Egypt is that it is not exactly a red-hot dating scene. Many families take a very traditional approach to dating/marriage such that a couple may only begin to spend much time together once they are engaged. If the young man in question isn't felt to be good marriage material, he's really out of luck. Some families are more accepting, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Considering all the complaints that I've heard from both Egyptian and ex-pat men about the lack of social excitement in their lives, it doesn't look to be a thrilling proposition. On the other hand, as my husband used to tell me, "In Egypt everything is forbidden and anything is possible."


alena said...

Nice Blog!!! It looks like you've spent a fair amount of time setting it up and keeping the content fresh. I'll be sure to come back.

I have a online dating blog. It pretty much covers dating chat room related stuff.

Thanks again and keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

it is indeed a very nice blog , my self have been outside egypt for almost 5 years i can relate to what you are saying , i guess i now can see the both sides of the coin .

i have an idea , i was thinking about forming agroup /non formal group for non egyptian living in egypt and what are there challanges and how they could help from there prespective improve teh culture in egypt and how the egyptian culture has improved there prespective . if you feel we coudl work together on that please let me know , my email