When thinking about engagements, many of us imagine:
- a romantic setting
- a man on one knee
- a sparkly ring
- ….. and plenty of celebrations afterwards.
In Egypt things are done a little differently.
Typically an engagement takes place in this way:
Usually the girl’s family learns of a suitable man through family or friend connections. After the girl’s family have verified the respectability of the man’s family, the two parties can sit down together for an initial meeting, usually over fizzy drinks and cake. This initial meeting determines whether the male is a suitable partner and whether the two individuals would be compatible for a life-time together. These meetings can be difficult because firstly the other family must be respectable and must be of a similar social standing and educational background. Once these checks have been made, particularly by the girl’s family, they will then decide whether the male has suitable financial stability. The male must have a job and enough money to purchase a house (though many sons will remain in their family home, and bring their new wife home) and enough money to furnish the property.
Once the girl has agreed to the prospective fiance, the man must then have funds to purchase engagement jewellary, which is the pride and joy for the bride to be. This “gold” becomes the personal property of the bride, and is a symbol of the generous nature of the intended husband. At the very least the male should buy a single plain yellow gold band as a public symbol of the intended marriage. The family of the bride should attend an appointment at the jeweller, with the groom, and choose the set of gold and help negotiate a price of the jewellery set. The bride-to-be then wears the gold ring on her right hand and the groom-to-be wears a silver ring also on his right. On some occasions the man’s family will buy a separate more ornate ring to show their acceptance towards the bride-to-be and as a welcoming gift to her.
Once this has taken place a party follows soon after: to celebrate the upcoming nuptials and to announce to the community the arrangement for the couple. This party will of course include food, dancing and plenty of celebrations! The bride-to-be will be expected to wear a beautiful dress she has chosen, usually bright and sparkly and the groom to be will be suited and booted too!
After these formalities have taken place the couple are now allowed to date each other and go out in public alone. This crucial stage then allows the couple to decide whether they want to go ahead with the wedding itself. Some conservative families will be more strict during this stage and perhaps insist on a chaperone to accompany the engaged couple until they are united on the wedding day.
Purity is very important to Egyptian people so families will do everything to preserve the reputation and honour of the family.
After the groom-to-be has arranged the house and paid for all the furnishings, the happy couple can begin to plan their wedding. This could take place in a matter of weeks after engagement or after many months or indeed several years.
I have some personal knowledge of this… I am engaged to an Egyptian who lives outside of his homeland. However, during my recent trip to Egypt I made the all important visit to my future in laws in order for them to make the decision as to whether I could marry their son…. or not! Once they had decided that I was indeed suitable and respectable, they took me to the jewellers to buy me a gift as a sign of their acceptance towards me and to welcome me to the family. This ring was then presented to me and we had a lovely party, with cake, speeches, dancing and laughter late into the night.
My personal experience was different to most as I was making this visit alone but the picture of the ring can give you some understanding of what Egyptian girls get given as part of the engagement process.
Engagements are a very important part of the girl’s life and are a very special time for the families involved.