Since the time of the Pharaohs, Egyptian girls have grown up dreaming of their wedding day. The traditions and rituals of the Egyptian wedding have changed little since. Today we’re going to take a look at the wedding traditions of Arab culture. Particularly in Egypt, where heritage and culture are an important part of that country and the identity of its people.
Back in Ancient Egypt, temples and feasts were the pace to meet for young men and women. Furthermore, when guests came to visit a family’s house back in ancient times, tradition dictated that the eldest daughter welcome the guests at the door. In rural parts of Egypt this custom continue. Although today’s Egyptian families usually get together to arrange the alliance in most Egyptian marriages.
However they meet, when the intended groom wants to propose, Arabic culture rules dictate he brings his family and two gifts to the girl’s family. During this meeting, the dowry (or mahr) to be paid to the girl’s family and the shabka (a gift for the bride-to-be of gold and precious stones) is agreed upon. Then, the plans begin for a lavish engagement party.
The engagement party is usually held in an elaborate banquet hall decorated with flowers of every kind and flashing lights of every color. Guests enjoy a bountiful feast, much dancing, and plenty of joyful ululations from the womenfolk. The bride typically wears a simple pink or blue dress.
The party is highlighted by the fiancé giving his intended bride the agreed-upon shabka. He would also place a gold ring (a symbol of infinity in Ancient Egypt – no beginning, no end) upon her right finger. After the engagement party, the future bride and groom start to look for a house together during the engagement period. Once the groom has gotten everything ready within the house, the couple start their wedding day plans.
The night before the wedding day or wedding party is pretty much the same for both Christians and Muslims living in Egypt. All the relatives, friends and neighbors get together to celebrate “Henna Night”. Females go to the bride’s house, while all the males go to the groom’s house. At the bride’s house the women dance and sing all night. The bride wears a pink dress made of silk or cotton and her hands and feet are tattooed with henna in beautifully elaborate patterns. Meanwhile, over at the groom’s house, the men are also dancing and singing with the groom in his expensive suit.
Egyptian marriages are usually held in grand marriage halls. The traditional Egyptian brides wear brightly colored jewel-encrusted dresses and a veil is a must. The groom usually wears a ceremonial tribal costume. During the ceremony, the bride and groom’s family will sign a wedding contract according to Egyptian marriage laws in the presence of a mazoon. A mazoon is the man who provides marriage licenses to the happy couple and registers them with the government afterwards. The wedding party is highlighted by the drinking of sharpat – a juice made of rose water. There will be singers and belly dancers who will perform the very special candelabra dance and entertain the guests.
Egyptian wedding gifts are not given at the party, but usually given to the newlyweds either before or after the ceremony. They can include anything for their new house like a vase or china fruit plate, maybe something as simple as chocolates.
When the party is nearing its end, the bride and groom leave to the groom’s house. In rural Egypt, she would travel to his house on camelback in a long beautiful, colorful procession with members of the wedding party singing and dancing all along the way.
Finally, there is an Egyptian tradition where the bride’s mother will cook all the meals for the newlywed couples for one week after the wedding ceremony.
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