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Topic of the Issue
Egyptian Matrimony: Man Got to Do it All
Sunday, February 1 (issue 2)
by Raymon Kondos

CAIRO ( - Marriage traditions have a long history in Egypt that may be traced back to Ancient Egypt and Arab traditions.

As well as getting to change gradually, marriage traditions in Egypt vary geographically from one place to another and according to the religious affiliation.

Egyptian couples sign on marriage contract in church
Egyptian couples sign on marriage contract in church

In general, marriage in Egyptian is a bond that gathers together two big families, not only the couples, and for that consensus among all members of each family is important especially in rural areas where newlyweds must sometimes live at a proximity to their folks.

In urban areas, youth just get to know each other and when some young man gets the female's approval, he officially proposes to her family at a set date. Bringing the father with him, and usually the mother, the young man visits the bride's family for the first time to propose.

After acquiring the approval of the bride’s family, and after they become assured the young man is suitable for their daughter, the two parents set to agree on financial terms.
The proposed man has to offer an amount of money that is called "the dowry."

With this money, the bride's family has to furnish the apartment which the groom should provide. In the past the groom was required to purchase an apartment but with increasing prices, rentals became socially accepted.

In rural areas, grooms have also to pay the dowry, but usually they choose brides among their relatives. Many times marriage choices are made by both parents sometimes without even the consent of the couples themselves. This habit is now changing but it hardly posed a problem in the past, since youth were get married in teenage, even before they get to know other people to choose from. They marry and the family they generate creates love, not vice-versa.

A typical marriage contract has to include the following:

  1. Moqaddam Sadak: Amount given to the wife prior to marriage (may also be considered the dowry).
  2. Moakhar Sadak: The amount to be paid to the woman in case of divorce or in case of the death of her husband.
  3. The ‘Esma: The right to divorce that is usually accredited to men.
  4. The Qayma: The list of furniture and jewelries that are given to the woman in case of divorce and in case of the death of her husband.
  5. The Nafaqa: The alimony.

Christian marriage in the Egyptian society differs a lot. A Christian groom has got o provide residence but he is not required to provide a dowry. Rather, providence of furniture is a shared responsibility between the two families. There are traditions that define who buys what, but such terms are now more flexible than ever; the bride has to buy the bedroom furniture and kitchen equipments, while the groom buys the rest.

Though the Christian marriage must be a church event done by the hands of a priest, the Moslem marriage is usually a house event that is concluded by a Mazoun (registrar).
And while Christianity forbids divorce, Islam regulates it. When divorced, a Moslem wife must be given the Moakhar Sadak, furniture and jewelries as defined by the marriage contract as well as the Nafaqa (the alimony).

Only 3 divorces are allowed between the two couples, and they shall not return to each other except after the female gets married to another husband and gets divorced.

In 2000, the Egyptian government has released a new controversial law, the Kula' law, which enables a wife to obtain divorce if she relinquishes her right as defined in the marriage contract.

The wedding ceremony may also differ but generally after the official marriage, relatives of the two families attend a big party that may feature belly dancing and money donation to the newlyweds.

For rich people, the party place is some luxury hotel, and for poor it may be some wide street in their district, or an open-air site.
The couples then go to spend their first night together whether at a hotel room or at their house.

In rural places, there is still this strange tradition by which the groom must provide to the people the proof of his wife’s virginity until marriage. This would also honor her father. Villagers then would tour the streets with a piece of cloth stained with “virginity blood” singing songs that praise the bride's virtue.

Tying the knot in Egypt is not so easy especially with harsh economic conditions. In Egypt, man has the bigger responsibility preparing for the marriage event from the moment the couple gets engaged.
And with inability of several men to meet the requirements of marriage, many become single, not because they choose celibacy or they prefer extramarital relationships, but rather for failing to marry.

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