I'm still confused about what this was - a wedding party? Post-wedding party? Re-celebrating engagement party? I was invited by one of my English students to a party at her house for her sister's wedding/engagement after class. Honestly, I usually make excuses to not go out with my students outside of class because I don't want to make that precedent, but this time I couldn't think of an excuse fast enough and decided, why not? At least now that I'm teaching Level 7 instead of Level 4 I can communicate pretty well with my students in English.
My first reminder of the party came when Zeinab (the girl whose part it was) stuck her head in the classroom (we'd already started) and said she was just there to say hi. I almost didn't recognize her. She had the kind of contacts in that change your eyes (I didn't even know those were available here) and her hair was different, and by the time I figured out it was her she was gone again. Another student, Mohamed, walked me to Zeinab's house after class. This was A. a long walk with B. an Egyptian man I don't know well through C. a very busy market street. I was very much reconsidering whether this was a good idea.
We arrived at the house without incident and climbed up to the 10th floor (no elevator) for the party. It was kind of an open house, and all the guests were female relatives and neighbors (except for two men who were a bit of a mystery, and the groom). The girls of the family (Zeinab and her three sisters) were wearing scandalous clothes for this country... approaching scandalous even by American standards. I've been a bit confused about Zeinab's religion. She does not wear the veil, so I assumed she was Christian, but as she was telling me about her upcoming wedding recently she mentioned that it would be in a mosque. After going to this party I'm pretty sure she is Muslim - all the female guests were covered (veiled and long sleeves/pants). I guess the sisters had free rein to dress as they liked because it was their family celebrating?
Zeinab was actually a very good host and introduced me to her mother and sisters, then eld me to a chair and brought a plate of food (chicken schwarma and kofta - both very good - a cheese roll, and a dessert). She also brought the obligatory soda. Why must the honored guests always drink soda??
The younger girls were dancing in the middle of the room (younger means teenagers) and the older women (all aunts as far as I could tell) sat around the side and watched, clapped, and occasionally yelled. Not like randomly yelling out words, but this yodeling sort of cry that goes with the music - not sure how to describe it. But it's very loud.
I was able to do basic conversation in Arabic, although Zeinab had to help translate a lot. Many people told me I was beautiful - but not using the word for beautiful that I know. Apparently this is another word that means more than pretty; it means a beautiful smile that shows a beautiful soul. A very nice compliment.
I avoided dancing for a while due to the fact that I was eating, but inevitably I was drawn in eventually. I am not a dancer. I am incredibly awkward and self-conscious and of course as the American I was the center of attention (everyone brought out their phones/cameras to record the event). All I can say is, I made a lot of people happy by making myself very uncomfortable.
Getting home was another matter of confusion. My understanding was that they would send me home with a driver, but then they found out the car was broken. Then they wanted my husband to come pick me up and I had to explain that I had no idea how to give him directions to their house. So it was decided that I would go with some other people in a taxi back to my house. I though Zeinab was going until we headed out the door and she said goodbye. It ended up being me, the bride and groom (apparently they are married now), the mom, and the dog. I have no idea why the dog got to go along. At any rate, I ended up back at my front door before midnight feeling confused, but pleased with my successful venture