Last time I wrote, Dylan and I were about to leave for Ain Sokna, a beach area east of Cairo on the Red Sea. We had a great time, staying in an apartment (belonging to Dan's Egyptian cousin, Nabil) a few minutes walk from a private beach. The weather was just right (most of the time) for laying out and hot enough to make you want to get in the water. My favorite part was shell collecting on the beach - what amazing shells they have here! I'm used to being excited to find one of those plain everyday ones in good shape. I quickly learned that those were hardly even worth picking up on this beach because there were hundreds of them. I went for the more unique ones after that.
We cooked a lot of our own meals, but also went out to a fish restaurant one night where we had an amazing seafood gumbo - complete with crab on top (like the whole crab...). Sadly I didn't have my camera with me that night. We also spent one day at a nearby hotel/resort called the Palmera. The pool was a nice break from Red sea salt water. (Update continued after photos...)
Dylan and I got dressed up (conservatively because the wedding was in a mosque) and piled into a car with some other ETC people – Chris, the director, his wife and three kids, and Abi, the English program coordinator. We all had a kid on our laps for the 30 minute ride, but it wasn’t bad.
Chris had described the mosque we were going to as “a squashed golf ball from outer space” and I could see where he got that when we arrived. There were loads of people milling around (all dressed up, some women veiled and some not) but no one we knew. Chris found out from the guards that we were in the right place, but they actually have about 30 weddings there every day! So people are really in and out, and all the people we were seeing were with other groups. Eventually some others we knew showed up and explained that we would all go inside together when Zeinab got there. She showed up in Egyptian time, 5 minutes after the wedding was supposed to start. And lo and behold, she was wearing a bright blue dress! Picture a Miss America contestant – sequins on the gown, tiara, make-up, hair curled and flowing over the shoulder – and that was Zeinab. You’ll see in the pictures. Some guys with tambourines came up and started banging them, Zeinab greeted all of us (with her husband, who was wearing a suit) and we all processed disorderly through the gate.
We were led to a court-room like place with a low table at the front and rows of chairs. Everyone was milling around and talking. Zeinab and Emad came in through the front and set up in a corner (followed by a video man with a very bright spotlight) and then they were again greeted by all their guests (prime photo opportunity). The family knew my name since I had been at the house for that party previously so before I know it, Zeinab’s mom is saying, “Christiy, come!” So up I went into the fray. There were so many people I didn’t even get a very good photo! Eventually the crowd calmed down, although the milling around and talking continued through the whole ceremony. The bride and groom and some men sat down at the table and began filling out the paperwork (which I think was the main point of this particular ceremony). Juice and chocolate were served to the guests. At one point there was a long prayer which was said by the middle man at the table and repeated by the whole audience. During that Emad and Zeinab’s dad were holding hands under a white embroidered cloth. Not sure of the symbolism there.
When everything was signed and fingerprinted, we were done! The women did this high yodeling type sound to celebrate. We were rushed out of the room as the next group was supposed to come in (I suppose), and then we had some more photo/greeting time outside. So this ceremony, that I was prepared to sit for hours for, lasted only about 20 minutes. And the bride wore blue. And I’m not sure if they’re really married at this point or not – amongst the foreigners, we decided they’re probably allowed to live together at this point, but there’s another ceremony in two months.