Journal: Wednesday 20 December 1995
In the evening my friend and I were invited to a wedding by Moses, a self-proclaimed ‘Egyptologist’ we had met and chatted with a few times. We both jumped at the opportunity of meeting more locals and seeing some real Egyptian life and customs. The event was not at all what we expected. It was held in one of the back streets of Luxor, draped for the occasion in red, green and white colourful awnings. The street, which was closed off for the wedding, had a decorated stage at the end, where a group of musicians were sitting. However, they were not playing when we arrived, and instead, ear-splitting pop music was blasting from some massive speakers at the back of the stage. The groom, we were told, was also sitting on the stage, but the bride was with the other women, mother, sisters and friends, sitting to one side in a separate group. We were invited to sit in the rows of chairs facing the stage where the men were sitting. I have later come to realise that quite often a female tourist sometimes must become an ‘honorary man‘, as we cannot easily be categorized, nor can we be included in the gaggle of women who huddle together in a secluded group. I must say, we were warmly welcomed and seated in a ‘place of honour’ in the front row (just in front of one of the powerfully loud speakers!) and each given a bottle of Pepsi to drink. For a while we enjoyed just people-watching and every few minutes one of the elder men would come and try to have a conversation in broken English. ‘Where you from?’ ‘My name is…?’ (meaning ‘What’s your name?’). There was a lot of nodding and grinning and they did seem to be very pleased that we were there. We learned that the groom’s name was Mohammed, but the bride’s name, though we asked several times, seemed too unimportant to be mentioned. She was dressed in a bright pink confection of a wedding dress with many frills and ruffles. Every few minutes some guest would go up to the stage and hand a wad of money to the groom and I later learned that this is a custom at Egyptian weddings.
We sat for about an hour, hoping that the loud music would stop and that the musicians would begin to play, but it didn’t seem that it would happen anytime soon. After a while we realised that our guide Moses had disappeared and nobody knew where he had gone, so we waited for a while and then decided to leave. This was not as easy as it sounds as we were somewhere in the warren of narrow back streets of Luxor in an area we had never been to before. There were no taxis or caleches and by this time it was 11.30pm. But in Luxor, the friendliness and kindness of the people means that you can never go far before help is at hand. Eventually a man saw us looking lost and guided us to a main street, flagging down an ambling caleche to take us back to our hotel and he even insisted on paying the driver from his own pocket. One thing that really struck me at the time was how I had never felt unsafe or threatened here. I would not be comfortable wandering alone through the streets of my home town at that time of night, but felt perfectly safe here and I have felt the same every time I’ve been in Egypt since then. I have been invited to much nicer weddings and have learned much more about the customs, but that first brief experience gave me a glimpse into the character and generosity of the Egyptian people – apart from Moses, I have to add, who had abandoned us and who we never saw again.