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November 1, 2010 - Cairo, Egypt

While I was in Egypt I had the opportunity to go to a wedding in small village-esque area of Cairo. Having spent so much time in Kenya, I had been walking around Egypt in pretty low-key (aka: daggy) attire; most of which sported holes and was faded as a result of the rough treatment given it by Kenyan washing mamas. Needless to say, I had nothing appropriate to wear to an upper middle class muslim wedding. I bought a long dress and a turtleneck long sleeved top to go underneath, which many of the Egyptian women wear under their clothing for modesty purposes. I had assumed that they were made of a fabric which allowed their skin to breathe, was comfortable, and which was fairly cool under the 37+ degree heat. I found that not only are these tops uncomfortable and constrictive, they are also not cool in the heat - even late at night.

So, covered from neck to toe (I was not expected to cover my hair) and sweating like a pig, I tagged along with my Egyptian friends to the wedding. We didn't go to the actual ceremony, just the reception. In true Egyptian style, we didn't arrive until around 10pm that evening. The reception took place in an alleyway which harboured the entrances to people's houses. As we drove off the streets of Cairo into the little village, and navigated our way around the small dirt-covered streets of the village, we could hear the distant "BOOM BOOM BOOM" of music coming from the party. We arrived at the entrance to the alley and were hit with a blast of music. I counted eleven large amplifiers which were all turned up to full volume. You could feel the ground and your body shaking with each bass note. You could not, however, hear yourself think, let alone make out what on earth people screaming in your ear were saying.

The bride wore a blindingly white gown and one of the horrid hot turtlenecks underneath (also white). Her blonde hair was piled high upon her head much like Barbie circa 1985, and her makeup blared out at the crowd. The groom looked handsome in his suit and spent far more time amongst his friends than the bride. However, they both looked beautiful and happy as they danced together on the stage at the top of the alleyway.

We were shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone else there. Everyone was dancing with vigour - shaking their hips and weaving a conga line through the crowds. Periodically, people would put the groom on a chair and bounce him up and down on their shoulders in time with the music. I saw a young boy of about 12 years old standing on a chair whilst being bounced by his friends. He fell off head first onto the ground within about 30 seconds and looked up at me, stunned with what had happened. I stopped walking and tried to check that he was alright. My friends just laughed at the child and turned me away, saying "He is okay. They are just playing".

There was a young girl of about 8 years old there who reminded me of myself at that age. She was standing in the middle of the alleyway, demanding the attention of everyone around her by vehemently thrusting her hips in time with the music. Slightly chubby, the girl had long black hair and wore a bright yellow top which clung to her stomach and shaking hips. She was bright eyed and had a smile on her face from ear to ear, relishing each moment of her time in the spotlight.

We drank tea, coffee and sodas with everyone there and I met many new people. It was so exciting with all of the loud noises, the happiness and excitement, and the beauty of all of the fairy lights and colourful material strung up as a canopy over the alleyway. It was one of the most memorable moments of my time in Egypt and I'm very grateful to have been invited to be a part of it.


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