Old bachelors are regarded with disappro-bation in Egypt. It is considered improper, even disreputable, for a man of full age and average health to fail to take a wife.
Young Egypt, however, may sometimes be fastidious and hard to please, like some of our own countrymen. The agents employed as go-betweens may not have succeeded in finding a sufficiently attractive girl, or perhaps the parents may be exigent about the amount of dowry they ask for their daughter; or it may be that the young man has been attracted by the eyes of some fair one. Only the eyes were visible above the veiling yashmak. If he cannot secure those eyes to be the light of his home he may prefer celibacy with all its contumely.
But should all go well and a match be arranged by the marriage agents, the dowry settled and all the preliminaries in a fair way, a day is fixed for paying over the money and signing the contract. The bridegroom goes to the house of the bride's parents, accompanied by two or three of his most intimate friends. They are received by the agent and some witnesses on the bride's behalf. All present then recite the first chapter of the Koran, and when it is finished the dowry is handed over.
Then follows the reading of the marriage contract. The bride and bridegroom face each other with one knee on the ground, and their right hands clasped with the thumbs raised and pressed together. A schoolmaster is usually present to tell them what to say. He places a handkerchief over their two heads, which are very close together, and usually gives a short exhortation and prayer containing quotations lauding marriage from the Koran before reading the contract. He then desires the bride's agent to say: "I marry to thee the female whose agent I have been appointed." Here he gives her name, and sometimes states the amount of the dowry. Then the bridegroom, diligently prompted by the schoolmaster, replies:
The agent then repeats the formula, and the bridegroom replies as before, and then a third time. This concludes the actual marriage ceremony. Afterwards the agent says:
"And blessings be on the apostles, and praise be to God, the Lord of the beings of the whole world. Amen." After this all repeat the first chapter of the Koran. Sherbet and presents are then handed. The bridegroom's friends and the bride's witnesses generally remain to dinner, but whether this is so or not, they settle on the day - generally ten days after the marriage - when the bride is to go to the bridegroom's house.
The bridal costume consists of very full trousers fastened round the knees, but so very ample that the fulness falls to the ankles. They are made of brightly coloured striped silk. The shirt is decollete,
A young Mohammedan woman in walking costume, correctly veiled Photo, Chusseau-flavens and is made of white muslin, very full and caught round the waist with a small shawl, which acts as a belt. Most of this is covered by a short jacket resembling a bolero, or toreador jacket, much embroidered. Overall is worn a loose silk gown, completely veiling head and figure, when the bride is a widow. Spinster brides wear it from immediately below the eyes to the knees, or further. It hides the bride's dress during the ceremony.
Throughout the ten days that intervene between the ceremony and the home-coming of the bride the bridegroom sends her presents, such as fruit, sweets, a K a s h m ir shawl, etc. A procession is formed to convey the bride's possessions to her future home, also her trousseau, usually elaborate and costly. Festivi -ties are many during the three days precedi ng the arrival of the bride. The neigh-b o u r i n g streets are decorated with small silk flags and coloured lanterns, hung on cords carried across from house to house. Entertainments are given, the invited guests bringing gifts of rice, candles, coffee, etc.
The bride goes in state to the bath, accompanied by her friends. They stay there several hours, while singers and musicians help the time to pass. Sometimes a banquet is held in the public bath. When she returns home, her hands and feet are dyed with henna to a deep orange-red.
Meanwhile, the bridegroom also entertains his friends.
The etiquette in Egyptian marriages differs from that of other Oriental countries in that the bridegroom does not send to fetch
Photo, Chusscau-flaviens Ladies of the harem starting for a motor drive his bride. She goes in procession to his house, musicians leading, followed by married female friends and relatives walking crocodile fashion, two and two, then the unmarried in the same fashion. The married women wear black habarah, the spinsters white.
Following them the bride walks under a silken canopy striped rose and pale yellow, two men supporting her on either side. She is clothed from head to foot in a fine red Kashmir shawl. It hides the small pasteboard crown she wears. Escorting her under the canopy are one or two female r e la t i ves. Before her, walking backwards, an attendant fans her, the fan being composed of large white ostrich f e a -thers and or-namen ted with a piece of looking-glass. More musicians bring up the rear.
At the bridegroom's house a feast is provided for the bridal party in an u p p e1 room, while the bridegroom sits below with his friends. Some hours after sunset he goes in state to the mosque with his friends for prayers. On returning he ascends to his wife's room, accompanied part of the way-on account of supposed bashfulness-by his most intimate friend. The bride awaits him, attended only by an old nurse, who declines to go away until she has received a present. Nor will the bride remove her Kashmir shawl from her head until she, too, has been given a present, and even then with much apparent reluctance permits him to take it off. As he does so he says: "In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful." He then says to his bride: "The night is blessed." And she responds: "God bless thee1" And so their married life begins.