Written by Mariem ELTagoury
*Please note that names of places & people are kept discreet for privacy issues. Also the use of Franco Arab in this article is to deliver the detailed picture of incidents.
Being the social butterfly my mom raised me to be (at least that’s how my friends describe it); I always cling on to old relations and try not to forget keeping contact with the many people that touched my life. One of those people happens to be my lovely school nanny, who happens to be a born Egyptian of Sudanese parentage.
A single mother from a working class family, she went through life with the most tender smile, a heart of gold, an ethic code of steel and gave her job all she had; care and love. It was her who backed me up when a little boy on the bus took the leisure of making fun of my mother’s old car. She sternly notified him that there are things in life that are more important to spend money on than cars. I’m happy to say that as the poor boy slowly wondered as to what could be more important in life than his father’s brilliant new car; I was spared a few hours of blissful bus sleep. When I changed schools, I took her number and never forgot to call. I got to meet her daughter, who happened to be working in a store close by, a lovely young lady who owns her mother’s smile and shares my liking for long interesting chit-chats.
So it wasn’t a surprise when the other day, I received a phone call from the very same young lady saying “my brother’s wedding is tomorrow. You & your mom are coming of course!?” I could feel the smile vibe through the phone as she teasingly said “have you ever seen a Sudanese wedding?” I replied “no, but my mother attended a Nubian wedding of one of her fellow doctors”.
Honestly, I was in the middle of a hectic week preparing for a final exam so I wasn’t exactly in anyway prepared for a wedding and not one at such a short notice. However, I was extremely grateful for the fact that it was a casual wedding. I decided to wash my hair, let it set in curls – to my mother’s disappointment as usual- and wear a dress that just hit beyond the knees with a black summer cardigan. I wanted to look conservative but still festive. Since I’d visited my beloved university that morning naturally, I arrived late and missed the ‘zafa’ – darn! Both mother and daughter greeted us with the warmest of smiles, embraces and words.
Then my dear nanny sat by me and we chatted. It had been a long time since I’d last seen her. She was clad in her native Sudanese attire. There were more wrinkles on her dark smiling face and she was glowing with pride as we watched her youngest handsomely dancing with his beautiful bride. In short, she was beautiful. She explained to me that the bride was half Aswanian from her mother’s side, and how the Sudanese and the Southerners of Egypt shared traditions.
I was quite surprised by the variety I saw; there were women wearing traditional Sudanese attire, others dressed in a more modern version of hijab and some totally embracing western style. A young lady sitting right across us was dressed in a maxi cap sleeved lbd – which looked good enough to be sitting in a Zara store – with blond curls tied up into a high ponytail and a nose ring. A couple of younger girls had quite a hippie style with their wild curls and patterned pants. One of them with geek chic glasses gave me a welcoming nod – I assumed my curls gained their approval.
The attitude of the people to us was…. unexpected. Everyone greeted us with warm smiles. The men shook hands like gentlemen with no despising or disrespectful looks and the women laughed with us like we were family. We weren’t the only odd ones out in that wedding; there were a couple of foreigners too. I’m not sure if it was me, or had I become accustomed to the criticizing eyes of the Cairo streets – which I did find in a group of women, who were clearly pure Northerners at one table- but in general, I was taken aback (in a good way) by those people who were embracing variety between themselves and others. There was so much positive energy in the place I hardly wanted to leave.
I recall my grandmother telling me about an Egypt where people embraced all cultures and lifestyles, where judgments were left to the Divine and respect was all people had for each other. I’m not sure if I should be happy or sad, but I know that I finally saw that Egypt in that wedding. I saw people living in harmony, accepting one another and others for who they are and who they want to be. As I left that wedding, with my dinner wrapped in a small paper box, I wondered what had our brothers and sisters of the south preserved that we had so easily lost. Whatever it is, I know I want that back. I want an Egypt where people embrace each other regardless of their differences, where men know how to respect women, where people live in harmony… with a smile.
If I can’t have that, well at least I got to dance Sudanese.
Your thoughts and wishes
Have you ever attended a Sudanese or a Nubian wedding for that matter? What do you truly wish for Egypt’s society nowadays? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below or email us at [email protected]