On getting married to a Farangi in Egypt
3 December 2010 § 9 Comments
Right, so, four entries in – one of them being pretty much a cop out entry – and I seem to have disappeared. Where have I been for the past month and so you might wonder? Getting married and moving to marital home/country!
But, wait, the title of this blog is “So I married a Farangi” implying that the marrying bit had already happened.
Well, it had and it hadn’t.
Here’s the thing about getting married in Islam (for those of you who don’t know): it more or less involves two parts (which are somewhat analogous, actually, to marriage in other religious traditions). Part 1 is getting the marriage contract signed. Part 2 is announcing that signing of the marriage contract to the world. These two parts can happen in any number of ways. Many upper class Egyptians will have the marriage contract signing ceremony (known in Arabic as the katb kitab and literally translated to “the writing of the book”) at home with just the bride and groom’s family in attendance along with the cleric (known as the ma’zun) who officiates the whole thing. Other, less “elite” families might opt to have the katb kitab in a mosque where there are halls dedicated to this express purpose. These halls allow for any number of family and friends of the couple to witness the event.
Now, one would think that such a public signing of the marriage contract would fulfill Parts 1 and 2 of getting married in Islam, thus negating any need to have a big ole frilly wedding reception in the commonly-known Western style. One would be wrong in thinking that. If there’s anything Egyptians, along with other societies in the Middle East, are all about it is keeping up appearances. And what sort of father would let his daughter get married without having at least two events to commemorate it? (My father, apparently, but we’ll get to that later.) In fact, if one were to choose to do away with one of the two events described above, it would be the more public style katb kitab in the mosque, opting to invite everyone and their mothers to an all-out wedding reception held at a hotel or other grand location instead.
However, marrying a Farangi in Egypt changes all of that. The thing about marrying a Farangi is that Part 1 must, by law, take place in the Ministry of Justice before it happens anywhere else. And if it happens anywhere else (like, a mosque) then at that point it is just for show. At that point, the marriage contract has already been signed. You have been officially married in a location so disgusting and downtrodden that you might seriously consider getting a Tetanus shot after you’ve finished your business there.
Up until the start of November 2010, PG and I had been living in two different countries – me in Egypt and he in England – since September 2009 while he completed a Postgraduate degree and I continued to make some actual money. He would come back to Egypt every few months to visit me and continue getting to know my family. During one of those visits it was decided that we would begin the laborious process of navigating Egyptian bureaucracy in preparation for actually getting married. With a long list of documents to procure and declarations to make (such as PG having to procure a document declaring that he was not already married in his country of origin) we honestly assumed that we would begin the process during one of PG’s visits only to actually complete the process during another.
Egyptian bureaucracy (and, honestly, PG’s tendency towards over-organization and preparation) decided to surprise us and by the end of the first week of PG’s two week visit we found we had all the papers in order to actually get the katb kitab done. And so we did it. I took the day off work (even though I seriously considered just going in late) as did my siblings, and we all went to the Ministry of Justice along with our two witnesses and we had a very unceremonious but still somehow poignant signing of the marriage contract.
This is how it came to be that PG and I signed our marriage contract in April and then had the mosque ceremony where we did a mock katb kitab in October. We then opted out of having a big ole reception at a hotel or similar and told our respective families to just get over it.
At some point I will try to put together a list of the actual documents you need to get and other practical tips in order to get your marriage certificate, because one of the hardest parts of the whole process was actually getting our hands on a comprehensive list.