Tag Archives: Egyptian Wedding

A Change of Gears

TRAVEL THERE: GOOD-BYE FAIRMONT, HELLO MENA HOUSE

We visited Egypt to attend a wedding and what a wedding it was.  Next we were headed to Giza for some Pyramid sight-seeing, but first we had to check out of the Fairmont and into the Mena House, after catching a few zzzz’s.

A Late Night Delivery

I stayed up very far past my bedtime celebrating the newlyweds, something that happened frequently on this vacation.  When we finally got back to the room, we put away our wedding finery and gratefully fell into bed.  An hour or two later, there was a knock on the door.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, because of the urgency of the banging.  Had a hotel guest confused our room for someone else’s?  Was a wife fleeing an abusive husband?  Had the newlyweds argued and needed a referee?  Or was the party still going on and they’d decided to bring it to us?

Bill got up, went to the door and discovered members of the hotel staff with a cart full of food.  My sister-in-law mentioned sending us some left-overs, but I’d assured her we didn’t need them.  There was no microwave and while we did have a frig, it was full of refreshments the hotel wanted us to buy.  We were also scheduled to be out of the hotel by noon.  No time for a feast.  Still, we’d ended up on the list of rooms to visit and they were going to deliver!  Bill kept saying no thank you and the anonymous visitors kept bringing in trays of food.

Cairo Apartment Buildings

Good Morning?

I’m persnickety about keeping a hotel room neat, but after our late night delivery I woke up at around 8:30 to what looked like a catering disaster.  There were appetizers, main dishes and desserts all over the place.  I wouldn’t have been too happy about that under any circumstances, but in this case, I had to pack before the car came.

I got myself ready and shuffled the food into a corner, but Mr. Bill didn’t budge until 10:30, which at least gave me an opportunity to catch up in my travel journal.  As we’d planned the trip he’d tried to convince me this would be a good day for sight-seeing.  His nephew Ayman, our travel agent, kept giving us itineraries with an 8 AM pick-up time and I kept sending them back.  As I sat watching him sleep off his partying I felt pretty smug.

When he did get up, we found a snack among the desserts, but the rest of the un-refrigerated food seemed like food poisoning looking for a place to happen.  The packing ritual didn’t take very long and by 11:30 we were in the lobby waiting for our car.

Egypt’s roadside answer to Home Depot

The Luxury of Having a Driver

While I love luxury, our travel budget rarely affords us much of it.  We take nice vacations, but we always have the most economical transportation available.  Thankfully, the groom insisted Bill hire a driver to transport us around when we were on our own and Ayman did us the favor of scheduling one guy to be our driver the whole time – even when we traveled to Alexandria.

Izzat was a treasure.  He was very proper in a sort of Egyptian way.  If you’ve been there you know what I mean and if you haven’t, I can’t explain it to you.  He spoke impeccable English.  The car was a Hyundai, so nothing extravagant, but very clean.  So off we went.

Early in the trip Izzat was a little difficult to engage in conversation, but by the time we left Egypt he had warmed up to these two crazy Americans.  He never wanted to be in a picture, however, and some of that might be because of his faith.  Being Christian in Egypt is not illegal, but it’s also something of a disadvantage.

On our trip to the Mena House, Izzat was polite but distant.  We observed the sites on the way out to Giza.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our new favorite hotel.

1 Comment

Filed under Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

What’s a Wedding Without a Belly Dancer?

TRAVEL THERE: THE CELEBRATION’S CROWNING GLORY

If you’ve ever been to an Egyptian wedding and they didn’t have a belly dancer, then you’ve missed out on a wonderful treat.  Bassem and Mariam’s wedding was an over-the-top experience in a lot of ways and true to form, when it came time for their belly dancer to appear, you can be sure she didn’t disappoint.

The Excitement Builds

From the moment the bride and groom made their pyrotechnic appearance in the Fairmont’s Pearl Ballroom,  we were treated to excess after excess.  Generous pourings of fine scotch, a grandiose buffet and amazing desserts were just the beginning.  The dj kept the dance floor filled and a great time was being had everywhere you looked.

Suddenly, everything came to a screeching halt.  The music stopped and the dance floor cleared, but the excitement level went through the roof.  The belly dancer was about to make her appearance.

I Love Belly Dancing

OK, I’ll confess, I love belly dancing.  Whether we’re enjoying a festival like Scarborough Faire, taking in the State Fair of Texas, eating at a Middle Eastern restaurant or attending a travel show, when the throbbing beat of drums announce the appearance of a belly dancer, I make a beeline to the edge of the stage.

While I’ve never taken a belly dancing lesson in my life, I did win a belly dancing contest on my earlier visit to Egypt.  I’d dressed up for Gallebeya Night on our Nile Cruise with no idea I’d be belly dancing before the night was over.

When they began a light-hearted contest and were getting a slow response, I stepped up on stage to dance against a fellow passenger in the spirit of fun.  When the music started, I wiggled around with my hands up in the air, making what I hoped were belly-dancing-looking gestures.  I won the match-up completely unaware that it was just the first round.  Time and again I was asked to dance against other passengers and to my amazement I somehow won every round.

On the last round, an appropriately-garbed and obviously properly-trained dancer shimmed up to challenge me and I tried my best to bow out of the embarrassing match-up, but no one would allow it.  In my clumsy, but joyful attempts, I had become the crowd favorite and even though the real belly dancer danced circles around me, when the crowd was asked to vote with their applause, I was the overwhelming winner.

Over here in States, the dancers are a mixed bag.  More often than not, amateur performers share their pure love of the art form and I revel in their delight.  From women so skinny their ribs are hanging out to voluptuous ladies with rolls of fat freely jiggling, each lady who practices this art is braver and more skilled than me.  Huzzah!  Here’s a sampling of belly dancers we’ve enjoyed.  And yes, that is Bill on stage. He’s always the guy they pick for crowd participation, but I’m the one who won the belly dancing contest.

 The Best Ever Belly Dancer

Though I am a big fan of belly dancing, I have never in my life seen such a beautiful and talented dancer as I did that evening.  While I have seen some attractive women shake their stuff, the crystal blue eyes, gorgeous skin and toned muscles of this wedding dancer put her in a class all by herself.  Her performance included several costume changes.  The first one, a red velvet number encrusted with many gems and spangles was without a doubt the most glamorous and elegant costume I could have imagined, but every time she reappeared, she raised the bar.

During her finale she invited everyone up to dance with her and this time it was me, rather than Bill who danced with the star.  What fun we had.  Enjoy these pictures of us enjoying the show.  Then come back next week as we take off our wedding finery and head out as tourists.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Here Comes the Bride and Groom

At Long Last!

TRAVEL THERE: LET THE PARTY FINALLY BEGIN

Of course, my nephew and his new wife did finally arrive at their own wedding reception and a party like you will not believe began.  Before I share the excitement, let me explain the delay.

The Big Moment – Delayed

The big moment at most wedding receptions is the entry of the bride and groom, but in Egypt they heighten the anticipation by not allowing anything to happen until the bride and groom appear.  That practice almost caused a riot when the newlywed pair failed to appear after a couple of hours.  The crowd settled down when snacks and some liquor appeared, but there was still an undercurrent of rumor around the ballroom.

Since we were in Egypt, I should have known traffic was the problem.  A few weeks ago I told you about the crush of traffic in the construction-clogged neighborhood of Heliopolis, but in spite of the wedding’s Heliopolis location, that wasn’t what caused the problem.  The guests who attended the ceremony made it back to the hotel in just a few minutes.

I’ve mentioned this was a holiday, the end of a long weekend, so many of the guests were traveling.  The plan had been for them to skip the brief wedding and show up just in time for the entry of the bride and groom into the reception.  Only the traffic was really bad and a large percentage of the people who really needed to be there were stuck on the road into Cairo.

Just about the time I was ready to gather up my broken shoes and head to the room for a good night’s sleep, my husband returned to the table.  I really wanted to chew him out for abandoning me, but I reminded myself that I’d been the one who said I’d just stay at the table.  I may or may not have told him that I was ready to go back to the room, but he let me know that the action was about to heat up.  The missing guests were arriving in droves and the newlyweds were making their way to the ballroom.

Fireworks and Applause

While the rest of us were just anxious to get on with the celebration, my grand niece’s and grand nephew’s anxiety had been about something else.  When the bride and groom appeared, the tiny wedding guests were to display a pair of signs about the last chance to run.  As the excitement level rose in the room, they were hustled near to the stage.  Since the wedding had already happened, the timing for the signs seemed a little off to this American, but this was Egypt and time has a whole different meaning there.

Then suddenly, the newlyweds were there – the beautiful bride and my handsome nephew.  I doubt any group of wedding guests has ever been more glad to see their newlyweds.  It was an astounding appearance!  A lightshow, fireworks – even canned applause.  You would have thought we were at the Olympics, but we were in a ballroom beneath the Heliopolis Fairmont.  The award for bride of the season goes to Mariam!

If More is Better Then this was the BEST!

As soon as Bassem and Mariam showed up the flood gates of hospitality opened.  Before too long a bountiful buffet was presented.  I swear we could have opened up the doors to every one staying at the Fairmont (both the older section and the Towers)  and still had leftovers for weeks.

There were two buffets, one for the main course and another for desserts.  There were also several specialty stations.  Problem was, my stomach had decided those few bites it got with the mezza was all it was going to get, so it had shut down for the night.  What I did manage to eat was great, but I couldn’t do justice to all those beautiful proteins, carbs and fats.

The dessert bar was unbelievable.  It stretched for what seemed like miles and had an amazing array of choices.  Any cruise ship would have been jealous.  In fact, I have to say that the actual offerings were better than any boat I’d been on.  The table wasn’t overcrowded with the decor some cruise ships employ, but the selections were top quality to match their great variety.

Starvation abated, it was time to dance- and dance we did.  The dj was great and pretty much every song was danceable.  Like most weddings, there were more kids and women dancing in groups than there were couples, but the energy was high.  Finally, I was not the only barefooted woman in the room.  My sweet husband obliged me, by taking me out to the floor a number of times, as did several of my nephews, cousins and such.  The groom spent a lot of time on the dance floor, but the bride could usually be seen enjoying her friends up on the white sofa in the lounge.

But the true highlight of any Egyptian party is the belly dancer and you’re going to have to come back next week for that.  I’ll leave you with a picture of me and my guys.

Blessed with Nephews!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Egyptian Time Dragging By

Mommy, when will the bride and groom come?

TRAVEL THERE: WHERE ARE THE BRIDE AND GROOM?

In case you’re just joining us, let me remind you where we are.  I’ve just attended my first Coptic wedding, an amazing experience.  Now I’m sitting in the Pearl Ballroom of the Heliopolis Fairmont, waiting for the arrival of the bride and groom.  I didn’t join my husband as he went to work the room, because I had a broken shoe and didn’t want to wander around barefoot.  There is no food, no drink and no music, because nothing is supposed to happen until the bride and groom arrive.  Everyone around me is speaking a language I don’t understand.  I haven’t eaten since breakfast and we’re coming up on ten o’clock.  The adventure is wearing thin and my bed is beginning to sound pretty good to me.  The promised buffet and belly dancer aren’t as compelling as they seemed before.

Angry with No One to be Mad at

Don’t you just hate it when you find yourself growing madder with every minute that passes and you don’t even have anyone to blame.   Of course, Bill would be using the time to visit with old friends.  He didn’t tell me to stay at the table because my shoe broke.  I made that decision myself.  And who exactly could I blame for my broken shoe.  I chose them out of my large collection of shoes and I have no idea when or where I’d bought them.  It was no one’s fault but mine that I was the only woman in the room with slicked back hair.  My nieces had tried to get me to have my hair puffed up professionally.  I couldn’t blame anyone else for the fact that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  Who besides me decides to diet on a vacation to a wedding?  I couldn’t even blame anyone for the fact that they were all talking to each other in another language.  I’ve been married to Bill for over 20 years.  I’d had plenty of time to learn a little Arabic if I’d wanted to to.

Even without basic language skills I began to realize this wait was a little longer than the usual Egyptian wedding reception.  The blame for the delay was generously passed around.  Some said it was because the wedding was on a holiday and there wasn’t enough staff to take care of everything.  Some blamed the caterer, who was, by the way, out of town directing the whole thing via phone.  Some blamed the couple themselves for not coming down to join their guests and rumors of wild partying in the bridal suite spread out among the tables.  Some blamed the groom and his family.  Others blamed the bride and her family.  We didn’t have anything to eat or drink, but there was plenty of blame to share.

It Gets Better, But Not For Me

Beautiful Family – Bill’s sister and our grandniece

Because of the extreme wait, some changes to tradition were made.  Someone finally delivered a plate of mezza to the table. I wanted to grab it and find a corner to devour it in, but I played it cool. I had a couple of olives and a few bites of something else. Later I regretted my restraint. Everyone must have been as hungry as me, because every crumb disappeared almost immediately.

They also loosened up the liquor, but when the drinks finally did arrive, it was just scotch.  On the night before the wedding the bride juggled guests while the groom juggled scotch.  There was not going to be a bar or champagne. Mind you, they drink very good scotch, but that’s all they drink.  Bottles of the popular beverage enhancer were placed on the table in generous proportions, but I don’t drink scotch – at all. The room got friendlier and the blame for the delay got gentler.

I had to make do with Coke Zero.  It took so much effort to get a can of it, I dared not do more than sip, because I might never see another. I soon felt very much like the designated driver, only it didn’t come with any of the satisfaction serving that the role usually provides. I was just the only person in the room over four feet tall who was not drinking – and I was starving.

I learned from the four foot tall crowd that there was a sweets station.  It was cute, with cupcakes and candy, but no true cure for hunger.  Out of desperation I sampled some of the choices, but too much sugar when I’m hungry only gives me a headache and I hate wasting calories.  So I continued to suffer in silence.

Will the bride and groom ever show up?  Come back next week and find out!

 

2 Comments

Filed under DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

A Reception on Egyptian Time

Wedding Centerpiece

TRAVEL THERE: AND THEN WE WAITED

If the wedding was a departure from my norm, the reception was a rocketship to Mars.  I’ll try to explain it, but I doubt I can do it justice.

The Very Long Interlude

The bus ride from the church to the hotel only took moments.  We’d hung out on the church portico for a long time and I was glad to be starting the next phase of the celebrations, but I immediately ran into trouble – or perhaps I should say I tripped into it.  As if my lack of tendrils wasn’t enough of a humiliation, while I was going down the stairs to the ballroom, the sole of my strappy high-heeled sandal decided to part ways with the rest of the shoe.

Halted in my progress, I expressed my desire to change into another pair of shoes, but was dissuaded from it by one of my nephews.  He explained I didn’t want to miss the entry of the bride and groom.  Apparently he thought their arrival was imminent, but as I would learn before the evening was over, he was very wrong.  I was given the assurance that almost immediately the dance floor would fill with women who would also be barefoot.  That seemed reasonable, so I took off the shoes and carried them with me into the Pearl Ballroom.

Wedding Buffet

Let me just say the decor was amazing and beautiful.  In the first few moments I was awestruck and had a hard time processing it all.  Little did I know just how much time I would have to consider every single detail of the room.  And I might mention that I was starving.  I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  I was saving calories for the huge buffet I heard would be coming.  However, right that minute I was so hungry I was wondering if my broken shoes might make a good meal.  They certainly weren’t serving any other purpose.

Perhaps you’re concerned about me being so hungry in a situation where adult beverages would be served.  Well, let me remind you.  there was to be no bar.  There was no champagne.  There was no signature cocktail.  Scotch is the wedding beverage of choice and for at least the first hour of the wait, there was nothing – because everything is supposed to happen at an Egyptian reception after the bride and groom enter.  Our bride and groom had disappeared and they stayed disappeared for a long time.  And they didn’t even have the excuse of picture taking to cover their absence, because back at the church, folks were by now setting up for yet another wedding after the wedding that followed our wedding.

American wedding traditions scored one on the Egyptians at this point.  Some couples handle it as Bill and I did.  We got our pictures ahead of time.  Bill and I beat everyone to the reception and greeted them as they came in – ushering them into the buffet.  Other couples, wanting post wedding pictures and the big entrance, have a cocktail hour complete with waiters wandering around with trays of treats.  I remember long awkward waits in the past, but between the cocktail hour and folks who get the photos out of the way early, we’ve sort of solved that problem.

The first hour of the wait passed pretty quickly.  Just taking in the set-up of the ballroom was an entertainment.  There were long dining tables and high cocktail tables; a glamorous lounge set up for the bride and groom; and a huge stage filled one end of the ballroom.  When that fascination wore out there were all those Egyptians in their wedding finery to watch.  Just as at an American wedding, there were kids entertaining themselves all around the room.  I was hungry and thirsty, my husband abandoned me in my shoe-less state to greet old friends, but I figured the wait would be over soon.  Come back next week and see how that went.

Leave a comment

Filed under DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL