Friday, August 11, 2006

Courting couples- the marriage contract!

After receiving some questions about this after my blog entry on weddings I thought I'd pass on the info we were given in our Arabic lesson last week about the way things are done here (a cultural aside during the language lesson- much more fun than verbs!). I've already written all about the party night, this is what leads up to it….

عazib / Aanisa- the word for a single man or woman ( putting the men first- since that’s what happens here!). Used as a way of describing someone, but also a form of address just like using 'miss' for a girl. At this point you may well have a girlfriend or boyfriend, but they have no such word for this type of relationship- they just call them sahib for a male friend and sahabiti for a female friend. Usually at this point the families don’t know anything about it!

Khatib / Makhtuba- By this point the family know, and you are officially engaged (it translates- it is written- and for the female- it is written for you!!!!). A friend of mine (non Egyptian) was recently attending a wedding with her 'boyfriend' and Egyptian, and his family introduced her to the rest of the table as his fiancé! This freaked her out somewhat- since they had only known each other a matter of weeks and that wasn't on the cards at all but it was explained that here, it is better to have been 'engaged' many times rather than admit to having a 'boyfriend/girlfriend'!

Shabik / Masbuka- In western culture this stage would be the same as the giving of the engagement ring (especially when you think of all the 'social' etiquette of that and that’s its supposed to be a percentage your income etc) Except that in most Arab cultures it involves quantities of gold rather than just one ring. It’s the dowry paid, or the daughter paid for in a way. Sometimes the gold is known as 'Dibla'- although that can be the name given to the engagement ring too. In Morocco this name (Dibla/ Debleej) applies to the 7 gold bracelets traditionally given. The gold can be seen as an insurance policy for the girl. If the guy does something stupid, e.g. go off with someone else, the girl has the right to keep all the gold she's been given. If, however it is she who breaks it off with him, then she has to return the dibla. After marriage, the gold is the woman's own property for the rest of her life and the man has no claim on it at all- again an insurance policy in case he leaves or dies.

Katib Kitabuh / Maktib Kitabha- This literally means written. The register is signed. And again- it is the man who does the signing and the woman is signed for. Up to very recently she did not even have to be present at this stage and her father or other relative could sign her away to someone she potentially had never seen. Because of the problems this could cause, they have changed the law here (very recently!) so now the woman must be present and sign too, with 2 witnesses. This part can be done at the registrar's office or in your own home. If it is an Egyptian marrying a foreigner it must be done at the government office so that a legal document can be signed which means both are agreeing to the marriage terms in the other persons home country as well as by Egyptian law (e.g. to allow women to initiate divorce etc). At this point you are legally married in the eyes of the government and the religious authorities.

Mitgowwiz / Mitgowwiza- Married- i.e. by this point you have actually spent at least one night in the same bed.

And parting comes in one of 2 ways-

Mitallaq / Mittalla'qa- divorced. I didn't before realise that one of the few reasons a woman can ask for a divorce in Islam is if her husband has not had intercourse with her in 6 months (same obviously applies the other way round). Also Coptic Christians cannot divorce at all.

'Armal / 'Armala- widowed.

Oh- and then there's the 'Gowez Orfee'- which is a legal contract written between 2 people, which doesn’t have to involve the government or the families which states you are married. It is easier to get, but much frowned upon by majority of people. However, it's as binding as a real marriage unless the lawyer is corruptible or the contracts get 'lost'.

Well I thought it was all very interesting- hope you did too- anything I've missed out?

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