Having attended lots of Egyptian weddings, I have to say that they are in a class of their own. Weddings in Egypt are either grand affairs at a 5* star hotel where as much money as possible has been spent - and everybody knows it. For most of the population, however, a wedding is a simple gathering of family & friends - these can take place in the humblest of alley-ways, decorated with as many bright lights as possible!
Let's start with the 'baladi' (simple) wedding. Celebrations start after the evening prayer (a'sha) has been called - around 8pm. The music is pumped up loud by a local mobile dj on his pc. Sound quality isn't important - volume is king. Although mostly Arabic songs are played, it's not unusual to get the hear odd bit of Eminem or Shaggy! The women make a trilling sound which competes nicely with the music!
Lots of seat reserving goes on as families arrive and the alley-way quickly fills up. At around 10pm (yes, the guests have been waiting for almost 2 hours!), the sound of tablas (drums) can be heard as the bride & groom arrive. Whilst we've been sitting waiting, they've been off having their photo taken at a local studio with their nearest & dearest (parents, inlaws, siblings).
They take their seats up on stage (usually a wooden platform) and start to receive their congratulations from guests. There is an ever-present cameraman recording the whole evening on video.
After about an hour the music slows down and we're treated to romantic meldies. This indicates that it's time for the 'Shabka' (when the husband presents his new wife with the all the gold he's bought). Before this, the groom's mother or sister walks round all the guests showing them the contents of the 'shabka' so they can make oooooh and aaaahh noises and seem suitably impressed. Then it's up on stage and piece by piece, the bride receives her gold. Even in the poorest of families the gold represents a major investment - often costing tens of thousands of pounds.
No Egyptian wedding would be complete without the dancing - and lots of it! Little girls move like the most professional belly dancers, groups of men form circles around the groom with lots of clapping. The bridge and groom usually manage one dance together though.
After the shabka has been presented, guests are then served a bottle of Coke, Fanta or 7-up with a slice of gateau, after which things start to wind down before everybody starts drifting away at around midnight.