An African American And Egyptian Union: On Our 2018 Wedding In Egypt
Editor's note: Last year, African American Muhammad Bey shared his experience of visiting Egypt for the first time and traveling the country with his then fiancé, Noora. Earlier this year, Muhammad returned to Egypt for their wedding. In this piece, he reflects on his marriage preparations, ceremony, and what his return visit taught him about Egyptian life.
IN 2016, I traveled to Egypt to be with my fiancé, Nariman Abol Oyoun. We spent a fabulous week together traveling across Egypt to visit temples, museums, and archaeological sites.
I'd also gone to Egypt to cement our relationship. And, it was on that trip that we confessed our love for each other and sealed our engagement with wedding rings. Men and women see marriage very differently. For some people, marriage is the union of two hearts. For me, it was that and the union of two worlds: the old in Egypt and the new in America, a bridge I hope to cross in the future, never to return.
Returning to the HomeLand
The next stage of our journey began in February 2018. I again traveled to Egypt. However, this trip was for the sole purpose of Noora and I tying the knot. Months earlier, I began to collect all the paperwork needed to marry in Egypt. We were prepared to have to jump through many logistical and bureaucratic hoops. However, Amen Ra was smiling upon our union and smoothed the way for us in ways I hadn't suspected.
Once all our marriage documents needed from America were ready, I sent them to my fiancé. Through her careful planning, she managed to get everything processed in less than a week, something which typically took months.
Our wedding ceremony was held in the Cairo office of a high ranking Egyptian judge. We chose this route, as it is the legal procedure for an Egyptian national and their spouse.
Noora's uncle and brother attended the wedding to act as witnesses as is the custom in Islam. The individuals tasked with processing our paper work were friendly and professional. And the judge who married us in his office was approachable, welcoming, and generous of heart.
Our wedding was not what many in the West would think of as a "typical" wedding. Still, our union, based on love and mutual respect, was a far cry from the Western tendency for big, expensive, and lavish weddings.
It was more than simply a license to sleep together. It was a marriage of cultures and ideas—the African and the African American coming together, complimenting each other strengths, supplementing each other’s weaknesses, serving the needs of the other, and creating new connections across oceans. Our marriage is a powerful symbol of the potential of the entire African diaspora!
honeymooning Around Egypt
After we were officially married, we had all of Egypt laying before us to explore. On our honeymoon, we would run into several adventures, delicious foods, and good friends. We climbed mountains, traveled to the deserts of Western Egypt, visited temples and museums, and of course, journeyed on the Nile itself.
We were particularly fascinated by the pyramids of Giza and spent three days exploring the Giza Plateau. These pyramids can be seen from almost anywhere in Cairo. From the bastions of Saladin's Citadel the pyramids loom out of the distance like the guardians of Egypt! For several beautiful weeks we enjoyed long hot days, cool breezy nights, and venues worthy of the best travel magazines.
Still, Egypt is a nation of contrasts—the streets were patrolled by police with automatic weapons. Yet, I felt safer than I did in the streets of my own American neighborhood. However, Egypt is also no utopia. I ran in to my share of brazen men, hawkers, and cheats looking to swindle what appeared to be a rich American with a fat wallet!
Any offenses were overshadowed by the overall treatment I received. While I only knew a handful of people in the country, no matter where we went, I was warmly welcomed. I do not mean that people were nice to me just because I was a tourist. They were simply genuinely good people and it shone through their conduct. Small acts of kindness that will be hard to forget! I cannot say it enough, I felt a peace and sense of belonging that I just do not get in the great melting pot of America.
REFLECTIONS on life in egypt
By Western standards, Egypt is a third world country. Yet despite certain shortcomings, I very much felt Egyptian life was better than American. It's also a nation of great potential and wealth. And while the 2011 Arab Spring may have initially seemed to be a positive change, it ultimately did considerable damage as the population is directly dependent on tourism pounds for their hummas and falafal. While there, I was told that many Egyptians believed life was at least economically better before the Arab Spring. For now, the country is trying to get back to where it was in 2011.
Fortunately, Egypt is being led by a man of vision, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. While there, I could see public works, new roads, new housing communities, and entire new cities under development. There are parts of Egypt which look as modern as anything in Europe or America.
Now that Noora and I are married, I hope to be able to live in Egypt on a full or part-time basis. Even a reduced period of time would be a welcome respite from the stresses of life in America.
Through photos and videos, I have documented my latest trip to Egypt. This was for my wife and I's memories—but also for film and video projects which I am working on that promote trade and business in Africa. My upcoming film is titled, "The Exodus Film Project", and it will show how an African American can move to an African country, as throughout my own experiences and travels I have learned much about what the process entails. And, I would like to encourage other African Americans to take the leap.
And through my relationship with Noora, I have particularly learned a lot about the day-to-day life of the Egyptian people. While the country is fantastic, I realized Egypt has very serious security concerns to be mindful of and that they should not be disregarded. Overall, my experiences in Egypt left me better prepared for my next visit and more respectful of the realities on the ground.
Noora and I are looking forward to spending our lives together!
If you'd like to support Muhammad's Exodus Film Project, watch this video to find out how!