Korean Minjok Leadership Academy

Middle East Research Project

Prof. Alexander Ganse

Kim Hyun Ho

 

 

The Impact of Modernization on Cairo as a City and Society of Cairo with Special Emphasis on its Wedding Industry

 

 

 

<ABSTRACT>

 

 

This special research paper deals with the impact of globalization or modernization on the city of Cairo. First, it analyzes how Cairo transformed externally because of the explosive urban growth over the last two centuries. Then, the internal transformation of Cairo's society will be thoroughly investigated with detailed description of changes in its wedding industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Impact of Modernization on Cairo as a City and Society of Cairo with Special Emphasis on its Wedding Industry

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Introduction

 

II. Body

1. Globalization and its Consequences: homogenization, particularization, and hybridization

  

2. Urban Growth of Cairo: External Transformation

       2.1. Brief introduction

       2.2. The initial attempts at modernization: 1800~1850

       2.3. The emergence of modern Cairo: 1850~1880

       2.4. The colonial period: 1880~1950

       2.5. Development and changes after the revolution: 1950~1965

       2.6. The new wave of urban growth: 1965~1980

       2.7. Cairo until today

       2.8. Duality of Cairo

 

    3. Changes in Cairo's Society: Internal Transformation

       3.1. Impact of modernization on the society of Cairo in general

       3.2. Internal transformation: Changes in Cairo's wedding culture and its wedding industry

                3.2.1. Brief introduction and description of Cairo's wedding culture

               3.3.2. 1st stage: Katb al-kitab (Registration of marriage)

                3.3.3. 2nd stage: Preparations for the Farah

                3.3.4. 3rd stage: The Farah

                3.3.5. Overall analysis

I. Introduction

 

The population of the Cairo metropolitan area has increased from less than six million in 1965 to more than ten million in 1998. Now, population densities within the city are some of the highest in the world and the urban area has doubled to more than 400 square km over the last several decades. Extraordinary rates of population growth are expected to continue, with a predicted population of around fourteen million by 2015. Cairo is indeed a rapidly expanding city, bursting with people trying to crowd into the place.

 

Cairo is the city that possesses indescribable charm and glamor that stem from more than thousand years of history stained with devastation and revenge as well as prosperity and peace. Most part of its history had to accept foreign occupations of various kinds, from the Arab conquest in 639 AD, to the British occupation that lasted until 1922. Now, this formidable and unique city must cope with something very different: the explosive urban growth and expansion. However, this task seems to be somewhat overwhelming for the Egyptian government to handle since Cairo is currently suffering from most of the typical urban disorders found in other contemporary Arab cities that have arisen from a rapid and uncontrolled growth.

 

Before dealing with this external transformation of Cairo, the paper first explains the concept of globalization in three distinct views. This concept of globalization will appear throughout the paper in order to analyze the impact more effectively. Then, the impact of modernization on the society of Cairo will be dealt as the last part of the body. This internal transformation of Cairo covers wide range of aspects such as education, culture, fashion, leisure and others. However, the special emphasis will be placed upon the change in Cairo's wedding tradition and its wedding industry. The motivation behind choosing the wedding industry as an instance to demonstrate the internal change comes from the news that my Egyptian friend, Ahmed is getting married later this year.

 

Having lived in Cairo for approximately six years, I personally have deep affection for the city. The city is bizarrely attractive and fascinating even though the noise pollution along with the garbage all over the streets make it somewhat disillusioning or disappointing to travelers at first. From the deep interest and love for my second home, I could passionately delve into the topic and accomplish the task. This paper's goal is not only to explain the impact of modernization on the city and demonstrate how it has changed over the last few decades, but also most importantly to deliver the captivating charm and unique atmosphere of the city for those who have not been there yet.

 

 

II. Body

 

1. Globalization and its consequences: homogenization, particularization, and hybridization

 

During the 1980s, the concept of globalization was used with increasing frequency throughout various fields in the social sciences. Scholars from different disciplines attempted to define the concept of globalization and to characterize its impacts on a specific society. Giddens and Harvey, who made significant contributions to building a theory of globalization, refer to it as time-space distanciation or time-space compression that conceives of a stretching and deepening process in the social interactions and relations of people. In other words, in the globalized society, distance is no longer a problem for communication between individuals all over the world. As a result, goods, knowledge, images, cultures, fashions, stars, and beliefs from one part of the world may have significant consequences for individuals and communities in other distant parts of the globe. Thus, globalization could be described as a complex network and interconnections that transcend boundaries and nations in the contemporary era. However, globalization has varying impacts on different individuals and groups, according to the degree of exposure to external influences and to the degree of willingness to accept them. This is usually determined by various factors such as class, gender, and religion. In this respect, it could be noted that globalization is not only imposed from the outside, but is also absorbed from the inside.

 

The impacts of globalization on culture could be categorized into three slightly different ideas according to the way the global and the local culture come into contact with each other: homogenization, particularization, and hybridization.  First, homogenization refers to the process of cultural integration within which people accept the prevailing or standardized external culture and assimilate into it. The homogenization of culture is often used interchangeably with cultural imperialism. However, some oppose this view and contend that a mutual influence and exchange are taking place between the core and peripheral nations.

The second approach to understanding the impacts of globalization is particularization. According to this perspective, individuals and groups adhere to their own cultural traditions and resist the trend of globalization. Individuals and groups would keep their culture sealed, intact, and homeogenous, maintaining the steadfast boundaries separating it from others. Anti-globalism, cultural fundamentalism, and cultural nationalism are the terms related to this category.

 

Finally, the third approach to understanding outcomes from the impact of globalization on culture is through the notion of hybridization. Hybridization signifies the intermingling process of the global and the local culture, creating a third novel one. According to this theory, there is no longer anything absolutely foreign, and there exists no longer anything exclusively indigenous or local either.

 

2. Development of Cairo: External transformation

 

   2.1 Brief introduction

Cairo today is facing enormous problems. Congestion, a shortage of housing, an inadequate transportation system, an absence of centralization and strategically-located public service buildings are only few of these multiple problems. However, experts argue that the city's most serious problem is its alienation or the loss of an identity in its planning and architecture. This alienation was allegedly caused by rashly adopting models from the West without revising them to fit their own environment. To more thoroughly understand the status of the contemporary Cairo,  the external transformation of the city over the last two hundred years (1800~2000) will be investigated through six stages.

 

   2.2. The initial attempts at modernization: 1800~1850

As the nineteenth century began, Cairo was a comparatively quiet small-sized city with Bulaq to the north and al-Qadimah to the south. The total population was approximately 267,000 with a Turkish and Mamluk ruling elite occupying about five percent of the population. The first attempts at modernization occurred under the rule of Mohammed Ali Pasha. However, modernization at this stage did not include a cultural change, but only the institutional reform. The administration's organization was revised and the Citadel was renovated to become the center of all government agencies and operations. This is the time when all the houses and streets began to be labelled or numbered. Also, some factories and industrial districts appeared on several parts of the city.

 

An amazing fact is that more than 400,000 construction workers were once employed by the Pasha to labor on various government projects. Some major destructions were undertaken to create space and materials for the Pasha's ambitious new plans. The government also took the responsibility of improving the road system, because almost every street in Cairo was unpaved at that time. Thus, wheeled carriages, a dominant means of transportation during the first half of the nineteenth century, was highly inconvenient.

 

   2.3. The emergence of modern Cairo: 1850~1880

If the initial period was a fledgling stage which showed prospects for future changes, the period between 1850 and 1880 could be described as a kind of a catalyst that sped up the process. The major change was the sudden influx of foreigners pouring into Cairo. The number of foreign residents rose from 10,000 in 1830, to 20,000 in 1850. And after 1850, the influx maintained its level and this stream of Europeans flooded into Cairo to seek employment as well as to take advantage of protection and privileges granted to foreigners by the Ottoman administration. Thus, Cairo was somewhat forced to modernize itself and adopt western features to suit the situation at that time. Old settlements were either torn down or expanded to form new districts.

 

The first of these newly built districts was Ismailiya, which was planned by a French architect. Consequently, European features and architecture that contrasted with the Islamic environment were first introduced in Cairo. These European styles provided wider streets to accommodate various means of transportation. Thanks to wide boulevards constructed during this period, the number of carriages soared dramatically from 90 to over 2000 at the end of the century.

 

As foreigners controlled increasing proportions of the financial and land markets, Cairo witnessed the palaces, luxurious residences, European hotels, banks, a stock exchange, and many other Western style buildings. The Opera House located at the heart of present Cairo was also built in this era. To assist the amplifying European influence, the Khedive administration's lavish spending incurred enormous foreign debt and increased its dependence on the European society.

 

   2.4. The colonial period: 1880~1950

Broadening European influence over the second half of the nineteenth century eventually culminated in the establishment of a British colonial administration in 1882, which would continue until 1922. The 1882 census data tells that out of a total population of 374,000 in Cairo, as many as 21,650 were European nationals.

 

The colonial period saw even larger increase in the number of Europeans, mostly British. As a result, a rapid or almost explosive development of new residential areas took place with huge amounts of foreign capital flowing in to invest in this urban development. Transportation network also improved greatly with the advent of the electric tramways and the building of bridges across the Nile. Foreign enterprises ardently competed to take charge of these construction projects in order to reap great profits. Thanks to these modern and more efficient transportation system and wide paved streets of the modern city, many new areas, especially the ones along the Nile developed and flourished. The map titled "Cairo's historical development" shown in the next page demonstrates how these new areas extended the size of Cairo.

Map: Cairo's Historical Development

 

However, these developments and improvements were inevitably accompanied by the introduction of industrial slums. Nearby, the area called Bulaq in the northern part of Cairo, the spot densities of the slums reached world records, ranging from 3,000 to over 4,000 inhabitants per hectare. Also, Cairenes moved to different parts of the city according to their position and comparative level of income. The stable middle-income population settled in the north-eastern region, whereas the upper-income inhabitants flocked together in the foreign suburb of Heliopolis and other recently created residential areas. This separation of population was foreshadowing a tremendous gap between the rich and the poor that continues today.

 

By 1927, Cairo's population had reached one million, thus creating serious problems related to transportation, public services, and housing. More and more Egyptians moved out of old cities and poured into Cairo in order to take chance of social mobility. However, almost all of these opportunity-seekers eventually settled in slums and had to suffer from increasingly high densities and ever deteriorating housing conditions. The wages of unskilled laborers further decreased due to this influx of rural migrants who came to compete for the same jobs. However, as almost all other developed countries have experienced, this demoralizing and horrible process of urbanization seems to be an inevitable obstacle that each developing nation must overcome eventually. The colonial era was the time when Cairo was introduced to this obstacle. Most of Cairo's current problems seem to have their roots from this era, showing that Cairo's process of urbanization is far from accomplishment.

 

   2.5. Development and changes after the revolution: 1950~1965

After another Coup d'etat in 1954, President Nasser's administration was in power. His policies focused primarily on national economic and social development. However, he seemed to have no clue to the booming population that was doubling from three to six million in less than twenty years.

 

After the July Revolution of 1952, the number of foreigners in Cairo declined dramatically, and since 1961 only a minimal percentage of population were from abroad. Consequently, the modern sections of the city were becoming more Egyptianized, whereas the crowded settlements of rural migrants were still proliferating and deteriorating. As natives replaced departing foreigners, the city that was predominantly European in style was gradually restructured. Subtle characteristics of the traditional Egyptian Islam features began to reappear in various forms. Lower floors of apartment buildings were converted to little shops and offices, and villas were replaced by high-rise apartments and office buildings to accommodate the immense population. And these new buildings were rarely painted, creating a comparatively monotonous and drab atmosphere in the city.

 

More dramatic population movements within the city continued to take place and led to greater disparities between the two parts of the city: the older quarters characterized by poverty and obsolescence, and the new districts with their modern buildings and various novel services for middle- and upper-class. In order to combat these worsening problems, the so-called master plan for Cairo that recommended the creation of peripheral industrial zones to absorb concentrated population and contain the growth of the city was devised by the Nasser government in 1956. Industrial sectors such as Helwan, Shubra, Al-Khima, Imbaba, and Giza were built at this time. These direct government actions helped to divert the population somewhat, but the problems were too deep-rooted and serious to be solved effectively at once. Since public housing production remained small compared to the need, the overcrowding still remained and further deteriorated both infrastructure and the existing housing stock. 

 

   2.6. The new wave of urban growth: 1965~1980

With the adoption of Intifada policy, urban growth and modernization of Cairo reached a new phase.  The newly prosperous middle-class citizens began to invest in urban real estate. Although some were young professionals, the majority of them were craftsmen, service workers, and laborers working in the oil-producing countries. The disorganized activities of these middle-class contractors catering to the housing needs resulted in establishments of informal settlements throughout the city. The urbanized area nearly doubled in size, consuming the surrounding agricultural areas at a ferocious rate. However, the serious problems that the modernization caused continued to frustrate the population and the government.

 

   2.7. Cairo until today with some grave problems

Cairo is currently growing at an annual rate of four percent, an increase of about 1,000 people per day, of which seventy percent is due to natural increase by birth and thirty percent to migration. At this rate, the population is projected to reach sixteen to eighteen million in about five years.

 

Because of this unceasing population growth, the expansion of Cairo is still taking place. As people who have acquired some wealth are gradually moving from the overcrowded areas to the suburbs, newly arrived rural migrants are rapidly filling up these empty spaces. At the same time, the numerous informal settlements are still proliferating on the edges of the city.

 

Although the modernization or urbanization has induced many positive effects, its negative impact is very intense, too. The modernization process has seriously exacerbated the city's infrastructure. The city's water supply, sewage system, waste and garbage disposal, and transportation systems are completely inadequate and outdated to meet Cairo's current immense needs. For instance, the solid waste collection is one of the major problems. Street cleaning is generally carried out by the municipal government, but the removal of household and business waste is the job of private workers who collect waste in return for the profits from recycling it. However, this system cannot handle the current volume of trash in this large city and the service tends to ignore many low-income neighborhoods or slums.

 

Transportation and communications are also notorious problems in this great city. Age, inadequate maintenance, and lack of government's efforts have affected the quality and efficiency of the transport system. Traffic congestion is severe, compounded by narrow roads in the city and a serious disregard of traffic regulations by vehicles and pedestrians alike. Here is a helpful excerpt from Amin Galal's book describing the traffic jam in detail:

"The traffic congestion is an extremely serious problem in Cairo, but it is also something that nobody dares to talk about because we all believe  that there is no solution to it. Thousands of cars are parked everywhere, or proceeding at the pace of a turtle through narrow streets, moving forward for a few moments and then stopping again. Since owning a car has become a status symbol among Egyptians, public transport has become associated more and more with the         lower classes. Thus, even though there is no more space for a car in Cairo, foreign car companies are selling more cars than ever before."

 

However, other than these problems, some experts view the alienation as the most serious problem entailed by modernization. This is not only a dilemma for Egypt but also for many other Arab countries. Today's modern Arab cities have readily adopted an alien style in their planning and architecture rather than accommodating or reacting naturally to their own environment. They contend that this ignorance and disrespect of cultural heritage are the fundamental reasons causing all other problems that are overwhelming Cairo right now.

 

   2.8. Duality of Cairo

Cairo is actually not one city, but more accurately two cities within one uncontrollably jumbled frame. The modernization has introduced this duality between the acquired and the inherited, which still exists today. This conflict between the two trends does not only apply to the structure of the city, but is still going on at all levels in different forms. As you walk among the streets of Cairo, you would easily notice its architecture and urbanism as an embodiment and sign of the struggle between the acquired which originated from the West and the inherited which is Islamic in origin.

 

The apartment building in which I lived for the last two years in Cairo could be introduced as a good example. Living on the fifth floor, I could hear the loud music and recitations of Muslim prayers everyday in my room. This was because the first floor of the building was connected with a mosque situated on the left side. Every Friday, almost all my neighbors would gather at the first floor of the building, lay their carpets, and pray listening to the recitations coming out of a loudspeaker. And right in front of the building was a theatre which showed American movies. Thus, after the prayers, Egyptian teenagers who have come to the mosque with their parents would line up at the theatre to watch their favorite American movie stars. This coexistence of acquired and inherited is seen commonly throughout the city.

 

3. Changes in Cairo's Society: Internal Transformation

 

   3.1 Impact of modernization on the society of Cairo in general

Experts tend to attribute the abrupt and somewhat disturbing social, political, economic, and cultural change to the open door policy (Intifah) initiated under President Sadat in the mid-1970s, and to the large-scale migration of Egyptian laborers to the Arab states of the Gulf region that began around the same time. However, in my opinion, the July Revolution of 1952 was the real factor that sparked of the modernization of Cairo. A coup conducted by an army led by General Muhammad Naguib, was met with tremendous relief by Egyptian crowds who were exhausted and fed up with corrupted Farouk era. This revolution was significant because after this incident, social mobility was facilitated. The only condition needed for assuring upward mobility was money or power. And this social mobility unleashed by the July Revolution of 1952 seems to be the occasion that began the ensuing fundamental changes in behavior and attitudes. The Cairenes' customs and habits, moral and material values, and patterns of consumption, and practically every aspect of their lives were since influenced by the modernization.

 

Modernization's most significant impact could be that it put Cairenes under a massive Western influence. Even though the Egyptians, like most other Arabs, have comparatively ill or hostile feelings towards United States and the Western society, they are indeed greatly influenced by western culture and ways of thinking. However, it is important to note that this phenomenon only applies to the middle- and upper-class Cairenes as a result of another change that the modernization entailed: an uncontrollably wide gap between the wealthy and the poor. Practically all of the Cairo's leisure and market activities tend to aim only at the middle-class and neglect the poor. Consequently, the internal changes of Cairo dealt in this paper would consider mostly the  middle- and upper-class Cairenes.

 

Because of heavy Western influence which was enhanced by modernization, Cairenes have come to adopt many western ways of thinking. The primary factor behind this phenomenon might be numerous foreign schools in Cairo. Because of the failure of the government to establish a trustworthy educational system, significant proportion of the middle- and upper-class parents choose to put their children into foreign or international schools. Seeing these elite Egyptian adolescents have conversations not only in Arabic but also other foreign languages is a common phenomenon in Cairo since they would attend classes spoken in English, French, or German. These children who have been inculcated with western education would grow up to go to universities abroad and become elites to possibly assimilate the country to the western ideas.

 

To demonstrate an instance how the modernization has affected the attitudes and the material values of Cairenes, private cars would proviced an easy and prominent evidence. The father of my friend, Ahmed, told me about this change. In 1940s and 1950s, the bus was a comparatively convenient and cheap means of transport for most Cairenes. Until the mid-1960s, the idea of owning a private car never occurred to him. However, after coming back to Cairo to teach at the American University in Cairo, he told me that he sensed that a significant change had taken place. He said that he was shocked at how the gatekeeper who always ignored him  behaved with respect and awe at the professor who drove a Mercedes into the parking lot. This utterly differing attitude was something that he had not witnessed before he went abroad to study about ten years earlier. "During the early 1960s and 1970s, the private car went from being simply a means of transportation to being a status symbol," he told me. When I lived in Cairo, I remember my colleagues bragging about the quality of the cars their parents owned. The inability to purchase one's own car was regarded as a sign of failure. This abrupt change in attitude is one primary instance that clearly shows the impact of modernization on the Cairo's society.

 

In the next part, I will continue to explain the internal transformation cause by modernization by extensively and thoroughly demonstrating the change in Cairo's wedding culture. With the help from Egyptian friends, especially Ahmed El abd who is getting married soon, I was able to place a special emphasis on this section by including very detailed descriptions of Cairo's current wedding culture. Seeing how three stages of Cairo's wedding transformed since Intifah will be very helpful in sensing the internal change of Cairo's society more accurately.

 

   3.2 Internal transformation: Changes in Cairo's wedding culture and its wedding industry

       

       3.2.1 Brief introduction and description of Cairo's wedding culture

Most weddings in the Muslim society consist of two parts: the katb al-kitab, the ceremony at which the marriage is registered to the government; the farah, the actual wedding reception, after which the couple is considered formally married. In general, the katb al-kitab takes place in the mosque or at the home of the bride's parents. The ceremony is held either on the same day as the farah, or several months beforehand. As for the farah, unlike the past when it was usually held in the bride's residence, the middle- and upper-class in Cairo chooses to hold the celebration in extremely luxurious venues like ballrooms in five-star hotels since infitah policy carried out bye the Sadat regime in the 1970s.

 

As we can witness from the Egyptian films and television programs, weddings in Cairo seem to resemble typical weddings that can be seen around the world: there is a procession and the giving of a vow which are followed by singing and dancing. The outfits of the bride and groom are also very similar to those of marrying couples elsewhere in other countries. For example, the bride is dressed in a white lacy wedding dress with a veil covering her face. She carries a bouquet of flowers, while the groom wears a formal dark-coloured suit. During the procession, the father of the bride typically hands his daughter over to the groom. The couple walks to the reception hall escorted by young bridesmaids who are carrying candles. The ceremony of cutting the wedding cake is usually followed by the ritual in which the bride throws her bouquet to her unmarried friends.

 

These typical western style weddings began to gain popularity during the earlier processes of modernization and westernization since several decades ago. The influence of easy Internet access and of foreign films and magazines, as well as other globalized communicative mechanisms obviously have had a significant impact on Cairo's expanding wedding customs and industry. As young couples learn about prevailing styles of wedding ceremonies around the world, some argue that the growth of the wedding industry in Cairo has transformed the wedding ceremony from a ritual of celebration to a commodity that can be purchased. Some further argue that the power to control the wedding has shifted from the families of the bride and groom to wedding managers, video-camera operators, and photographers.

 

In order to properly and thoroughly investigate the changing patterns of wedding in Cairo due to modernization, I have categorized the marriage patterns into those of two generations: those of the parents who were married before infitah, Egypt's Open Door policy under which more westernized and globalized thinking started to flourish in the 1970s; those of their children who are currently of marriageable age or recently married. Also, I have divided the typical Egyptian wedding ceremony into Katb al-Kitab (registration of marriage), preparation of the Farah, and the Farah.

 

       3.1.2 Katb al-kitab (Registration of marriage)

In the past, katb al-kitab, the formal and official registration of marriage, took place in the home of the bride's parents and was mediated by a maudhun. It is also called 'aqd al-nikah (knotting of the marriage) in the sense that the registration procedure binds the two families together. Once the contract is signed in this ritual, the couple are announced as being legally husband and wife. However, they do not live together until they have had the farah. Today, the katb al-kitab is typically held in the mosque or clubs rather than in the home of the bride's parents.  Otherwise, the current katb al-kitab remains more or less the same as the one carried out almost two centuries ago.

 

However, there is one significant difference. There are two ways of performing the katb al-kitab ceremony. In the more traditional type, men and women are segregated during the ceremony. In the other modern or contemporary type of katb al-kitab, the sexes are mixed. Among the segregated and mixed katb al-kitab, I will briefly introduce how the latter is carried out. At a mosque in Nasser City of Cairo, men and women interact freely. Before the ceremony takes place, people exchange greetings with each other. The ceremony soon begins when the representatives of the two families taking part in the signing of the marriage contract have taken their seats at a long table. There are the two witnesses from each family, the groom, the madhun, the bride's father, and the bride. Each takes turn to sign the marriage contract. Once the signing is finished, the sheikh addresses the guests, stressing the holiness of the marriage. As soon as the sheikh finishes his speech, the bride's father and the groom make an oath, with their hands clasped and their thumbs pressed together. The father and the groom repeats after the sheikh one of the important forms of marriage, the ijab (offer: I marry you to my daughter) and the qbul (acceptance: I have agreed to marry her). This exchange of vows is followed by the sheikh's recitation of verses from the Qur'an, which are repeated again by the bride's father and the groom, and then by the guests. Then, happy feast begins with guests enjoying various foods. And the bride and the groom take photos to commemorate the day.

 

The couple chooses either the segregated or mixed style of the katb al-kitab according to the families' preferences. It is also noteworthy that, on the day of the katb al-kitab, the presence of the bride's father is especially important, because of the legal and religious terms on which he signs the marriage contract as a wali (a guardian), and also because his presence honours the bride and the family.

 

        3.1.3. Preparations for the Farah

1. Gender-specific notion

As soon as the couple has completed katb al-kitab, the couple and the families must prepare for the farah (the wedding reception). It is after the farah celebration, that the couple is expected to consummate their marriage and de facto become husband and wife. In this section, the process of preparing for the Farah is elaborated with aspects that changed over time.

 

The expenses associated with the farah vary according to the quality of venue, the food, and the entertainers such as a disc jockey, a belly dancer, a singer, a comedian, ballet groups, a zaffah group(musicians who play for the wedding procession), and bands. Occasionally, the organization of the party generates heated debates between the families of the bride and groom, since these issues are related to the pride and reputation of the family. Two families may disagree over the way the party is organised, how much the family spends on the farah, especially in terms of the types of entertainment for the guests, the food, and where to hold the farah.

 

It is interesting to note that a gender-specific notion is observed during the preparation of the farah concerning the degree to which each family is involved in the preparation. While the bride and the bride's family are more concerned with the careful planning of the farah and actively participate in the preparations, the groom and his family are less active in the process. This difference may have resulted from the idea that the wedding day itself is traditionally referred as the day more inportant for the bride. Also, men seem to be less interested in spending the wedding budget on a big wedding reception. Instead, they prefer to spend in a more practical way such as having a honeymoon abroad.

 

2. Wedding Planners

Customarily, mothers, along with the bride's sisters and female friends who had experience of marriage, helped to plan the farah. Today, however, young men and women discuss their wedding plans with the professional wedding planners employed by hotels and clubs. Exclusive hotels offer a range of services to couples who are getting married. These services include a buffet that can be tailored to different budgets. Apart from catering, hotels also provide various kinds of entertainment services, including a zaffah group, oriental dancers, comedians, a photographer, and a DJ, as well as special equipment for the wedding party such as laser beams and smoke machines to create special effects during the wedding reception. Some hotels supply free gifts to the bride and the groom, including several nights in a luxury suite in the hotel, a khosha (a wreath or flower-decked chair for the groom and the bride), sharbat (a syrupy drink traditionally served at weddings), and floral decorations in the hotel corridors.

 

Magazines are also useful sources of consultation for a couple planning a memorable wedding. As well as internationally-circulating magazines, nowadays there are English versions of local magazines that sometimes include special features on planning special weddings and honeymoons for a couple. Invariably, many of these emphasize how a couple can organize a glamorous reception. The articles include the addresses and telephone numbers of wedding planners, flower shops, dressmakers, invitation card producers, make-up artists, hairstylists, travel agencies, wedding photographers, and entertainers, as well as ideal step guidelines to help young people to create the wedding of their dream.

 

Like magazines, wedding websites also provide useful step-by-step guides to help young couples in Cairo to plan the farah. For instance, it is suggested that the couple begin preparations for the wedding at least six and up to 18 months in advance of the wedding. The couple is advised to do shopping for the wedding rings, hosting the engagement party by the bride's family, identifying the possible wedding date, drawing up the preliminary guest list, and formulating a preliminary budget during that time. After the date is established, they are advised to book a venue for the reception, hire the photographer and entertainers for the ceremony, arrange the outfits for the wedding and so on.

 

Since weddings have become more commercialized as a result of the emergence of the wedding industry, it is also significant to mention that the traditional role of the mother in planning for the wedding appears to have diminished. It can also be seen that weddings have become events that accentuate class differences, since they cleary demonstrate a family's status as well as the identity of individuals. Thus the growth of the wedding industry is fuelled almost entirely by the desire of middle- and upper-class Egyptians preparing for extravagant wedding receptions. The innumerable models provided by cinema and television have also enabled the Egyptian middle- and upper-class to organize weddings in emulation of those who are perceived as better than they are. Generally speaking, therefore, it is evident that, as a result of seeking advice from wedding planners, the Internet, and magazines, there is a strong shift towards a preference for weddings that are global in their style and rituals.

 

3. Wedding entertainment: zaffah, belly dancers, and DJs

Traditionally, Egyptian weddings were very festive, with entertainers (dancers, singers, and musicians) amusing the guests as well as the families who hosted the occasion for several nights. These days, entertainment at weddings has become commercialized with the emergence of the wedding industry in Cairo, and with the expectations and wishes of the expanding middle- and upper-class who want to meet their westernized and globalized tastes. In modern Cairo, for example, wealthy families hire expensive entertainers for the farah to entertain and impress the guests with their wealth . Types of entertainers include bands, belly dancers, DJs, zaffah groups, and comedians. The zaffah groups are the ones who play music and sing songs for the wedding procession.

 

Various processions normally take place before the wedding night. These included the zaffah al-hammam (the bride's procession to the bath), the zaffah al-gihaz (procession of the furniture), the zaffah al-arusa (the bridal procession), and the zaffah sadaate (the gentlemen's procession). Generally, the zaffah al-arusa is deemed the most important. This procession involves the physical transfer of the bride to her new residence and an escort of dancers and musicians through the public streets from her parent's home to the home of the groom, where the marriage was consummated.

 

The role of the zaffah was to proclaim publicly the legal union of the couple and the approval of the families for the marriage by sing loud songs, playing various musical instruments, and dancing. However, under the modernization, the traditional ways of zaffah lost popularity among the upper- and middle-class Egyptians, who considered them to be vulgar and outdated. Instead, a more modern style of zaffah was born at the beginning of the 1980s and quickly became an indispensable part of the receptions. Just as the location of the wedding reception moved from individual houses to exclusive hotels, the zaffah procession also underwent changes. Unlike the separate processions performed for the bride and the groom in the past, today's zaffah commonly proceeds with the bride and the groom together, from the lobby into the ballroom in the hotels in which the farah takes place. Also, the current modern style of zaffah troupes is distinguished by western musical instruments as well as by western lyrics incorporated into existing zaffah songs.

 

Most zaffah groups consist of six to eight members, who exclusively male. Each zaffah group has different wedding songs, though all the main themes are similar. First, they begin their song by welcoming everyone. Then, they introduce themselves to the guests, praise the bride's beauty, pay respects to the bride's parents, and praise the groom for his goodness and reliability. After a short break, they would continue their singing to ask the couple to respect their respective parents-in-laws and the parents-in-laws to respect the couple. Their performance is finally concluded by offering good wishes to the bride and the groom.

 

The tradition of belly dancers at festivals can be traced back to the 18th century in Egypt. Egyptians generally chose to bring entertainers, particularly dancers, to the festivals in order to amuse the spectators. At the same time, however, entertainers were regarded with contempt and disfavor. The religious authorities and the Islamic scholars resented this practice, because the dance created an infidel image. During Sadat's infitah policy in the 1970s, there were many changes to belly dancing. The opening to the West, the rise of a new class of wealthy entrepreneurs, and growing prosperity produced flourishing factors and atmospheres for entertainers. In particular, performances by Egyptian belly dancers at hotel weddings became a widespread phenomenon from the 1970s. Today, Egyptian belly dancers along with an influx of foreign belly dancers, especially from Russia and Greece, have become a familiar sight at any Egyptian weddings.

 

The influx of foreign belly dancers has introduced innovative costumes, instruments, and dance movements that have been incorporated into traditional belly dancing. However, employing a belly dancer at a wedding was, and still is considered particularly sensitive among those who are religious. And for some people, belly dancers are viewed with great apprehension. The image of the pure and virgin bride in the sacred atmosphere of the wedding conflicts with the image of the belly dancer who is perceived as polluting the pure wedding. This is mainly because the sexual identity of the belly dancers symbolizes a lack of honour and respect, and they are even seen to be sexually dangerous.

 

       3.1.4 The Farah

Not only the preparation process, but the way that the farah is celebrated is also transforming with time. The biggest change that the location of the wedding reception has transferred from the bride's house to five star hotels, villas, clubs, riverboats, or European-style outdoor gardens. A wedding planner, called Ummu Sarah, offers several explanations for this transformation. He argues that the location of the wedding has changed for entirely practical reasons, including the lack of space in a house so as to save time and effort and the lack of help in preparing for the wedding since so many women participate in the labor force. An additional reason for shifting the wedding from the house to an outside venue is because people nowadays regard the size of the ceremony as significant. He summed up that this transformation might have originated from the competitive, imitative, and emulative nature of consumerism. Also Hatim, one of my Egyptian friends living in Dubai, has given me his explanation on this change:

"In the past, the farah was very simple. But nowadays, people want to show off and compete with their neighbours and relatives. Television has also influenced people to make the farah as luxurious as possible. For example, there is one programme on Channel Four that shows people how to organize  farah. It actually persuades people indirectly to follow the way that they are  showing.

 

To give you a more picture of how the Farah actually changed, I will describe one of the wedding receptions that I visited Cairo last year. When I arrived at the Nile Hilton hotel, the bride and groom had dressed for the wedding party and they were driven to the wedding reception hall in a car decorated with a bunch of flowers, accompanied by friends and family members in other cars. On the way to the wedding hall, they blew their car horns loudly and rhythmically to announce the wedding to others. On their arrival, the music of zaffah at the reception hall announced that the wedding celebrations had begun. A video cameras were everywhere to capture all the scenes. As the zaffah played music, the bride, who was holding her father's arm, slowly descended the stairs towards the groom who was waiting for her. As the bride and her father approached the groom, the groom took her from her father. The zaffah group then escorted the couple to the entrance of the ballroom. When the couple appeared in the doorway, a DJ started to play music that included the reciting of the ninety-nine names of Allah. Once the recitation that was slightly boring to me was finished, western music filled the hall. The bride and the groom then walked behind the little bridesmaids toward the khosha (a flower-decked chair) with their arms entwined, while the women continued to trill.

 

When the couple reached the khosha, the waiters brought a yellow-coloured drink called sharbat to the bride and groom, which I found out was the traditional drink to be served at a wedding. Later, the couple moved onto the dance floor, where they danced in front of the guests to popular songs, such as those by one of the most popular Egyptian singer, Amr Diab. When the couple had finished the first round of dancing, male and female guests soon came down to join them on the dance floor. Encircling the couple, the guests sang and danced. After about two hours when all of the guest were feeling tired, an invited singer started to sing to the background music of a band. Then, it was the turn of a belly dancer. Male guests on the whole seemed to be amused by the seductive movements of the dancer, but it was funny how the groom rarely looked at the dancer lest he should make his bride jealous on their wedding night.

 

When all the entertainers had finished their performances, a huge wedding entered slowly toward the groom and the bride, engulfed with smoke and highlighted by laser beams to give special effects to the cake-cutting ceremony. It was a spectacular scene. The cake-cutting ritual was followed by the opening of the buffet bar. It was around 1:00 a.m. Another round of dancing followed the dinner, and the farah ended around at two or three o' clock in the morning.

 

Other wedding receptions held in hotels generally follow this order. A package wedding at a hotel means that professional wedding planners take control of organizing the wedding reception from start to finish. By purchasing a wedding reception package, the couple and the guests will be fitted into the pre-designed programme and will be controlled by the instructions of the technical staff, including a wedding director, a DJ, and a cameraman. Through this, both customers and providers follow the steps of a procedure that has been designed or determined and standardized in order to produce the best and most memorable wedding, even though it serves as the same style of wedding for all other the newly-married couples in Egypt. This change is not only the effect of the commercialization of the wedding industry, but also the globalization.

 

The style of a wedding seems to have its own fashion trends over time. Sometimes external elements from foreign wedding styles are introduced and localized, thus creating a third new wedding culture. In some cases, traditions are invented or a totally new trend created in order to suit the tastes of today's young couples. For example, as described before, global influences are evident in current weddings held in Cairo, such as the dress of the bride and groom, child bridesmaids who escort the bride and the groom into the hall, the cake-cutting ceremony, and the throwing of a bouquet to unmarried friends. However, the long-standing tradition  like employing entertainers such as musicians, dancers, and singers at the wedding still continues along with these changes. 

 

Apart from the introduction of global elements into the conventional concept of a wedding, the current Egyptian wedding style is significantly articulated with a hybridized wedding ritual that is neither foreign nor indigenous. For example, a recent trend is that foreign, especially western belly dancers and modernized zaffah, equipped with a mixture of western and local musical instruments and lyrics, appear at the wedding ceremony. In addition, a totally new tradition of employing a disc jockey has been invented and has become established into the today's wedding culture. Therefore, the distinction between what is the local and the global seems to be blurred in the contemporary wedding style in Cairo, thus leading to a hybridization of indigenous and foreign wedding cultures. As I described from the section where three different impacts of the globalization were explained, the today's cultures are extremely interconnected and intermingled with one another. Through this hybridization of the wedding, the boundaries between local and global wedding is becoming ambiguous.

 

       3.3.5. Overall analysis

I have explored how today's wedding ceremonies have changed from those of the parents' generation or even as early as 19th century. Marriage in Cairo today follows the traditional steps that include the katb al-kitab and the farah. The style of katb al-kitab, the formal registration with the government of the couple's union through the signing of the marriage contract, remains largely unchanged. The only change that took place overtime is that men and women mix freely in today's katb al-kitab.

 

During the wedding preparation, the bride and her family are much more actively involved in the wedding preparations than are the groom and his family. While brides prefer to spend a relatively large sum of money on the wedding party, grooms prefer to spend money in more practical ways, such as on a honeymoon abroad. Today, professional wedding planners have gradually replaced the role of the bride's mother, planning the farah in all details.

 

Wedding reception in Cairo today seem to be an occasion in which such various dimensions as global/local, modern/traditional, western/Islamic, and foreign/authentic aspects are intertwined along with the mixture of the three categorizations of globalization (homogenization, particularization, and hybridization). The process of homogenization explains how Egyptian style of weddings resemble typical wedding rituals elsewhere. However, weddings in Cairo are distinguished from weddings in other parts of the world in the way the wedding party is celebrated with various professional wedding entertainers, including belly dancers, comedians, and DJs, as well as zaffah groups. Thus, homogenized as well particularized elements of wedding are emerging and expanding today in order to suit the tastes of young couples who are influenced by television programmes, films, magazines, and the Internet. In this context, evolving taste as well as expectation among the middle- and upper-class Cairenes caused by the modernization are resulting in the hybrid form of western and global, as well as indigenous and local styles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

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Smith, Mark. "Globalization." 28 January 2005. The encyclopedia of informal education.

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El Abd, Ahmed. Telephone interview. 14 June 2005.

 

El Tayeb, Hatim. Telephone interview. 15 June 2005.

 

El Sabri, Amir. Telephone interview. 15 June 2005.

 

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Duker, William, World History, 3rd ed. Wadsworth/ Thomson Learning, 2001.

 

Kagan, Donald, The Western Heritage, 7th ed. Prentice Hall, 2001.

 

Lowrey, Tina, Construction of a Meaningful Wedding: Differences in the Priorities of Brides and Grooms, 2nd ed. London: SAGE Publications, 1994.

 

Lane, Edward Williams, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians: Written in Egypt During the Years 1833-1835, 1st ed. The Hague and London: East-West Publications, 1836.

 

Max, Rodenbeck, Cairo: The City Victorious, 1st ed. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1998.

 

Owen, Roger, The History of Middle East Economies in the Twentieth Century, London: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1998.

 

Son, Joo Young, Islam, 1st ed. Seoul: Iljogak Publishers, 2005.

 

*Map: Cairo's Historical Development on Page 8

from The Aga Khan Award for Architecture Seminar "The Expanding Metropolis Coping with the Urban Growth of Cairo" held in Cairo, Egypt.