Vanishing Heritage: How Egypt’s Pricey Traditions Are Fading Away

| How Africa News


Funerals without meals, shortened wedding parties, and gold wedding rings that are even thinner… In Egypt, the economic crisis is upending not only consumer habits but also centuries-old traditions.

Until recently, no one in Qouissna or the other villages of the Nile Delta would have imagined a wedding without a bachelor party the day before.

But today, and as hard as it was because weddings and funerals are one of the main socializing events, “it is almost not done anymore”, says Mohammed Chedid, a 33-year-old engineer.

– Small” ring –

In the most populated Arab country, the 105 million inhabitants, who have long been accustomed to going into debt for special occasions, are no longer able to keep their heads above water: they are crushed by inflation at 33.9%, which is constantly exacerbated by the devaluation of the currency, which is now at almost 50%.

At the other end of the country, in the Nubian south where tourists from all over the world come to admire the pharaonic colossi of Abu Simbel, the economic crisis has also “changed weddings as well as funerals”, says Omar Maghrabi, a 43-year-old Nubian language teacher.

“The families are forced to use their money for everyday life rather than for expenses only made to respect the traditions”, he assures AFP.

Gone are the three-day weddings — and therefore nine gargantuan meals — to which the entire village was invited.

The situation had become so untenable that “the Nubian villages agreed a few months ago to drastically reduce the cost of the wedding: from now on, the hosts only have to offer a light dinner” instead of the festivities which could last up to seven days for the richest before, says Mr. Maghrabi.

As for brides, they are now much less particular about rings: “before, a certain weight of gold was needed to seal a union, today a much thinner ring is enough,” he says.

The highest Muslim authority in Egypt has even recently announced that the traditional gold jewels could be replaced by silver ornaments… much less expensive.

– Subsidized bread –

Funerals are not spared from budget cuts either. In the village of al-Adhadhiya in Upper Egypt, an agricultural and traditionalist region, families used to rush to bring trays of food to the loved ones of the deceased.

But today, “it has been agreed that only the immediate family should do so,” said Mohammed-Rifaat Abdelal, a 68-year-old former member of parliament.

“Some families are even asking that we stop setting up condolence tents and limit ourselves to a funeral” to avoid having to receive — at least with drinks — a crowd of guests, adds this doctor by profession.

If everyone has reduced the consumption of meat, chicken, or pastries for special occasions, one commodity remains bread.

Because they are still subsidized in the state bakeries, the small oven-baked cakes are now on every table, Abdelal reports.

“Before, families prided themselves on eating handmade bread at home,” he says. For them, “it was shameful to eat bread made outside.

But now that the price of flour and grain has officially risen 70% in a year, “everyone is lining up at the bakeries.

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