Relationships are hard enough as is. They’re even harder in Egypt where restrictions are placed on human interaction since the day we’re born. Now, imagine being an Egyptian and deciding to marry a non-Egyptian. This is like taking the difficulty level and multiplying it tenfold! However, if it’s true love, there’s not much you can do about it. We had 5 inter-cultural couples tell us their stories.
“the hardest thing about it would have to be that someone has to make the sacrifice and leave home”
Sarah and Manni
Sarah is Egyptian, Manni is German, if that’s not a cultural difference, we don’t know what is. Still, they made it work! When their families were about to meet, Sarah and Manni had their concerns, “Egyptians are very warm whilst Germans not so much and might think you’re coming on too strong”, Sarah tells, “but we were both fortunate enough to have cool families. Both sides were very open-minded”. Manni’s worries weren’t only that, “he was so worried before meeting my family because of stereotypes. He was thinking of the typical Arab family he sees on TV where the brother and father are super mean”, she says. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and Sarah’s family embraced Manni as one of their own. The most difficult part for Sarah is having to leave her friends and family, “the hardest thing about it would have to be that someone has to make the sacrifice and leave home”, she explains. Other than being married to the person you love, marrying a non-Egyptian has its advantages, “it’s an adventure for both”, Sarah says.
“because I am bearded, everyone thought I am a sheikh who married an infidel and got her to convert to Islam, although I am not even Muslim”
Sherif and Christina
Sherif met Christina when they were both working at a Canadian organization for freedom of expression called IFEX. To Sherif’s surprise, there weren’t many obstacles in their way, “everything went smoothly even in the parts that I thought would be hard like my family’s reaction”, he explains, “of course there are some cultural difference but I think it is the same amount of personal difference between any couple”. Sherif’s family comes from Upper Egypt, and so Sherif had his concerns when he decided to marry a Canadian woman, “I was expecting some clash, but they loved my wife from the first day”, he tells, “there was a language barrier but they managed to deal with it”. When they were getting married, Sherif and Christina decided to go to Tahrir. Back in 2012, this was a recipe for hilarity, “there was sit in by Salafis there. And because I am bearded, everyone thought I am a sheikh who married an infidel and got her to convert to Islam, although I am not even Muslim”, he says.
“you constantly learn new habits and new culture behaviors, I can now also speak two dialects of Arabic fluently”
Rana and Kamal
When marrying a fellow Arab, certain parts are easier, but the fact remains that it’s not that simple. Rana and Kamal, like Sherif and Christina, used to work together. He is Lebanese, she is Egyptian, and they both live in Dubai. This has proven to not be as easy as expected, “so many questions I have to answer at Cairo airport about him and our daughter. They don’t trust that she’s mine”, she tells, “and the zillion documents he had to sign and stamp just to marry me in Egypt”. Rana’s main complaint being paperwork made it clear she’s happily married, “you constantly learn new habits and new culture behaviors, I can now also speak two dialects of Arabic fluently”, she says. Rana and her husband still face one small communication issue when it comes to their parents, “my dad would be talking and his family just shake their heads and nod as if they understand, but they don’t, and vice versa”, she recalls.
“it took us about 6 years to get them to agree to let us get married”
Ahmed and Amalia
Ahmed and Amalia met online back in 2001! Naturally, they have had their fair share of obstacles. Both their families opposed their relationship at first, “the people who were quite helpful were her family here”, Ahmed tells. Amalia had come to Egypt on vacation, because she is half British, half Egyptian, when she met Ahmed, and by the end of the vacation they were in a relationship. When their parents finally agreed to let them get married, Ahmed couldn’t believe it, “it took us about 6 years to get them to agree to let us get married”, he recalls. Ahmed and Amalia now live in the UK with their two lovely children.
“hugs and smiles are internationally understood”
Ali and Karin
Yet another German/Egyptian couple. They met here in Egypt when Karin was visiting, and their relationship blossomed from then on! When it comes to love and relationships, you can never tell who you will fall for, “our soul mate is not bound to be in country or culture range”, Ali says. Ali has always had an affection for German women, “in my case it was mostly German women who outdid themselves in independence, strength, debate, and challenge against the patriarch mentality”, he says, “however, Germans can also be cold which collides with my over sensitivity and respect for emotion”. Then he found Karin, who was just right, “Karin seemed to have the intensity in both aspects. She is the right woman who came at the right time”, he tells. While they come from extremely different cultures, their families embraced each other instantly, “hugs and smiles are internationally understood”, Karin says. Ali and Karin opted for a simple hippie wedding by the beach and now live happily in Germany.