Yeah, not one, but two weddings. In our stinking gym clothes.
We left the gym smelly and sweaty and heard this roaring, rolling rythmic sound from around the corner. Incredible drumming, and a trumpet! Gotta check that out.
So we did. And when we were looking from accross the street, some lovely lady was smiling at us and called us over .Then we were in the middle of a wedding party! The bride and groom had just been married and this was the celebration as they left the mosque and got into their car to head to photos and then later the reception.
Here is a video. We even danced – I remind you, in our gym clothes (Sam was wearing a singlet and shorts) – around with them! We both felt like the worst kind of white people – out of place, under-dressed, overwhelmed… Tourists!
We thought that was pretty fun.
But we did not expect these people to then invite us to the reception. They kept telling us ‘you look fine! No need to change!’ What a joke.
Into a minivan we hop, with some the family of the bride and groom. There are several minivans taking guests from the ceremony to the photos and then the reception, with two spare seats – just for us!
At the photo shoot, which was in a big wedding reception centre, another wedding group had drummers and performers going bazerk. We mistook them for the same wedding and so ended up chatting to someone from that wedding. Then we – totally disorientated – had photos taken holding the babies of god-only-knows-who, and with dozens, I say dozens, of people we have no connection to.
Finally, this wonderful man Mohammed (from the first wedding party), came and found us and told us the party was outside. We thanked the second wedding party for their invitation to their reception (that’s invitation number 2 for the night) and went back with Mohammed. We found out the photos would take another 20-30 mins and so opted to grab a cab back to the hotel, take quick showers and change.
Our hotel in Aswan was next to a government building and because of the bombing in Cairo they had shut down the street to traffic. So the taxi dropped us off a few hundred metres away from the hotel and we ran the rest of the way (we were in gym clothes anyway). And while running we bumped into ‘Jamaica Boy’, aka Mustafa, who is the guy who works on the Felucca, but is not the captain, we don’t know what that job is called. He’s a sailor, I guess?
Felucca’s, by the way, are small sailing boats often used on the Nile. They’re a big touristy thing here, but lovely. We cruised around on one for a few hours and it was beautiful.
Anyway, Mustafa had invited us to hang out that evening at the docks and help him paint his boat with the lyrics of Bob Marley songs. Pretty cool, right? So we saw him, explained what was going on and post-poned the painting for the next night. Talk about good fortune/timing.
After the showers we got to the reception and we were instantly glad to have changed. It was so over the top. Everyone was dressed to impress, it was stunning. The traditional outfits some of the women wore were especially beautiful. It would have been outrageously disrespectful to have been there in gym clothes, insulting to our hosts.
Mohammed was not the person who invited us along – that was the brother of the groom, whom I think had a crush on Kara and so I watched him carefully. However, Mohammed he did help us understand what the hell was going on. When we arrived he immediately showed us around, introduced us to some other guests all of whom were warm and hospitable, and then we walked around the corner from the shoulder-to-shoulder packed reception to a cafe.
We talked for ages, with Mohammed and his son Kareem, smoking shisha (okay so Sam smoked shisha, no one else did) and drinking tea. Mohammed only speaks Arabic so it was great for Kara to practice and for Sam to learn. We’re now good friends with Mohammed, we saw him again the next day and have stayed in touch since. He lives in Alexandria and has invited us to stay with him if we ever go there, which we really hope to!
Back to the wedding: we got to eat cake. And whoa, what a cake! Nomnomnomnom!
To conclude: Egyptians are super, super friendly, warm, and open. The best way to sum up the experience is this: When Kara said to one woman, a close relative of the bride I think, that we were underdressed she responded by saying ‘but you are our guests!’. Being someone’s guest means a lot here.
This is a Fallucca. On the Nile. At sunset. Seen from Elephantine Island. 😀
OH WAIT! I forgot, I promised you lunch too!
We caught the Felucca from the East Bank and got off on Elaphantine Island, which is one of about 15 Islands in the Nile around Aswan. The island is not at all touristy and has a population of about 7000, most of whom are Nubians
. We highly recommend you visit the ‘unofficial Nubian Museum’, a.k.a. Animalia
, located on the island, if you ever go to Aswan.
Nubians are known for their hospitality and we did feel very welcome wandering around the two villages which are separated by green farm land and connected by narrow roads. So narrow, in fact, there are no cars on the island. No cars on the whole island.
We were looking for lunch and asked some people sitting outside their home for directions. They asked what kind of food we wanted, and when we said ‘oh just something local, maybe some fool or something’ they said no problems and told us they would make us lunch.
We forgot to take a photo before we’d eaten half the food already…
Yep. Ask for directions and get fed a delicious lunch in a beautiful home by beautiful people overlooking a beautiful river.
That was a spectacular day.
The view from a Nubian family home, where we had lunch.
Sunset over the Nile.