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

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

Until recently, in Qouissna and in all the other villages of the Nile Delta, no one would have imagined celebrating his wedding without organizing 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.

Few people can afford to pay for this day of celebration during which, on the eve of the wedding, the friends and relatives of the groom gather around a group of musicians hired for the day in a room set up for the occasion.

Above all, while eating meat has already become a luxury that the 60% of Egyptians who are poor or just above the poverty line can hardly afford, buying a whole beef to feed the guests as tradition dictates is now out of reach for many.

– 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.

Source : AfricaNews

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