Shaabi street wedding in a Baladi neighbhourhood
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Today I went to visit a freind and on my way there I noticed someone setting up chairs, tents, lights in one of the baladi neighbourhoods, so I made a detour to see what was being set up. I could see from the tents it was to be a wedding or engagement. Fantastic!!! Caroline and I were going to crash it for research lolololol!
Note: Common Cultural Mistake by Wwesterners:
The word Baladi(DOES NOT mean the dancing done in Egypt)
Only in Québec my province do they call it la danse Baladi .
Americans use Bellydancing... In actual fact both terms are incorrect and wrong.
The world Balad in Arabic( Egyptian Arabic) means COUNTRY(PAYS en français)
It can mean local as well. Arabic being a rich language depending on how you use the root of the word.
Balad i means MY country not dancing!
Balad ik means HIS country
Balad ak means HER country
Balad na meas OUR country and so on and so on.....
Thus a Baladi neighbourhood means. A local neighbourhood. In the collocial term it would never be an upscale neighbourhood. That is the basic meaning.
Shaabi means of the people. Again not high end or upscale....
Around 20h00 we heard music coming from the streets.. this never happens except when there are celebrations... Caroline and I went looking for the source of all this and off we went into the streets...
Shaabi music was playing load!! If you want to know what Shaabi music sounds like think of artists like oumdah or world face Hakim.
We both made sure we were modestly dressed and off we went... We watched from a stairway of a building above the celebrations.We later found out it was an engagement party..
As we watched the music, women arriving in their finest clothes, hijabs.( For Egyptian standards the clothes would be very baladi) Lots of sparkles, gawdy, load ) For these women it was their finest clothes for special occassions.
The little boys in the neighbourhoods spotted us hidden away watching and ran up the stairs to come and dance for us... There were two little boys who were incredibly good. All the boys were under the age of 12 years old. Caroline and I carefully watched their movements and took note
Then more boys came.. shaking our hands politely and asking me.. Inta Meen in? Where are you from... ? Since I look Egyptian I just said Ana meen Mansoura.. I part of Egypt.lolololol
More and more little boys came from the wedding party and the baladi neighbourhood boys came to dance...in the stairs of the building.
Caroline and I were then pulled by the lady in the neighbhourhood who sells tea.. She was dancing her heart out with the little boys.... and tried to get Caroline and I to dance with her in the streets.
I said, Leh Malesh mish arfaha?... No sorry I don't know how to dance lololololol
Beside we were there to crash this celebration for research purposes only.. To watch how people celebrate and dance in baladi weddings and what shaabi dancing is really really all about.
The women were all seated under the make shift tented wall ( see photos). They all wore Hijab's, they didn't move, they didn' smile
A little girl got up to dance on the stage meant for the newly engaged and we noticed once again.. She had her fingers curled, did hip drops to the music only on one side.. the left side. She was under 12 years old. They are brought up with music and dancing but its hidden away in the homes and family.
Caroline realised she had seen the father of the bride before and went to pay her respects and congratulate the father on his daughter's engagement.
The boys were dancing their hearts out. Two boys seen in yellow and in a blue top were in their finest clothes and they were part of the family. These two boys could dance. Moving their legs bag and forth as if the knees were hitting each other from the inside with the knees slightly bent.
He also could shake his upper shouldder very quickly, in fact I have never seen any woman able to do this. He also move forward and back with one leg as if he was calling to kick a scoccer ball ( football rest of the world)
There were two little boys who had these huge bambi ( deer eyes) who were blowing kisses like a miniature version of a man.. the learn very young... that was clear.....
One of them who was all of 8 years old was making that disgusting noise you can hear men in the streets making. The noise is made by taking the inside of your cheeks between your molars. Pucker you lips as if you are going to kiss some one and suck in air between your teeth.
The little boys are just mini versions of their fathers and older brothers. The mimick them, do what they do, speak like they do.
In these neighbourhoods, all over Egypt there is such a prominent class system even within thes Baladi neibhourhoods. The boys who could dance were an upper class baladi and the little boys not dancing with grimmy clothes were lower class baladi. I use these terms to help you understand the difference only.
Note Photos( I did not include the photos of the grimy boys out of respect for their dignity. It is not their fault they are poor ). I only noticed after I took the photo the difference)
You will notice the faces of these Baladi children are unusual. There seems something wrong. This is from generations of inbreeding. First cousins marry first cousins. Living standards, air quality and so on....yet they find their own little joy in their own little world.
One interesting observation:
In Egypt weather its a Baladi wedding, wedding of a property owner, a business man, middle class family or a well of family they all so something similar.
The engaged couple or bride and groom if its the wedding. Sit on love seat on a stage while every one stairs at them. Now if they are baladi then it will be a wrought iron chair with no cushions. If they are more well off they sit on chairs that look like thrones.
People will then come up to congratulate them. If its a well off wedding then they will be photographed.
There were fire works for this wedding.. Don't get excited freinds in Montreal nothing like ours! Basically fire crackers put on the ground that create fireworks and the same noise as fire works which can be heard from very far away but more dangerous for the eyes and the ears.
To give you an idea of this Baladi Neighbourhood:
There are litle neighbourhood shops everywhere. A Dépaneur( for my Montrealers) or a Corner Store. Where you can buy gum, chipsy ( as they are called in Egypt) however no cigarettes are sold in these stores though Egyptian are heavey smokers. There is blacksmith, a car repair, another place to repair clothes, the lady who makes tea, a flock of sheep on the streets and baby goats in the back wall. Sometimes chickens.. the lady who sells fresh parsely or argula. If she is not there you can just leave half a pound and take your gar gear ( argula). A few steps from there is the fruit and vegetable stand, Gourmet that sells frozen foreign gourmet products like moules, calamari, tune steak and other expensive items that the people in this neighbourhood can't afford,
Next to all this while the engagement party is going on is a huge garbage dumb... Except for the garbage dump which ruins the image of the neighbourhood. People are very nice, helpful and wish you well and are very welcoming. This is why we must never judge a book by its cover. People maybe poor and have very little but they sometimes offer more kindness then those who do.The women all were Galabya's with hijab's covering their heads. The older men are in Galabaya's with head covered. The boys play football on the streets. The men sit and have shisha next to the sheep. The people here have no doormen, they cleaned their own houses they have no maids.
If you cross the main street from this neighbourhood. Literally a 3 min walk. You have sevaral foreign Embassies, gardens, parks, all the buildings have door men. They cars are all covered to keep the dust away. The streets are sweeped daily. The garbage is colleced from each building by donkey cart daily. There are no sheep on the streets. The cats dont live in the street but are people's pets. The men are dressed in business suites, expensive sunglasses, have their cars parked and watched for them. The women are dressed in dresses, jeans . and other modern trendy fashions, nobody wears a hijab in this neighbourhoods, except the maids that leave the homes they are cleaning.
Everyone in this neighbourhood has a maid or two. A door men ( called Boweb) who is also there for security if needed. The boweb will pick up your fresh bread and vegetables for you in the morning. Fix things that break in the flat. These flats have washing machines. People have sisha here as well but in the trendy coffee shop near by where they sit in comfy chairs and order freshly squeezed juice and western food. The stores near by are upscale.
This contrast can be found in almost every neighbourhood in Cairo. Even the Westmount, South Kensington, Long Island .. of Cairo has a baladi neighbourhood near by.
I hope you enjoy this blog and the photos