12 Lessons Learned Proposing To An Egyptian Girl Who Only Spoke Arabic

12 Lessons Learned Proposing To An Egyptian Girl Who Only Spoke Arabic

It’s time.

I’ve been here in Korea for two weeks and I’ve been hearing quite a bit about cross-cultural relationships as there seem to be so many foreigners here dating Korean men and women.

Hearing about the cultural differences and challenges they face has really made me reflect a lot on what I learned from almost getting married to a girl while I was living in Egypt – a girl who didn’t speak any English.

Yea that’s right. Our relationship was entirely through my second language, Arabic.

I said I’d write about it eventually and here it is; forbidden love between a Middle Eastern girl with no English and a bloke from Australia learning Arabic, as well as the important lessons learned from the whole experience.

Forbidden love?

Well, not initially.

At first there was nothing forbidden about it at all – we met, we did the right thing and approached her father for permission, he gave us the green light, preparations for the engagement ceremony were made – everything was perfect.

That was until a bunch of unforeseen problems came our way that threw a spanner in the works and brought the whole thing to a halt.

A short-lived fantasy.

It was a heartbreaking end and one that neither of us wanted but in the end it wasn’t our decision to make.

So…

Today I’ve decided to share a few lessons with you that I learned from the whole experience.

It should give you some idea of what’s usually expected in Egyptian society if you ever meet the man or woman of your dreams. Enjoy!

*Note: This is what I personally learned from my own experience and those of my Egyptian friends. I realize that there may be slight differences depending on how conservative the family is, whether they’re Coptic or Muslim and what area they’re from.*

If you’ve had a similar experience please share it below!

Learning Arabic? Take a look at my other site: TalkInArabic.com.

1. Shortly after you fall in love, the father’s permission to date his daughter must be sought

…with the expectation of marriage.

Some guys in the West still have the decency to talk to the girl’s father before asking her to marry him. I take my hat off to you blokes for doing that.

In Egypt (and I suspect all over the Arab world) this is something that needs to be done right at the start when you start dating.

I went on two ‘dates’ (by that I mean hanging out in populated areas getting to know each other) with this girl at which time she told me that I needed to meet her father and request his permission to continue seeing her. It was either this or we stop seeing each other altogether.

This carried the expectation that we intended to get married. I had to make a serious choice then and there, without even knowing this girl properly, about whether or not I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

Sounds crazy, huh?

Now, this may differ for others but in my situation I was told to dress nice, come to their home and sit down for a lengthy interview about myself, my plans and my intentions with the man’s daughter. It’d be an opportunity to make a verbal contract of sorts between the father and myself.

I was pretty scared at this point.

Traditionally, this kind of negotiation over a bride-to-be is done with both peoples’ parents there and I suspect in a lot of areas (especially rural places) it’s almost like a business transaction. For Muslims especially there’s the issue of a dowry which can be money, gold and assets.

Because I didn’t have family with me and no one present to confirm who I was or if I could be trusted, the father had to contact Egyptians who knew me back in Australia to verify everything.

I was fortunate that I had these people to back me up. I’m not sure how somebody else with no ties to an Arabic-speaking community could get around this.

He asked me questions about everything – particularly finances.

We put pen to paper about my present and future financial situation including debts and assets, details about how much the engagement ring and ceremony would cost, the wedding and gold, the honeymoon and then of course, where we’d be living and how much that would cost.

There were lots of questions about religion and family too.

This meant everything about my mother and father, what they do and whether or not they’re together, as well as the extent of my religious commitment.

At the end of the very long discussion the girl’s father concluded by simply saying “Tayib, ana mawafi2” (Okay, I agree).

From then on I was treated like part of the family.

Lesson learned: Guys need a serious set of balls if they want to pursue a girl in the Middle East and a good story to back themselves up when being interviewed by the father.

2. Blokes are expected to have a stable career and an apartment before marriage

Egyptian men marry late.

By ‘late’ I mean it’s common for men in Egypt not to be regarded as ready for marriage until they’re well into their mid-thirties.

The reason for this is that it’s expected that you’ll already have a stable, secure job and an apartment to offer the girl you want to marry. When you meet her father to request permission to see her right at the start, he’ll want to be confident that you can provide all this from the get-go.

This is not only for her comfort and security but for the kids you’re expected to have shortly after.

I was lucky enough to have a rare instance where her father gave me his approval even though I didn’t have an apartment or a stable job at the time but this was only after I explained my short to mid-term plans in extreme detail.

Even then he was hesitant and had to phone an Egyptian friend of mine in Australia (the woman who taught me Arabic who I also call my second mother) to verify that I was telling the truth.

I have Egyptian male friends whose fathers actually saved up for years to buy their sons an apartment (usually in the same building as their parents) to make it easier for them when they wanted to marry.

Lesson learned: Start getting your act together big time (settle down and find a stable job) if you want to find love in Egypt.

3. There are lots of terms of endearment (pet names) in Egyptian Arabic

Every language is full of pet names people give to one another when they’re in love.

Here are just a handful of common Egyptian Arabic expressions that we used to say to each other a lot:

(Note: The numbers used in the transliterations represent sounds in Arabic that have no English equivalent. (E.g. ‘3’ = the guttural ‘ain sound (ع)). For the rest, read this for an explanation.)

7abibi – 7abibti (حبيبي – حبيبتي): This is the most common term of endearment right across the Arabic-speaking world. It simply means my love or my darling.

The man should use the feminine form when addressing his girlfriend/wife.

7abibi is also frequently used between friends, members of the family or young children. Sometimes, particularly in songs, you’ll hear the masculine form used toward women as well.

ba6a – (بطة): Duck. I’m not sure if this just an Egyptian thing or if it’s common in other places but this is one way to call somebody cute (ya Bata!).

My girlfriend used to call me this one a lot, especially when I said something silly (i.e. frequently).

7abib 2albi – 7abibat 2albi (حبيب قلبي – حبيبة قلبي): Love of my heart.

This is another way to use the word 7abib. In Egypt, the word for heart is pronounced 2albi whereas in the Gulf it’s pronounced qalbi.

3omri / 7ayati – (عمري – حياتي): My life. These two words can be used pretty much interchangeably.

When used in a vocative way (ya 3omri), it’s just a short way of calling someone your everything. You can also use it with 7abib to mean love of my life.

mozza – (مزة): Sexy, babe. Be careful using this one. It can be taken as really rude if you say it to a girl who doesn’t have a playful nature or the right sense of humor. Never say this to someone you don’t know for obvious reasons.

We actually made our own hybrid word where we took the ending off the English pet name sweetums and attached it to mozzamozzums. 🙂

bamoot feek / feeki – (بموت فيك): Literally translates as I’m dying in you. It basically implies something like I love you to death.

It’s a strong, emotive statement that you hear in songs a lot.

ba7lam bik / biki – (بحلم بيك): I’m dreaming of you. Self explanatory.

ba7ebak 2ad il-2amr / il-dunya kulaha / il-ba7r – (بحبك قد القمر – الدنيا كلها – البحر): I love you as much as the moon / the sea / the whole world.

We used to playfully argue with each other about who loved who the most while trying to find bigger things to compare our love to (yeah I know it’s lame, right!)

I love you as much the sea… Then I love you as much the moon. Well, I love you as much as the whole world!

You get the idea.

bitganini – (بتجنيني): You’re driving me crazy. It doesn’t need much explaining as it works the same way in English.

I could easily list off a dozen more terms and expressions but I think this will do. 🙂

Lesson learned: Being in a relationship with someone who speaks another language teaches you a lot of their romantic terms and expressions.

4. Even in a poorer society people can be very materialistic

I used to have this romanticized notion that materialism was something that only Western and East Asian societies suffered from, and that eventually I’d marry someone from a poorer part of the world where it’s not an issue.

Money and assets would never come between us I thought.

Given the fact that most people in the Middle East are quite religious and a huge emphasis is kept on one’s spirituality as more important than anything else, there’s still a heck of a lot of status given to people with wealth.

Let me tell you something – in poorer parts of world it can be just as much of a problem as it is in wealthier nations (sometimes much worse).

Now I’m not trying to generalize at all (apologies to anyone if this comes across as offensive) but one thing I did learn in Egypt is that it can be a huge obstacle for couples.

As I’ve already said above, men are judged quite harshly on what they own and what their status is. A man is even judged on how much gold he gives his bride at the wedding.

Even though my bride-to-be’s family knew I had very little at the time, to many of her extended family I was regarded as someone of a much higher status for the simple fact that I was from a Western nation.

In reality of course I wasn’t any different from anyone else.

Lesson learned: Even in a country like Egypt where religion and family are number 1, possessions and status can still be a huge factor.

5. You’re not just marrying the girl – you’re marrying the family

This is not unique to Egypt.

You have to accept the fact that this is not about two individuals tying the knot and living happily ever after alone together.

It’s about the union of two families – and this includes all the extended relatives as well.

This was one of my biggest concerns while I was planning to get married to this girl – neither she nor her family spoke a word of English and my family are monolingual English speakers with no interest in foreign cultures or travel.

My family criticized the hell out of me for my decision to marry this girl.

How would I introduce my family to these people? It had to happen eventually.

They’d never come to Egypt.

Who of my own family and friends could I invite to the wedding?

You can imagine the thoughts running through my mind. Even though it never got far enough for it to be a serious issue, it would have most definitely been extremely difficult.

Lesson learned: Unlike the infrequent visits to the in-laws that people are used to in the Western world, you can expect to see them constantly in Egypt.

6. Egyptians are generally very conservative

So you can’t even kiss her until you’re married?

As a general rule, for both Muslims and Christians in Egypt any kind of intimate contact before marriage is a big no no.

In more relaxed, less devout families, hand holding and one-arm hugs can be tolerated to a certain extent but that’s about as far as it goes.

This doesn’t mean that rules aren’t broken however.

Premarital sex does happen in Egypt and across the Arab world in secret (sadly this puts girls’ reputations and even lives in danger).

I was very reluctant to initiate anything more than hand holding in the early part of our relationship.

Lesson learned: Egypt is very conservative even though rules are often broken.

Girls in Egypt

7. There are some feelings you can only fully express in your own language

Even at a high level of fluency in a foreign language as I have with Arabic, there is still so much emotion and thought that can’t be completely expressed without your native language.

I don’t care how fluent you say you are, you will eventually experience this.

I had so many times where I’d want so much to express a certain attitude or feeling to this girl – whether it was happiness, anger or sadness – but I couldn’t articulate it in a way that truly reflected what was going through my mind.

I’m not talking about being able to say I am happy or I am sad – I’m talking about all the various, detailed shades of those emotions.

It can be frustrating to be feeling something and not able to properly express it to somebody.

On the plus side it did teach me to express a lot of things that I previously didn’t know how to because I was always forced to search for ways to say them.

Lesson learned: Being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t speak your language really teaches you a lot about properly expressing yourself in their tongue.

8. Friends and family will often plant seeds of suspicion over the ‘green card’ fear

This annoys the shit out of me.

“Dude, she probably just wants citizenship.”

While it is a genuine consideration, hearing things like this really plants seeds of doubt in your mind and causes you to be overly suspicious.

If you can’t trust the girl then it’s over already.

I had made my intention known that I wanted us to stay in Egypt and she was fine with doing that. She was marrying me for me and didn’t care if we stayed put or ended up in Australia.

Now, I do actually know Egyptians who have done this (nearly all of them are men who married foreign girls). It happens.

You can ascertain fairly early on whether or not somebody truly finds you interesting and genuinely loves you or is just looking for a free ride.

Lesson learned: Some people are indeed exploitative but don’t let suspicions ruin your relationship.

9. The only place you’ll find a moment of privacy in Egypt is in the bathroom

…and no you can’t take her in there! 🙂

You think you’re going to take an Egyptian girl on a nice, quiet date somewhere and be left alone?

Hah, good luck with that!

There’s no such thing as privacy in Egypt (unless you’re in the loo).

We had a romantic spot in Cairo by the Nile where a lot of couples go but the place was supervised at all times by older Egyptian men.

The last time we were there they harassed my girlfriend and called her a prostitute because they thought it was strange that she was there with a foreign guy.

You really can’t get away from this.

In terms of size, Cairo has a population the size of the entire population of Australia. I can count on one hand the amount of times we were truly alone for a brief moment.

Lesson learned: There’s no such thing as privacy in Egypt. Dates always happen in groups.

10. Guys, be prepared to buy lots of gold if you’re serious about your bride

Egyptian women love gold.

These traditions actually go way back to ancient Egypt.

So after the scary talk you have with the girl’s father where he asks you a bajillion questions and finally agrees to allow you to see her, you head out and buy the first piece of jewellery – the dibla (دبلة).

This is basically what we in the West think of as a promise ringengaged to be engaged.

For the engagement ceremony you’re expected to buy a much nicer ring – the khaatim (خاتم). This is what we in the West usually buy when we propose but in Egypt there’s a huge, planned ceremony that goes along with it.

Finally, there’s the shabka (شبكة).

We get off easy in the West only having to buy a wedding band. The shabka is more than just a ring – it’s a set of gold jewellery (necklace, bracelets, earrings, etc.) to go with the khaatim you buy for the engagement.

People judge the groom on how expensive and nice this jewellery is.

No pressure or anything fellas.

This is on top of all the other wedding expenses that the man has to come up with.

I bought my girlfriend the dibla but never made it as far as the khaatim. I’m kinda relieved!

Lesson learned: Egyptian women are high maintenance 🙂 Be prepared to shower them with expensive gifts.

11. Religion matters.

I realize that a lot of people reading this are non-religious.

Atheism and agnosticism aren’t really understood and certainly not respected in most parts of the Middle East.

In Egypt (and in pretty much every country in that region), Muslims marry Muslims, Christians marry Christians and Jews marry Jews.

Dating outside of your group can have nasty consequences for a lot of people.

If you describe yourself as having no religion, the reaction you’ll get varies from place to place and depending on who you’re talking to but you can be guaranteed that it won’t earn you any respect.

There’s also quite a lot of negativity toward other polytheistic religions (e.g. Hinduism) as well.

Lesson learned: Only date those with the same religious views as yourself and if you’re an atheist or agnostic then you’re probably best not to try.

12. Being in a monolingual relationship using your target language will catapult you toward higher fluency

As you’d expect it to.

I credit this girl as being one of the main reasons why I went from being an intermediate speaker of Egyptian Arabic to an advanced speaker. It changed me in so many ways.

See, I actually moved in with her family for a while when I lived in Egypt so I was with her and her family every single day from the minute I woke up till I went to bed.

It wasn’t your average immersion stay.

Rather than the usual, general topics of conversation when you stay with a host family, we were discussing our future together, all our engagement and wedding arrangements, our political and religious views, our feelings and so on. The content of our conversations was advanced and therefore I was forced to move up to a higher fluency level.

When I went home to Australia we maintained contact via Skype and telephone several times a day for a whole year.

I used to write her love letters in Arabic too.

I remember sitting in an Egyptian coffee shop once trying to come up with some lovey-dovey stuff to put in this letter for her and having the young Egyptian waiters teach me poetry to make it sound more romantic.

This kind of relationship does wonders for your target language skills. It really starts to become part of your identity.

Lesson learned: Not that I’d ever seek a relationship just to improve my language skills but it really does take fluency to a whole new level.

So what happened in the end?

Simply put: I was hit with a few financial obstacles back home in Australia that put a longer delay on our arrangements.

We could still have made it work but she would have had to sit around waiting another 6-12 months for me to return to Egypt and the family wasn’t happy about that.

In the end, her parents cancelled the agreement.

There’s no way around this in Egypt – when they say it’s over, it’s over.

It was a sad and abrupt end but she’s got a family of her own now and things have worked out well for me too.

Are you thinking about learning the Arabic language? I made a few recommendations in this post for what I believe to be excellent resources.

I also wrote about why Arabic is nowhere near as difficult as people say it is here.

Have you had a similar experience dating or marrying into another culture? Was it through another language?

Share it in the comments section below! 🙂

This was written by Donovan Nagel.

See my favorite resources for:
Arabic
Handpicked, reviewed and test-driven
Show Me
Support me by sharing:

Here's what you should read next:

5 Things I Learned Speaking Arabic At An Egyptian Wedding

HUGE Life Update + New Talk In Arabic Site Coming Soon

Update From Nubia + Early Access To The Epic Arabic Language Project

Love languages?
JOIN THE GUILD:

Language you're learning...
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Icelandic

COMMENTS

Comment Policy: I love comments and feedback (positive and negative) but I have my limits. You're in my home here so act accordingly.
NO ADVERTISING. Links will be automatically flagged for moderation.

Ann

Omg! This is very inspiring 😍 I finished the whole story.
Same here, I have an egyptian bf. And am grateful that he knows how to speak english. There is too much differences between us specially the religion, culture and lifestyle but at least we know how to deal with that all.
Anyways thanks!
Very nice story 👍🏻👏🏻👏🏻 mabrook!!

5 Things I Learned Speaking Arabic At An Egyptian Wedding

[…] was a German friend that I had played Frisbee with in Cairo. He was getting married to his Egyptian girlfriend of two […]

Agon

My ex is from Egypt she's Muslim I'm Christian our 2 years relationship is over..

rouen Ibrahim

i read your article and yes there are true things ,but you know not all egyptian girls are the same ,you just weren't lucky ,iam sorry for that but you had an experience and i can tell you about tourists who married egyptians,i know them ..one of them was my father .

Merna Ajam

hey, i'm Egyptian girl my major is oriental languages, i've met a Chinese man at my university, he was studying Arabic. eventually he dated me to have sex only, he tried so much although i explained i can't do it, because of religion and culture reasons but he never respect that , lied alot to me so i had to say goodbye to him , although until now i can say i never loved someone like him,he has no religion but i believed that love has no limits. i was a Muslim. i loved him like no one ever loved before hahah, i had to discover that he used my company to make his Arabic more better , although i can talk in English better than him. and used me to have a fun time. anyway dating someone who's too far away from ur culture, religion and langue barriers. is something not easy i get to know that only who have a true feeling, efforts. would survive all this.

Billie

Hi really interesting article. I know of a foreign man British in Egypt who has been having a 5 year relationship with an Egyptian girl who is now 25. They co- habit and appear to have the families blessing he is 76. He has taken the wider family away to luxury hotels etc... Im wondering how they are able to be a couple in such a conservative society and how the family can go along with this relationship. I suppose it’s the materialistic benefits he has also set her up in business. Does this sort of thing happen much out there especially with this dynamic and age gap?

Larissa

I am in love with an Egyptian boy living in Australia. But his family wants me or rather wants my family to pay them dowry as their son has a good job and I am only a student at the moment. My parents are against dowry. I am so sorry for us as we both really want to marry and just live our lives happily without all this extra drama and interference. ( I wonder if its normal for Egyptian grooms family to be demanding ? )

Ian Hugo

Larissa I want to wash your sexy dirty bottom after you pass stools in the toilet

Nada

Hi Larissa. I am Egyptian girl. It is not normal that you/your family pay for the dowry. Yes, some families are so demanding .In my opinion, it depends on their mentalities. I am Egyptian,but I don't understand when Egyptian families do ruin the relationship because of materialistic issues.

Hannah Brown

I guess I need some advice since you were in a very similar situation as me. I am about to marry an Algerian man. I am in my 20's and from America. I spent months with his family in Algeria and we also traveled together to Tunisia. I do not believe he is using me for green card. He actually did not want me to move to America and asked me if I could live in Algeria with him. I said no, so that is why he is coming to America. The big problem and red flag I am encountering is that he is a traditional muslim man. I am paying for the entire wedding because he is a very poor man. In Algeria mostly every man is dirt poor. I understand his circumstance, but he has business ideas and goals for the future. I am sacrificing alot to be with him. The only thing he is sacrificing is leaving Algeria (family). He can always fly back and see them whenever he wants, but I am sacrificing everything! He follows traditions very seriously, but I come to find out recently that in his country a man is supposed to present a dowry and gold. Now, I do not care about this nor do I care to have one, but he kept this in the dark from me. He mentions every other tradition except this one? I feel if he was not using me he would approach me and just explain to me the traditions of marrying a woman and that he can not provide this to me. That shows respect. His family thinks every single American is rich. You can tell his family does not step out of their way money wise to help us. They expect me to pay for everything! He gets very angry at his family when they expect this, but it still bothers me. I worry that I am working very hard everyday while he is in Algeria contributing nothing. I do not want to base a relationship off of money , but we are getting married and his family expects me to pay 100% of it. I feel like I am playing the man role here and he is getting the treatment of a woman. It makes me feel disgusted to be honest. I love him so much, but I do not think he understands how much I am sacrificing. I completely understand about expressing feelings to a foreigner. Most of the time he takes things the wrong way and does not understand how I am feeling. We have amazing chemistry and are great partners, but communication is a struggle. I also feel like I am the only one working hard for this relationship.

Amina

Dear Hannah Brown
"I am sacrificing alot to be with him." "he is a traditional muslim man " "I also feel like I am the only one working hard for this relationship." "I am sacrificing everything! " "but he kept this in the dark from me. "They expect me to pay for everything" " I worry that I am working very hard everyday while he is in Algeria contributing nothing. " I do not want to base a relationship off of money , but we are getting married and his family expects me to pay 100% of it. I feel like I am playing the man role here and he is getting the treatment of a woman. " " We ... are great partners, " really ? Him being a traditional muslim ? So he is disrespecting you. Red flags every where. Stop behaving like a stupid western girl they think your are. It is rude i know. you want to marry an arab guy ? I understand they are sooo cute. But find one in the usa and having his own money.

Chel

I am dating an Egyptian man too. Glad to read your article.

Chel

It was a beautiful love story too by the way..

james

Thank you brother.. Now I know.... Very informative.... I hope and pray your in a great situation right now.. God bless you

Karl

Wow! Love your story, the video was heartfelt ..I’m considering going Cairo to learn Arabic..hoping for a love story with a good ending. ;)

Fay Woodward

Hi. I had an intimate relationship with an Egyptian man but I suspected he was already married to an Egyptian girl. He has written something in Arabic to an Egyptian friend of mine that might shed some light on what happened. I would like to see it translates as my friend is being vague about its content. I can take it if it's nasty lol! My email is faybonita@hotmail.com if you could help me I would be so grateful. Thank you

Kay

Just curious, the guys who used foreign girls for a green a card...how did they manage to convince them and go undetected? I'm a British girl dating a Kurdish guy and people have said similar things to me , planting seeds of suspicion in my mind too :-( I had that brief thought at the very beginning as I've also heard stories, but didn't think he was that type of guy...but when the seeds of suspicion have been planted, it's hard not to be paranoid. What would red flags be?

Hannah Brown

I am dating an Algerian man about to be married in a few months. We are getting married in Tunisia. I am in my 20's from America. Every single person around me has said he is using me for a green card, but I do not believe so. First, he did not want to come to America..he wanted me to live in Algeria and I said no. But, I still have that seed planted in em as well considering he is poor. I am financing the wedding and I have paid for all travel arrangements through the 3 years of being with him. I normally would never do that, but he is very poor and it is very hard to get jobs in Algeria. If you went there you would understand. I think culture will be a huge shock to them once they arrive in our countries. I fear that we will have differences down the road and he will react in a way I would not expect.

Donovan Nagel

Hi Kay,

Best way to find out for sure is to tell him you plan to move to Kurdistan with him (or somewhere else in that region). See if he's still willing to see the relationship through.

If he's not willing to move *anywhere* to be with you, then probably has ulterior motives.

sai

I'm reading this and thinking to send the link to my british boyfriend, as I am a tunisian muslim girl, the traditions that you described are very similar to ours, it really helps to make him know better about it.
My boyfriend is monolnguage and my english isn't very good, but we love each other and I want to make him propose to me and don't know how because I don't wwant to make pressure on him, and at the same time I want him to move to the next step as we're couple since 10 months.
I'm sad that your story didn't go well.

George ClooneY

I couldn’t agree more! Most egyptian women are gold diggers same as to her family and relatives! And yes you are marrying not just one girl but a bunch of idiots! Who will suck your wealth til you bleed shit. No to these kind of people! Happened to me and you and could possibly to anyone 99%

Ahmed

I am an Egyptian guy living in the states, and I really like your post. It is amazing how you could describe the Egyptian "marriage business" that we, poor Egyptian guys, suffer from ! A lot of Egyptian girls as I saw in the comments are defending, but they all know inside their hearts that your words regarding the costs of marriage in Egypt are 100 % true ! And that's why the number of Egyptian men getting married to foreigner women, even from other Arab countries such as Morocco and Syria, has been skyrocketing in recent years.

Shahd

Thank you for your pos. I had similar experience. I am Iraqi, and I was seeing an American for 2 years. a lot of what happened with you, he did not experience. he was lucky I was residing in the US. you are right about the commitment from day 1, and taking the parent permission to start dating. my family didn't discuss marriage with him. they did that with me. things didn't work out, but it wasn't because of culture or religion. things may or may not workout between any two. I am glad things are working out for you...good luck with your next adventure :)
Shahd

Lady

I'm an American married to an Algerian man. While his English is near fluent, I still feel sometimes he wants to say something that he can't express to me. It frustrates both of us. I'm trying to learn Arabic but I doubt i'll ever be as good at Arabic as he is in English. It's really discouraging. :(

Hannah Brown

I am getting married to an Algerian man in a few months. How is your marriage going? Anything you would like to forewarn me about?

Nykolo

This is probably me thinking too much. But what do you suggest I wear when I am about to ask her father for a date? Should i just wear something nice, or are there some clothing that may impress him further?

Sad Egyptian Girl

Hello, i know that this is an old post. But i wish i can get some help from you, I am in the same boat like this poor girl who loved you. I have been in a relationship with an American man 30 years, and i am an Egyptian Muslim girl 25, we really love each other for more than a year and a half now, we met abroad and he came to Egypt to meet my family who were so rough on him, just as you said they need a flat a shabka and a lot of money, they want him to relocate and leave his job abroad to come and live in Egypt, and turn Muslim,, my guy agreed to do all that because he really loves me, but we cant find a good job for him in Caior, he is a professional English teacher. My dad even says that even after my guy does all that he might not let us get married because he doesnt trust my guy because he is no Egyptian,, like really ? why ? ,,, it is heartbreaking that although i am an independent grown up woman, i cant make the choice of my life, and cant choose my life's partner,, even if we ended up divorced one day then at least i would have tried, but it is extremely unfair to just let go of my love and he is a very good person just because my father and brother doesnt agree :( ... the saddest part is that my twin brother is married to his love, a Russian white non-muslim woman :D ,,and no one said a word to him :( ,,, to be honest, i am thinking of running away and marrying him abroad,,,it is my life ,,and i dont want to spend my years with someone else who i dont really love, and keep missing and secretly loving my man :(

Hannah Brown

Did you end up marrying him?

Amr Youssef

Dude, i feel very sorry for you man. I feel ashamed kind of. I'm sorry that you had to deal with that bullshit man. I just wanted to say that's not what all egyptians are like. I'm Egyptian myself and i can tell you religion, gold and all that shit doesn't matter as much as you think. It all depends on what social class the girl's family is in and how educated and civilized they are. I'm gonna be honest religion is a big thing, i don't think it should be but unfortunately that's how our country is. Also the whole privacy thing. Again, it's all about who the family is, actually i think the older the parents are the more conservative and close minded they are, our generation at the moment, the new generation is a lot more understanding and "westernized" as you would say so we're very accepting, understanding and tolerant of anyone wether their religion, sexuality, race, nationality, financial situation or whatever. Trust me, you'd be suprised how much the egyptian teenagers and millenials have sex and hookups...i'm telling you..A LOT. Sorry you had to deal with this shit man, hope you enjoyed your time in egypt though (i wouldn't have if i were you honestly haha)

Lina

My nearest experience is a relationship with an egyptian man( Tarik Yusuf/ Tarik U-suf), I'm from Colombia, we had been talking for almost a year, everything started in linkedin, as he wanted to be in contact with me and I did not see any problem as he has the same career than me and has similar professional intertest.

So we writted each other on linkedin about our jobs and duties, later asked me for my whatsapp and all started.

Just had one phone call from whatsapp at the beginning, and chat was very common between us. After that he asked for add me in skype, somethings e talked about engineer stuff, but some days the bizarre things began, cause he said he has no sound, was very common to call me at midnight or pretty early in the moorning in egypt (3 am) with a poor light, so he was like a shadow and without sound, enjoying showing himself in boxer and exposing him on camera.

He blocked me in linkedin, also in facebook, saying that he does not like social media, found that silly ,but is bullshit he has his accounts.

For the actions I see he was using me, he was just entertainment himself exposing in boxer,and trying to have naughty talks with me, hyding and making excuses about camera's light, sound like he was not intetested to be listened by others talking with me.

Ghada

Well, I'm so sorry to tell you he was just using you to have sex chat and get some nudes from you.. nothing more. Watch out for dirty guys like him cause there's MANY of them out there.

C

Thanks for this inspiring, open hearted, and very nicely written story :)

Richard

Hi Donovan.

I'm just curious, not a pervert.. So when you said there is no privacy in egypt and that religion is very important, does this mean that you didn't even hug/kiss or touch her at all?

HUSSEIN ALI

DONOVAN,
YOU HAD QUITE THE RUN HERE IN EGYPT, AND YOU MADE ME LOOK TO OUR MARRIGE TRADITIONS FROM A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW, ESPECIALLY AT THE INTERVIEW PART HHHHHHHHH WE GOT BAAALLS.
BUT IN A SENSE I FELT THAT AT SOME PARTS YOU WERE CRITCIZING EVEN SARCASTIC RATHER THAN JUST TALKING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE HERE IN EGYPT.
AT LAST I WOULD LIKE TO ADD THAT YOU ONLY SAW A SINGLE CASE WHICH DOESN'T AT ALL SUMMERIZE EVERY THING AOUT THE TRADITIONS, AND THE RULES YOU IMPLIED BREAKING YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE, NOT COOL.

YOU CAN LOOK ME UP ON FACE BOOK (+2-0100-857-0-857)IF YOU WANT TO RESPOND (I AM NOT FAMILIAR WITH HOW BLOGS WORK, I THINK THIS IS A BLOG)

Thunder

Hey guys .... I know this post is old but hopefully I'll still get some replies and some positive feedback.
So I am an Indian guy (Hindu) and I am 35 years old. I got married to an Indian girl 5 years before but our marriage has had lot of trouble in these 5 years, most of which was between my wife and my family (I do live with my parents or they live with me) for some reason she didn't get along good with them and my sister (my sister is married and live with her husband). So long story short I got really tired of everyday problems and decided to get a divorce. That was that but what I really wanted to ask was that I met this Iraqi girl at work and I fell in love with her. I haven't even said anything to her because of couple reasons and those reasons are kinda my question too so please help me out with those questions. First reason is that she is 10 years younger than me (she is 25) we are really good friends and talk everyday even take lunch together everyday and I have given her some gifts like on Christmas I give her chocolate all the time and all but do u guys think if there's lot of age difference it will work? I mean I hardly know Arabic people and I don't know what her family will think and I am not worried about a house or gold I have that to give to her and my second reason was that I don't know Arabic but I am willing to learn. How long does it take to learn Arabic if let's say I don't know anything about it, So I can hold a decent conversation with her. Oh by the way she can speak very good English and we live in Canada.

Doru

You would have to convert to her religion if you are interested in dating her.

Thunder

Thanks for replying, but she already has a boyfriend and their relationship is going good she was just shy to tell in the beginning and we are best friends now☺️

mamoun

You are a good person! and I can tell that from the way you talk about your girl and how respectful you were to her traditions..

Did she call you batta hhh , its like calling you (sweetie) so don't worry she loved you!

Sheikh

I met a Moroccan girl online, we fell in love & now I want to marry her,
But first I need to take the permission of her father for that.
Problem is,I live in dubai & all this have to be done on telephone.
Any suggestions on how would I approach to her father?

mamoun

what is your nationality? if you're not Syrian, Iraqi, or Palestinian you can have visa and go to meet her family directly, there is no other decent way to marry your girl. From my experience, if her family accepted to meet you there, they will make it easy on you, Moroccan people are very nice and friendly.

If you can't go to Morocco, your choices are very limited .. anyway you better ask her father to prepare a (personal invitation) for you.

ماريا

Wow. The endind left me feeling blue.
Such a great post, and an amazing experience you had. I went through a very similar one.
My ex boyfriend is deaf, I am hearing, and I was learning sign language when I met him. At first, we went out as friends. But 1 year later, or so, we became a couple.
I remember very clearly the struggle of trying to say something and not knowing how to. And he could never hear me, so sign language was the only way of communication we had.
It was also hard when he met my family, since none of them spoke nothing but our "mother language". But we were in love and it all worked out just fine in the end.
We are no longer together, but we remain friends. And it's a bless that I got a chance to be with him. Not only because of everything we lived together, but because of the insight he gave me about his community, his culture, and his way of living, as a deaf person in a hearing world.
He taughted me a lot. Even when we were having a fight, 'cause that could never have happened if I didn't know how to reply.
So, yes. Intercultural and monolingual relationships that are carried in a different language than your own are hard. And beutiful. And a great way to become fluent.

Hope to read more of this kind of posts soon.

مع السلامة

Laoboy

My Egyptian girlfriend jus broke up with me because her father told her she had to. He has never met me, I dropped her off home one night after a night out drinking at the bar, her brother got very mad and told her parents about that. I don't understand I love this girl to death, we talked about having kids and getting married, I felt like she was the one. I am of Asian descent(Laotion) . I don't know if that plays a role in this event that just happened to me. Is there any way I can get her back I still txt her and all but its not the same, we are talking like we are normal like we never had anything. This is driving me crazy I love her so much. Someoen give me some advice on what to do next. She says she dont want to lose her family over me and lose me over her family. She is 18 years old and I am 23.

Raj

That's a good one. I am interested with an Egyptian girl and your post gave me some idea of their culture and I'm sure it will be helpful for me.

p/s guess i love her..

Thanks Donovan. Enjoyed reading it.

Roro

Hi everyone,
Thanks Donovan for this interesting post, really enjoyed your honesty and the way you approached your girl was truly decent.
To tell you the truth there are few things which are wrong,yes we are considered religious Muslims or Christians, but what you mentioned depends ,first of all on the social background of your girl . This all about traditions which should be flexible according to the situations or the suitor himself .Yes some families out of fear they ask for certain things , in Islam the dowry is not fixed , but the less the better and the jewelry is just a gift from the husband

Mohamed

I wanted to keep my egyptian girlfriend as a guest in a hotel but they rejected it right away and said rooms cannot be shared..it was equally hard for me to not be around since I met her after 6 long years..any of you guys know a hotel where they wouldnt mind?

ana

Really interesting ! I am a girl from Albania and have 3 moths talking to a egyptian boy. He really looks a devoted person and very family oriented. But many times things get complicated,,, and that's why I ended up reading this article. In fact I was searching on google about their culture, because I want to understand him more

nana

I'm Arab and Muslim not from Egypt but my bF is we have baby and not married .
And our family okay with it I guess just was you luck lol. We are not all the same, you just have to make sure the women what's her intentions if she is after marriage only some family's are like that.

George Gabriel

I was born in Egypt from European decents father Greek mother French dont look Egyptian but speak it quite fluently, came to Australia when i was 20 went back in 2007 my roots are still there! I am now 67 live in melbourne married with 2 children a son and a daughter son is 36 daughter 34 my concern is my son he`s been in a relatioship with an Australian girl who broke his heart after beeing together for 4 years, he has never recovered and doesnt trust Ausies girls, he is good looking very health fanatic great career as accountant has his own place very honest and sincere but no luck finding the right partner, I know and my wish if he meets a nice girl from Egyptian back round who can be trusted and sincere she`ll be the happiest girl on this planet! but how? besides he wouldnt be happy if he knew i am writing this article! I am just hoping to get some reply from someone with that description and somehow put you in touch with him and start communicatig can only hope for the best?

Anonymous

My father is Arabic and my mother is a foreigner.
The only thing my father taught me about relationships: "Never try to date Arabic women, you will never get anything from it".

John Pierre

Yeah its true they are like North Koreans or Chinese people u can say and i say they are like Indian People in Marriage Family and they talk alot like the Indians they are like Indians actually but better and less more cleaner than them but they are so rude i'm wondering how France colonies their country Spain should must colonized their country not France Spanish People talk alot marry with family permission and keeping family in their lifes forever for rude and non-stop headache and hardworking people as well i dont know.

Jimmy

I gotta say this kudos to you for putting up with her family's whole racket. I wouldn't have put up with it. I think the route I would have went is you either come to my country or we're done. Ain't know way I'd be letting her family make my life miserable. For example no privacy? Men harassing is on a date? Who does that? Like I said I think the key is make them play by your rules not there's. And most likely the only way to do that is if the girl agrees to leave the country. Now having said all that it doesn't mean you treat there family badly. You should always respect them. Just don't let them run your life. My main concern would be just make sure I don't get in trouble with the law so I don't get kicked out of the country. But other than that the girls parents could kiss my well you get the picture.

Mirina

Hello!

Your article was very interesting to read. Any advice/tips/expectations on marrying a Muslim Lebanese man born in the West? I know traditionally women don't ask men to marry them but he has mentioned several times that he wants to marry me when we're financially stable. He already got me a promise ring but I refused to accept an engagement ring until we sorted some issues and he told his parents about us. We dated seriously for almost 5 years now, the main challenge is now informing his parents... He introduced me officially as his future wife to his brother but not the whole family just yet. His family is from Beirut, they're all Muslim and when we were just friends I noticed how conservative his mom was. However she's become more flexible with her son throughout the years in terms of going out to parties etc. And her flexibility with him has really given me hope that something could work out since she's the tough one to please....
I'm neither Muslim or of Arab / European descent and I'm Christian so I just want to know any tips/advice/expectations in getting married with this man. Unlike his mom, he's pretty open; he has been wanting to do an interfaith marriage since he doesn't believe in forcing me to convert to Islam but I know it will be difficult with his mom & the extended family. Another challenge we face is he has a big circle of Egyptian friends... All born and raised in Egypt. When we argue these friends are always in between trying to tell my bf he can do way better with an Arab or Caucasian gf and that he should forget about me because I'm an "inferior" race plus I'm not even Muslim. Also after hanging out with this circle a lot they have been discouraging him to teach me Arabic but I learn my Arabic from some Egyptian girl friends I have and they don't have much advice to give me. Anyway I want to confront the Egyptian about it because their closed-mindedness is affecting the relationship and I don't know what to do because it would be silly of me to ask him to choose between me and his friends.
Also are Lebanese parents like Egyptian parents? What do Egyptians do if the groom-go-be's friends dislike the bride-to-be? What are the chances of us getting away with this in the West?
I have a Lebanese Catholic acquaintance born and raised like my bf here in the West married to a Filipino woman...he told me he has a bad relationship with his mom for marrying the Filipino lady....but they seem happy & they've been married for 8 years now and have 3 children... His family has never been to Lebanon to meet the rest of the family on his side though.
I was also wondering if I could be in the same situation with my Muslim bf and how do I avoid or fix mother-son relationship troubles?

I really look forward to get an answer from you!

Hannah Brown

Did you end up getting married? First, if you are Christian and he asks you to stand in a mosque and speak the prayer. The prayer is denying Christ as our savior, so right there is you choosing a man over God. Many christian women are told "all you have to do is stand there and raise your hands" which is the same thing as saying it. You are taking part in something against Christ. I am marrying an Algerian man and I made sure that he knew I will be nowhere near that prayer when it is being said. My fiance's mother tries to have control over things, but he shuts it down very quickly. Be very careful with how he controls you with his faith. Remember men are allowed marrying Christians, but women can not marry a christian man. This is set this way because women are easily persuaded. Be aware of this. I found my fiance saying specific things and I shut him down very fast. He still is trying to convert. And if you try teaching a muslim man the bible...believe me all hell will break loose.

Joe Roman

I liked the whole story of how you almost married an Egyptian girl. Sad to know your girlfriend family and dad could not have been patient and waited til you came back within a year. Just as awful that your parents just criticized you and did not really support you much. If you had married her would you have to have switched to the Muslim religion?

Hobhob

I am Egyptian Female and Proud, Sorry for your experience , you have mentioned right things though and it goes for us as well. I myself hate the involvement of the families but I dated Spanish guy and I found the same!! I hate the fact we can not have privacy except in the bathroom, even i think we cant have it in the bathroom nowadays :D. About the materialism , I believe that it depends on the families and their background, even though its major in Egypt but I personally do not have this in my family, my dad was telling us (me and my sisters) We are buying a man so we don't care about how much he will pay for u or get u as a gift for marriage! so my father was totally the opposite, no interviews, but of course we have to get to know each other! on more thing! I found out that most of the mothers in Egypt are controlling their sons and their husbands which is really ridiculous but I can realize that most of the Egyptians currently they go for Moroccan or Russian and polish women! which is very poor thing! I believe Egyptian men became very weak and not strong enough to marry or handle an Egyptian woman! Because I believe we are still different, we are very independent women, we are strong have dignity, pretty, Pharaohs ;) and the most important thing we are so funny, have good sense of humor :D :D xoxoxo

Uamr Pharouk

?? of course Habhob, Just preparing to travel to egypt this month.
Donovan post is really helpful.

Reader

This is a fantastic post. It really hit home with me as an Egyptian. As an agnostic native English speaker and emigrant I am very out of touch with my home culture, which I'm reminded can be quite misogynistic and suffocatingly religious. Controlling, constricted, hypocritical, bigoted, archaic, gossip-based — you name it. The girl's dad was a money-worshiping daughter-monger from hell and I'm surprised you stuck to the process to the end (as well as by her lack of resistance to him?). My own experience is that Egypt is a miserable place for anyone who's out of the norm — coming to Canada was like breathing for the first time. Sometimes I think of renouncing my citizenship.

I must say though, that there are cultures even more repressive and primitive than ours. I was involved with a Hindu Indian girl over the summer and the mutated turds who pass for parents over there, animalized her as soon as they found out I'm "Muslim." I was not even up for consideration for longer than two minutes. She was slapped around for the first time in her life, threatened with disownment after 24 years of total obedience, and had one suitor after another shoved down her throat until she got married. At her wedding she cried her eyes out while her family took pictures. Of course, she's miserable now. In Egypt this might be done by peasants, not by wealthy, well-educated and prominent folks like hers, and it's nowhere near as common. If I thought a woman in Egypt is treated like a child, in India she is treated like a prized piece of livestock.

This post made me realize that it will be incredibly difficult to find an Egyptian girl who thinks anything like I do, and yet if I fake it with someone then I will be married to the same oppressive culture I escaped from — in her family, entrenched in her mind, passed on to the children. There are lots of nice Egyptian girls, but if you can't live a normal life with one they're not worth it.

Mitch

This is insightful. My boyfriend is from Egypt. He's a Muslim and I'm a Christian. We've had our fair share of arguments, because of cultural differences and religion, but at the end of the day, we put all of it aside and focus on how much love we have for each other. When the time comes though, for us to meet each other's families, for sure it will be difficult for us. But I still hope and pray for the best. :)

Reader

My thoughts as an Egyptian guy. If you're constantly arguing with your boyfriend because of cultural and religious issues, that tells me most or all of the issues are coming from his end since I don't think you're trying to tell him what to do. He seems like an abuser and bigot who criticizes you relentlessly and is trying to mould you into something acceptable to him. This is very common in relationships between Egyptian Muslim men and Western girls. They're not based on equality, but on change and accommodation on the girl's part. I advise you to put a lot of thought into what you're doing, a little pain now is better than a world of inescapable pain later.

benjy

wow it's hard to get a relation with an egyptian, but i dont know what to do , this girl is working on emore month her in Peru and she is so nice at me and i am starting to love her . but she denied to stay until December cuz she had a boyfriend and she's just broken up with him and i want to try sth with her but i dont know cuz her father has a lot of power even she is scared and she was suppossed to marry her exbroyfriend and dont know ?? any advises?

Noura

I'm really sorry it didn't go well for you, most of what you described here is associated with people from the rural areas or low social levels in Cairo which can be a great obstacle for a lot of upper middle class that are a bit westernized let alone a foreigner. I hope the best for you next time ,Egyptian or not .

Pakinam

hahahahah you really made me laugh man x) o b3den enta fen kont fe masr y3ni that pic with the galabeya xD omg hahahaha where da hell were yaaa x) xD but i felt sorry for you and for things not working but oh well... :D many things are true though :D and even so i dont want an Egyptian man, i dont think i'd ignore those basic things when "marrying an Egyptian girl " hahahaha but many families are understanding and felxible with gold issues or similar not very very important stuff..ya batta [wtf hahaha] :D am sorry its just funny coming from a foreigner , 7yatti 3alek hahaha god knows what else you been through x) :D

Egyptian princess lol

Hello, Donovan!
I am sorry to hear about your heartbreaking experiance, especially that money was the cause. well, your post is about right by 85% I think. In my perspective as an Egyptian who lives in USA for over 10 years~ just saying this so you don't say that I am closed minded or anything like that ;) but not all Egyptians are materialistic. I think you just fell in love with people whom are extremely poor, and believe that money will support their daughter if divorce or anything happened; you must look at it from their perspective. I mean in western society you can get married today the you are divorced tomorrow. And yes in Egypt they are very conservative only because it's an Islamic countries; some Christians are forced to be covered in clothe because of their religion but as far as no sex before marriage, so that is because we follow the bible rules! There are so many Egyptians Christians who are married to an American guys and did not break the rules eventhough they live in USA. Here in USA people are materialistic too they judged you based on what brand name are you wearing, which car you drive, Etc I really think it's disrupted world, sadly!

nurhan

as an egyptian girl I agree on all this .. but it doesnt mean that all girls, families & situations are the same in egypt.
I had boyfriends n my family knew
gold and jewels aren't life ... but its more like a gift for marriage n a chained money for the future if troubles are faced
I am a muslim n yes I'd prefer to marry a man like me .. it would make life simpler for me atleast .. i mean if i loved someone who isn't muslim I cannot marry him.. ihe is free with his believes but I don't wanna take him where he shouldn't be.

n no it wont be like two families getting involved .. just me n him against the world!

I guess u only picked the wrong choice of yours..

but its not the end of destiny

emilly

I just read this i married an egyptian man in my country married 8 years sadly he died im now living in egypt and its really hard here not many speak good english also the culture is different
my inlaws are terrible to me.
life in egypt is a learning experience

LR

Plus, there's a lot of Egyptian guys who will kill you since males outnumber females in Egypt due to females being killed in mass numbers. Also, keep in mind that Egyptian girls will get married off to Egyptian guys only because there's a lot of them.

Hassa

I love Egypt and generally I found Egyptians nice and friendly. Being a Muslim, I found it a nice place to live. That was in 1989, I was 18 years and I was training in Egypt air. I got to know a girl who worked with Egypt Air. She was a nurse. She worked Egypt Air in the morning and Ain Shams Hospital in Cairo in the afternoon.
Her name was Fathiya Ahmed Galeb. If anyone knows her, I would love to have her contact details.
My name is Hassan and my email is hassan.nur@live.co.uk

Neven Abbas

dear friend
i'm a girl from Egypt - Alexandria
first sorry about that
but you must know not all family's like this in our country
You fell victim's family loves money
There are a lot of families dont think in a civilized but not all families
My brother is married from Romania and his wife work here in Egypt, in the opera, they very happy in life here
We dont interfere in their private lives never
she is also not a Muslim she's a Christian
my brother Muslim and his wife Christian, but we did not say why marry a Christian!
All we wanted was reassurance that they love each other
I apologize to you for what happened to you here, but not all of us so

blaaah

HAHA , bottom line
Screw Egypt , screw dating and marriage -_- !

Yomna H.El-Gendy

"recently alot of girls *don't think of "Shabkaah" as the same traditional way..."