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[Digest] The joy of a Christian-Muslim wedding

发布时间: 2017年04月16日 浏览次数: 编辑: 李秋雨

编者按:本文作者Nicola Kelly在埃及阿斯旺参加了一场特殊的婚礼:一名穆斯林和一名基督徒在夜幕的掩护下小心翼翼地完成了他们神圣的结合。而就在这周,埃及北部的Coptic教堂刚刚遭受袭击,宣告着基督徒少数派在这个国家的危险境地。

"Everyone kept telling me I should marry a girl from my community - but it was impossible," Akram says, his eyes crinkling. "I couldn't stay away from her."

It's the morning of Akram's wedding, in a village on the western bank of the Nile, and he's busily preparing to go to the mosque to say his vows.

This won't be a traditional ceremony. Akram will be taking his vows alone while his bride-to-be Sally recites her prayers quietly at home.

Sally wouldn't openly identify as a Christian - she wouldn't feel safe. But she has a pastor, practices Christian traditions and says she would baptise any children she had.

"We're the first people to marry outside of our religion here. That's very difficult, especially for my parents," Akram explains.

For seven years, the couple were banned from seeing each other by both sets of parents.

Members of the community, religious leaders and friends tried to prevent them from meeting, but they still managed to arrange some brief encounters.

"We agreed to get married at night, so as not to bring shame on either of the families," Akram says.

Since the revolution in 2011, attacks on Christians in Egypt have soared. There were 54 recorded incidents of violence against religious minorities last year, in addition to a deadly suicide attack on the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo shortly before Christmas.

Earlier this week, 45 people were killed and scores injured in two further bombings at Coptic churches in Alexandria and the nearby Nile delta city of Tanta.

But Akram doesn't seem worried. He's slumped in the shade under a date palm, shovelling falafel into his mouth.

"Speaking to our neighbours, singing songs, eating and dancing. That's more important to us grooms than the religious part of the day, anyway!" he exclaims, offering me some jabana - coffee infused with cardamom and cinnamon.

Several cups later, his friends drag him up and nudge him across the sandy courtyard towards the mosque. As we pass through a mango plantation, Akram points to a ruined church.

"Some of the Christian buildings here have been attacked by outsiders, but we all got together and we drove them away."

On the other side of Shadeed, Sally is battling wedding jitters at her childhood home. Her friends are all high-pitched screeches, mirror checks and selfies, but she's trying to remain composed.

"All I have to do is come along, dance, people congratulate me and then we leave," she says, giggling nervously.

"I don't care about the vows. That's all for other people, not for us, the couple. It's not my priority."

For the bride, getting to this point has taken many years of quiet conversations with her husband-to-be and slightly louder discussions with her family.

"I have always loved him, but I didn't think we would be allowed to marry. My father said no for a long time, but now the imam and the pastor have agreed, it's not so bad for him."

As night falls, the women take a boat over the Nile to the hairdresser's. Sally disappears into the salon as her friends fluff out the layers of the bridal gown and take several hundred more selfies.

Sally emerges a few hours later, much changed from the nervy 18-year-old I met before nightfall.

"I feel very confident. I am very beautiful now," she says, assuredly. She looks regal, her headscarf and wide hoop dress covered in white lace and her eyes lined with heavy kohl.

Shortly before midnight - and long overdue - Akram's car pulls up outside the salon.

"He's three hours late!" Sally shouts to her friends, attempting to regain her composure and shushing the rabble.

Outside, Akram is straightening his tie and nudging his hair into place.

"It's the first time I've ever worn a suit. It's not very comfortable! I'm looking forward to getting back into my jellabia after the dance," he says.

Goatskin drums are distributed among his friends and they gather around in an orderly circle.

A hush descends as Akram makes his way into the salon - then ululation and applause erupts as they emerge, arms linked.

At first the dance is segregated.

The bride's guests circle her, careful not to bump against the hoop or stand on a layer of lace.

Next to them, relatives and friends raise Akram on to their shoulders, then throw him in the air in time to the drumbeat, limbs flailing.

"This is the best part!" Akram shouts, delighted.

The crowd then divides to allow the bride and groom to dance face-to-face. Their arms are held aloft and they circle around each other, courting, glancing but never touching.

Five minutes later, the drums reach their conclusion and man and wife stand still, beaming at each other.

"Now we can go back to Shadeed, eat food and begin our lives together," Akram exclaims enthusiastically.

Sally smiles shyly next to him. I ask if she's looking forward to the next phase.

"Yes, I'm ready to begin having a family. I want lots of children," she says, eyes flicking up briefly to her husband, face flushed and eyes bright. "I hope now everyone will accept our marriage and it will become easier for us."

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