Do you love watching stranger’s weddings? Passing a country church in the summer, or seeing people coming down the steps of an inner city register office, I always stop and watch for a while. In Italy we stood and admired elegant ladies walking to a little church at the top of a cobbled street in very high heels and fondant dresses. In India we watched a wedding with more guests than you can imagine; saris in every colour, embroidered and draped in gold. So, on holiday last week, I was delighted to see, from our 5th floor room, an Egyptian wedding taking place in our hotel. While the other guests took pictures from their rooms I went down and asked if I might take a picture close up. The beautiful couple was more than happy to oblige.
The traditional wedding attire of Egypt was quite different to what this couple were wearing. Ahmed, our guide, explained that in the past the whole village might have been involved in embroidering the dresses, the best of which were made of silk.
Muslim women are required to cover the whole body, showing only their face and hands. I sent one of these Aswan photographs off to our own Mrs Mole – she who alters similar dresses for her American brides – who often choose to wear low-cut, fairly revealing frocks. The young modern Egyptian brides have adopted a creative approach, basing their look on the same Western ideal. These days the dresses are usually hired, and include all sorts of trendy details, such as a pearly crown, bouquet, false eyelashes and veil. This bride wore a dress with back feature lacing and a modern low-cut, embellished neckline, just as you might see in California or Cardiff. But underneath she is wearing a white, stretchy, long-sleeved polo necked jumper, a fashion popular across Egypt as it allows women to wear modern fashions but adapted for modesty.
The groom then picked up his new wife, pressed his nose gently to hers, and revealed his sweet, white, socks.