Everything you need to know about marriage in Egypt
Egypt is generally regarded as an Islamic country because over 90% of the population are Muslims. The number of marriages held in Egypt yearly is almost 900,000, and marriages are very important events in the lives of Egyptians. Like in most countries, the two major forms of marriage in Egypt are religious marriages and civil marriages; however, only a civil marriage is legally binding. This implies that people who want to have other types of marriages are permitted to do so, provided that they have conducted a civil ceremony and properly registered their marriage.
Both foreigners and nationals are allowed to get married in Egypt, and the minimum legal age to get married is 18 years. However, underage girls continue to get married in the country without facing criminal punishments. This is usually because most underage marriages are not registered until the person becomes an adult and an eligible citizen to marry. The Egyptian law permits interfaith marriages but prohibits them when they are between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man (national or foreigner). The only way it can work is if the man is about to convert to the Islam religion, and he must complete his conversion process before the marriage is allowed to take place. Let’s continue with the major things involved with getting married in Egypt.
A civil marriage is performed by an authorized registrar and held in the registrar’s office. It is the only type of marriage that is legally binding in Egypt. Most Egyptian couples hold a civil marriage first to obtain a marriage certificate before proceeding to conduct a religious or traditional marriage ceremony. The process of registering a marriage usually does not take long, but there are certain requirements that must be met by both couples before they are permitted to get married in the country. To apply for a marriage certificate, the processes and requirements are stated below.
In-Person Procedure and Requirements
- The couple must ensure their marriage is first registered at the Egyptian Ministry of Justice
- The forms that must be filled out and submitted by the couples are to be collected on the wedding day or at most a day before the wedding ceremony.
- Sometimes, a routine physical exam is required for either or both spouses. It must be performed by an Egyptian doctor, and its purpose is to determine if both parties are healthy enough to get married.
- The Ministry of Justice usually issues a marriage certificate after a period of 10 days. After the document is issued, it must be obtained by the couple as soon as possible.
- The marriage certificate often has bilingual copies (English and Arabic). For documents that are primarily in Arabic, couples can have them translated to English by the Egyptian Ministry of Justice Translation Office. This usually takes about four to seven days and attracts a fee of about 40.00 LE. Note that the translation is not a requirement and is based on the couple's preference
- The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy in Cairo must both authenticate the marriage certificate. This usually applies to foreign partners getting married in Egypt.
All of the paperwork and documents must be presented to the administrative unit in the home country of the spouse. This is to be translated into the official language of such a country if English is not the primary language used there. Also, a declaration of name change should be made after marriage for spouses who change their names. They must get new, valid means of identification and other documents where their name is displayed.
The partners getting married are required to submit some documents during the marriage registration process. These are stated below
Documents that are required
- Original and valid means of identification, e.g., Egyptian national ID or passport
- Original government-issued Egyptian birth certificates. In the case where one of the couples is non-Egyptian, they are required to legalize and translate their birth certificate from their home country or the country’s embassy or consulate in Egypt.
- Both partners must submit five personal photos
- Two legal witnesses must be provided by the couple, and they must have a valid Egyptian national ID or passport.
- Divorce or death certificate This must be presented by a partner from a previous marriage that was terminated. This paperwork does not require authentication or translation. This will also help to prove the single status of the spouse.
More than 85% of the population of Egypt are Sunni Muslims. Islamic marriage is the most popular form of marriage in Egypt after civil marriage. Just like with civil marriages, there are certain procedures and documents that are required from the couple before they can get married. The procedures are stated below.
Islamic Marriage Procedure and Requirements
- Both Egyptian nationals and foreigners must approach the Ministry of Finance and conduct their marriage in the UAE based on the Sharia law provisions.
- According to the Egyptian marriage law, a Muslim man is allowed to get married to a non-Muslim woman; however, a Muslim woman is not permitted to get married to a non-Muslim man unless he has fully converted to Islam
- The traditional ceremony must not be held during the marriage ceremony in the married couple’s residence.
- In Egypt, polygamy is allowed, and a man is permitted to have up to four wives or more, provided that he is able to provide equal treatment and sustenance to them all.
- In Borno, wedding dinners are to be reserved for the family members of the couple only
Foreigners are prohibited from having Muslim marriages in Egypt. They can only conduct a civil marriage. If a foreigner also wants to conduct a religious marriage, it has to be performed in his or her home country. The documents required by couples getting married in Egypt are stated below:
- Both partners must submit a birth certificate or declaration of age
- The spouses are expected to submit valid means of identification and one passport each.
- Egyptian spouses are required to submit a letter or certificate of identification from their state of origin.
- There must be the in-person presence of the partners, especially if one of them is foreign, and the foreign partner must also present a valid copy of their passport
- Government-issued birth certificates must be presented, and the spouse also has to submit a written application in the case of a special marriage license.
Polygamy and same-sex marriages
In Egypt, polygamy is legal. According to Sharia law, a man is allowed to take multiple wives, provided that he treats them fairly and equally. However, a woman is not allowed to practice polyandry. A woman can only be in a relationship or marriage with one man at a time. Polygamy has always been practiced since ancient Egypt, and it is still very popular to this day.
The laws of Egypt frown on same-sex marriages, although it is not an offense that requires capital punishment. Modern Egypt does not outright criminalize same-sex sexual activities. The way the law goes around this is by using multiple morality provisions for homosexual conduct and acts. Behaviors that are deemed offensive, immoral, or scandalous as regards the teachings of a religious leader may be prosecuted under all the provisions laid out. Public morality and order laws are being actively used against the people of the LGBTQ community. Therefore, being a member of the LGBTQ community or trying to perform a same-sex marriage in Egypt will probably cause more harm than good in the end.
There are certain ceremonial sites that are unique to the Egyptians. These are performed during the direct phases of the whole marriage ceremony, from the pre-wedding phase down to the post-wedding phase. Some of these traditions are stated below:
Mahr and Shabka
This is a ceremonial rite that is made up of two parts, namely the Mahr and the Shabka. The Mahr refers to the sum of money that is paid by the groom to the bride’s family, while the Shabka refers to the jewelry that is bought for the bride by her husband-to-be.
The engagement ceremony is an important marriage tradition in Egypt. Here, the two families will meet to get to know each other better. The bride’s family is usually in charge of hosting this. They have the freedom to choose where it will be held. Some families usually opt for well-decorated hotels.
The henna is a party that is organized for the bride by the female members of her family as well as other friends. The party is usually held a night or two before the actual wedding ceremony, and it often includes feasting and a lot of dancing.
Wedding ceremony and reception
Egyptian wedding ceremonies and receptions are usually held on the same day. The wedding ceremony usually starts with a procession of different vehicles driven by the wedding party as well as other family members and friends. Christian marriages are celebrated according to Christian beliefs and are held in a church, while Muslim marriages are performed in the mosque or house by the maa'zoun.
The marriage contract is then prepared, which includes the terms of the marriage as well as what happens in the case of divorce or the death of either of the partners. The wedding ceremony is usually followed by a reception that is held at the preferred venue chosen by the couple. Here, they are wished well by friends and various guests, and it involves a lot of beautiful music, food, and drinks.
Marriage Laws and Rights: Costs and Duties
Laws and Rights
The laws guiding marriage in Egypt are totally based on Islamic laws. Foreigners are only allowed to perform civil ceremonies after getting permission to do so from their respective countries' embassies and a lot of extra paperwork. For Egyptian nationals or foreigners, the husband must be at least 18 years of age, while the wife must be at least 16 years of age. Child marriage used to be allowed in the country, but new laws abolishing this act have been passed.
Both parties must give their consent to the marriage, but the consent of the bride doesn't really stand unless her legal guardian gives his consent. Before the wedding can take place, both parties are expected to submit birth certificates, passport photographs, and identity documents to the authorities; the same documents apply for foreigners, as well as a written application for a special marriage license, a copy of their passports, and a valid visa. The particulars of both parents and witnesses should be submitted to the authorities to verify their identities.
According to Egyptian law, a man is allowed to marry more than one wife; the reverse is true for women. Polygamy is accepted under the law. The woman is expected to submit a certificate of divorce or the death of her former spouse if she was previously married. This law doesn't apply to men, as they are allowed to marry as many wives as possible, provided they have the socioeconomic capability to take care of them. According to Egyptian law, a man is allowed to marry a non-Muslim; however, a woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim unless she can provide proof of his conversion to the authorities.
The rights of couples in Egyptian society are unequal, as the society favors the man more than the woman. There are few grounds on which they both have equal rights. The Egyptian law sees the woman as subordinate to her husband, and as such, the man has the right to exert his authority over her. The woman's right to work and education can be easily overlooked. The woman has the right to receive maintenance from her husband and state whatever adjustments she would like in the marriage contract.
The woman has the right to control whatever property belongs to her; that's just about it for the woman. However, a man has the right to work and to further his education. Women have the right to be informed before their husbands decide to take on another wife, but that doesn't mean that their decisions are going to change anything. There's no law prohibiting marital rape or domestic violence in an Egyptian marriage. The man has the right to restrict his wife's mobility and divorce her without telling her. Essentially, the man has access to many rights at the expense of the woman.
The cost of getting married in Egypt is as expensive as in other parts of the world. The many traditions, such as gifts of gold to the bride, cost a lot of money to set up, but it mostly depends on the financial capability of the groom, as he is the one responsible for everything. Annually, Egyptians spend up to about $3.8 billion on weddings, which makes the concept of marriage a big business in Egypt. Generally, an average Egyptian wedding is estimated to cost around $1,600–$2,600, excluding the payment of the mahr and others.
The average cost of an Egyptian wedding, according to researchers, is around 500,000 to 650,000 pounds and can increase to as much as 1 million Egyptian pounds ($61,326); however, these exorbitant costs cover the engagement, wedding, rings and jewelry, furniture and utensils, apartment, honeymoon, and so on. While the man is tasked with paying the dowry and getting the necessary gifts required by the bride's parents and the apartment, the wife is expected to provide the necessary kitchen appliances before they can get married.
An average Egyptian marriage puts a lot of duties on the head of the woman; she is obligated to do everything she can to please her husband while she barely has a say in the running of the home. It is the duty of the husband to provide for his wife and ensure that she is well, and in return, she has to be entirely obedient to her husband as she has a subordinate role in the family. It is believed that the woman's role is to be within the confines of her home and that she should only be concerned with taking care of her husband, the home, and the children, while the husband has access to the world. Some men even believe that there are times when a woman has to be beaten if she proves disobedient according to Islamic law.
The man is obligated to provide for and protect his family. According to the laws guiding Egyptian society, it is believed that women are not seen as lesser. It is believed that they are just lacking in ability and, as such, should not be tasked with external duties and should only be dutiful to their immediate family.
Egypt has some strict laws concerning marriages being held in the country. The process of getting married can be quite tedious due to the procedures involved as well as the conditions that must be met. In Egypt, the minimum legal age to get married is 18 years old. Couples under this age are not allowed to get married except in special circumstances where the court authorizes it with parental or guardian consent. Islamic marriages in the country may only be held by nationals, as foreigners are not permitted to hold this type of religious marriage. Foreigners can only hold civil marriages in Egypt.
In Egyptian marriages, the laws and rights as well as duties and obligations guiding the marriage are quite different for men and women. Men have a higher status in society and are regarded as the heads of their families and their women in general. Women do not have the same rights as men, and they are regarded as subordinates who have to serve their husbands and carry out all the chores in the house. The husband is the provider of the family and should cater to its needs. We hope this article has provided you with all you need to know about marriage in Egypt.
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