Just the other day I was contacted by my good friend (whom we shall call here A.) to inform me that he intends to marry his foreign girlfriend (we shall call her B.) and mother of his future twin babies the next day, and asked me to be his witness during the efficiation of the marriage with the egyptian government. I was naturally honored to be chosen, but also intensly curious, since he intended to have an Egyptian “civil marriage”, which is the same as the regular one, but instead of going to an Islamic efficiarry to register his marriage, he would do it directly with the Egyptian department of Justice. Given eternal fascination with Egyptian beauracracy, I couldn’t let the opprutunity go to witness it in action, especially in a civil marriage situation. The experience that I went through with them, the one I will share in this column, has been nothing short of affirming to my commitment phobia.
When A first went to the DOJ, they simply informed him that they needed simply his and her ID, and the embassy’s approval of theiur marriage, with them confirming B. citizenship, religion and marital availability. This required A to go get papers from everyone that he knew stating that they knew him and verify him, as well as all his personal papers, and then go to our ministry of foreign affairs, to get it stamped. After stamping it, he had to take the papers to a MFA-certified translator to translate everything, then back to the MFA to get it stamped again, then take it all to the embassy to start the paperwork cycle and get the confirmation regarding B. The embassy took a month and a half to process the papers and interview them, and then informed them that they can give them everything that the Egyptian government needs, except the religion of B. since the government there is secular and it has no reason to keep records of its citizens’ religion. So, in order to satisfy the requirement, B. went and converted to Islam, to get that ball rolling. After finishing all the paperwork, they went back to the DOJ to finally get their marriage contract, a journey which I accompanied them on.
After submitting all the papers, and verifying that everything in order, the government employee started to go ahead with the paperwork, when he noticed B’s baby bump, which started this exchange:
“You are pregnant?”
” Are you married?”
“Were you previously married?”
“Ehh…then how could you be pregnant?”
“I am not sure..It’s a mystery!”
It took the government official a few minutes to get that she is kidding and that he isn’t witnessing an immaculate conception, before informing her and A that he can’t go through with the paperwork unless they were originally married. After pointing out that this is insane, since they are there to get married, he informed them that they need to create a urfi “custom” marriage that is dated before the pregnany so that he could go through with giving them an official marriage certificate. Ignoring the fact that the government employee is asking them to forge a piece of paper, they asked him how could they get Urfi married right now, to which he informed them to go to the bookstore in front of the ministry, where they sell the Urfi Marriage forms. So, we went to the bookstore, bought the form, filled it, and then submitted it. Satisfied that now the couple in front of him are officially not having babies out of wedlock, and thus not sinful infidels that should not grace his presence, the government official started asking B. about the conditions she wants in her marriage contract.
B simply wanted to state in the contract that she has the right to travel with the children when she pleases, which the official informed her is illegal, since the marriage contract conditions can not cover future conditions, and since there are no children yet, and she could miscarry, this condition could not be inserted. When she asked what she can have as conditions in the contract, he informed her that she has the right to 1)Divorce him if she wishes , 2) to work without his permission, 3) travel without his consent and 4) keep separate finances. He then assured her that Islam protects her right as a mother and that she will have equal control over her children by the law and religion, and when she asked him why he can’t add that to the contracts, he informed her because it would be illegal to do so. You figure it out.
After 3 and a half hours, and a ton of signitures and photocopies and paperwork, we were finally in the stage of printing the marriage contract and signing it. The female government official handeling that aspect noted the exhaustaion that all of us were in, and then asked me what was the problem. When I informed her that the process simply took longer than originally anticipated, she told me “By the way, this is very quickly. Did you know that had they come in two months ago, they wouldn’t be able to get the marriage certificate before a week of submitting their papers?” Astonished, I asked her what happened to change this. Was there a new law that we were not aware of? Or is the new minister maybe pushing for more efficiency? She snorted at the notion, and told me : “No. we are the ones that were bothered by it, and staged a meeting with upper management to change the delay, since it made no sense to delay people who wanted to get married.” “And they agreed?”, I asked, and she replied with a smile, as she is giving us the marriage contract, “Of course. They had no choice when they realized we were all united here on this. Didn’t we have a revolution to make everything better? ”
Ahh, man. Faith truly gets rewarded in the strangest of places….