G. Willow Wilson, a freelance journalist based in Cairo whose worked has appeared in Cairo and The Atlantic Monthly, has started New Cairo, a "blogmag" to collect "articles people would like to see get a little attention, but which are either too local or too in-depth (requiring prior knowledge of regional politics, etc) to publish in print abroad." The first story, about the role of dowries in Egyptian marriages:
The groom-to-be and his family arrive to a trilling zaghruda from the women in Zaynaâ€™s bedroom. They shake hands all around with Zaynaâ€™s parents and family and seat themselves in the main room, which is now filled to capacity. Zayna appears in a red-and-black dress and headscarf, followed by cousins who clap and sing. Once she is seated beside her fiancÃ©, his father presents her with a jewelry box, inside which is her shabka: a gold ring set with six large diamonds, worth about LE 20,000. The word â€˜shabkaâ€™ shares a common root with the verb â€˜to tieâ€™, and it is generally believed that this traditional gift of expensive jewelry from the groomâ€™s family is meant to bind the young couple, placing them under a social and financial obligation to one another. Zayna looks pleased, but barely bats an eye as her fiancÃ© slides the ring on her finger. Though the ring is worth as much as her parents earn in a year, it is not an extravagant bridal gift by modern Egyptian standards. The family of a middle-class groom can now expect to pay up to LE 15,000 for the dowry of a middle-class girlâ€”LE 15,000 for her dowry, plus an additional LE 60,000 to 70,000 for the apartment where the young couple will live, and often LE 10,000 to 20,000 more for a shabka. In turn, a brideâ€™s family is expected to throw a large wedding, which can cost anywhere between LE 10,000 and LE 30,000; and to furnish the apartment, which often costs at least that amount again. The financial strain of marriage plunges many families into debt for years.It's a great piece. The blog is also taking contributions.