New Cairo blogmag

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 Zayna’s bedroom. They shake hands all around with Zayna’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 fiancé, 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 ‘shabka’ shares a common root with the verb ‘to tie’, and it is generally believed that this traditional gift of expensive jewelry from the groom’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 fiancé 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 girl—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 bride’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.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.