When you grow up with several different cultures around you, you would think that you were used to weird aspects of new cultures… But there are some things that the Egyptian culture throw in my face, and im sorry I just can’t get over how insane they are… Of course it might be normal for Egyptians and they don’t understand where im coming from, and by no means is this an attack on the Egyptian culture but I seriously just have to tell you how weird these things are!
So outside Egypt when someone is pregnant it is pretty normal to organise a baby shower for the pregnant woman. At this ‘shower’ you give the pregnant lady gifts for the new baby that is due, things she might need in order to be prepared for him/her. Its done before the birth for obvious reasons: that when there is a baby at home, how easy is it to have a huge party and invite all your friends around, with minimal sleep this would be hell! Another reason to have the party before giving birth is to receive gifts that are necessary for when the baby gets here. When you have a baby in the house, you need all the stuff to be ready at home, dragging a newborn to the shops to buy a bed or clothes is not something that comes first on your to-do list! Here in Egypt, this aint normal… You normally have a party after the birth… I get that for them it might be weird to have a party before the baby is even born. Like my mother in-law laughed when I told her that the party is normally before the birth, because after the birth you don’t want to ‘disturb’ the newborn and the family… She said what happens if the baby dies! This is something I would never even imagine or think about… not because I expect my baby to be born alive, but its something that I would NEVER want to even imagine or consider… I mean why the hell would you go through your pregnancy not buying anything or thinking about the future incase the baby dies before the birth… They therefore have a party here to celebrate that the baby has survived 7 days after the birth… At this party you give money and gifts to the baby…. BUT 7 days after the birth I would definitely hope I have 90% of everything I need for the baby or I would have to consider myself a badly planned mother!
Anyways I had to experience one of these my-baby-survived-the-birth-and-7-days parties! My husband and I weren’t really into having one, because it was like 2 months after the birth when I got back to Egypt so it would be weird to have such a late 7-days-after-the-birth-party. But my parents-in-law insisted on having this party, it’s the only way you get gifts for the baby, and in Islam its tradition to sacrifice 2 sheep if you have a boy. You give some of the sheep meat to the poor and the rest you cook at the party and feed to your guests! But this would be a my baby survived 2-months-after-the-birth-and-3-flights-from-Norway-to-Egypt-party…
So my husbands parents arranged for the party to be held at a restaurant in New Cairo. It was a typical Egyptian restaurant because not many restaurants serve a whole grilled sheep. Over 45 people were invited and the party was to start at 3… Or so my parents in law told me… My husband told me they changed it to 4 after I had told my friends to come at 3… Some people are always late so my husband and his family had told them to arrive at 3 whilst others who usually are on time were told 4… My parents in-law-were due to arrive at 3.30 to make sure they were there before the guests arrived… We were there 3.15 because the restaurant had been booked at 3! So arriving too late might make them think we were not coming! Timing in Egypt is just one huge absolutely big chaos! So we turned up first and chilled in the car for 30 minutes waiting for my husband’s family to arrive 30 minutes late… Then we entered the party area!
It was a large hall with tables upon table upon table upon table… maybe room for about 150 people… There were 3 tables reserved for us… The hall had blue hospital lights in the ceiling, there was a loud echo, blasting cold air-condition, so basically a very cosy nice atmosphere! I actually think Mcdonalds is more cosy than this restaurant… I went to find a chair to sit down and place my baby out-of-the-way of the waiters running around smashing glasses and bumping into people with dirty plates! I place my baby in his car seat on the chair near the wall out-of-the-way of all the ‘people’ and what do I see on the floor?! Nothing other than my absolutely best friend: A COCKROACH! And I thought my friendship with those disgusting creatures was finished when I moved into a newly renovated apartment! I even spent loads of money changing the plumbing to make sure no creature was safe, no eggs were forgotten… I was not about to meet anymore members of the cockroach family, and absolutely not in my own apartment… BUT instead I have to meet a member at a restaurant where I am supposed to eat… I was sooo hungry entering the restaurant and within milliseconds I lost my appetite and just wanted to throw up! Luckily it was dead and upside down, so I knew it would NOT be able to crawl up my leg… I didn’t want to make a scene and I kinda wanted to hide from the guests, or else everyone would come over and touch my son! I was not having one of those touch-and-poke-and-annoy-my-son-parties! Especially by people neither me nor my husband really knew at all…
As all these strangers from my husband’s family started entering the room (hours late, just to point out!), all I did was pray that my new best friend lying upside down behind me did not have any live family members about to crawl up my leg, and praying my son fell asleep so I didn’t have to have these awkward conversation about why I don’t want a complete stranger to hold him and shake him in the air, and not support his wobbly head! I mean if more than 45 people were going to hold him for about a minute or more, that’s more than 45 minutes of being passed around the room! The son of one family member who is about 3 is known for hitting other children, which the mother and other family members find hilarious (YES, you heard correctly, she finds her son punching people FUNNY!)… When I say hit, I mean hard and also pushing… I had overheard him saying to my husbands mother that he is excited to meet my son so he can punch him… Nope im not kidding.. Guess if that child was allowed ANYWHERE near my baby!
When the waiter came to give me the food he just casually kicked the cockroach towards the other table! Way to go on ‘normal behaviour’! If I ever worked in a restaurant and saw a cockroach I would be horrified and pick it up immediately and pray that nobody saw it… Nope he just kicks it out of HIS way towards the other people’s table… Let them deal with it, in case they havent seen it yet!
Luckily my son fell asleep (even with the noise of a jet engine in the room of talking, plates smashing and music) but no that DID NOT stop people from touching him… I don’t know why but I really have a problem with people poking at my child… I mean I don’t mind if they want to treat him like a human being, but please don’t make cat noise (psst, psst) and poke him in the face and stick your finger in his belly and pull his hands and legs… I mean he is a human being and I would like you to actually treat him like one! You don’t have to talk to him like an animal and you don’t have to touch him like a newly bought teddy bear! Yes he is a baby, but trust me he still thinks that some things are annoying… I learnt that my child will sleep whatever the situation is if he is really tired… I couldn’t hear myself talk or even think in this restaurant and he slept right through the noise and all the people pulling his legs and poking him in the face!
Let me also just make a note of the fact that here we are in a closed room celebrating the birth of a newborn and several people decide to light cigarettes to smoke IN THE SAME ROOM AS MY BABY! I mean did the cigarettes kill your brain cells? Do you not think that smoking in front of a newborn is STUPID?
Oh and another funny thing I saw was that at another table a couple had a new-born child with them… They also had a car seat, which is not a normal thing for Egyptians to have, most children usually stand in the front seat of the car or roll around in the back unless they have a sunroof, then of course they will be hanging out of that… So I followed them closely as they carried their child in this car seat to the car… They threw the car seat in the boot of the car and the mother put the child on her lap in the front… YEPP! I’m not kidding… THE CAR (HINT HINT the name is CAR seat, not carrying seat!!) seat was thrown in the back and she became the child’s ‘car seat’! And NO she was not wearing a seatbelt… And off they went on their merry way as I was left there in shock at the lack of safety!
Anyways we had the my-baby-survived-party and received a lot of gifts and money for the little one! We also got quite a lot of gold which is kind of ironic when in Islam gold is considered a sin if worn by males. We even got two gold rings (ummm sorry but EEEEEWWWWW!) Mind you that we ended up paying nearly double for the food and drinks compared to the money we received as gifts… Well at least ive done something ‘half’ typical Egyptian… I say half because I have heard the horror stories of what this type of party really is like, and we deleted most of it apart from the gifts and food! My husband suggested bringing someone elses baby or a real-looking doll instead of our baby, to avoid all the annoying touching!
Here are a few pics of Yousef, and from the party and the gold rings (AGAIN EEEEWWWW!) and gifts!