Hurry up and wait. I don’t know how to say it in Arabic, but I should probably learn. Waiting is a big part of living in Cairo. Waiting for a taxi. Waiting in the taxi that finally comes because traffic is horrible. Waiting for people who are stuck in other taxis in horrible traffic. Things just take longer here. But it’s not all bad.
On Saturday, we went to our first Egyptian wedding. I seriously underestimated the amount of time it would take to get from our apartment to church, where we would be meeting our friend, Nabil, whose nephew would drive us all to the wedding. We were twenty-five minutes late. But, no worries, the driver was still stuck in traffic and would be another ten minutes. When he finally arrived, we had twenty minutes to get to the church for a 4:00 wedding.
I shouldn’t have feared. When we got there at 4:35, the groom hadn’t even arrived yet. The wedding started about 5:00, a full hour later than scheduled. It was chanted entirely in Coptic, with incense, and ritual, in a gorgeous Coptic church. I didn’t understand a word (except for God, George, and Mariam–the groom and bride), but the liturgi-nerd in me was in awe of the liturgy and the chanting and the beautiful icons, carving, and painting throughout the sanctuary.
After the couple walked out, a long receiving line formed. And since we were with the groom’s aunt and uncle, we actually had seats close to the front-ish, so we were toward the end of the line. I practiced Arabic with Nabil, snapped a few photos, and waited to greet the beaming couple. I even made my first joke in Arabic!
Though we followed the couple’s limo to the reception, we still waited for nearly an hour for them to make their grand entrance. I thought I heard bag pipes, and sure enough, there was a bag piper, accompanied by drums and horns, as well as dancers balancing huge candelabras on their heads. We watched for awhile on the screen and then realized we might not get this chance again and went out to join the festivities.
Eventually, the couple made their way into the reception hall, where we were entertained for nearly an hour by a large live band, with two singers, four male dancers who danced with canes, and an incredible belly dancer who had three costume changes. The couple had their first dance, danced with their parents, and then the dancing began. At one point during the entertainment, appetizer plates were delivered to the tables. But it was 10:45 before the buffet opened. Not knowing how much waiting we would have to do in pre-curfew traffic, we ate quickly and left earlier than many of the guests. There was hardly any traffic and we made it home in record time, with almost an hour to go before the 1:00 AM curfew. It was quite an experience and we were honored to be included. I’ll try to post some photos on my Shutterfly site later tonight. Arabic class did come way too early on Sunday morning and we were very grateful for coffee!
This afternoon, I sat with several Nuer women while we waited for the pastor who translates our Bible study to arrive after being at the hospital all afternoon with a member of their congregation. They spoke mostly in Nuer, with a little Arabic and English thrown in. And though I didn’t understand much of what they said, it was delightful just to sit with them. To laugh with them. To watch their animated faces and the laughter break out across faces. To see the ways they look to each other for community and support. It was a beautiful evening, and as we sat, I watched as Adult Education Program students arrived for their evening classes. I don’t get to just sit and watch very often. But there’s something about doing that that is holy and good.
Hurry up and wait. Be still and know that I am God. In the best moments, I recognize that the two can go hand in hand. At many other times, I take deep breaths and practice reading Arabic. It certainly can be frustrating, but sometimes it’s not all bad either.