“I was lucky because he knew Arabic very well and had always had an interest in Islam and the Qur’an, so converting for him was not a problem; he actually fasts more than I do,” says Malak.
Married since 2009, the couple has lived together in England, Italy and Egypt, where they recently moved with their new-born child.
Intercultural marriage is a welcome venture in Egypt, as long as it involves an Egyptian man.
But what happens when it’s the woman who wants to marry a foreigner?
Although Islamic traditions often allow for the marriage to take place provided the man converts to Islam, Nouran says her family would not give her consent.
“When I ask why it is forbidden from a rational point of view, they tell me it’s because of the conflicts I will face when marrying a man with a different religion.
A combination of tradition, cultural norms, and religion have turned it into an unbreakable rule.
“They say they do not accept it because the children follow the dad’s religion,” she explains.
“They don’t only object to non-Muslims, but any non-Arab foreigner because they wouldn’t like to have someone who doesn’t speak the native language to avoid any difficulties in communicating.” “But I actually find the barrier of languages fun; I think that not speaking your native language with your spouse would create less fights you won’t be able to really swear at him or really express your anger like you express it in your own native language,” she says. Although intercultural marriages are often accepted when Egyptian or Arab men marry a foreign woman, marriages that involve a foreign man do not enjoy the same level of social acceptance.
“Aside from the fact that there are couple of foreigners who would be really compatible for me, I would love every Egyptian girl to have the option of choosing the man they marry,” she says.
“My first boyfriend would tell me what to wear and not to wear, or every time I had a male friend he would tell me to back off,” she recalls, “So I broke out of that and just wanted the complete opposite." While she was moving abroad, she met Charlie*, a French man who was moving to the same city, and they started dating shortly after.