For Women: A culture of gold in Egypt

Kicking off our first post in the guest blogging series.

MamaMona has been a favorite blogger of mine for quite some time.  She writes with an honest voice in a diverse range of topics.  On her blog you will find posts about parenthood, shopping, Egypt, Islam and lots of other things.  Perhaps what makes her stand out the most is that she is an Egyptian woman who was raised in the US and then came back as an adult.  It makes her perspective of Egypt different than people who have lived their whole lives in Egypt.  She is a reminder that you can be a very dedicated mother, yet still your very own person.  Here is Mona’s take on Gold and the Egyptian culture.


A culture of gold in Egypt

In Egypt, gold is a big deal. Since the days of the pharaohs, gold is king. Growing up in the states, I never really thought about gold jewelery and always preferred silver to gold anyway. In the US, 14k gold is very common, while here, it’s almost never sold or dealt with. It’s strictly 18k or 21k in the Arab world.

Most Egyptian women love gold. Throughout a woman’s life gold is key. When a baby girl is born, people buy gold earrings, bangles, pendants even tiny rings for the newborn. This is seen as a good gift because the parent can keep it or sell it eventually if need be. When a young woman is getting married, there’s the Shabka. It’s a traditional jewelery set that’s a wedding gift to the bride from the groom. It’s a huge deal, the woman goes with her fiance and probably her mom to pick it out. This is a big part of the engagement/marriage agreement, I gather. .

Gold jewelery is usually any Egyptian woman’s prized possession. Often stored in a mother of pearl box (on Egyptian soap operas at least.) Gold is often how some rural women keep their wealth, on their arms and ears, etc. The thing about gold, it’s considered a girl’s best friend here. It’s something that people like to have, and seen as more than just an accessory or a piece of jewelery because in tough times, if need be, people sell it for cash. Nowadays, more modern styles are popular. White gold and diamonds are popular with Egypt’s elite as well.

On a more personal note, I recently was purchasing something from a gold shop here in Hurghada. The glass cases and windows were totally empty. Just bare velvet neck shaped displays. Recent crime has shop owners worried. Tourism is really down and times are tough since most people’s livelihood comes from the tourism industry. A woman came in to the shop with 2 small girls. She removed their earrings and had the man weigh them and waited to hear how much she would get for them.  I could do nothing but look at the ground and feel like crap.


  • At 2011.03.02 13:26, ze2red said:

    That is a good honest and cultural post :)

    for me i used to go with 14K and 18K gold when i lived in KSA. and since white gold hit the market, it became my first love. It has a spark and elegance better than silver :)

    • At 2011.03.03 00:38, deppy said:

      Good post :)

      As for myself, I’m not a fan of gold myself. I like silver and copper. And I wish I could find a way to get rid of that Shabka tradition!

      • At 2011.03.03 12:39, jessyz said:

        I like white gold and platinum too :-))) And diamonds and pressious stones
        but yes, silver is and always will be my favorite metal

        • At 2011.03.03 00:42, Dana said:

          @ debby.. whats wrong with the shabka tradition?

          • At 2011.03.03 01:02, ze2red said:

            I think the shabka tradition for at least the past decade is being an expensive show-off tradition. Parents don’t compromise, and the first thing a mother says, my daughter is no less in value than her peers in the family circle… Come on, it’s not logical, are parents really selling their daughters for the highest bidder??.

            Plus what if a girl’s taste settles on something simple and way below budget, because i hate big diamond shiny rings for example.

            there are other situations in which the couple would rather use the money as a car down payment, which i think is better than using public transportation and having that shabka kept at home with no use. Or even getting a bigger apartment or completing the furniture. nowadays a couple can’t say their apartment is completely furnished unless it’s 5 years of their marriage. Isn’t that absurd?

            I, for example, want to have a fancy honeymoon abroad, and i would rather spend the money on that trip than get a shabka… People think i’m stupid, but at the end of the day it’s my happiness and my life.

            • At 2011.03.03 01:04, deppy said:

              I don’t like any social obligations, they made me rather uncomfortable. as for shabka, I can live with it, if it remains being symbolic. But it grew to be strictly boring and one thing to brag about, and also a burden for the groom.

              • At 2011.03.03 12:41, jessyz said:

                Hehehe I think there should be a shabka or a gift from the groom to the bride within his financial ability. Besides he can always buy her more gifts later :-)

                • At 2011.03.03 13:55, deppy said:

                  Yes I second the idea. Bas kalam l omhat ba2a “mat2khedhosh 3aleki, w lw ma3rfsh emtek delaw2ty msh haygblek 7aga ba3den!”

                  • At 2011.03.03 13:56, Mona said:

                    I think a gift is a good tradition but it should be up to the woman and within the groom’s budget. Sometimes families get too overzealous. I like silver/white gold too but starting to like some gold as well.