Egyptian campaign rejects gold bridal gifts tradition

A woman looking in a jewellery shop window in Egypt Image copyright Alamy
Image caption The rising price of gold is blamed partly on a lack of US dollars in Egyptian banks

A campaign against the tradition of grooms buying gold gifts for their brides is gaining support in Egypt, it's reported.

Ordinarily, grooms would be expected to shell out for a gift, usually in the form of gold jewellery, depending on their financial resources, a tradition known as "shabka" in Arabic. But soaring gold prices have left betrothed young men with a dilemma.

The price for one gram of 21-carat gold has reached 445 Egyptian pounds ($50; £38) recently, and it's not the only cost involved. A man is also expected to buy an apartment and pay a dowry for his wife-to-be.

Now an initiative to put an end to the pricey gifts is gaining momentum. Residents of a village in Qena Governorate used Friday sermons to call on people to stop buying gold and instead to give symbolic gifts to brides, al-Watan website reports. The idea spread to other northern areas, and has become a social media debate, too.

Some want gold to be replaced with silver as a cheaper alternative, with thousands of people using the hashtag #Bride's_gift_silver or the phrase "Can do without gift" online. Popular songwriter Amir Teima voiced his support, addressing brides directly in a Facebook post: "Work hard and start your lives together. You are not a commodity and the groom is not a merchant."

An official at Dar al-Ifta, the Islamic body authorised with issuing religious edicts, also approves, telling private Ten TV that it would help to encourage marriage and "protect" youths from having relationships outside of wedlock.

Many women reacted positively to the idea, although others want to hold on to the tradition. One says that a silver gift doesn't mean that a bride is "below average" but that her family is "aware of the financial burdens and will not let superficial matters stop the marriage". But another calls the idea "foolish", saying the gift is part of the dowry, "and a man who does not pay the dowry should not be called a man".

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