Several of us were lucky to go to a henna party in Cairo in the summer that led to a second invitation in early autumn. Not knowing what to expect I went with my camera and full enthusiasm to what was called a shaabi wedding, and got ready for a great street party and so it was. The henna party takes place usually the night before the wedding, both brides and grooms have them. Among the working class they often take place in the street in the neighborhood where they live. The event we attended was the groom’s henna party. Men and women were divided informally between the space separated by the DJ. However, there was movement between both spaces and some dancing together, though not the way Westerners would.
We were welcomed, fed and treated like honored guests, invited (sometimes commanded) to join the dancing and had a ball. I wondered about the term shaabi, whether it was offensive to the people whom it described, shaabi literally means of the people, working class. I’ve been assured 3 times now that this is not the case. Shaabi music is popular music about urban life. It evolved from baaladi music, which is music of the countryside – rural music. More modern shaabi music, sometimes “electro-shaabi” or “shaabi-pop” are various evolutions of the genre. It’s music to get down to, to sweat, to “jam” and have fun. Check out some videos of popular artists here, here and here. Sorry I have no links that help you experience the food or the general warmth and joy of the people, but in the meantime, the photos.