“In the land of the Nile, love speaks its own language”. That’s the conclusion three ethnologists reached after delving into the unspoken rules of love and marriage in Egypt. The funny thing is they found themselves studying it by chance.
Samuli Schielke, Steffen Strohmenger and Aymon Kreil had actually come from Europe to do research on religious ideals, but the omnipresence of love in their interviews at the souq stalls, university corridors, and the dentist’s office insinuated a change of path.
They became familiar with concepts such as Tuql, an ancient female art that knows no parallel in other parts of the world: feigning disinterest towards the wooer to test his intentions, while simultaneously showing a proof of her virtuousness. This and other rules for courting and dating give relationships an idyllic, sometimes magical feel, the researchers say.
“The notion of love [here] assumes a grandeur that is hard for us in the West to comprehend,” says Schielke, a Finnish ethnologist from the institute Zentrum Moderner Orient. As he worked his way across the farms of the Nile Delta, he remembers a young villager asked him: “Does love as it is here exist in Europe?”
As his colleague Aymon Kreil poetically defines it, “it is infatuated long-distance love that contains all possibilities of the dream but has not yet been hit by realities of an actual encounter”. Who has ever heard of such an ethereal sentiment?