Oasis Magazine Articles

Marriage per Love and Law

By Mai Montaser

When marriage is mentioned the first thing people usually imagine is blossoming roses, happy couples in love, holding hands, dancing and kissing. How sweet! But sometimes that initial feeling of attraction fades and if you’re not careful it can lead to serious losses. In reality marriage is not like what you see in fairy tales. If you take it lightly you could be headed for a lot of problems and major disappointment. If you are seriously considering marriage in Egypt there are a number of potential problem areas to be aware of to avoid issues down the road.

First, take note that the only official marriage in Egypt is the legal marriage, which involves actions and procedures that must be followed by the assistance of a lawyer. The procedures vary according to the nationality of the foreigners, but mainly a marriage affidavit is required that includes biographical data and religion. The affidavit must be signed and notarized by your Embassy in Cairo. It must also mention that the applicant is free to marry and that the Embassy has no objection to the marriage. At the Embassy some documents are needed, such as a valid passport and proof of termination of last marriage (if any). The Notarization Office of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs must certify the notarized affidavit.

Next, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice has to register the marriage with the Department of Registration of Marriage in Cairo. The required documents for registration are proof of identity for both parties along with two photocopies, two photocopies of the passport data page, the Egyptian entry visa and residency stamp, five personal photos for each party, a premarriage medical examination at a government hospital and two witnesses (with valid passport or I.D.) to sign the marriage documents. The marriage contract should be drafted in advance by an Egyptian lawyer in both English and Arabic and should be legalized by the court to be valid. After the formal legalization of marriage a residence visa is given for 5 years and it will be possible to obtain an Egyptian passport, get the Egyptian nationality, and live happily in love in Egypt.

The second type of marriage that is practiced in Egypt is called Urfi marriage. Urfi marriage is not registered in court and does not have any legal effect. As such Urfi marriage can be a dangerous proposition because they do not entitle the parties to financial or non-financial rights or protections. For example, a husband or a wife can hide or destroy the Urfi document denying the marriage existed and the other party would not be able to establish the validity of it. The legislature gives effect only to the official documents (registered marriage contract) and gives no effect to the Urfi ones. According to article (99) of the Law no. 87 of the Year 1931, marriage lawsuits for denial of marriage are not accepted before the court except when marriage is documented by an official document. And according to article (17) of the Law no. 1 of the Year 2000, in the case of denial of marriage, lawsuits which are arising from the Urfi marriage contract are not accepted unless the marriage is documented by an official document, except for cases of divorce or annulment of marriage. In other words, the legislature grants no rights for women holding an Urfi marriage contract except the right to request divorce or annulment. A woman cannot file a lawsuit to uphold the validity of marriage, request alimony, or have any other rights. Also, regarding paternity, if the parents are not legally married, the law does not recognize the father as the child’s legal father and does not give any rights or responsibilities to the child except after complicated legal procedures to establish paternity. Such court conflicts can kill any positive emotions that once were between the parents.

True love dictates that we not subject our loved ones to suffering. For love to survive, marriage needs to be taken seriously because problems can destroy what could otherwise be a beautiful relationship.

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