A CAIRO WEDDING, 1870. The bridegroom utters a cry of joy -- or not.
Luise Mühlbach’s report continues:
On the day of the wedding all invited friends and relatives accompany the couple from the house of the bride’s father to the house of the bridegroom.
The men remain in the lower part and sing songs and chant prayers in praise of the prophet. The women ascend with the bride to the harem and adorn her, meaning, they take off her red wrapper and almost all her clothes, cover her with a thin veil. Then they call for the bridegroom and withdraw.
He acts embarrassed and makes his friends drag him a few steps, then he jumps up and runs upstairs in great haste. The bride and bridegroom face each other for the first time – she, veiled and modestly lowering her gaze. He approaches and attempts to lift her veil. She keeps it tight. Then, as if to bribe her, he hands her a gift of gold (its value depends on his wealth). This gift is called “the price for revealing the face”. At last he slowly lifts the veil and says in a loud voice: In the name of god, the all-merciful who takes pity on me! May the night and the day be blessed!
Then he whispers: Allah bless you.
Now he has lifted the veil and looks at his bride. If she pleases him and matches the descriptions he was given, he utters a joyful cry. If he remains silent, it is a sign that she has not found approval with him.
Then he kisses his bride for the first time and leaves her to call the women to dress her in one of the dresses she was given as her dowry, and present her to him again. Again he utters a cry of you – or not, depending on whether he likes the bride and her dress.
Downstairs the friends and relatives wait for this shout of joy, called Zagahrit. When it isn’t heard, the faces of the waiting crowd darken, and the curious onlookers disperse. It means that the bridegroom has immediately dismissed his bride. But that hardly ever happens. The bridegroom usually has the courtesy to keep the unwanted bride for eight days before handing her back to his relatives, or if he is wealthy enough, he keeps her and takes a second wife, who becomes his favourite, whereas the other one must look after the household.
(Source: Reisebriefe aus Aegypten. My translation)