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‘Urfi marriage, an Egyptian Version of Cohabitation?
In Egypt, the term ‘urfi2 in relation to marriage means literally “customary” marriage, something that has always existed in Egypt but nowadays tends mostly to be secretly practiced among young people. Traditionally, according to Abaza,3 ‘urfi marriage took place not only for practical purposes (such as enabling widows to remarry while keeping the state pension of their deceased husbands), but also as a way of matchmaking across classes (since men from the upper classes use ‘urfi marriage as a way of marrying a second wife from a lower social class). In this way a man could satisfy his sexual desires while retaining his honor by preserving his marriage to the first wife and his position in the community to which he belonged, and keeping his second marriage secret.
Abaza, Mona (2001), “Perceptions of ‘Urfi Marriage in the Egyptian Press,” ISIM Newsletter, (International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Leiden), No.7.
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