The attacks this week on Coptic churches in northern Egypt underline the dangers faced by the country’s Christian minority. But among the Nubians – an ancient nation that lives along the upper reaches of the Nile – Muslims and Christians mostly live in harmony. Nicola Kelly attended a Muslim-Christian wedding, celebrated discreetly after nightfall, in the southern city of Aswan.
“Everyone kept telling me I should marry a girl from my community – but it was impossible,” Akram says, his eyes crinkling. “I couldn’t stay away from her.”
It’s the morning of Akram’s wedding, in a village on the western bank of the Nile, and he’s busily preparing to go to the mosque to say his vows.
This won’t be a traditional ceremony. Akram will be taking his vows alone while his Christian bride-to-be Sally recites her prayers quietly at home.
“We’re the first people to marry outside of our religion here. That’s very difficult, especially for my parents,” Akram explains.
For seven years, the couple were banned from seeing each other by both sets of parents.
Members of the community, religious leaders and friends tried to prevent them from meeting, but they still managed to arrange some brief encounters.
“We agreed to get married at night, so as not to bring shame on either of the families,” Akram says.