family type in egypt

todd says the egyptian family type is his ‘endogamous community family’ type (by endogamous he means that the children of brothers marry):

– cohabitation of married sons with their parents
– equality between brothers established by inheritance rules
– frequent marriage between the children of brothers
– arab world, turkey, iran, afghanistan, pakistan, azerbaijan, turkmenistan, uzbekistan, tadzhikistan
– islam

from what i’ve read so far, that seems more-or-less right. one important point, though: the extended family seems to be more important the further south you go in egypt. the extended family is still important today in lower egypt, in and around cairo and the delta, but it’s really important in upper egypt to the point where one should really be talking in terms of clans and/or tribes — tribes especially with the nubians in the south and the bedouins in peripheral areas.

there’s a reason for this difference which i’ll talk more about in a follow up post, but you can already guess what it is: inbreeding/endogamous mating happens at much greater frequencies in southern egypt and in the frontier governorates than in the delta region. simple.

there are a couple of other exceptions to todd’s classification of the egyptian family type — the actual structures on the ground are not a perfect fit with todd’s description — for instance which members of the extended family tend to live in egyptian households seems to be more flexible than todd’s definition — but, still, i think he’s generally right. these are, indeed, endogamous community families.

here are some interesting excerpts from a couple of sources related to the importance of the extended family in egypt:

African Families at the Turn of the 21st Century (2006), pgs. 57-58:

“In urban and rural areas the importance of family for women and men remains central to their lives….

For most Egyptians some version of the extended family still plays a crucial role in their day-to-day existence. Contrary to modernization theory with respect to family development, extended families have not lost their appeal or importance. Most people attempt to live near their parents, siblings, cousins, or grandparents, should they still be alive, and maintain an active relationship with many of their relatives. It is important to note that extended family households which are often found in Egypt do not follow the traditional patterns in which geneaologically related persons of two generations live together or in which married siblings form one household. Rather, extended families are based on the incorporation of unmarried relatives into a family. Widows, divorcees (especially those with no children), and bachelors do not live separately and would be stigmatized should they make this choice. Further, unmarried sons or daughters live with their parents until marriage, irrespective of age. After divorce or the death of a spouse, both men and women, especially if they do not have children, are expected to return to their parents if they are still alive; otherwise they are supposed to live with a brother, sister, or other relatives. Another popular extended family pattern is the one in which a child is ‘borrowed’ by a relative with no children of his or her own. Among lower-class people one tends to find this phenomenon more often among grandparents who need the assistance of a child for housework. Among more well-to-do families, an uncle or aunt will offer to take care of a sibling’s children for an extended time period, primarily for sentimental reasons or because the biological parents already have other pressing obligations such as an extended leave abroad.

“Another common middle- and lower-class family pattern found in Egypt is the incorporation of nonrelatives, such as apprentices and work assistants, into a particular household. Such individuals have a special position, because even though not all of them sleep in the house of their employer, their food and laundry is part of the household. Upper-middle- and upper-class families are characterized by the presence of domestic servants who may or may not live in the household. Often domestic live-in servants will come from the family’s natal village, even if the family has not lived there for several generations.

that last group of people, the live-in servants from the family’s natal village, might often be distant relatives to the family for whom they work.
_____

“Positivity in the Middle East: Developing Hope in Egyptian Organizational Leaders”
Advances in Global Leadership, Volume 4 (2006), pg. 281:

“Cultural collectivism dominates the Egyptian society, with extended families and family ties being very important. Children normally live with their parents until they get married, and sometimes even share their parents’ place after they get married due to their tight economic resources and the scarcity of affordable housing. Children are expected to support their parents at old age. However, this collectivism does not necessarily translate into patriotism. People may be loyal to their immediate families, to their extended families, to their neighbors, and to their friends and acquaintances, but not necessarily to their political leaders and current situation…. Sabotaging public transportation seats, writing on building walls, littering, breaking traffic lights, and other destructive behaviors are commonplace by children and adults alike. This behavior usually extends to the workplace, where personal abuse of business resources takes place, and in most cases even accepted as the norm.”
_____

this final excerpt describes the situation in upper or southern egypt, i.e. where there is greater inbreeding:

Development and Social Change in Rural Egypt (1986), pgs. 150-51:

“The importance that poor peasants attach to the brokerage services by a single wealthy patron can be seen in the continuing importance of the extended family unit in rural Egypt. In the village of El-Diblah [pseudonymous village representative of upper egypt], as well as other Egyptian communities, politics and much of life itself are organized on the basis of large, extended families numbering 500 members or more. These extended families are broad patrilineal structures, which may or may not be able to trace themselves back to a single historical founder. While these extended families do not represent monolithic social structures, most fellahin are animated by a real feeling of belonging to a particular extended family unit. When they need a loan or help with outside government officials, poor peasants will often turn to the leader or a prominent person within their extended family. In the village of El-Diblah three of the four leading extended families are headed by rich peasants. In the eyes of most fellahin, this is exactly as it should be. In the countryside wealth acquired by virtually any means provides a good indication of an individual’s ability to deal with (or against) the ouside world.

“‘Zaghlul,’ for example, is the rich peasant head of one of the leading extended families in El-Diblah. A short, wiry 55-year-old fellah, whose dress and mannerisms are almost indistinguishable from those of other peasants in the village, Zaghlul now owns about 25 feddans of land. Much of this land is planted in sugar cane, a crop that he uses to supply his own cane press that produces black molasses for local sale. As the owner of 25 feddans of land, and the proprietor of one of the few ‘manufacturing’ enterprises in the village, Zaghlul is able to dispense a wide number of agricultural and non-agricultrual work opportunities to favored members of his extended family. Many of the poorer members of his extended family live in a mud-brick settlement surrounding Zaghlul’s modern two-story, red-brick house. In the evenings a steady stream of these poor people come to Zaghlul’s house, seeking brokerage and intercessionary services (for example, help in securing agricultural inputs and medical services from the government)….

previously: “l’explication de l’idéologie” and corporations and collectivities

update: see also mating patterns in egypt and corporations and collectivities

(note: comments do not require an email. three fellahs.)

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4 Comments

  1. Sabotaging public transportation seats, writing on building walls, littering, breaking traffic lights, and other destructive behaviors are commonplace by children and adults alike.

    This is pure anecdote, but: As someone from an Anglo-Saxon culture who currently lives in Mediterranean Europe, moving here was a much bigger culture shock than I’d thought. All the things listed above are just those that made me feel like such a fish out of water: Grafitti covers everything (even in ‘nice’ neighborhoods), littering is second nature, respect for common areas seems non-existent. It’s not as extreme as Egypt (no breaking traffic lights for example), but it really threw me off and was my first experience of the profound differentness between European peoples.

    Learning about in- vs. out-breeding and clannisness vs. commonweal-orientation was thus for me driven by a hunger to understand this alien people among whom I lived. The connections between in-breeding and lack of commonweal-orientation seem so obvious now, but for most international policy makers and pundits that’s nowhere near the case. It’s maddening to hear them pontificate about the English-style democracy that will sprout in Egypt next week, when the mating patterns of this people indicate that’s highly unlikely. One more policy area where a little HBD-knowledge is sorely needed.

    Reply

  2. @m.g. – “As someone from an Anglo-Saxon culture who currently lives in Mediterranean Europe, moving here was a much bigger culture shock than I’d thought. All the things listed above are just those that made me feel like such a fish out of water: Grafitti covers everything (even in ‘nice’ neighborhoods), littering is second nature, respect for common areas seems non-existent. It’s not as extreme as Egypt (no breaking traffic lights for example), but it really threw me off and was my first experience of the profound differentness between European peoples.”

    it’s really something, isn’t it?

    i’m a bit of a mutt — come from some of those peripheral, inbred europeans with a touch of the not-so-inbred. but i grew up in the midwest of the u.s. where everything is tidy and organized and honest and upright and no one even dreams of cheating. i pretty much internalized all of that (possibly ’cause of my not-so-inbred side). and whenever i go back to “the old country,” i always do a lot of *facepalming* at people’s behaviors there — including my own extended family. it may not have ever been such of a shock for me as it was for you ’cause i was introduced to it when quite young, but i always wondered why things worked so much better in, say, wisconsin than they did over there. (~_^)

    @m.g. – “It’s maddening to hear them pontificate about the English-style democracy that will sprout in Egypt next week, when the mating patterns of this people indicate that’s highly unlikely.”

    i really wonder sometimes what they can be thinking and if they really believe their own b.s. as i keep saying to the lucky members of my family here at home, but i don’t think i’ve said here on the blog before: you really don’t need to understand any of the biology at all. not really. it helps, but honestly — you just have to know HISTORY. if they knew how long it took for the english or the french or whomever to reach a liberal democratic state, they ought to be able to figure out that the arabs WON’T be able to do it overnight. *faceplam*

    Reply

  3. My gf noticed something quite similar in Greece. In Athens, she’d notice that there was graffiti and trash all over. In fact, there was a distinct graffiti line, graffiti up to the reach of the average Greek. She noticed that outside of Athens in the smaller towns in the countryside, things were cleaner and there was no graffiti. But then when you consider the Greek mating system, this makes sense, as each town was basically one big inbred extended family, whereas in Athens, many families were jumbled together…

    Reply

  4. @jayman – “In fact, there was a distinct graffiti line, graffiti up to the reach of the average Greek.”

    heh. (^_^)

    what struck me about the small villages on the islands in greece is that, in many places but not everywhere, you’d walk down the street and just be met with a line of blank walls with the occasional doorway in them and no, or very few, windows. often the doors were very nicely decorated (with carvings or nicely painted), and you just know that beyond the door is a nice courtyard attached to a nice house — but it’s completely cut-off from the outside world. or you, as a stranger walking down the street, are cut-off from that household.

    architecture — even of the humble house — can tell you a lot about a society, me thinks. (^_^)

    Reply

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