Just a Bridegroom, or Also a Crown Prince?

The current dispute in the family concerns the question of who will be invited to the wedding ceremony and who to the reception. The debate on the street focuses on what the wedding date should symbolize - if it hints at a political inheritance or simply the honor a son feels for his father.

The wedding is that of Jamal Mubarak, the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, to Khadiga El-Gammal, the daughter of Mahmoud El-Gammal, one of Egypt's richest men. It has already been agreed that the wedding ceremony, scheduled for April 28 in Cairo, will be conducted by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, and that the reception will be held in Sharm el Sheikh on May 4, the president's 79th birthday. According to gossip columns in the Egyptian media, the bride will wear a $10,000 wedding ring, chosen and purchased by the groom at a well-known Egyptian establishment owned by the Saragani family. The bride's dress was ordered in Paris at a cost of $30,000, and the newlyweds will live in a luxury villa purchased by the groom, in Cairo's prestigious Zamalek neighborhood. The villa was renovated under the supervision of the bride's father.

At first, family members felt the wedding should be a relatively modest affair, with only the family and close relatives. The bride's father, however, thought otherwise. When his only daughter, 24, is marrying the son of the country's president, who is 20 years her senior, Egypt must hear about it. Gammal, who owns investment and development companies and who comes from the Domiat region near the Nile Delta, is connected to another famous person: Refaat El-Gammal, the Egyptian spy who infiltrated Israel's intelligence ranks.

The compromise reached in the meantime is that the celebrations in Sharm will be an evening of musical performances by Egypt's top vocalists, some of whom, like Amro Diab, are personal friends of Jamal Mubarak and his brother, Alaa Mubarak, himself a businessman familiar to almost everyone in Egypt. There are rumors that Alaa and his wife Heidi have become newly religious and she has begun wearing a veil. A senior source in the Muslim Brotherhood said in an interview two years ago that he had heard that "Allah has guided Alaa to the right path, but it is only a rumor that he has joined the Muslim Brotherhood."

Rumor or fact, this is not stopping the president's family from enjoying the company of performing artists from every field, some of whom will also be guests at the wedding. The guest list for the party will include Egyptian politicians and businessman, because such an event can also serve as an important political springboard at a time when Egyptians are beginning to think about who will succeed Hosni Mubarak.

This wedding is already considered, especially among members of the Egyptian opposition, as the unofficial ceremony for transferring the presidency from father to son. Jamal Mubarak himself, who holds the position of deputy secretary general of the ruling party and who holds the party's policy portfolio, does not discuss his ambitions to be president, on top of the fact that Mubarak just began another term that ends in 2010. Still, the opposition is not impressed by the public discourse emanating from the presidential palace. From their point of view the wedding represents the truth, with the main indication being the wedding date, which coincides with the president's birthday.

Opposition newspapers and Internet sites, which Jamal has begun calling "corruptos," have launched a major attack against the wedding, which looks like a succession ceremony for Egyptian rulership. An example of this can be seen in the talkback sent by one surfer: "Congratulations to the crown prince and a thousand blessings to King Hosni Mubarak, and a thousand million blessings to the Egyptian Republic, and of course to the bride, who will soon become queen."

This vitriolic sarcasm is aimed at reminding the public in Egypt of Hosni's statement a few years ago that "Egypt is not Syria and has no process of rule being passed from father to son." Last week the government newspapers began a fierce response to the opposition's attacks against the Mubarak wedding, and even questioned the opposition newspapers' loyalty to the state.

Members of the Kafaya movement, which bears the standard of opposition to Mubarak's bequeathing the presidency to his son, announced that on the wedding day they will demonstrate against any such process. In the meantime, it is worth making reservations in Sharm for the first weekend in May.