As an Italian, she needed money. As an Egyptian, he needed citizenship. What started as a deal turned into a marriage with children and a life on two continents.
Veronica Marano, 37, is an Italian woman married to Egyptian Islam Shashtawi, 42. They have two daughters: Karima, 10, and Yasmine, 8, and live in the village of Mit al-Koramaa outside the city of Talkha in Dakahlia Governorate. But their marriage is not as simple as it seems.
“It all started out as a deal,” says Veronica. “I needed money and then I met Islam, who was working in my town of Pavia, Italy. Islam had entered Italy illegally and he needed legal status. So, I agreed to marry him for €5,000. This solved both of our problems.”
Shashtawi said of their agreement: “I traveled to Italy in 1998. I used to work in construction and contracting. When I met Veronica, marriage seemed like the best solution for both of us. We indeed got married in 2008. We also agreed to go back to my village, Mit al Koramaa, in five years, and so we did. Now, I own a construction and contracting office in the village.”
Many residents from Mit al Koramaa have migrated to Italy. This can be seen in the village with shops named after Italian cities. Compared to other neighboring villages, Mit al Koramaa is also known for its high cost of marriage due to the high living standards resulting from the work of many young people in Italy.
“I am trying to become fluent in Arabic,” says Veronica. “When I came here, I learned local traditions and started wearing traditional clothes. I embraced Islam two years into marriage and I practice all its rituals of prayers, fasting, etc., which brings me closer to people.
My daily life is similar to female villagers’ lives. I wake up early in the morning, go down to the bakery, shop and then go back home to take care of the children and do household chores. I feel that Italy was in a similar situation in the year 800. This is why I call the village ‘800.’ The situation here is much more difficult than in Italy. What adds insult to injury is the fact that the state does not provide people with enough support, which is probably the biggest difference between my life here and back in Italy. I used to get support from the state, which, though little, provided me with my basic needs. Moreover, prices continue to soar here, which makes life much more difficult.”
Veronica travels to Italy for one to two months every year to visit her family. She also tries to teach her daughters Italian. She regularly meets with other Italian women who live in Mit al Koramaa who are also married to Egyptians.