Once upon a time, a beautiful German woman working abroad in Egypt fell in love with a handsome Egyptian man. Flash forward to their non-traditional, non-denominational wedding, with the bride a Christian, the groom a Muslim, and together one of the most stunning couples to ever tie the knot. International love stories like these make for some pretty gorgeous photography. This love story is no different. When Susi and Omar ultimately decided to get hitched, they recruited an Australian photographer to capture their love and special day in the country where they started as lovebirds.
Based in Melbourne, Eric Ronald and his partner Katie Harmsworth flew to Egypt to shoot what they described as “a particularly special wedding.” Ronald was thrilled by the chance to shoot at such dazzling locations landmarks. It was one heck of a lineup of backgrounds too—Saqqara Pyramids (Cairo), The Great Pyramids of Giza (Cairo), Khan el-Khalili Market (Cairo), La Maison Bleue Resort (El Gouna). So we decided to chat up Eric about what he saw from behind the camera and talk to Susi about celebrating with Omar amid Egypt’s grandeur.
Words + Photography by Eric Ronald
What was it like to travel and shoot in Egypt?
With recent issues of terrorism and political unrest, Egypt has suffered a significant decline in tourism. As Australians we were advised by our government to ‘reconsider our need to travel’. However during our time in Egypt we were met with nothing but first class kindness and hospitality. Locals we encountered constantly went out of their way to help us, including even assisting us crossing the busy streets of Cairo! All they asked for was for us to encourage our friends and family to travel to their beautiful country and assure everyone that it is safe to do so. In our three weeks traveling throughout Egypt we barely encountered any other Western tourists. So anyone that has ever wanted to visit Egypt, now is the time!
With Omar being Egyptian we were able to gain special access to places where foreigners would not be able to usually visit, and especially photograph. There was never a dull moment and always a sense of exploration and adventure.
What were some challenges from the day (weather, location, lighting, etc) and how did you solve them?
In general, there were some cultural differences, which at times made shooting out in public difficult. We attracted a lot of attention and were extremely lucky to have Omar, the groom, equipped with the local know-how to navigate all of that for us.
Shooting at the Pyramids was the experience of a lifetime. Logistically though, Katie (my partner and second shooter) having to ride on horseback with our gear was quite difficult and at times pretty scary too! On the ride back to the stables after sunset, the horses were eager to get back and started to gallop downhill on the rocky sand. With no horse-riding experience at all, I was just trying to hold on for dear life while my gear was flying around the place. It’s funny looking back now, but my life really did flash before my very eyes.
The resort where the wedding was being held is located in a fairly western-style gated resort community called El Gouna. The resort itself was beautiful and the beach location for the ceremony was amazing. However, during my location scout, I struggled to find any locations for the portrait session that grabbed me. After lots of research online and asking around, I discovered there was a bedouin village located only about 15 minutes drive from El Gouna. It was here where I found a location that I connected with and inspired me, and I’m so glad Susi and Omar trusted me enough to let me take them there. It was a good reminder for me to never settle for what is put in front of you. Always push yourself to see more and to do more to create the best pictures that you can.
Was it a multiple events over more than one day?
There was three days of shooting in total—one day shooting portraits at the Pyramids, one day shooting portraits around Old Cairo, one day shooting the wedding day.
How did couple come to hire you?
The couple discovered my work online via several wedding blogs.
Any extra comments you want to add about weddings and related events?
With recent issues of terrorism and political unrest, Egypt has suffered a significant decline in tourism. As Australians, we were advised by our government to “reconsider our need to travel.” However, during our time in Egypt, we were met with nothing but first-class kindness and hospitality. Locals we encountered constantly went out of their way to help us, including even assisting us crossing the busy streets of Cairo! All they asked for was for us to encourage our friends and family to travel to their beautiful country and assure everyone that it is safe to do so. In our three weeks traveling throughout Egypt, we barely encountered any other western tourists. So anyone that has ever wanted to visit Egypt, now is the time! Egypt is a place that is very different to home, and that is what makes it so special. I can assure you that you will be welcomed by warm, friendly, and hospitable people.
What gear did you use?
2 Canon 5DmkIIIs
Canon 24mm f/1.4L
Canon 35mm f/1.4L II
Canon 45mm TS-E f/2.8
Canon 50mm f/1.2L
Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II
Canon 135mm f/2
2 Canon 580EX II Speedlites (for first dance/dance floor only)
What was the significance about Egypt?
We chose Egypt because we met on the Red Sea. We wanted to do the wedding in Sinai first, but many of my friends thought that it's not safe to go there because of what they heard in the news. We are glad that all our guests not from Egypt saw how much this country has to offer and what a great holiday destination it still is. For shooting here, it has some advantages because you have all these great ancient sites and nature and no tourists, so you have it all for yourself. -Words by Susi, The Bride
Can you tell us about the days leading up to the wedding and what made them so special?
Since the beginning of May we were very busy, organizing every day something different. There was not much time left, so we had to decide with Marley on all the details. We used Pinterest a lot for our inspiration. So we arranged flowers, center pieces, the setup, stage. Omar had his suit tailored here in Egypt by Orange Square. My dress was custom-made in Germany. My hair was done by Mohammed Al Sagheer, my makeup was done by Irina Rise. One week prior to the wedding, Eric and his assistant Katie arrived and we were shooting for two days in Cairo. It was great fun and it was perfect because we were able to get to know each other. We understood Eric's style of shooting. Five days prior to the wedding, my friends and family started to arrive. We first did some sightseeing and most of our friends met for the first time. That was really a great time! Three days before the wedding, we arrived in Gouna and we spent time with our friends and family and they all got to know each other. This was also the first time that our parents met. Thank God everything went well and all the activities and the beach kept us busy, so we were not that nervous the days before the wedding. All in all, it was a perfect time. -Words by Susi, The Bride
What stands out most in the memory of your wedding day?
The highlight of the day was when we realized we are actually getting married. When we saw each other in our wedding outfits, when we were exchanging vows, when we saw that all the people we care most about were there to celebrate with us. It was such a great atmosphere and everybody contributed to make this day special: the reggae band that got united for that day thanks to Hakim and Mansour (the singer in the beginning) who made everybody dance. -Words by Susi, The Bride
What was it like shooting with Eric Ronald over the course of the trip?
It was an awesome experience. Eric and Katie worked very professionally and had great ideas. Eric's way of shooting is very natural and easy-going. We felt comfortable before the camera all of the time, which normally isn't the case. Shooting with Eric and Katie was very spontaneous. Whenever we saw a nice place to shoot, we stopped and got out of the car. Egypt can be surprising; you never know what is around the corner. -Words by Susi, The Bride
What advice would you give a couple wanting a similar wedding destination?
Gouna was an ideal place for our wedding. It is a beautiful place because it has a good mix of everything: beaches, restaurants, bars, clubs, water sport activities like snorkeling, diving, kite-surfing. So if you still have to plan some things for the big day, you don't have to worry as your guests won't run out of entertainment options. It was good to have a wedding planner because we are not living in Gouna and things are hard to arrange from far away. It helped us a lot to enjoy and concentrate on the nice things of getting married, rather than worrying about vendors or how things won't be here on time. And we would definitely recommend Eric as photographer. We are more than happy with the pictures! -Words by Susi, The Bride
Photography: Eric Ronald
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