Respect Is the Key to Egypt Culture and Customs

Knowing Egypt Culture and Customs will help all tourists have an enjoyable stay, no matter how cheap the cost of their tours. That’s because Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs, has been a destination for visitors for nearly 5,000 years and there is plenty of information available to help visitors prepare for the country.

Egypt is a Muslim republic located in the northeast of Africa. The Egyptian climate is hot and dry in summer and moderate in winter. Visitors should pack large-brimmed hats, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen. The currency is the Egyptian Pound.

Arabic has been the spoken and written language of Egypt for nearly 13 centuries, so the wise traveler might wish to learn some common Arabic phrases that will smooth transactions with hotel staff, shop assistants, tour guides and others. Even learning simply to say: “A-Salaam Alaikum” (“Peace be with you” in English) as a standard greeting can improve relationships.

Islam is the predominant religion of Egypt and holds sway over the culture. This reality affects visitors in many ways. While restrictions are not as serious for tourists as in other countries, visitors should always dress modestly and conservatively, but as well as their financial condition allows. Personal appearance is very important to Egyptians.

Most importantly, visitors to Egypt must respect the religious practices of Muslims (followers of Islam). Muslims pray five times a day, at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. Local newspapers list the exact times daily. Friday is the Muslim holy day, or Sabbath, so everything closes. Many businesses also close on Thursday, thus making Thursday and Friday the weekend period in Egypt.

In addition, during the holy month of Ramadan, all business and cultural activities slow down considerably. For starters, all Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk and are allowed to work only six hours per day, so many businesses reduce their schedules. Each night at sunset, families and friends gather to celebrate the breaking of the fast (Iftar), and festivities often go on well into the night.

In personal and business relationships, visitors must understand that the family is the most important unit of Egyptian society. One’s family often includes a large extended family, and the welfare of the family is placed above all else.

A sense of honor also is a pre-eminent Egyptian cultural value. People are expected to respect and esteem one another, unless someone’s behavior indicates they give no honor to others and are therefore unworthy of honor. Brash Westerners often get into trouble if they don’t understand and respect this cultural value. Visitors should treat even the lowliest-seeming porter or taxi driver, and especially those in authority, with great respect in Egypt. In turn, tourists who do so will be treated with great respect themselves, since Egyptian honor requires utmost hospitality to guests and friends.

Regarding etiquette and customs, the best way to be sure of doing the right thing is to follow the lead of the Egyptian host or hostess. Visitors who make an effort to show honor and respect to others and to wait for the guidance of their hosts, will be made welcome. Any mistakes in etiquette or customs will be quickly forgiven.


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