Friday, March 5, 2010

Egyptian Culture and Customs

Egyptian Culture and Customs

Communication & Behavior

When meeting Egyptian friends or associates of the same gender, shaking hands is more than welcomed. Personal space among members of the same sex will be much closer than some are used to. Egyptians are very warm people and will tend to stand closer and moving away may be seen as a sign of aloofness. Women should wear modest clothing in public. It is a good idea to keep a scarf handy, especially if visiting a Mosque. If visiting a Mosque, your arms, shoulders and legs should be covered; also expect to remove your shoes. Shoes should also be removed on entering someones home and often slippers will be provided. In some Egyptian homes plastic flip flops are kept outside bathrooms and toilets for anyone entering to wear, and should be put on only whilst in the toilet and left outside after using the toilet. These flip flops should not be used in other areas of the home except in the toilet or bathroom.

Dress & Appearance

Dressing conservatively is more respectful of the culture; however, this is not to say that you should adopt native clothing. At the beach, proper bathing attire is recommended. When leaving the beach or pool area, it is customary to cover up more of your body.The more bare skin is revealed the more attention both female and male you will attract.


When attending a dinner or lunch at an Egyptian friend or associate’s residence, always bring something such as a gift, chocolates, flowers, etc. Fresh fruit which can be shared later is often an acceptable gift. Try not to sit with your legs crossed; showing the sole of your shoe may be considered an insult to another person. Frequently, appointments or conversations are interrupted by phone calls and visits from friends or family. This is customary and not considered rude or impolite to other guests.

Helping others

It is customary for Egyptians to offer assistance generously. Don’t be surprised at how helpful and generous Egyptians are; it’s part of their nature. On the other hand, men and women stand farther apart from each other. When using “Mr.”, unlike in many traditions, use it followed by the given name. For example if you meet an Egyptian by the name of Mohamed Aly, you would refer to him as Mr. Mohamed. The same goes for women using Madam then her name. Woman are also introduced by their first childs name ie Umm Mahmoud (Mother of Mahmoud), or sometimes as the wife of the husband in formal situations i.e Madam Ahmed (using the husbands first name).


Egyptians are very generous and it is important to express how much you appreciate a favor, help or a gift that you received. Upon receipt, you should show appreciation and do your best to return it if the opportunity arises. Always try to accept offers of tea or coffee as it is seen as rude not to.


During Ramadan Muslims don’t eat or drink from dawn till dusk. After dusk all enjoy breakfast (the word breakfast actually roots from “breaking fast”) with friends and/or family. It is an honor to be invited to an Iftar (Arabic for breakfast) and when invited you should do your best to attend. Dessert is always a nice offering for this occasion. During daylight hours in Ramadan try to refrain from public displays of affection.


Tipping is considered a must for services such as valets, doormen, baggage handlers, housekeeping, etc. Typically 1LE to 5LE is considered fair for services rendered depending on the level of service provided. When offering a tip, it is best to fold the bill, cup it in the palm of your hand and offer it discretely. For dining and / or drinks, it’s always nice to leave a little bit extra in cash.

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