Egypt is an Islamic nation and as such is largely governed by the rules and cultural observances of Islam. The Quran is the holy book of Islam and is used by Muslims for guidance.
Under the teachings laid out in the Quran Muslims must pray five times a day at certain times, no matter where they are. In Egypt the daily prayer times are laid out in the local newspaper.
As Friday is the Muslim holy day shops, public spaces and places of work are closed. Muslims also observe the holy month of Ramadan, during which time they must fast from dawn to dusk and work a maximum of six hours per day. Although non-Muslim expatriates are not expected to fast they shouldn’t eat, drink or smoke in public during the month of Ramadan.
As well as being a religious society Egypt is also one which places a strong emphasis on the importance of the family unit and the ties of kinship. The concept of honour is an integral aspect of relationships in Egypt, respect and deference must always be evident. As an individual’s honour is tied to the honour of their family negative behaviour on the part of the individual reflects badly on the whole familial unit.
Social class, in the form of upper, middle and lower class, is clearly distinguishable in Egypt. An individual’s social class is a primary determinant of the positions they are able to occupy and the power they are able to wield. Whilst individual wealth does play a part in the rankings family background is the main determinant of social class in Egypt.
Wearing appropriate clothing is also hugely important in Egypt. When out and about in public spaces women should be dressed modestly with most of the body covered and a head scarf covering their hair. If entering a mosque shoes should always be removed.
It should be noted that displays of affection in public must be kept to a minimum whether the couple is mixed sex or same sex.
Showing the soles of your feet or shoes is bad etiquette in Egypt and the palm of the hand is commonly used to ward off evil, so you shouldn’t wave your palms about!
Another important thing to note is that when dining in Egypt food should only be eaten with the right hand. Gifts should also be given with the right hand.
Egyptian National Holidays
Many Egyptian holidays are movable and are celebrated on a different day each year.
Coptic Christmas Day – January 7th
Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad) – Movable
Siani Liberation Day – April 25th
Labour Day Egypt – May 1st
Coptic Easter – May 5th
Sham el- Nessim (Spring Festival) – Movable
National Day – July 23rd
Eid al Fitr (End of Ramadan) – Movable
Coptic New Year – September 11th
Armed Forces Day – October 6th
Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) – Movable
Islamic New Year – Movable