Country Briefing information Egypt

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Country Briefing information

Table of contents

1. Background to Egypt

  • Facts

  • Government and Politics

  • Geography

  • Demographics

  • Ethnic Groups

  • Religion

  • Language

  • Economy

  • Food and drink

  • Tourist attractions

2. Global Xchanges partners in Egypt

  • British Council Egypt

3. Practical information

  • Transportation

  • Getting around

  • Money

  • Culture and Customs

  • What to Wear

4. Extra Information/resources

  • Basic Conversation Guide

  • Extra Links

1. Background to Egypt
Full name: Arab Republic of Egypt

Population: 83,082,869 (July 2009 est.) CIA World Fact Book

Capital: Cairo

Area: 386,660 Sq miles

Major language: Arabic

Major religion: Muslim

Life Expectancy: 68.8

Monetary Units: Egyptian pound = 100 Irsh

Main Exports: Agriculture, media, petroleum exports, and tourism

Internet domain: .eg

International dialling codes: +20

Currency conversion:

1.00 EUR


8.22035 EGP



Egypt Pounds

1 EUR = 8.22035 EGP


1 EGP = 0.121649 EUR

1.00 GBP


9.05958 EGP

United Kingdom Pounds


Egypt Pounds

1 GBP = 9.05958 EGP


1 EGP = 0.110380 GBP

Government and Politics

Politics of Egypt takes place in the framework of a semi-presidential republic, whereby the President of Egypt is de facto both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council.

Egypt has been a republic since 18 June 1953. Since the declaration of the republic, there have been four presidents. The first President to take office was President Mohamed Naguib. The fourth and incumbent president is Mohamed Hosni Mubarak who has been the President of Egypt since October 14, 1981, following the assassination of former President Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat. Mubarak is currently serving his fifth term in office. He is the leader of the ruling National Democratic Party. Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif was sworn in as Prime Minister on 9 July 2004, following the resignation of Dr. Atef Ebeid from his office.

Although power is ostensibly organized under a multi-party semi-presidential system, whereby the executive power is divided between the President and the Prime Minister, in practice it rests almost solely with the President who traditionally has been elected in single-candidate elections for more than fifty years. Egypt also holds regular multi-party parliamentary elections. The last presidential election, in which Mubarak won a fifth consecutive term, was held in September 2005.

According to the Egyptian Constitution religious political parties are not allowed as it would not respect the principle of non-interference of religion in politics and that religion has to remain in the private sphere to respect all beliefs. In addition, political parties supporting militia formations or having an agenda that is contradictory to the constitution and its principles, or threatening the country's stability such as national unity between Muslim Egyptians and Christian Egyptians are also banned. Today, there are 18 political parties in Egypt.

Egypt's foreign policy operates along moderate lines. Factors such as population size, historical events, military strength, diplomatic expertise and a strategic geographical position give Egypt extensive political influence in Africa and the Middle East. Cairo has been a crossroads of regional commerce and culture for centuries, and its intellectual and Islamic institutions are at the centre of the region's social and cultural development.

Egypt was the first Arab state to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, with the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in 1979. Egypt has a major influence amongst other Arab states, and has historically played an important role as a mediator in resolving disputes between various Arab states, and in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Most Arab states still give credence to Egypt playing that role, though its effects are often limited and recently challenged by Saudi Arabia and oil rich Gulf States. It is also reported that due to Egypt's indulgence in internal problems and its reluctance to play a positive role in regional matters had lost the country great influence in Africa and the neighbouring countries.

Location: North Africa however, it includes the Sinai Peninsula, which is considered part of Southwest Asia, borders with Libya, Sudan, the Gaza Strip and Israel. The northern coast borders the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern coast borders the Red Sea.

Area: total: 1,001,450 km²
land: 995,450 km²
water: 6,000 km²

Area - comparative: Four times the size of the UK

Land boundaries: total: 2,689 km
border countries: Gaza Strip 11 km, Israel 255 km, Libya 1,150 km, Sudan 1,273 Coastline: 2,450 km

Terrain: Egypt is predominantly desert. Only 3.5 % of the total land area - is cultivated and permanently settled. Most of the country lies within the wide band of desert that stretches from Africa's Atlantic Coast across the continent and into southwest Asia.

Egypt has four major physical regions:

  • the Nile Valley and Delta,

  • the Western Desert (also known as the Libyan Desert),

  • the Eastern Desert (also known as the Arabian Desert),

  • the Sinai Peninsula.

Despite covering only about 5.5% of the total area, the Nile Valley and Delta are the most important regions, being the country's only cultivable regions and supporting about 99% of the population.
Climate: Egypt receives the least rainfall in the world. South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 2 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 in) per year and at intervals of many years. On a very thin strip of the northern coast the rainfall can be as high as 170 mm (7 in), all between November and March. Snow falls on Sinai's mountains and some of its middle and coastal cities.

Temperatures average between 80 and 90 °F (27 - 32 °C) in summer, and up to 109 °F (42 °C) on the Red Sea coast. Temperatures average between 55 and 70 °F (13 to 21 °C) in winter. A steady wind from the northwest helps hold down the temperature near the Mediterranean coast. The Khamaseen is a wind that blows from the south in Egypt, usually in spring or summer, bringing sand and dust, and sometimes raises the temperature in the desert to more than 100 °F (38 °C).

Elevation extremes: lowest point: Qattara Depression -133 m
highest point: Mount Catherine 2,629 m

Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, zinc
Land use:
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 0%
forests and woodland: 0%
other: 98% (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: periodic droughts; earthquakes, flash floods, landslides, hot, driving windstorm called khamsin occurs in spring; dust storms, sandstorms

Current environmental issues: agricultural land being lost to urbanization and windblown sands; increasing soil salination below Aswan High Dam; desertification; oil pollution threatening coral reefs, beaches, and marine habitats; other water pollution from agricultural pesticides, raw sewage, and industrial effluents; very limited natural fresh water resources away from the Nile which is the only perennial water source; rapid growth in population overstraining natural resources


Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East and the second-most populous on the African continent. Nearly 100% of the country's 80,335,036 (2006 est.) people live in three major regions of the country: Cairo and Alexandria and elsewhere along the banks of the Nile; throughout the Nile delta, which fans out north of Cairo; and along the Suez Canal. These regions are among the world's most densely populated, containing an average of over 3,820 persons per square mile (1,540 per km².), as compared to 181 persons per sq. mi. for the country as a whole.

Small communities spread throughout the desert regions of Egypt are clustered around oases and historic trade and transportation routes. The government has tried with mixed success to encourage migration to newly irrigated land reclaimed from the desert. However, the proportion of the population living in rural areas has continued to decrease as people move to the cities in search of employment and a higher standard of living.

Ethnic Groups:
Egyptians 97%, Nubians, Berbers, Bedouin Arabs, Beja, Dom 2%, European and other 1%

Egyptians are mainly descended from ancient Egyptian society, the Egyptian people have spoken only languages from the Afro-Asiatic family throughout their history from Old Egyptian to modern Egyptian Arabic (Masri).

Ethnic minorities in Egypt include the Bedouin Arab tribes of the Sinai Peninsula and the eastern desert, the Berber-speaking community of the Siwa Oasis and the Nubian people clustered along the Nile in the southernmost part of Egypt. There are also sizable minorities of Beja and Dom. The country was host to many different communities during the colonial period, including Greeks, Italians, Syrians, Jews and Armenians, though most either left or were compelled to leave after political developments in the 1950s. The country still hosts some 90,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly Palestinians and Sudanese.


Egypt is predominantly Muslim, at 90% of the population, with the majority being adherents of the Sunni branch of Islam A significant number of Muslim Egyptians also follow native Sufi orders, and a minority of Shi'a (estimateted shi’a) .

Christians represent 10% of the population, more than 95% of whom belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Other native Egyptian Christians are adherents of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Coptic Evangelical Church and various Coptic Protestant denominations
While freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution, according to Human Rights Watch, "Egyptians are able to convert to Islam generally without difficulty, but Muslims who convert to Christianity face difficulties in getting new identity papers and some have been arrested for allegedly forging such documents.

Egyptian is an Afro-Asiatic language most closely related to Berber, Semitic, and Beja. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3200 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. The national language of modern day Egypt is Egyptian Arabic, which gradually replaced Coptic Egyptian as the language of daily life in the centuries after the Muslim conquest of Egypt.
Egypt's economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum exports, and tourism; there are also more than three million Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Europe. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have altered the time-honored place of the Nile River in the agriculture and ecology of Egypt. A rapidly-growing population, limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress the economy.

The government has struggled to prepare the economy for the new millennium through economic reform and massive investments in communications and physical infrastructure. Egypt has been receiving U.S. foreign aid (since 1979, an average of $2.2 billion per year) and is the third-largest recipient of such funds from the United States following the Iraq war. Its main revenues however come from tourism as well as traffic that goes through the Suez Canal.

Egypt has a developed energy market based on coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro power. Substantial coal deposits are in the north-east Sinai, and are mined at the rate of about 600,000t per year. Oil and gas are produced in the western desert regions, the Gulf of Suez, and the Nile Delta. Egypt has huge reserves of gas, estimated at over 1.1 million cubic meters in the 1990s, and Liquified Natural Gas is exported to many countries.

In its annual report, the IMF has rated Egypt as one of the top countries in the world undertaking economic reforms. Some major economic reforms taken by the new government since 2003 include a dramatic slashing of customs and tariffs. A new taxation law implemented in 2005 decreased corporate taxes from 40% to the current 20%, resulting in a stated 100% increase in tax revenue by the year 2006. FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) into Egypt has increased considerably in the past few years due to the recent economic liberalization measures taken by minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieddin, exceeding $6 billion in 2006. Egypt is set to overcome South Africa as the highest earner of FDI on the African continent in 2007.

Although one of the main obstacles still facing the Egyptian economy is the trickle down of the wealth to the average population, many Egyptians criticize their government for higher prices of basic goods while their standards of living or purchasing power remains relatively stagnant. Often corruption is blamed by Egyptians as the main impediment to feeling the benefits of the newly attained wealth.

Food and Drink

Restaurants: In Egypt, dining out can range from stand-up sandwich bars to luxurious five-course meals. You can find small, inexpensive establishments that serve good Egyptian food for only a few pounds. If you're in a hurry, try the local snack bars. While the cubbyholes off the street (which probably have running water) are generally safe. The larger cities even have Western-style fast-food chains like McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but they're relatively expensive. In cities both food and water are safe although the change in your diet may produce short-term gastrointestinal upsets.

Menus are in both Arabic and English except in Alexandria, where they are in Arabic and French. In large restaurants, the maitre d'hotel will speak English, French, and possible German, Italian, or Greek. These establishments serve a mixture of international cuisine but often include Egyptian or Middle Eastern fare as well. Many of the smaller, Egyptian-style restaurants specialize in basic meat and fava-bean dishes. They are simple and inexpensive. Waiters will speak little English, so use your phrase book.

Although Egyptian eating habits may seem erratic, most begin the day with a light breakfast of beans (or bean cakes), eggs, and/or pickles, cheeses, and jams. Most families eat their large, starchy lunch around 1400-1700 and follow it with a siesta. They may take a British-style tea at 1700 or 1800 and eat a light supper (often leftovers from lunch) late in the evening. Dinner parties, however, are scheduled late, often no earlier than 2100, with the meal served an hour or two later. In restaurants lunch is normally 1300-1600, dinner 2000-2400.
Home Cooking: Depending upon the family's own customs and the size of the party, men and women may split up for cocktails (nonalcoholic drinks in strict Muslim homes) and then rejoin at the dinner table, where seating is usually random. All the food is set in the middle of the table at the beginning of the meal. If no silverware is provided, use your bread as a combination fork and spoon. Guests are not expected to clear their plates, and you'll need to refuse more than once to convince your host that you really can't eat anymore. Complimenting the hostess on her cooking skills as well as (for women) asking her for recipes are in good taste and appreciated. After dinner, guests remove from the dining room to drink mint tea or coffee. Wait at least a half-hour from the end of the meal before you take you leave; compliment the cook again, and extend your thanks.
Local foods:

Bread (aysh) The mainstay of Egyptian diets, aysh comes in several forms. The most common is a pita type made either with refined white flour called aysh shami, or with coarse, whole wheat, aysh baladi.

Beans (Ful) Along with aysh, the native bean supplies most of Egypt's people with their daily rations. Ful can be cooked several ways: in ful midamess, the whole beans are boiled, with vegetables if desired, and then mashed with onions, tomatoes, and spices. This mixture is often served with an egg for breakfast, without the egg for other meals. A similar sauce, cooked down into a paste and stuffed into aysh, is the filling for the sandwiches sold on the street. Alternatively, ful beans are soaked, minced, mixed with spices, formed into patties (called ta'miyya in Cairo and falaafil in Alexandria), and deep-fried. These patties, garnished with tomatoes, lettuce, and tihina sauce, are stuffed into aysh and sold on the street.

Molokhiyya A leafy, green, summer vegetable, molokhiyya is distinctively Egyptian, and locals will proudly serve you their traditional thick soup made from it. This soup can also be served with crushed bread or over rice. If you're served it straight, it's polite to dunk your aysh.

Torly a mixed-vegetable casserole or stew, is usually made with lamb, or occasionally with beef, onions, potatoes, beans, and peas

Kufta is ground lamb flavored with spices and onions which is rolled into long narrow "meatballs" and roasted like kebab, with which it's often served

Hamaam (pigeons) are raised throughout Egypt, and when stuffed with seasoned rice and grilled, constitute a national delicacy. Beware--hamaam are occasionally served with their heads buried in the stuffing

Coffee (ahwa) developed and popularized in the Middle East, the drinking of ahwa (coffee) remains a national tradition, and local coffeehouses still cater to men who come to drink coffee, discuss politics, play tawla (backgammon), listen to "Oriental" (Egyptian) music, and smoke the shiisha (water pipe). Ahwa comes in several versions: ahwa sada is black, ahwa ariha is lightly sweetened with sugar, ahwa mazboot is moderately sweetened, and ahwaziyada is very sweet. You must specify the amount of sugar at the time you order, for it's sweetened in the pot. Most people order mazboot, which cuts the tartness; ahwa is never served with cream

Tea (shay) and Other Hot Drinks Egyptians adopted the custom of formal afternoon tea from the native Arabians, and it's served with milk, lemon, and sugar on the side. The domestic or Bedouin version of shay is boiled rather than steeped and is often saturated with sugar; this strong tea is served in glasses. A refreshing change from after-dinner coffee is shay bil na'na' or mint tea.; dried mint is mixed with tea leaves and the mixture is brewed like regular tea . Kakoow bil laban (hot chocolate) is available during the winter, as is Sahlab, a thick liquid that tastes like a cross between Ovaltine and oatmeal. Karkaday, a clear, bright red, native drink especially popular in the south, is made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers, sweetened to taste, and served either hot or cold; the locals claim this delicious drink calms the nerves.

Cold Drinks Bottled water (mayya ma'daniyya) is available in all areas frequented by tourists; both large and small bottles are sold on the street and from ice buckets at most of the antiquities sites. Be sure the cap is sealed. Drinking water is safe in most metropolitan areas.

A delectable treat in Egypt are the fresh fruit juices (asiir) available at small stalls throughout Egypt. The shopkeepers blend the whole fruit and small amounts of ice and sugar water and then strain this mash into your glass. Juices, which are made from fruits in season, include farawla (strawberry), manga (mango), mohz (banana),and burtu'aan (orange). In addition to pure fruit juices, you can also get them made of vegetables such as khiyar (cucumber), tamaatim (tomato), and gazar (carrot), or mohz bi-laban, a blend of bananas and milk; an Egyptian milkshake.

Western soft drinks are ubiquitous in Egypt, but most are domestically bottled If you buy from street-side vendors, you're expected to drink right there and return the bottle; if you want to take a bottle with you, you'll have to pay for it.

Top 5 Tourist attractions:

The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. The Pyramids of Giza represent one of the greatest architectural feats by man. The last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the world's oldest tourist attractions and the reason most people visit Egypt today. There are in fact three main pyramids in Giza; the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), The Pyramid of Kafhre and the smaller Pyramid of Menkaura. Each Pyramid is a tomb to a different King of Egypt. In front of the pyramids lies the Sphinx, or Abu al-Hol in Arabic, "Father of Terror". Carved out of a single block of stone, this enormous cat-like sculpture has mesmerized millions of visitors.

Cairo. More than 16 million people call Cairo home and it's chaotic, exotic, smelly, dusty and also beautiful. Perhaps the most interesting section of Cairo is Medieval (Islamic) Cairo. Medieval Cairo is a warren of streets just bustling with life. There are mosques at every corner, Coptic churches, huge medieval gates and bazaars selling everything from motorbike parts to perfumes. Highlights include the Citadel and the Khan Al-Khalili bazaar. The major mosques worth visiting include: the Mosque of Mohammed Ali; the Ibn Tulun, one of the largest mosques in the world; and the Al-Azharmosque, which houses the oldest university in the world (from 970AD).
Abu Simbel. Next to the Pyramids of Giza, Abu Simbel is perhaps the most recognized monument of ancient Egypt. The two temples built for the pharaoh Ramesses II have been attracting visitors since Victorian times. Almost as impressive as the monument itself is the story of its restoration in the 1960s. The temples had to be dismantled and physically moved 60 meters up a cliff where they were reassembled in the exact same relation to each other and the sun. A daily sound and light show is a highlight not to be missed
The Temples of Karnak are not to be missed when you travel to Egypt. As Michael Wood of the BBC History channel puts it: "Karnak is like a theme park of ancient Egyptian religion - in which every god and goddess of that civilization was represented over a period of about 2,000 years". It is no wonder then that Karnak was the most important place of worship in ancient Egypt. The site is huge, measuring 1500 x 800 meters, and is a spectacular complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks, all dedicated to the Theban gods. If you don't have the energy to cover all that ground then don't miss the Hypostile Hall in the Great Temple of Amun. There are several performances of the sound and light show a night with mixed reviews, but mostly good.
The Valley of the Kings (Biban El Moluk) situated on the ancient site of Thebes is where the pharaohs were buried and hoped to meet their Gods in the afterlife. This is where you will find Tutankhamun's tomb, which was discovered almost intact in the 1920s. You can go inside the tomb, but you'll have to visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to see the treasures he was buried with. Tutankhamun was actually quite a minor king in the scheme of things and there are many larger and more impressive tombs to discover in the Valley of the Kings.

2. Partners in Egypt

The British Council

The British council are the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relationships. The purpose is to build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and other countries and to increase appreciation of the UK’s ideas and achievements. Working in 109 countries every year the council help to create some form of personal contact with the UK for 16 million people around the world. 129 teaching centres, teach over one million classroom hours every year.  The BC also connects through visits, student exchange programmes, exams, library services and the many arts and cultural events. The work of the BC has a special focus on youth, connecting young people across all cultures has never been more important and the BC seek to create genuine mutual trust and understanding.

In Egypt the BC have offices offices in Cairo located in Agouza and Heliopolis, and a further office in Alexandria.
The aims of the BC:

  • We bring together Egyptian and British people for their mutual benefit and greater understanding.

  • We create learning opportunities for people in Egypt through the provision of quality English language learning and exams services.

  • We facilitate access to reliable high quality information about UK education, training and scholarship opportunities.

  • We bring to Egypt varied resources and programmes of film, music, sport and literature that demonstrate the creativity, quality and modernity of UK culture.

  • We contribute to intercultural understanding between young people in Egypt and the UK by building networks through educational and artistic links.

  • Our partnership programme brings together Egyptian and UK government bodies, civil society, education institutions and professionals to share experiences.

  • We showcase the UK's diversity, innovation and best practice in the areas of education, English language teaching, human rights, society, and tourism.

3. Practical Information


Road: Driving is on the right side of the road. Total: 64,000 km of which paved: 49,984 km and nonpaved: 14,016 km. Off the main highways, roads are mostly of very poor quality, with numerous bumps and potholes to avoid. Night driving is particularly dangerous, as headlights sometimes appear to be optional.

Rail: Egypt's railway provider is the Egyptian State Railway.. The network is limited but efficient and reasonably comfortable in first class or second class superior. If travelling south from Cairo down the Nile Valley, tourists must use the guarded 'tourist trains' for security reasons. The Egyptian railway system is the oldest railway network in Africa.

Air: Egypt Air provides reliable domestic air service to major tourist destinations from its Cairo hub, in addition to overseas routes.

Coach services: Cairo is linked by comfortable, regular and inexpensive coach services to the other main Egyptian cities. Many coaches are air-conditioned but there are also older coaches in operation, which can be uncomfortable. Generally, the ticket price reflects the level of comfort to be expected

Cairo Metro: In 1982, in an attempt to alleviate Cairo's notorious traffic congestion, work began on a city subway system. The first phase, 5 km (3 mi) long was completed in 1987 at a cost of some $370 million; Cairo Metro, modelled after the Paris Metro, is the first subway to be built in Africa. The metro system runs efficiently. It is without doubt the quickest and cheapest way to transverse the city, costing just 50 piasters) for up to 9 stations, and less than a pound from one end to the other. There are also nominal discounts for reusable tickets for 10 journeys or more. The front car of every train is reserved for women.

Taxis: Taxis are usually black-and-white Fiats or Ladas. To hail a cab, yell out a district or landmark near your destination and if the driver is inclined to head there he will stop for you.

Solo males should sit in the front seat next to the driver. It is customary for solo females to sit in the back seat. Once inside, name your specific destination. Meters are usually turned off or “broken.” So you will be expected to ignore the meter and instead pay whatever the going market rate is for the distance covered.

It is common for taxis to pick up extra passengers heading in the same direction, so don’t be alarmed if you soon find yourself sharing the ride.


Modern Egyptian currency (specifically paper money) ranges from the 25 Piastres (quarter pound note) up to a 1,000 pound note. Egyptian currency varies in size, the smaller the note denomination the smaller its physical size. Egyptian coins duplicate the value of some of the Egyptian bills. There are 25 Piastres and 50 Piastres coins, but because of this duplication, many establishments in Egypt rarely have coins. In fact, the value of 25 Piastres is so small that they are often difficult to find in either coin or bill, and businesses often round up the price of merchandise to the nearest pound.

Although small change and bills are continually necessary for tips small bills and coins seem to be in limited supply.  We recommend insisting on getting a supply of 1LE coins or 50 piaster coins when you change money.

Banks, American Express, and Thomas Cook offices will readily exchange your traveller checks or cash. ATM cards can also be used in major cities, as can Visa and Mastercards.

Culture and Customs

Whether Muslim or Copt Christians, many Egyptians are religious and religious principles govern their daily lives. Combined with religious belief is commitment to the extended family.

Devout Muslims do not drink alcohol though most do not object to others imbibing in reasonable amounts. The Egypt phase of this exchange will be alcohol free. In addition to the prohibition on alcohol, Muslims do not use drugs or eat pork, which is considered unclean. Explicit sexual material--magazines, photos, tapes, or records--are illegal and subject to confiscation.

There are a few restrictions on foreign women. Ticket lines, for example, are occasionally segregated. Women should line up with other women. On buses, the driver may want you to be seated in the front with other women. On the metro lines, the first car is usually reserved for women. Some women wear the veil demonstrating either modesty or Muslim piety but it is not obligatory to do so and would not be expected of foreigners. For men, speaking to an unknown Egyptian woman is sometimes considered a breach of etiquette. Take care in any liaisons you form as you may unknowingly cause offence.

Meeting Etiquette:  Greetings are based on both class and the religion of the person; it is best to follow the lead of the Egyptian you are meeting. Handshakes are the customary greeting among individuals of the same sex. In any greeting between men and women, the woman must extend her hand first. If she does not, a man should bow his head in greeting.
.Handshakes are somewhat limp and prolonged, although they are always given with a hearty smile and direct eye contact. Once a relationship has developed, it is common to kiss on one cheek and then the other while shaking hands, men with men and women with women.

In the West, we call it "tipping" or "service." This is given for two reasons "for services rendered" and "for the granting of favors." Bathroom attendants, baggage carriers and even museum staff or someone that shows you a great place to take a picture may all expect payments for their service.

What to wear

Loose, light cotton clothing is absolutely essential especially if you are travelling in the summer. It is a good idea to bring a water bottle with you, sunglasses and eyedrops for the dust are often recommended.

Egypt is a Muslim country and unless you are looking to offend, please dress conservatively. When visiting churches and mosques men should not wear shorts and women should not wear shorts, mini-skirts or tank tops at any time it is inadvisable for women to wear anything short or sleeveless.

4. Extra Info

Conversation guide:


I: ana

You (sg): inta/inti (m/f)

He: huwa

She: hiya

We: nahnu

You (pl): untum/inti (m/f)

They: uhum


Hello: as-salam alaykum

Hello (response): wa alaykum e-salam

Goodbye (person leaving): ma'a salama

Goodbye (person staying): alla ysalmak

Good morning: sabaH ala-kheir

Good afternoon: masa' al-kheir

Good night: tisbaH ala-kheir

Welcome: ahlan wa sahlan OR marHaba


Yes: aiwa/na'am

No: la

Maybe: mumkin

Please: min fadhlik

Thank you: shukran

You're welcome: afwan

Excuse me: lo tismaH

OK: tayib

No problem: mafi mushkila

Small talk

How are you?: kef Halak?

Fine thanks: zein al-Hamdulillah

What's your name?: shismak?

My name is?: ismi ?

I understand: ana fahim

I don't understand: la afham

I speak?: ana atakallam ?

Do you speak?: titkallam ??

English: inglizi

French: fransawi

German: almani

I don't speak Arabic: ma-atakallam arabi

Getting Around

Where is (the)??: wein (al-) ??

Airport: al-matar

Bus stop: mokaf al-bas

Bus station: maHattat al-bas

Taxi stand: maHattat tax

Bus: bas

Car: sayyara

Horse: Hsan

Camel: jamal

Taxi: tax



Address: onwan

Street: shari'

Number: raqam

City: madina

 Here: hni

There: hnak

Next to: yam

Opposite: gbal/mgabel

Behind: wara

To: min


Entry: dukhol

Exit: khuruj

Toilets (men): Hammam lirrijal

Toilets (women): Hammam linnisa'a

Hospital: mustashfa

Police: shurta


Monday: yom al-idhnayn

Tuesday: yom al-dhaladh

Wednesday: yom al-arba'

Thursday: yom al-khamis

Friday: yom al-jama'a

Saturday: yom as-sabt

Sunday: yom al-Had


Zero: sifr

One: waHid

Two: idhnin

Three: dhladha

Four: arba'a

Five: khamsa

Six: sitta

Seven: sab'a

Eight: dhimania

Nine: tis'a

Ten: ashra

Links and Resources about Egypt

  • Currency -

  • Weather -

  • News -

  • Intercultural Know-how -

  • Dialling Code - the international dialling code for Egypt is +20.

  • Time - Egypt is +2 hours GMT.

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