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Customs and Etiquette

Egypt - Customs and Etiquette

Egyptians will always greet you with a smile and a gracious inquiry as to your health. Do the same, and for heaven sake, don't act superior.

Egypt is an Islamic country. Respect the religion and don't try to convert anyone to yours.

A man who expresses himself physically in public to a woman (it doesn't matter if she is his wife) incurs the belief that she is, to put it politely, "loose". Holding hands in public is becoming more socially acceptable, but beyond that, restrain yourself.

While it is inappropriate to touch a woman in public, don't be surprised to see men holding hands, with arms wrapped around each other or kissing each other on the cheek in greeting. Friendships between men are an important part of the culture and, because the assumption is that homosexuality and bisexuality don't exist, men are physical with each other.

While women are not required to wear a higab (headscarf) or a robe, be sensible and conservative in your wardrobe choices in public (and when at home if a workman is expected). At a minimum, keep your legs, breasts and stomachs covered. Put something over your exercise clothes to wear to and from the gym. Its okay to wear a bathing suit at the pool or on a beach, but please don't go topless like some tourists do. The inappropriate attire of female tourists and the stuff that comes over local satellite dishes and the Internet gives many Egyptian men the impression that Western women are more sexually available than Egyptian women. When you're respectful of the culture you make life easier not only for yourself, but for every foreign woman.

It is acceptable for a woman to be kind to an Egyptian man, but be aware that being too friendly can give the wrong impression. Men should never flirt with an Egyptian woman.

The Egyptian people are their country's greatest asset. They're kind, gentle, and have a wonderful sense of humor. Treat them with respect and kindness and they will open their hearts and homes to you.

Added 02/03/06 by Barry:
Women are certainly capable of asking for what they want, but as an expat living in Egypt I can tell you that there are many times that my wife is completely ignored by an Egyptian man and often, if she asks a question, the man will look and answer me and not her.

Added March 2007 by Shady:
If a woman is asking a question to a man, and she is with a man, usually the man will answer and look at him, not her, as a matter of respect to him, not ignorance to her. The same with Egyptian women - they will always try to look and talk to the woman, not the man.

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