|Egypt Culture & Traditions
|Egypt is a country with an immense cultural mix, In every major city in Egypt you will find traditions that remain from the time of the Pharaohs , and in other parts you will find pure tribal customs that were brought in by many invaders throughout the centuries. That contradiction and contrast between areas of Egypt, when you compare it with other Middle Eastern countries, is what makes Egypt seem advanced against some of the others. Yet here you will find that the customs and mentality tends to be full of warmth towards visitors and foreigners. I guess this could be the secret why Egypt is considered the most attractive country in the region for travellers. The pure nature of the local Egyptians pops up whenever you need help or when they invite you into their homes and when they hardly know you, or when they smile in your face! All of that makes a visit to Egypt a wonderful and unforgettable experience.
Egypt’s population is around 71 million. Around 62 million of them are Sunni Muslims and about 8-9 Million are Coptic Christians (Christian Egyptians), although public statistics indicate that they are not more than 7 million. Whether Muslim or Copt, the Egyptians are moderately religious and religious principles are quite noticeable in their daily lives. Here each family member is responsible for the integrity of his or her family and for the behaviour of other members, creating an environment that would be envied by many people in the West. Here they are very close to each other, family ties are far stronger than in the west, and that is why you will find any major city in Egypt is a lot safer than any western metropolis.
Yet when travellers come to Egypt they are often apprehensive, their views of Egyptians and Arabs, fomented by unkind and untrue media stories, often bear no relation to reality. Travellers, when they meet Egyptians are often surprised by their friendly, hospitable reception and take home with them good feelings about Egypt and its population.
Egyptians form a society of a mixture of Middle Eastern family standards, taken from the different religious rules, whether in Islam or Christianity, it creates a sort of background that can colour their decision-making in a way difficult for foreigners to understand, yet it is precisely this training that makes Egyptians some of the most charming and helpful of hosts. By understanding the culture and with consideration for your hosts, you can be a welcome guest in Egypt.
In general, Egyptians are most accommodating and they will go out of their way to help you and respond to any questions you have. Most Egyptians require little personal space and will stand within inches of you to talk! You will find that whenever you start talking with an Egyptian, you will inevitably draw a crowd, and often the Egyptians will start discussing, among themselves, about the correct answer to a question.
Although most of the Muslims in Egypt do not drink alcohol they don’t object to others drinking, but doing it in reasonable amounts. In Egypt people don’t eat pork, and rarely, when you find a place that offers pork, is there much choice on the menu.
Egyptians like rest of the Muslims all over the world fast at holy month of Ramadan, it is the time when they all come close to each other and respect each other, it is the time Egypt stay awake at night. During this month, donations, almsgiving and charity would be at its highest rates, it is the time for forgiveness and love. It is a wonderful month.
In Egypt there are hardly any restrictions on foreign women. Ticket lines, for example, are occasionally segregated, women line up with other women (especially as the lines are usually shorter). On the underground lines, the first car is usually reserved for women, especially elderly ones. For men, speaking to an unknown Egyptian woman is a breach of etiquette, so take care in any liaisons you form because some families still follow ancient traditions. Crime in Egypt is nearly nonexistent, and violence is usually limited to family feuds. However, in tourism areas some pickpockets and petty thieves may exist, so be careful and remember that the ever-helpful tourism police are usually nearby. Women must be cautious, especially in out-lying areas. Stay completely away from drugs and leave yours at home.
Egyptians, if offered anything, will refuse the first invitation, which is customary, so therefore (unless you’re dealing with Egyptians used to western frankness) you should do the same. If the offer is from the heart, and not just politeness, it will be repeated. If you’re invited into a home, especially in small villages, and have to refuse, the householder will often press for a promise from you to visit in the future, usually for a meal. If you make such a promise, keep it, for having foreign guests is often considered a social coup. If you fail to arrive, your would-be host will be humiliated. To repay invitations, you may host a dinner in a restaurant, a common practice.
All famous and major mosques are open for tourists, except when services are in progress (the main service is on Friday at noon). Keep in mind that a mosque differs from a western church in that Christian churches are considered houses of God, while mosques are more a gathering place for the faithful of Islam. All visitors to mosques, mausoleums, and Madrassas (religious schools) must remove their shoes! Most Muslims walk around in their stockings, yet sometimes in those mosques that are major tourist attractions, canvas overshoes are available; a tip of 50 PT to 1 LE is in order for the people who put them on for you. Women must cover bare arms. There is no need to wear a hat, or to cover hair. Men and women should wear a long shirt and long trousers when you visit a mosque.
Major Public holidays:
The business and secular community in Egypt operates under the Western (Gregorian) calendar (B.C/A.D). But other calendars have official status in Egypt. The Islamic calendar (A.H) is used to fix religious observances and is based on a lunar cycle of 12 months of 29or 30 days. The Muslim year is thus 11 days shorter than the year according to the Gregorian calendar and months move forward accordingly.
In the Gregorian calendar, for example, April is always in the spring, but in the Muslim calendar all months move through all seasons in a 33-year cycle.
The Coptic calendar (A.M) is based on a solar cycle and consists of 12 months of 30 days and one month of 5 days. Every four years a sixth day is added to the shorter month. Many farmers, for planting and harvesting crops, use an adaptation of the Coptic calendar. The authorities of the Coptic Orthodox Church use it.