Customs and traditions
Egyptian identity is closely intertwined with
history. The country's unique civilization has had an
impact on both Israeli and Greek culture, thereby
helping to shape Western civilization.
Although Egypt is a secular state, Islam permeates
the personal as well as political, economic and legal
life of Egyptians. Islam is practiced every day through
clothing, rules of the food, prayer and constant
references to God's will and blessing. A devout Muslim
prays five times a day, facing Mecca. The exact times
are listed in the newspapers.
Overview of the capital city of Egypt, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
The customs described here mainly concern Egyptian
Sunni Muslims, who make up over 90 percent of the
population. Some customs are shared by the Coptic
Christian minority, which cannot be distinguished in any
other way than through their faith. They also speak
Arabic and the language is of great importance to the
Egypt sees itself culturally as the leader of the
Arab world. The Cairo dialect is standard for the spoken
Arabic in Egypt and the dialect gains influence in the
Arab world through rich production of television
programs, films, books and music.
Know and label
Fridays are holidays for Muslims and prayer at
lunchtime is the most important of the week. Then men go
to the mosque while women usually pray at home. It is
not always that non-Muslims are admitted into the
mosque, but there are a number of precautions to
consider. Take off your shoes before entering. Behave
calmly and low-key. Do not go in front of someone who is
lying down in prayer or stepping over a prayer. Ask for
permission before photographing anyone.
Generally, people of the same sex greet each other by
taking care. Good friends kiss each other on the cheeks.
When men and women greet each other, the woman must
reach out first, otherwise the man should just nod or
greet orally. In formal contexts, the full name and
titles are always used.
People of the same sex are often close to each other
when talking. Do not back away as it can be perceived as
distancing. Eye contact is a sign of honesty and
sincerity. Male friends can hold hands, while women and
men who are not married do not touch each other in
Egyptians like to use riddles, puns and jokes when
talking. Joke about oneself and be self-critical also
belongs to Egyptian conversation technique.
"No" is not expressed by shaking your head but by an
upward nod. Do not point your finger, it is considered
rude. Use your whole hand to show something. Do not show
the soles of the feet to another person, it is
considered insulting. Therefore, keep both feet against
the floor if you are sitting on a sofa.
Some wine production occurs in the Christians in
Egypt, but drinking alcohol on the street or elsewhere
than in a restaurant is punishable.
The dress code is basically conservative, but has
also changed some in recent years. Traditionally, men
wear feet, light clothing, Muslim headgear and a beard.
The majority of Egyptian women wear a veil, a hijab,
which covers their hair and neck but leaves their face
free. With growing Islamic revival in recent years, more
women have chosen to wear the black all-over veil, niqab,
which leaves only a glance. There is a political debate
about the veil.
In big cities, people dress for more western cuts,
but women usually wear some kind of headscarf. A good
benchmark for Westerners, both men and women, is to
dress to cover shoulders and knees. Women should have
loose clothing so that they do not show the figure and
skirts should be long. Men should avoid wearing jewelry
because it is considered feminine.
Visits and gifts
By courtesy, Egyptians refuse anything that is
offered to them at least once. It's a way to tell if the
invitations are genuine. Therefore, if someone invites
you to their home, politely refuse no. If the offer is
honestly meant you will get the question again and then
you can say yes.
When visiting, you should bring a small gift, such as
chocolate or pastries and preferably presents to the
children. Do not bring alcohol and avoid flowers that
are only given at weddings or when someone is sick. Give
and receive gifts with your right hand. It is often
expected that you take off your shoes before entering.
At the dining table
The diet consists of rice, bread, fish, chicken,
turkey, lamb and vegetables. Pork and alcohol are
avoided by Muslims with reference to the Qur'an. Bread
is often served for the meal as well as tahini (sesame
paste), tomatoes, cucumber and yogurt. A common dish is
tamia, spicy vegetarian steaks made from farm
beans, garlic, cumin and coriander.
When it is a celebration, Egyptians often cook
sophisticated and lavish dishes. Konafah is a
traditional dessert at parties and eaten every night
Wait for the host to tell you where to sit. Eat only
with your right hand (the left one is used for unclean
chores, for example, in the bathroom). Always leave some
food on the plate as a sign of your host's unlimited
hospitality that gives you more than you can eat. Do not
salt the food, it is considered insulting.
Business is hierarchical and formal. Bookings of
meetings should be made well in advance and confirmed
the days before. Before you start negotiating, it means
that you have a good time talking about family, health
and so on.
Meetings are usually not private, but you leave the
doors open. Therefore, expect to be interrupted often.
It is not uncommon for people to come into the room and
start a new discussion. Do not try to interrupt but wait
until the person has left. Decisions can take time.
Egyptians dislike confrontations and avoid saying "no"
straight out. If you get an evasive answer, it's often a
Traditions and holidays
Both Islamic and Christian celebrations are
celebrated in Egypt. The most important holiday for
Muslims is id al-fitr, which ends the fasting
month of Ramadan. Id al-fitr is primarily a family
celebration when relatives greet each other and eat
together. It is also common to give new clothes to the
children and alms to the poor. Almost all Muslims
celebrate the Ramadan and fast from dawn to dusk,
affecting the entire community. Often, offices and shops
are open for fewer hours during the day and are open
late at night. After dusk you break the fast with a
party, Ramadan is a very colorful and eventful time in
Egypt. Colorful lanterns, concerts, puppet shows,
fun-filled visits and specially produced TV soaps gild
the evenings. Another major Muslim festival is the
sacrificial holiday id al-adha. Then a cow or a
goat is slaughtered in God's honor. Also id al-adha is a
family holiday. The Prophet's birthday, mawlid,
is also celebrated, as is the Islamic New Year.
Secular holidays are New Year's Day (1/1), National
Police Day (25/1), Sinai's Liberation Day (25/4), Labor
Day (1/5), National Day (23/7) and Armed Forces Day
(6/10)., but they are not celebrated as much as the
Referendum on the Constitution
The vote must be held in two rounds, on December 15 and 22, because of the
lack of judges lining up to monitor the vote. Almost 64 percent support the
regime's proposal for a new constitution. However, turnout is only 33 percent.
Clash at the presidential palace
The protests are growing, against Mursi's decree of power and against the
proposed new constitution which opponents believe is too Islamist . About ten
people are killed and many injured when Mursian supporters challenge opponents
gathered outside the presidential palace.
Basic proposals are approved
An Islamist-dominated congregation approves constitutional proposals. Faced
with the threat that the country's highest court will dissolve the assembly that
is drafting a new constitution, it is rushing to approve a proposal. The
congregation's liberal, secular and Christian members boycott the meeting.
Mursi dismisses the state prosecutor
With his new powers, Mursi succeeds in forcing the Prosecutor Mahmoud,
something he has failed to do before (see October 2012).
Mahmoud has been at the post for many years.
Extended protests against the regime
Hundreds of thousands of people gather at Tahrir Square, where the situation
is soon reminiscent of when Mubarak crashed. The Muslim Brotherhood's offices
are being attacked in several cities, the stock market is falling and an
association of judges is calling for a strike.
Mursi extends its powers of power
Critics speak of pure coup d'état when the president, on November 21, issues
a decree giving him almost unlimited powers of power and deprives the judiciary
of the opportunity to stop his decision.
The worst violence since Mursi took office
Angry protests erupt when 24 people from the Mubarak regime are released from
charges of organizing attacks on protesters during the 2011 uprising. As a
result, Mursi is trying to oust state prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud. It
triggers sharp criticism from a number of judges. At the same time, more than
100 people are injured when supporters and opponents of the president gather at
Tahrir Square. Mursi is forced to withdraw the decision to dismiss the
Mubarak employees are sentenced to prison
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif is sentenced to three years in prison and $
1.5 million in fines for corruption. Nazif was allowed to resign during the
uprising in early 2011. To date, a dozen high-ranking representatives of
Mubarak's regime have been convicted, of violence related to the uprising or of
The military council is deprived of legislative power
In connection with the government's remodeling, the president repeals the
decree in June that gave the military council the legislative power .
Tantawi is kicked
Mursi dismisses the army chief and Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, from
both posts. The Chief of Staff and five other high-ranking military personnel
may also leave their posts. One of the members of the military council, General
Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, is appointed new army chief and defense minister.
Soldiers killed at the border with Gaza
Armed men kill 16 soldiers at a border post, in what is described as the most
violent attack in the area in many years. Militant Islamists have begun to
establish themselves in northern Sinai.
New government is presented
Qandil's government is dominated by technocrats with limited political
experience. Only four items go to members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The
military retains its influence when the Hussein Tantawi military council leader
remains as defense minister.
The technocrat may be commissioned to form a government
President Mursi gives the assignment to Hisham Qandil, who has been Minister
of Water Affairs in the Transitional Government.
Mursi defies the military and the Constitutional Court
The President issues a decree that Parliament should be assembled, despite
the court's decision to dissolve it (see June). It
will only be a brief meeting, but the play emphasizes the tense situation in the
Mursi takes office
At a ceremony in Cairo on June 30, Mohammed Mursi will be installed at the
presidential post. He becomes Egypt's first civilian democratically elected
Mursi is declared victorious
One week after the election, June 24, it was announced that Mursi had won by
just under 52 percent of the vote against 48 for Shafiq. The turnout was close
to 52 percent. In a speech, Mursi says he wants to become the entire president
of Egypt. At Tahrir Square, large crowds celebrate his victory.
The military is tightening its grip on power
When the polling stations decide to close, the Military Council decides that
the legislative power should be transferred to the military, and that new
elections to Parliament cannot be held until a new constitution is in place. In
practice, the military also takes control of who should draft the constitution.
Crucial election round in the presidential election
The June 16-17 election stands between Brotherhood candidate Mursi and
military man Shafiq.
The Constitutional Court refuses parliamentary elections
The Court decides that Parliament must be dissolved because the election has
not gone right. The Brotherhood accuses the ruling military council of carrying
out a coup.
The state of emergency is revoked after 31 years
Special laws that prevailed since Anwar Sadat was murdered in 1981 (see
Modern History) expire on June 1 and are not renewed. Thus, one of the main
requirements of the revolution is met.
Dissatisfaction with the election result
New street protests erupt when it is clear that the crucial round of
elections in June stands between the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate and a former
Air Force general who is the representative of the former regime.
Presidential elections are held
When the first round is implemented on May 23-24, Mursi receives unexpected
support from close to 25 percent of voters. He is followed by Mubarak's last
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq with just under 24 percent and left candidate Hamdin
Sabbahi with 21 percent. The pre-drafted favorites - the Islamist Abdelmoneim
Abul-Fotouh and the Arab League's former secretary general Amr Musa - receive
17.5 and 11.1 percent respectively. Eight other candidates share the remaining
votes. The turnout is 46 percent.
TV broadcast election debate
The favorites Amr Musa and the Islamist Abdelmoneim Abul-Fotouh participate.
The latter has been supported by conservative Salafist groups, instead of Muslim
Brotherhood candidate Mursi.
About 20 people are killed when protesters in Cairo are attacked by unknown
armed persons. Activists then protest that the authorities have not intervened
and protected the demonstration. Protesters clash with security soldiers and
curfews are introduced. A security soldier is killed. Around 300 activists and
journalists are arrested.
Presidential candidates are excluded
The Election Commission bans 10 out of 23 candidates who signed up for the
presidential election, among them al-Shater. FJP leader Muhammad Mursi becomes
the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Constitutional Assembly is annulled
The Cairo Administrative Court cancels Parliament's decision to appoint the
Constitutional Assembly, due to reports from several quarters that the Assembly
does not reflect the country's diversity (see March 2012).
The Brotherhood presents the presidential candidate
The Islamist movement announces its intention to participate with Khairat
al-Shater as a candidate in the presidential election announced in May, with a
possible second round in June. Thus, a previous promise not to participate is
Constitutional Assembly is assembled
100 delegates begin the work of writing a new constitution. About 20 have
left the mission in protest against the fact that Christians, young people and
women are not well represented in the congregation, which is dominated by FJP
Shuran is gathered
Last February, the newly elected upper house meets. Here too, FJP has won
Crisis meeting after football violence
Parliament convenes for crisis meeting, for the first time in 40 years, after
74 people were killed after a brawl at a football match in Port Said. The
government dismisses responsible security chiefs and the governor of Port Said.
Elections to the upper house begin
At the end of the month, elections begin for majlis al-shura, an election
that will last for just over three weeks.
Parliament is gathering
Two days after the results have been made clear, the newly elected Assembly
meets for the first time.
FJP major winner in the parliamentary elections
When the final result is presented on January 21, it emerges that the Muslim
Brotherhood's FJP party will receive 235 out of 510 seats. The Salafist party
al-Nur receives 123, the liberal New Wafd 38 and the predominantly secular
Egyptian bloc 34 mandate.
The parliamentary election ends
The third round of voting will end on January 10-11, when residents of the
Nile Delta, Sinai and rural areas in the south will vote in a second round of
elections. The various election rounds have been conducted under predominantly
organized forms. The total turnout is around 60 percent.