Egyptian Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • It is considered impolite to point the toe, heel or any part of the foot toward another person. Showing the sole of one’s shoe is also impolite.
  • Modest dress and presentation is highly valued in Egyptian culture.
  • Greetings often occur before any form of social interaction. For example, a person joining a group is expected to greet all those present.
  • Generally, the younger defer to the older through showing respect, not challenging their seniors and using special verbal terms of address for aunts, uncles, grandparents and older non-relatives.
  • If your counterpart identifies as Muslim, it is forbidden to walk in front of someone who is praying or to talk to someone who is currently in prayer.
  • It is expected that one show gratitude when offered a compliment. This is done by responding with an equally respectful compliment on the same subject or, if they are Muslim, wishing Allah’s (God’s) blessings.


Visiting

  • Not visiting someone for a long period of time is considered a sign of the relationship’s insignificance, especially one’s family.
  • Egyptians generally have a relaxed attitude towards time and strict punctuality is not commonly practised.
  • Adult children who live outside of their parents’ home often visit their parents on Fridays and holidays.
  • When visiting a mosque or someone’s home, one is required to remove their shoes before entering.
  • Egyptians tend to prepare elaborate and lavish meals when they have guests.
  • If invited to an Egyptian’s home, offering good quality chocolates or sweets to the hostess as a token of gratitude is appreciated.
  • If the reason for being invited to an Egyptian’s home is for a dinner party, wait for the host or hostess to indicate the seat they have reserved for you.
  • Guests should always wait for the host to serve them rather than serving themselves.


Eating

  • It is considered to be a compliment to take second helpings.
  • Leave a small amount of food on your plate once you have finished eating. This symbolises abundance and serves as a compliment to the host for providing so well.
  • It is not common for people to salt their serving of food as it is considered to be ‘unnecessary’.
  • Complimenting food should be done in a statement rather than a question. For example, questioning the method of the cooking (e.g. ‘how was this made?’) means that one is sceptical of the food.
  • Avoid eating communal food with your left hand, as this hand is generally reserved for personal hygiene. Only the right hand is used when eating food with one’s hands.
  • Alcohol is generally not offered nor is it consumed with food. Only offer alcohol to your Egyptian counterpart if you know that they consume it.
  • It is considered offensive to offer pork to Muslims as pigs and products relating to pigs (such as pork and pig leather) are prohibited in the Islamic religion.


Gift Giving

  • Gifts are generally given and received with both hands or only the right hand.
  • A small gift to your Egyptian counterpart’s children is a welcome gesture.
  • Gifts tend not to be opened when received.
  • Avoid giving flowers as a gift. Flowers tend to be reserved for weddings, the ill or for periods of mourning.

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