Egyptian Culture

Religion

Religion plays a large role in Egyptian society. Islamic principles regarding law, politics and social customs continue to influence Egypt’s laws and political interactions despite Egypt’s formal status as a secular state. The vast majority of the Egyptian population (90%) identify as Muslim, mostly of the Sunni denomination. Of the remaining population, 9% identify as Coptic Orthodox Christian and the remaining 1% identify with some other denomination of Christianity. While these statistics give an overview of the religious landscape of Egypt, there is also a small but growing number of people who identify as atheist or nonreligious, as well as some who consider themselves to be Muslim by birth but not by devotion.


Social tension often arises from religious differences. People practising minority religions may experience some form of discrimination, and there may occasionally be clashes between the Muslim majority and Coptic Christian minority. Intermarriage or conversion between religions may also be discouraged or prohibited by family. However, for many Egyptians, the distinctions between their religious affiliations are not always relevant in their interactions with others, and relations are generally respectful. In Egypt, Muslims and Christians are not residentially segregated, with clusters of Coptic Christians scattered among the Muslim majority. Everyday expressions of reverence towards their faith are common among both religious groups and, at the general level, many religious values are shared, such as compassion towards others and devotion to their God.


Of the Egyptian-born Australian population, 36.2% identified as Oriental Orthodox (mainly Coptic), 21.9% identified as Catholic, 14.8% identified as Eastern Orthodox, 12.9% identified as Muslim, 14.3% identified with ‘other’ and 2.7% did not identify with a religion.


Islam

For the vast majority of the Egyptian population who identify as Muslim (Sunni), Islam plays a significant role in their personal, political and legal lives. The country has long been a centre for Islamic scholarship, with Egypt being home to one of the oldest and most respected institutions of Islamic education in the world. Identification with Islam can be cultural to some extent, as a parallel can often be drawn between Islamic principles and Egyptian values. However, Egyptians are generally obedient and observant of the religion due to deep faith.


In Egypt, everyday expressions of the Islamic religion tend to be through dress, dietary codes, regular prayer and frequent references to Allah’s (God’s) will or blessing. For example, Friday is considered to be the holy day and is the day of the main congregational prayer. This means that Friday marks the break in the working week, and the two-day weekend occurs on Friday and Saturday. It is also common to find Egyptians frequently referring to God with statements about the future often containing the statement ‘inshallah’ (‘God willing’) to show that, ultimately, the future is determined by God’s will.


Coptic Orthodox

The Coptic Orthodox Church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches. The majority of Copts live in Egypt and Coptic Orthodox is the largest Christian denomination in the country (with between 6 and 11 million followers). It is thought that the origins of the Coptic Orthodox Church are Egyptian; hence, Copts are often referred to as ‘Egyptian Christians’. The religion continues to pay homage to its ancient origins with the use of the Coptic calendar and with Coptic services commonly conducted in the ancient Coptic language along with Arabic. A common marker of Christians in Egypt is a tattoo of a cross on the inside of the individual’s right wrist.


The religion shares many central tenets with other Orthodox Christian denominations (like Eastern Orthodox), such as the belief in Jesus Christ as a divine being, and valuing kindness and forgiveness. While the Coptic Church is led by the Pope of Alexandria (based in Cairo), there are two Coptic bishops in Australia and more than 50 priests serving Egypt-born followers in Australia.

Cultural Competence Program
Cultural Competence Program Logo

Join over 300 organisations already creating a better workplace

Find out more
Download this Cultural Profile

Too busy to read it right now?

You can download this cultural profile in an easy-to-read PDF format that can be printed out and accessed at any time.

Egypt
  • Population
    94,666,993
    [2016 est.]
  • Language
    Arabic [official]
    English
    French
  • Religion
    Islam [predominantly Sunni] (90.0%)
    Coptic Orthodox Christianity (9.0%)
    Other Christianity (1.0%)
    [2015 est.]
  • Ethnicity
    Egyptian (99.6%)
    Other (0.4%)
    [Census, 2006]
  • Cultural Dimensions
    70
    25
    45
    80
    7
    4
  • Australians with Egyptian Ancestry
    50,517 [Census, 2016]
Egyptians in Australia
  • Population
    39,779
    [Census, 2016]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Egypt.
  • Median Age
    56
    [Census, 2016]
  • Gender
    Male (51.7%)
    Female (48.3%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Religion
    Oriental Orthodox Christianity (38.2%)
    Catholic Christianity (17.9%)
    Islam (15.6%)
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity (10.7%)
    Other Religion (10.9%)
    No Religion (3.6%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Ancestry
    Egyptian (54.0%)
    Greek (11.1%)
    Italian (5.6%)
    Maltese (3.7%)
    Other Ancestry (25.6%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Language Spoken at Home
    Arabic (61.8%)
    English (19.3%)
    Greek (7.6%)
    Italian (4.9%)
    Other Languages (5.6%)
    Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 88.6% speak English fluently.
    [Census, 2016]
  • Diaspora
    New South Wales (49.6%)
    Victoria (33.4%)
    Queensland (6.2%)
    Western Australia (5.6%)
    Other (5.2%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 2007 (73.3%)
    2007 - 2011 (10.8%)
    2012 - 2016 (12.7%)
    [Census, 2016]
Country https://dtbhzdanf36fd.cloudfront.net/countries/114/eg.svg Flag Country Egypt