Table of Contents:
Advice on Etiquette, Dress, and Tipping in Egypt
Egypt is located in the east of Africa with a 4,000-year legend and unique culture. This mysterious ancient country has attracted many tourists from all over the world to explore.
This fascinating country has unique local customs that you should be familiar with before visiting:
Men should not initiate a conversation with women, nor do women talk to men usually.
Egyptians have different ideas and opinions about the etiquette of physical contact and communication between the genders. Perhaps because of religious influence, gender consciousness between men and women is very clear.
When shaking hands with an Egyptian, be careful not to use your left hand.
Because of religious influence, many people think that the left hand is not clean, because people use left hands in the toilet. Therefore, Egyptians do not shake hands and eat food with the left hand.
Also, note that local women don’t shake hands with men.
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Dress Code for Men
Because the local population is predominantly Muslim, a strict dress code is necessary.
Men are suggested wearing long pants that cover legs and long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts that cover shoulders. Vests are not suggested.
Dress Code for Women
Do not wear shorts that show your thighs. Skirts or dresses should come below the knee.
You must wear a shirt that covers your shoulders.
Although the weather is excruciatingly hot, you must be mostly covered… But sometimes, local people tolerate you because you are a tourist, but try to respect local clothing customs whenever possible.
Arabic Words to Know
We can sometimes use a few simple Arabic words, to show our politeness and friendliness.
Some simple greetings and words like:
- Good Morning — Sabha El Kher
- Good Afternoon — Masa El Kher
- Please — Minfadlak
- Good Day — Naharak Sayeed
- Thank you — Shukran
- You’re welcome — Ah Len
- How much — Be Kaem
- Where’s toilet — Faen Hamman
- It’s a hot day — Ma Hdha Alhar!
Bargaining is always expected and necessary in Egypt, especially if you want to buy something there.
Egypt has many local-style markets filled with large and small shops, such as spice shops, jewelry shops, bakeries and so on, and you will do bargaining at almost every shop.
If you ride a camel into the desert, you may bargain with its owner. Sometimes you bargain before the ride and do it again at the end of the journey when paying for it.
My camel’s name in the photo was “Mickey” as in Mickey Mouse.
Like the United States, Egypt advocates tipping service workers. Because in Egypt, the basic salary of service workers is not high, and tipping can increase their wages.
Moreover, tipping is also a recognition of the service workers’ work.
At most restaurants frequently visited by tourists, the bill already includes a 12 percent service charge and a 5 percent government tax, but you can add a little more.
The Egyptians usually have the Aish Baladi (a flat and unleavened Egyptian bread), ful (cooked, mashed fava beans), white cheese and harira soup (herbed lamb, lentils and chickpeas) for meals. Yummy!
Kofta and kebab are two of the most popular dishes in Egypt. Kofta is skewered and grilled ground meat with spices over a fire. Kebab is similar but the meat isn’t ground. You also can try some grilled vegetables.
In taste, Egyptians generally like light, sweet, and not greasy.
Egyptians serve their guests with homemade desserts. If the guests refuse to eat, it will be considered to lose respect for hosts. So… eat the dessert!
They have the habit of washing their hands after meals, drinking tea and chatting. They do not eat shrimp, crabs and other seafood, viscera (except liver), eels, turtles, and other strange fish.
Do not leave your plate clean after a meal, even in a restaurant or a meal at someone’s home.
Shay (tea) and kahwa (coffee) are popular drinks in Egypt, and they both are served with an extreme amount of sugar.
You will find some good local wines, like a very sweet tasting liquor called Abu Simbel. Furthermore, hard liquors are available in major hotels.
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Tap water is generally safe to drink throughout Egypt, but tourists prefer bottled water.
Learn this saying:
احظى برحلة جيدة
ahzaa birihlat jayida
This means, “Have a good trip!