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Egypt society - everyday life

Most elements of contemporary Egyptian society begin with the dominant religion. Islam influences so deeply and strongly all manifestations of public and private life of the people living in this Arab country that it is impossible to indicate an area is not dominated by this religion. Beginning with the order of the day and the menu and ending with the clothes worn - everything in Egypt is more or less related to Islam - the state religion, and for many people also to the way of life.

Egypt is currently inhabited by over 100 million people, of which we can distinguish three main ethnic groups: Arabs, Nubians living in the south and the mysterious Berbers, living in the Western Desert. By the way, do you know what the Nubians are famous for? The fact that it is not worth bargaining with them, as their prices are very low anyway! They all adhere mainly to Islam, the Sunni faction (about 90%). However, not every Egyptian is a Muslim, because we will also meet Christians (Copts), who are close to the ancient Egyptians. They are a minority in present times (about 10 million), but before the Arab conquests, they dominated this territory. An interesting fact is that they are not subject to the Vatican, and you can recognize them by the cross tattooed on their hand.

Egyptians walking down the street in downtown Cairo.

Trading cities and agricultural villages

The Egyptians living in the countryside mostly work in agriculture and animal husbandry. Buses filled with tourists do not commute here, so trading souvenirs is not profitable. It is different if we are talking about the city areas like Cairo or Hurghada. These Egyptians have mastered the tricky game called shopping. Starting with the foreplay of sweet tea, they dazzle tourists with the ubiquitous scent of incense and essential oils, just to sell another souvenir. They trade everything they can and what tourists will buy. A useful tip would be to learn how to bargain with them, although this art appears to be a secret and unattainable in their eyes. It is worth allowing them to interact more closely to present their goods. 

Egyptian peasants harvesting potatoes.

One way of being able to feel the atmosphere of Egypt would be to share a casual cup of tea. Egyptians are used to the tourists preferring to look rather than buy and it does not offend anyone. You will quickly notice that there are no women in the bazaars and streets, because they often do not work, but take care of the house. Therefore, we should not be surprised when a man rather than a woman will help us when choosing the right style of a handbag or scarf.

Egyptian women harvesting potatoes in the countryside.

Globalization in Egypt

Life in the city is fast, dynamic and very loud. You can hear the sounds of salesmen, touts and drivers of rushing taxis from all sides. City women dress appropriately to the environment, which is definitely more provocative than the villages, and certainly in a more European style. They tie scarves in a way that is fashionable, they wear a lot of makeup and most of all, more often than in the countryside, they work and leave the house. Those who do not work, especially in summer, start to leave their homes only before sunset and this is when they open shops and restaurants, because when it gets dark, the temperature drops, and then you can sit down to enjoy black tea with fresh mint leaves and a shisha in hand gazing lazily at passing tourists.

Egyptians at the famous el Fishawy cafe in the Khan el Khalili bazaar in old Cairo.

Egyptian fashion show

It would be wrong to say that Egypt, resists all fashion because of the strict dress rules that Islam imposes, mainly on women. Not every woman covers her body, and today it is not always the order of her husband or father - women often decide to take such a step. In large cities, far more women reveal their faces and even their hair and dress in the European style. Among those who decide to wear a hijab (a scarf for hair), or additionally a niqab (a kind of scarf that covers the whole face, apart from the eyes), one can see Western influences in the way that some people dress. These women also want to be fashionable and look good, so they spend hours in clothing stores, then go crazy at typical women's parties or to please their husbands - there are no strict rules at home. Attention to detail is important as the current trend is changing so quickly that it's hard to keep up. Under the abaya (a kind of long coat) there is complete freedom and no restrictions, which is especially advantageous when we sleep .. we can then stay in pajamas :) You are probably asking, how do women feel in relation to women dressed in tight or revealing clothing, such as belly dance dancers? Why are they allowed to wear such clothes? It is on occasions, such as their wedding night that Muslim women spend weeks looking for the perfect outfit to present themselves in front of their husband, who often saw only the eyes of his chosen one up to that point. What about belly dancing in hotels? This is often just a tourist attraction, and the dancers themselves are generally not Egyptian.

Young Egyptians walking down the street in Cairo.

Ah, these differences!

Men kissing on the cheek, or even worse, holding hands is perfectly normal in Egypt. All over the world, women often kiss the cheek twice as a greeting, men in Egypt kiss it four times. Men holding hands are also the result of cultural differences, often confused with a different sexual orientation, because this is how they express their sympathy and respect. On the other hand, public physical contact between people of different sexes are forbidden - this also applies to couples and married couples.

A busy street in the center of Cairo.

A very honorable nation

Egyptians are famous for their hospitality. Even being on an organized trip where we cannot afford the freedom to choose where to eat or rest, we can see it. At each stall in the souk, we will be invited for tea and a short chat. If we were invited to visit their home, be sure to agree to the offer and bring a small gift, leaving our shoes outside before entering. Certainly, we will be welcomed by a crowd of people, because the Egyptians are a very family nation, who like to eat all meals in company ... and they also like to gossip, the same as everyone else. Particular respect is shown here for the elderly, and each of the men takes care of the good name of their wife / sister / daughter as a point of honor. They feel responsible for their family members. 

Egyptians often smile and have a sense of humor. They like to make jokes, especially with Egyptian politicians. They are helpful. They are family focussed and sociable.  They spend a lot of time meeting friends and family members and helping the poor. 

Once you have visited Egypt and spent time in the company of the Egyptian people, whether they are Muslim or Christian it will enrich your trip, giving you great memories to take home with you until you return as you most definitely will. Egypt is a special place that once you have visited, will stay in your heart forever and its people will be your friends for life!

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