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Egyptian superstitions, beliefs and legends

Regardless of religion or culture, we find superstitions all over the world & people who believe in them in each country. It is no different in Egypt but Egyptian superstitions vary from different parts of the country. Egyptian superstitions apply to virtually all aspects of life. Many of them relate, for example, to being pregnant and having a baby. Others are superstitions about everyday life. Below you will find the most popular superstitions that Egyptians believe.

Belief in genies

The most interesting figure in Egyptian belief is a genie. This type of ghost can be found in the Book of One Thousand and One Nights and many more. A special type of genie are; afarit - astral beings characterized by power and malice. They are often considered to be the materialization of the soul of a person who died suddenly and was not buried. Their manifestation is also considered to be small air traumas that manifest for a few seconds at the edge of the desert. Other genies have a good temperament and may even end up in paradise, just like humans.

Egyptians are walking down the street of the Khan el-Khalili bazaar

Evil eye

The belief in the "evil eye" is described in the Koran, but it is also popular in many countries around the world. You will hear about the "evil eye" in the countries of the Middle East, North Africa, Greece and Romania, among others. The Egyptians believe that when something good happens to them, they will get some good luck. However, another person may give them the "evil eye" and bring them bad luck. When an Egyptian buys a new car, and it breaks down a few days later, it is a sign that it was caused by the envy of someone, for example; neighbours. If someone falls ill unexpectedly, the Egyptians will often explain it with the "evil eye". In fact, the "evil eye" is the answer to all kinds of misfortunes that befall the Egyptians.

How to protect yourself from the evil eye?

Against this evil power, women and small children wear amulets of gold or silver with the beautifully written inscription "God" (Allah in Arabic) or everything is in God's hands. 

Protection from the "evil eye" can be found in the hamsa, i.e. hand of Fatima. It is a very popular symbol throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans. It can be found on all kinds of souvenirs, T-shirts and jewellery. Another very popular symbol to protect against the "evil eye" is the blue eye of the prophet. You will often see them in taxis or buses next to the driver's mirror.

Touching the wood

Touching the wood has a similar effect to the hand of Fatima and the eye of the prophet, protecting against human envy. When an Egyptian tells others about his achievements, listeners will often tell him to touch something wooden to avoid the negative effects of the "evil eye".

Egyptians are walking down the street of old Cairo

Inverted flip-flops

This is one of the funniest Egyptian superstitions. The Egyptians say that when the flip-flops are turned upside down, evil is brought home. Therefore, they make sure that they always put them down correctly and do not accidentally knock them over. Then no evil will enter their home and they can feel safe.

Black cat

There is a superstition in Egypt that a black cat running across your path is bad luck. The Egyptians believe that a longer period of bad luck will affect a person whose black cat will not only run across their path, but will also stop and sit before a passerby. According to Egyptian beliefs, a devil or an evil genie sits in a black cat and therefore brings misfortune.

Scissors unfolded

It is also unlucky to leave scissors open. If someone puts the scissors out of the way, he will bring home some misfortune. For this reason, it is also inadvisable to open and close scissors unnecessarily. Playing with scissors like this hurts the bad genies, and they later come to take their revenge and therefore bring bad luck to people. Many people in Egypt also say that leaving the scissors open or playing with them heralds quarrels in the immediate vicinity, e.g. between spouses, and therefore always put the scissors closed to avoid quarrels.

Bird droppings

The Egyptians believe that when a bird dropping lands on you, you will be lucky and something good will happen to you.

A pigeon sitting on the walls of an ancient Egyptian temple

Spilled coffee

Another thing that brings happiness in Egypt is the spilling of coffee. Of course, it's not about spilling coffee on purpose, but if somebody spills some coffee from the cup, nobody thinks about it as something bad. On the contrary, the Egyptians will say it is fortunate.

Having daughters

There is a stereotype that all Arabs and Muslims dream only of having a son. They don't want to have daughters, and even if they do, they don't pay attention to them. In Egypt, having a son is important primarily because he ensures the continuity of the surname and thus the family. Moreover, it is the sons who are responsible for caring for the elderly parents and, if necessary, for the maintenance of the family, including parents and sisters. However, according to the rules imposed by the Koran, it is having daughters that brings people happiness and prosperity.

Egyptian girls are coming back from school

Entering the house with the right foot

In Egypt, happiness can also be ensured by crossing the threshold with the right foot. The superstitious Egyptians, on the other hand, believe that the left foot should never cross the threshold. Because why tempt fate if entering the house with your right foot can bring you a bit of luck?

Kissing money

Street vendors still practice the custom of kissing money earned on the first bout of the day (Arabic, istiftah). Then they put it on their forehead. It is a way of thanking God for the first money they earn and hoping that God will allow them to earn more throughout the day.

Pictures with the image of people and animals

Egyptians and Muslims in general avoid displaying pictures and photos of people and animals on the walls of their houses. The interior walls are usually decorated with paintings depicting still life, landscapes and verses from the Koran. This is due to the belief that angels do not stay in places where there are pictures of living creatures hanging. And if angels do not enter the house, there will be no joy, happiness or harmony.

There are many more superstitions that are believed across the country. Whether these are true or not is mostly a personal belief, however, most Egyptians are raised believing the superstitions & will continue this throughout their life, passing this on to their children.

What do you believe?  

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