Customs and traditions
Egyptian identity is closely intertwined with history. The country’s unique civilization has had an impact on both Israeli and Greek culture, thereby helping to shape Western civilization.
Although Egypt is a secular state, Islam permeates the personal as well as political, economic and legal life of Egyptians. Islam is practiced every day through clothing, rules of the food, prayer and constant references to God’s will and blessing. A devout Muslim prays five times a day, facing Mecca. The exact times are listed in the newspapers.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Egypt, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
The customs described here mainly concern Egyptian Sunni Muslims, who make up over 90 percent of the population. Some customs are shared by the Coptic Christian minority, which cannot be distinguished in any other way than through their faith. They also speak Arabic and the language is of great importance to the Egyptian identity.
According to Abbreviationfinder, Egypt sees itself culturally as the leader of the Arab world. The Cairo dialect is standard for the spoken Arabic in Egypt and the dialect gains influence in the Arab world through rich production of television programs, films, books and music.
Know and label
Fridays are holidays for Muslims and prayer at lunchtime is the most important of the week. Then men go to the mosque while women usually pray at home. It is not always that non-Muslims are admitted into the mosque, but there are a number of precautions to consider. Take off your shoes before entering. Behave calmly and low-key. Do not go in front of someone who is lying down in prayer or stepping over a prayer. Ask for permission before photographing anyone.
Generally, people of the same sex greet each other by taking care. Good friends kiss each other on the cheeks. When men and women greet each other, the woman must reach out first, otherwise the man should just nod or greet orally. In formal contexts, the full name and titles are always used.
People of the same sex are often close to each other when talking. Do not back away as it can be perceived as distancing. Eye contact is a sign of honesty and sincerity. Male friends can hold hands, while women and men who are not married do not touch each other in public.
Egyptians like to use riddles, puns and jokes when talking. Joke about oneself and be self-critical also belongs to Egyptian conversation technique.
“No” is not expressed by shaking your head but by an upward nod. Do not point your finger, it is considered rude. Use your whole hand to show something. Do not show the soles of the feet to another person, it is considered insulting. Therefore, keep both feet against the floor if you are sitting on a sofa.
Some wine production occurs in the Christians in Egypt, but drinking alcohol on the street or elsewhere than in a restaurant is punishable.
The dress code is basically conservative, but has also changed some in recent years. Traditionally, men wear feet, light clothing, Muslim headgear and a beard. The majority of Egyptian women wear a veil, a hijab, which covers their hair and neck but leaves their face free. With growing Islamic revival in recent years, more women have chosen to wear the black all-over veil, niqab, which leaves only a glance. There is a political debate about the veil.
In big cities, people dress for more western cuts, but women usually wear some kind of headscarf. A good benchmark for Westerners, both men and women, is to dress to cover shoulders and knees. Women should have loose clothing so that they do not show the figure and skirts should be long. Men should avoid wearing jewelry because it is considered feminine.
Visits and gifts
By courtesy, Egyptians refuse anything that is offered to them at least once. It’s a way to tell if the invitations are genuine. Therefore, if someone invites you to their home, politely refuse no. If the offer is honestly meant you will get the question again and then you can say yes.
When visiting, you should bring a small gift, such as chocolate or pastries and preferably presents to the children. Do not bring alcohol and avoid flowers that are only given at weddings or when someone is sick. Give and receive gifts with your right hand. It is often expected that you take off your shoes before entering.
At the dining table
The diet consists of rice, bread, fish, chicken, turkey, lamb and vegetables. Pork and alcohol are avoided by Muslims with reference to the Qur’an. Bread is often served for the meal as well as tahini (sesame paste), tomatoes, cucumber and yogurt. A common dish is tamia, spicy vegetarian steaks made from farm beans, garlic, cumin and coriander.
When it is a celebration, Egyptians often cook sophisticated and lavish dishes. Konafah is a traditional dessert at parties and eaten every night during Ramadan.
Wait for the host to tell you where to sit. Eat only with your right hand (the left one is used for unclean chores, for example, in the bathroom). Always leave some food on the plate as a sign of your host’s unlimited hospitality that gives you more than you can eat. Do not salt the food, it is considered insulting.
Business is hierarchical and formal. Bookings of meetings should be made well in advance and confirmed the days before. Before you start negotiating, it means that you have a good time talking about family, health and so on.
Meetings are usually not private, but you leave the doors open. Therefore, expect to be interrupted often. It is not uncommon for people to come into the room and start a new discussion. Do not try to interrupt but wait until the person has left. Decisions can take time. Egyptians dislike confrontations and avoid saying “no” straight out. If you get an evasive answer, it’s often a bad sign.
Traditions and holidays
According to Countryaah, both Islamic and Christian celebrations are celebrated in Egypt. The most important holiday for Muslims is id al-fitr, which ends the fasting month of Ramadan. Id al-fitr is primarily a family celebration when relatives greet each other and eat together. It is also common to give new clothes to the children and alms to the poor. Almost all Muslims celebrate the Ramadan and fast from dawn to dusk, affecting the entire community. Often, offices and shops are open for fewer hours during the day and are open late at night. After dusk you break the fast with a party, Ramadan is a very colorful and eventful time in Egypt. Colorful lanterns, concerts, puppet shows, fun-filled visits and specially produced TV soaps gild the evenings. Another major Muslim festival is the sacrificial holiday id al-adha. Then a cow or a goat is slaughtered in God’s honor. Also id al-adha is a family holiday. The Prophet’s birthday, mawlid, is also celebrated, as is the Islamic New Year.
Secular holidays are New Year’s Day (1/1), National Police Day (25/1), Sinai’s Liberation Day (25/4), Labor Day (1/5), National Day (23/7) and Armed Forces Day (6/10)., but they are not celebrated as much as the religious festivals.
Referendum on the Constitution
The vote must be held in two rounds, on December 15 and 22, because of the lack of judges lining up to monitor the vote. Almost 64 percent support the regime’s proposal for a new constitution. However, turnout is only 33 percent.
Clash at the presidential palace
The protests are growing, against Mursi’s decree of power and against the proposed new constitution which opponents believe is too Islamist . About ten people are killed and many injured when Mursian supporters challenge opponents gathered outside the presidential palace.
Basic proposals are approved
An Islamist-dominated congregation approves constitutional proposals. Faced with the threat that the country’s highest court will dissolve the assembly that is drafting a new constitution, it is rushing to approve a proposal. The congregation’s liberal, secular and Christian members boycott the meeting.
Mursi dismisses the state prosecutor
With his new powers, Mursi succeeds in forcing the Prosecutor Mahmoud, something he has failed to do before (see October 2012). Mahmoud has been at the post for many years.
Extended protests against the regime
Hundreds of thousands of people gather at Tahrir Square, where the situation is soon reminiscent of when Mubarak crashed. The Muslim Brotherhood’s offices are being attacked in several cities, the stock market is falling and an association of judges is calling for a strike.
Mursi extends its powers of power
Critics speak of pure coup d’état when the president, on November 21, issues a decree giving him almost unlimited powers of power and deprives the judiciary of the opportunity to stop his decision.
The worst violence since Mursi took office
Angry protests erupt when 24 people from the Mubarak regime are released from charges of organizing attacks on protesters during the 2011 uprising. As a result, Mursi is trying to oust state prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud. It triggers sharp criticism from a number of judges. At the same time, more than 100 people are injured when supporters and opponents of the president gather at Tahrir Square. Mursi is forced to withdraw the decision to dismiss the prosecutor.
Mubarak employees are sentenced to prison
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif is sentenced to three years in prison and $ 1.5 million in fines for corruption. Nazif was allowed to resign during the uprising in early 2011. To date, a dozen high-ranking representatives of Mubarak’s regime have been convicted, of violence related to the uprising or of corruption.
The military council is deprived of legislative power
In connection with the government’s remodeling, the president repeals the decree in June that gave the military council the legislative power .
Tantawi is kicked
Mursi dismisses the army chief and Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, from both posts. The Chief of Staff and five other high-ranking military personnel may also leave their posts. One of the members of the military council, General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, is appointed new army chief and defense minister.
Soldiers killed at the border with Gaza
Armed men kill 16 soldiers at a border post, in what is described as the most violent attack in the area in many years. Militant Islamists have begun to establish themselves in northern Sinai.
New government is presented
Qandil’s government is dominated by technocrats with limited political experience. Only four items go to members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The military retains its influence when the Hussein Tantawi military council leader remains as defense minister.
The technocrat may be commissioned to form a government
President Mursi gives the assignment to Hisham Qandil, who has been Minister of Water Affairs in the Transitional Government.
Mursi defies the military and the Constitutional Court
The President issues a decree that Parliament should be assembled, despite the court’s decision to dissolve it (see June). It will only be a brief meeting, but the play emphasizes the tense situation in the country.
Mursi takes office
At a ceremony in Cairo on June 30, Mohammed Mursi will be installed at the presidential post. He becomes Egypt’s first civilian democratically elected president.
Mursi is declared victorious
One week after the election, June 24, it was announced that Mursi had won by just under 52 percent of the vote against 48 for Shafiq. The turnout was close to 52 percent. In a speech, Mursi says he wants to become the entire president of Egypt. At Tahrir Square, large crowds celebrate his victory.
The military is tightening its grip on power
When the polling stations decide to close, the Military Council decides that the legislative power should be transferred to the military, and that new elections to Parliament cannot be held until a new constitution is in place. In practice, the military also takes control of who should draft the constitution.
Crucial election round in the presidential election
The June 16-17 election stands between Brotherhood candidate Mursi and military man Shafiq.
The Constitutional Court refuses parliamentary elections
The Court decides that Parliament must be dissolved because the election has not gone right. The Brotherhood accuses the ruling military council of carrying out a coup.
The state of emergency is revoked after 31 years
Special laws that prevailed since Anwar Sadat was murdered in 1981 (see Modern History) expire on June 1 and are not renewed. Thus, one of the main requirements of the revolution is met.
Dissatisfaction with the election result
New street protests erupt when it is clear that the crucial round of elections in June stands between the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate and a former Air Force general who is the representative of the former regime.
Presidential elections are held
When the first round is implemented on May 23-24, Mursi receives unexpected support from close to 25 percent of voters. He is followed by Mubarak’s last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq with just under 24 percent and left candidate Hamdin Sabbahi with 21 percent. The pre-drafted favorites – the Islamist Abdelmoneim Abul-Fotouh and the Arab League’s former secretary general Amr Musa – receive 17.5 and 11.1 percent respectively. Eight other candidates share the remaining votes. The turnout is 46 percent.
TV broadcast election debate
The favorites Amr Musa and the Islamist Abdelmoneim Abul-Fotouh participate. The latter has been supported by conservative Salafist groups, instead of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mursi.
About 20 people are killed when protesters in Cairo are attacked by unknown armed persons. Activists then protest that the authorities have not intervened and protected the demonstration. Protesters clash with security soldiers and curfews are introduced. A security soldier is killed. Around 300 activists and journalists are arrested.
Presidential candidates are excluded
The Election Commission bans 10 out of 23 candidates who signed up for the presidential election, among them al-Shater. FJP leader Muhammad Mursi becomes the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Constitutional Assembly is annulled
The Cairo Administrative Court cancels Parliament’s decision to appoint the Constitutional Assembly, due to reports from several quarters that the Assembly does not reflect the country’s diversity (see March 2012).
The Brotherhood presents the presidential candidate
The Islamist movement announces its intention to participate with Khairat al-Shater as a candidate in the presidential election announced in May, with a possible second round in June. Thus, a previous promise not to participate is withdrawn.
Constitutional Assembly is assembled
100 delegates begin the work of writing a new constitution. About 20 have left the mission in protest against the fact that Christians, young people and women are not well represented in the congregation, which is dominated by FJP and al-Nur.
Shuran is gathered
Last February, the newly elected upper house meets. Here too, FJP has won big.
Crisis meeting after football violence
Parliament convenes for crisis meeting, for the first time in 40 years, after 74 people were killed after a brawl at a football match in Port Said. The government dismisses responsible security chiefs and the governor of Port Said.
Elections to the upper house begin
At the end of the month, elections begin for majlis al-shura, an election that will last for just over three weeks.
Parliament is gathering
Two days after the results have been made clear, the newly elected Assembly meets for the first time.
FJP major winner in the parliamentary elections
When the final result is presented on January 21, it emerges that the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP party will receive 235 out of 510 seats. The Salafist party al-Nur receives 123, the liberal New Wafd 38 and the predominantly secular Egyptian bloc 34 mandate.
The parliamentary election ends
The third round of voting will end on January 10-11, when residents of the Nile Delta, Sinai and rural areas in the south will vote in a second round of elections. The various election rounds have been conducted under predominantly organized forms. The total turnout is around 60 percent.