Cultural rules and Customs



Traveling to a foreign country means that you must immerse yourself into a new culture, with its own cultural rules and traditions. Egypt has a particularly long history, with cultural practices that can be traced back to thousands of years ago. The rise of Islam was particularly influential in Egyptian society, and it remains so till this day. 

Discover some important features of Egyptian culture to feel more at ease while traveling around.

Rules related to religion

  • Egypt is almost entirely Muslim, with 90% of the population identifying as part of that religion (specifically Sunni Muslim). It influences every part of Egyptian culture and daily life. The second largest religion is Coptic Orthodox Christian, but it represents a much smaller section of the population (about 9%).
  • Muslims don’t eat pig meat or any pig-related products, so it would be offensive to offer it to them.
  • It’s a mandatory part of Egyptian and Islamic culture to take off your shoes before entering a mosque or a private home
  • Islam forbids walking in front of or talking to someone who is praying. 
  • Dress modestly, especially when visiting mosques or other religious sites. 
  • Women should cover their legs, midriff and shoulders. They must also cover their hair to enter mosques. 
  • Ramadan is the Muslim month of fasting. If you travel during this time, avoid drinking, eating and smoking in front of fasters or in public altogether.

General cultural customs and traditions

  • It’s common practice to greet other people with a handshake. Always greet locals with your right hand, never with the left. 
  • Unless you have a close relationship, it’s not common to refer to people using their first name: Egyptian culture is still a bit traditional. 
  • If you’re in doubt about how to conduct yourself with a local, just follow their lead!
  • Tipping, known in Egypt as “baksheesh”, is common practice and expected from everyone. It’s best to leave tips in the local currency (Egyptian pounds).
  • Egyptian people consider it impolite to point to another person with their foot. Pointing with the sole of a shoe is also frowned upon. 
  • Don’t expect strict punctuality from Egyptian people. It’s best to plan accordingly while traveling to be able to relax. 
  • Although homosexuality isn’t a crime, homosexual public displays of affection are. It’s best to avoid them altogether, even in heterosexual relationships.
  • Female travelers can often be subjected to unwanted attention and comments from Egyptian men. It’s necessary to practice patience. Some even recommend traveling with a fake engagement ring or wedding band if the woman is unmarried.

Etiquette for eating

  • If you eat at the home of an Egyptian family, it’s common practice to leave a little bit of food on the plate after eating. This is a compliment to the person who made the food: it symbolizes being so full you cannot finish eating. It’s also polite to compliment the cook profusely, but only with statements, not questions. For example, if you asked an Egyptian “how did you prepare this?”, they would take it as questioning their cooking methods. It would not feel like a compliment to them. 
  • In Egypt it’s not common to accompany your food with alcohol. This type of beverage should only be offered to Egyptians that you already know drink alcohol. 
  • You must avoid using your left hand to eat. It’s only done with the right. The left hand is considered impure and used to clean oneself.