Travel Etiquette Series: Egypt

2.15min read

Published 3 May 2011


Adam Barralet has been all over the world and has learned a lot of valuable tips along the way. Each week he takes us to a different country and offers his tips on what to expect and what manners are acceptable. Today he takes us to the beautiful and historic Egypt:

Upon arriving in Egypt it is always advisable to dress in a respectful manner. At a minimum both men and women should have their shoulders covered. Ideally women should dress is baggy clothes with hem lines being well below the knee. Not following these guidelines could subject you to unwanted stares and even groping from men. If you are entering a home or mosque remove your shoes. You should be given a pair of slippers to wear inside. There will also be a spare pair just for the washroom.


As you walk around admiring the many sights Egypt has to offer, avoid pointing which is considered rude. If you must gesture use your whole hand. If you see someone photo worthy you should always ask first, especially if it is a child. If you take someone’s photo without asking, don’t be surprised if they follow you requesting a payment. In fact, tipping is big in Egypt and even if someone helps you get your bag on to a train you should tip them.

Westerners should expect to get a lot of attention for children but don’t give them money. You will be do more harm than good as parents may be inclined to remove their kids from school and have them work the streets as it is more profitable. Instead carry pencils and pens to offer. If children or street vendors become troublesome make sure you know the phrase, “Laa Shokran”, meaning “No thank you”.

If you are meeting with some Egyptian, punctuality isn’t a priority. In fact they may not even turn up. A simple hand shake is a suitable greeting between men but wait for them to initiate. The handshakes can tend to be prolonged and limp but a sincere smile and eye contact is vital. If he doesn’t introduce his wife, follow suit. Egyptians are big on physical contact and observe only a small personal space. Be sure not to back away as this can be seen as coldness or rejection. It is especially important to develop rapport with Egyptians if you are visiting for business as they prefer to deal with people they trust. Egyptians will devote time to getting to know you before engaging in business. For that business edge, have one side of your card translated into Egyptian Arabic.


Play your cards right and you may be invited to an Egyptian home for dinner. Egyptians will always refuse an invitation once before finally accepting. You should do the same, refuse first time and if the offer is genuine, you will be asked again. As you arrive and knock on the door, stand to the side of the door way. It is impolite to look straight into a house when the door is first opened. Ensure you bring a gift for your host. Quality baked goods, sweets or chocolates are the best options, alcohol or flowers are not advised. Present the gift with your right or both hands. It is unlikely that the receiver will open the gift in your presence.

When eating, leave a little on the plate to show you have been well fed. Make sure you never salt your food as this shows it is not appetizing. Only use your right hand for eating or passing food. The left is considered unclean and is used for actions such as going to the bathroom.


For more information on travelling to Egypt, contact a Flight Centre Travel Expert at 1-877-967-5302, visit your closest store, or connect with us online. 

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