Culture Magazine

Egypt Travel Advisory

By Egyking
Being a Middle Eastern country, Egypt naturally has Middle Eastern customs. Egyptians are deeply religious, be they Copt or Muslim, and they govern their lives based on religious principles. Combined with this is theirconcern with and committment to their extended families. All family members are equally responsible for the reputation and integrity of the family, as well as for the behavior of other members. This establishes a wholesome environment that would be the envy of many westerners. This helps explain why Cairo is probably the safest western metropolis.
Egypt Travel Advisory
Egypt Diving
Egypt Diving
Egypt Diving
Egypt Diving
Egypt Diving
Egypt Diving
Egypt Diving
Egypt Diving
Egypt Diving
Nonetheless, many westerners visiting Egypt are still somewhat apprehensive. They don't know that their views of Arabs and Egyptians are based on unkind and untrue stories in the media, and more often than not have no relation to reality. That's why they need another source, for instance a good Egypt Travel Advisory such as this one.
Since most Egyptians have been raised in a social environment steeped in Islam, their thought processes and decisions can sometimes confound westerners. Yet it is precisely this Islamic upbringing that makes Egyptians the most charming and helpful of hosts. Open your mind and accept the generosity of your hosts; your visit to Egypt will be most agreeable, you'll see.
Religious Limits
Despite the prohibition against alcoholic beverages common to devout Muslims, you will find that the vast majority have no problem with your imbibing. Just don't over do it. If in doubt, ask.
In addition to their rejection of alcohol, the faithful do not eat pork (considered unclean) or use drugs. They are also inflexible when it comes to pornography - explicit sexual materials such as magazines, photos, tapes, or records, are totally illegal and likely to be confiscated.
And you won't want to be caught trying to "enlighten" native Egyptians to your ways. Proselytizing is illegal in Egypt. If you work actively to convert the locals, you can expect to asked to leave the country. Remember, almost all Egyptians are devout and conservative Muslims or Coptics.
Moral Codes
When it comes to women, Egypt is one of the more progressive Middle-Eastern countries, with very few restrictions, but there are a few. For example, ticket queues might be segregated; women should line up with the other women (their lines are usually shorter anyway). If you take a bus, the driver may ask you to sit in the front with the other women. In fact, on the city bus lines, the first car is generally reserved just for women.
And for you men, another important Egypt Travel Advisory is to leave your flirting at home. It is considered a serious breach of etiquette for a man to speak with Egyptian women he does not know. A further word of warning - be careful in any liaisons you form, because some Egyptian families still follow ancient traditions. 'Nuff said.
Social Mores
Most Egyptians are quite accommodating; they'll go out of their way to respond to questions and help you in any way. You'll discover that most Egyptians stand a little closer to you than you're used to when carrying on a conversation. You might also notice that you seem to draw a crowd everytime you strike up a conversation with an Egyptian. Often the eavesdroppers will rev up their own discussion of the issues you were discussing.
Egypt Travel Advisory: Invitations
If you offer something, most Egyptians will at first refuse. This is their custom, and you should do the same. (The exception is if you are dealing with western-savvy Egyptians.) If the offer sincere and from the heart and not mere politeness, don't worry, it will be repeated.
For instance, if you are invited to visit someone's home, especially in smaller villages, and refuse as you should, the householder will likely press you for a promise from to stop by sometime in the future, usually for a meal. If you make such a promise, be sure and keep it; it is considered a social coup to have foreign house guests. If you fail to show up, your would-be host will feel humiliated. To repay such invitations, you might host a dinner in a restaurant. This is common practice.
Egypt Travel Advisory: Baksheesh
To avoid offending locals who would consider themselves your social equal, such as businessmen and other professionals, do not offer tips. This will seriously offend.
Egypt Travel Advisory: Women
It used to be common practice for all respectable women to wear a veil in public. But, in 1922, Hoda Shaarawi, the famous Egyptian feminist, deliberately removed her veil. By 1935, veils were a comparative rarity in Egypt, though they continued to be worn as an item of fashion in neighboring states like Syria and Jordan for 30 more years, and have remained a must to this day on the Arabian Peninsula.
Some Egyptian women still wear the veil as a demonstration of modesty or Muslim piety. Many young professional women do this because it discourages male advances.
Since the 1930's, Egyptian women have entered more and more into business and the professions. In fact, by 1965, Egypt was boasting a far higher proportion of women working as doctors, dentists, lawyers, professors, diplomats, or high officials than might have been found even in the US.
Egypt Travel Advisory: Women Traveling Alone
In Egypt, a woman traveling alone is essentially safe. But she will be noticed, though less in large cities than in the country. If problems crop up, seek help from the police or any nearby place of business.
Although you will probably never be accosted, please take the same simple precautions you would anywhere: Don't walk in deserted areas alone; And don't accept invitations from strangers.
Visitor Responsibilities
Egypt Travel Advisory: Visiting Mosques
Major mosques, especially those amenable to tourism, are open to the public unless services are in progress (the main service is on Friday at noon). Some other mosques are never open at all to the public. Please keep in mind that a mosque differs from a western church in that Christian churches are considered houses of God, while mosques are more a gathering place for the faithful of Islam.
Unless otherwise posted, some mosques that have been restored have tickets being sold by the caretaker for about LE3-6. Importantly, all visitors to mosques, mausoleums, and madrasas must remove their shoes. Hence, most Muslims walk around in their socks - but those mosques that are major tourist attractions usually have canvas overshoes available. (You should tip those who help you put them on about 50PT to LE1.) Also, women must cover their bare arms and also wear a hat.
Egypt Travel Advisory: Crime and Drugs
Crime in Egypt is nearly nonexistent, and violence is usually limited to families. However, in heavy tourist areas, pickpockets and petty thieves may be plying thier trade, so be careful. Just remember that the ever-helpful tourism police are usually nearby. Women must be cautious, especially in out-lying areas. And, stay completely away from drugs. 

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