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Courtesy in Cairo


Courtesy in Cairo

Greeting People When you approach any individual or a group of people for the first time, the best thing to say is the local variation of the Islamic form of greeting "Es-Salāmu-`Alēku" which literally means "Peace be upon you". This is the most common form of saying "hello" to anybody. It creates a friendliness between you and people you don't know, builds rapport, and helps build respect! It is also considered polite to say this if you approach someone, instead of just asking them for something or speaking to them directly. Other forms of greeting include "SàbâH el-xēr" ("good morning"), "masā’ el-xēr" ("good evening"), or the more casual "izayak" addressing a male, or "izayik" addressing a female, which means "hello" or "how are you?". When leaving, you can say the same "Es Salamu Aleykom", or simply "Maa Salama", literally: "with safety" or "with wellness" which is used to mean to say "goodbye". More educated Egyptians will say "bye-bye" derived from the English "goodbye" or "buh-bye" when leaving others. Smiling: Most people appreciate a smile, and most Egyptians smile when they speak to someone for the first time. People who don't smile while they speak are considered arrogant, rude, aggressive, unfriendly, etc. However, be careful not to be too friendly or too smiley, especially if you're a female speaking to an Egyptian male, as they might mistake you for trying to befriend them or asking for them to flirt or hit on you. Even in a male-to-male conversation, being too friendly might give the other person the chance to try to take advantage of you some way or another. Always use common sense. Tone of Voice: Most Egyptians tend to have a loud voice when they speak, which is common to some other countries in the region. They are not shouting, but you will know the difference. Expressing Your Opinion: Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country so say nothing that might be perceived as an insult to Islam or the Egyptian culture. The same applies to any mention of the Middle East as a whole. Your best option is to not discuss religion or politics from a Western point of view at all. Dress Code: Women and men should wear modest clothing. It is considered disrespectful to the mainly conservative Muslim inhabitants to see visitors walking around wearing clothing which reveal thighs, shoulders, bare backs or cleavage, except at beaches and hotels. Men should also not walk about bare chested or wearing very short shorts outside of hotels or beach resorts. People do generally tend to dress more liberally at beach resorts, nightclubs, social outings, weddings, or when engaging in any sport, but there are no places to practice nudism or naturism as being nude in public. Mosque Etiquette: Do not enter a mosque with any form of shoes, sandals, slippers, boots, etc. on., as this is very disrespectful. Always take them off before entering as they carry the dirt from the street, and the mosque ( a place of prayer ) should be clean. However, you can keep socks on. Etiquette in the Presence of Prayer: Also, avoid walking in front of persons in prayer. The reason is because when people kneel, they kneel to God. If you stand in front of someone while they are praying or kneeling, it is as if they are kneeling to you or worshipping you, a complete taboo and against the basic foundations of Islam. Otherwise, it is quite acceptable for visitors or Christian Egyptians to carry on as normal in the streets or shops that operate during prayer times. Public Display of Affection: Like most other countries in the Muslim world, the Middle East, and even some non-Muslim conservative countries, affection should not be displayed in public. Egyptians are conservative and doing things like making out with your girlfriend/boyfriend in public is considered offensive, rude, or disrespectful. A public hug is less offensive, especially if greeting a spouse or family member you haven't seen in a while. You will notice male-to-male kissing on the cheeks when Egyptian men meet their friends, family, or someone they know well. This is not to be confused with the male-to-male kissing of some homosexuals in some western countries. Some Egyptian men like to walk next to their male friend with their arms attached together like a loop inside another loop. Again, this is not homosexual behavior. Gay/Lesbian Egypt is a Muslim and conservative country. Any display of homosexuality is considered strange, weird, disrespectful and may lead on most occasions to hostile reactions. Depending on the situation and the place and time, it could be anything from weird looks to physical abuse. Therefore, gays and lesbians should be discreet while in Egypt. The gay scene in Egypt is not open and free like in the West. Gays have been arrested by the police and detained and even tortured in Cairo in the past for engaging in homosexual activity. Human rights groups have condemned such actions and the Egyptian government has been under pressure from different sources including the USA to stop this degrading treatment of homosexuals. The most famous arrests were in 2001 at a boat called the Queen Boat located on the Nile River in Zamalek district. Further arrests have occurred since then, but the exact situation of homosexuals in the last few years is uncertain. There are no official gay places for cruising or meeting other people.

The Most Frequently Asked Travel Questions about Cairo


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Cairo Travel Guide from Wikitravel. Many thanks to all Wikitravel contributors. Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, images are available under various licenses, see each image for details.

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