Egypt is regarded as one of the most ancient and principal civilizations, making an immense contribution to the development of humankind in all spheres of their activity. This Mediterranean country occupies the northeastern corner of Africa and the Nile River’s delta and the valley, bordered by Israel, the Gaza Strip, Sudan, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Although Egyptians mostly speak on several vernacular dialects differing significantly from the literary language, the official language is Arabic. It is worth noting that modern language is rooted in medieval Arabic and bears a noticeable imprint of English or French. The population comprises Egyptians, herewith, the physical characteristics of which stem from the blend of various peoples, including indigenous Africans, Arabs, Turks, and even Europeans.
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Egypt can be split into four main parts: The Nile Valley and Delta, The Western Desert, The Eastern Desert, and The Sinai Peninsula. The Nile, stretching around 1,200 km from the North and running through vast deserts and bordering cliffs, forms a narrow green and highly fertile valley. As a result, this valley acquires the utmost agricultural significance for the country since other territories generally represent the total desolate, bare lands. Moreover, due to such physical conditions, 97 percent of the population inhabits along Nile’s coasts and alluvial plains (State Information Service). Besides, The Eastern Desert has the Eastern Mountains, with a peak of about 3000 feet above sea level, and affluent natural resources, especially coal, oil, and gold.
Governmental and Economic Systems
Egypt’s politics pivots on the republican form of government with a semi-presidential system established after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. The President is elected for a 6-year term and can dissolve and appoint five percent of Parliament. Simultaneously, Parliament, which is primarily presented by the House of Representatives and elected for six years, can impeach the President. The country possesses a mixed economic system that offers various private freedom. As of 2021, the score of Egypt’s economic freedom equals 55.7, with an average growth of 1.7 points (The Heritage Foundation). Nevertheless, the economy is also connected with rather strict government regulation and centralized economic planning.
Egyptian cuisine has many similarities with Eastern Mediterranean cooking, especially with Greek, Syrian, Lebanese, and Turkish. Nevertheless, because of the high cost of meat throughout Egypt’s history, their cuisine bears the features of a vegetarian diet that contains vegetables, legumes, and cereals in considerable volume (Hassan-Wassef 902). Bread takes a prominent place in their tables and is made from premium wheat flour with the addition of other ingredients such as rye flour, sesame, or onion. A substantial amount of fish and other seafood also present in their cuisine, and tea and beer are the most popular national drinks, although the latter should be avoided as to Islam.
Islam is the state religion, supported by law and influencing many aspects of their social life. According to 2006 Census data, Muslims comprise almost 95 percent, Christians are 5 percent, and Buddhists, Jewish, and other religions consist of less than 1 percent (Pew Research Center). It is also worth noting that Egyptian Muslims mostly follow its Sunni branch, but Sufism is also broadly practiced. Copts is undoubtedly the most widespread Orthodox community in the country, preserving its autonomy since the seventh century. However, dress, language, lifestyle, and even some traditions are identical to Muslim Egyptians.
Norms, Practices, Cultural Beliefs
Despite that, throughout its long history, Egypt contacted with numerous civilizations, it has mainly inherited Arab and Islamic cultural traditions. Due to the dense population in inhabiting territories, the people’s presence is apparent in all places. Typically, fellahins, Egyptian natives dressed in long tunics called djellabas, visit their fields and farm animals. They cultivate the land using age-old equipment such as hoe and sickle; modern tractors are relatively rare in Egypt. Young women wear colorful cotton, while older ones are dressed in long black robes. Women, along with children, also perform daily work connected with farmlands, but it is much less strenuous. Besides, seldom do females appear in public, usually with muslin headdresses hiding their faces.
Customs and Traditions
Since Muslim is a predominant religion in Egypt, Islam’s tenets placed a noticeable imprint on all social activities, celebrations, and cultural rituals. Egypt’s government and even many private companies strictly adhere to all Islamic holidays; for example, almost all agencies do not work on Friday, Islam’s holy day. Besides, most Egyptians do not consume alcohol but also stigmatize those who like it. Many Egyptians also observe Ramadan, a holy month during which people pray at night, celebrate with friends and relatives, and donate to charity (The Cultural Atlas). Other most significant religious carnivals and festivals include Sham en Nisim and Sufi saint; Revolution Day, Labor Day, and Armed Forces Day belong to secular holidays.
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Communication and proxemics
Egyptians are typically expressive, open, verbose, and even impulsive in their conversations, which can be conditioned by the continuous hot climate. They tend to tell various stories and news, spicing them with jokes and anecdotes. In addition, Egyptians are inclined to manifest happiness, gratitude, or grief overtly, but the display of anger or rage can be perceived as a direct and severe insult. Family members and close friends are inclined to touch each other frequently; such physical touching between different sexes in public is prohibited (The Cultural Atlas). Usually, men should wait when women give their hands for handshakes. When conversing, the typical distance between people comprises an arm’s length, but married couples can walk arm in arm freely. Eye contact plays a prominent role in communication because direct contact is regarded as a sign of respect, honesty, and sincerity. However, long eye contact is impermissible between males and females.
Family Structure and Kinship Practices
Throughout Egypt, irrespective of location and social status, the family remains a fundamental unit in society. In particular, business relationships and state bureaucracy is connected with an extensive patronage system and influential local family groups consisting of relatives and friends. Additionally, since Egypt’s society resembles a collectivist type, family needs take considerably higher priority than personal desires. Egypt’s society possesses both the extended family and nuclear unit (The Cultural Atlas). Considering the role of Islam, communal living and loyalty to family ties are immensely esteemed among people. Although the household structure is patriarchal, authority can also come to women if she is the oldest (The Cultural Atlas). Besides, women’s functions usually include household labor and child-rearing, and they are primarily expected to follow social compliance.
Since World War II, especially after the revolution of 1952, there was a drastic increase in education funding. As a result, education has spread to women who are now allowed to attend university. Opportunities to higher education open the doors to different fields of employment, including politics. The literacy rate has also jumped, currently comprising over 72 percent; this index for youth even more significant, accounting for 92 percent (UNESCO). Egypt has three stages of general education such as preparatory (three years), primary (six years), secondary (three years). Secondary schools are divided into two types, namely, technical and general; the former is mostly agricultural, commercial, or industrial. As of 2020, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, Cairo University is estimated between 401–500 (ShanghaiRanking Consultancy). It is worth noting that graduates of technical schools can access higher education, but this practice is uncommon.
Interaction with Other Countries
Foreign policy is a critical element of Egypt’s state policy that is based on a non-aligned status. Various factors such as strategic geographical and commercial position, diplomatic expertise, historical events, population, and military strength provide Egypt with prominent political significance in Africa and the Middle East. Since ancient history, Cairo is a crossway of Arabic commerce, culture, and intellectual activity. Egyptian diplomacy focuses on building and improving both bilateral and multilateral relationships. In particular, the warmest relations are developed with Libya, the Republic of Sudan, South Africa, and Ethiopia. Egypt is also a member of numerous global organizations of different spheres, including WHO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and others. However, the country is involved in international and personal conflicts with several states, primarily grown on religious, economic, and immigration grounds.
The first interesting fact is that Egypt possesses seven objects of UNESCO-designated World Heritage. They include Memphis and its Necropolis, ancient Thebes, Historic Cairo, Abu Mena, the Saint Catherine area, Whale Valley, and Nubian monuments. The second impressive fact is related to its historical achievements. Namely, Egyptians are the first nation that invented the calendar comprising 365 days and 12 months. The calendar was assigned to predict the Nile’s annual flooding.
With its fertile soils, access to the sea, natural resources, and geopolitical significance, Egypt has considerable potential for rapid economic growth. Moreover, despite recent political disturbances, Egypt remains a tourist pearl of Africa, attracting millions of tourists, which brings tremendous profit and promotes cultural exchange. Nevertheless, this country experiences significant internal and external problems that slacken its development. In this regard, the government should primarily direct its efforts to develop migration issues, improve business and media climate, and strengthen relations with Israel.
“Cairo University.” ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, Web.
“Egypt.” UNESCO, Web.
“Egypt.” The Heritage Foundation, Web.
“Egyptian Culture.” The Cultural Atlas, Web.
“Egypt: Demographics.” Pew Research Center, Web.
“Egypt Topography.” State Information Service, 2016, Web.
Hassan-Wassef, Habiba. “Food Habits of the Egyptians: Newly Emerging Trends.” Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, vol. 10, no. 6, 2004, pp. 898-915.