tend to speak at a much closer distance than North
Americans. Even if you are unaccustomed to
this level of contact, do not back up or shy away.
If you keep your distance, the perception might
be that you find your counterpart's physical presence
distasteful or that you are a very cold, unfeeling
person. Moreover, conversations usually involve
Egyptian men shake hands with other men.
Some Egyptian men will shake hands with Western
women. Western businesswomen should wait for
an Egyptian man to offer his hand.
often walk hand in hand, but Westernized Egyptians
rarely do this. If an Egyptian holds your
hand, accept this as a gesture of friendship.
hand is considered unclean in the Arab world.
Unless you are handling something considered unclean,
always use the right hand. Also, avoid gesturing
with the left hand.
keep both feet on the ground, since Arabs do not
cross their legs when sitting. Exposing the
bottom of your foot is considered offensive.
up" sign is offensive throughout the Arab world.
Visitors are expected to follow Egyptian
standards of modesty. Even though it can be
extremely hot in this country, most of the body
must remain covered.
Refrain from wearing traditional native
clothing. Egyptians may find it offensive
to see foreigners dressed in their traditional garments.
Standard attire for men includes trousers
and a shirt, preferably long-sleeved. A jacket
and tie are usually required for business meetings.
Keep shirts buttoned up to the collarbone.
Men should avoid wearing visible jewelry,
especially around the neck.
Women business travelers are expected
to dress modestly at all times. They are advised
to pack shirts, blouses, and dresses with high necklines
and sleeves that reach at least to the elbows.
Hemlines should be ankle-length or
well below the knee.
For women, a well covered, shapeless
appearance is the desired effect. While a
hat or scarf is not always required, it is wise
to keep a scarf on hand.
Egyptians like to joke around and
make fun of themselves. For example, Egyptian
bureaucracy is a favorite target. Nevertheless,
no matter how self-deprecating their humor gets,
you should not try to make fun of Egypt or the Egyptians.
Some welcome topics of conversation
include Egyptian achievements, both ancient and
modern, Egyptian cotton, and sports-especially soccer,
basketball, boxing, horse racing, tennis, and all
Some topics to avoid include women
(inquiring about female members of your counterpart's
family), and Israel.
The term "al" literally
means "from" in Arabic. A name like al-Barudi
could mean "son of Barudi" or "from
the town of Barudi." It would be a mistake
to take the term "al" for the Western
Most Egyptians should be addressed
by title and surname, just as you would address
a Westerner. Some Egyptians prefer a title
plus first name. In writing, use the full
name. If an Egyptian does not have a title,
just use courtesy titles such as "Mr.",
"Mrs.", or "Miss."
You are required to have an Egyptian
agent to do business in this country. Moreover,
if you're doing business in both Cairo and Alexandria,
it's recommended that you have a separate agent
for each city.
Business cards should be printed in
English on one side and in Arabic on the reverse.
The Islamic religion is a critical
component in Egyptian life, playing an important
role in all aspects of society. There is a
prevailing belief that solutions to all problems
are to be found in the correct interpretation and
application of Islamic law.
Generally, Egyptians prefer to work
at their own pace. Attempting the "hard
sell" or forcing them into making a quick decision
will probably be futile, and not in your best interests.
In accordance with tradition, an Egyptian
may welcome you several times at your first meeting.
It is standard practice to keep foreign
businesspeople waiting. Realistically, you
may be able to keep only one appointment per day.
No business is conducted on Friday,
the Muslim holy day. Most people don't work
on Thursdays, either. Generally, the working
week takes place from Saturday through Wednesday.
Government hours are 8:00 a.m. to
2:00 p.m. Government offices are closed on either
Thursday and Friday or Friday and Saturday.
This variation is designed to reduce traffic on
congested Cairo streets.
Working hours for businesses, banks,
and government offices are shortened during the
month of Ramadan.
Hosting visitors is considered a virtue
among Egyptians, and they will take car of most
of the entertainment arrangements in their country.
Be prepared to remove your shoes before
entering a home or other building. Follow
the lead of your host.
Customarily, the male guest of honor
is traditionally seated to the right of the host.
Muslims are prohibited from alcohol
and pork. Consequently, unless you know that
he or she drinks alcohol, if you invite an Egyptian
to a social event, ensure that there is a selection
of nonalcoholic drinks available.
Dining utensils will be used only
in the most Westernized of Egyptian homes.
When eating in an Egyptian home, adding
salt to your food is considered an insult, since
this may imply to your hosts that the dish is bland
or otherwise inadequate.
The capital of Egypt is Cairo, which
is located on the banks of the Nile River.
Keep in mind that Cairo has some of
the worst traffic jams in the world. Delays
are frequently caused by traffic congestion.
Egyptians consider their country to
be a "bridge" between the European West
and the Arab East. Thus, business practices
may resemble European or Arab tendencies or something
Egyptians love language and you can
expect a lot of rhetoric that includes exaggeration,
poetics, emotion, and flowery language.
Make sure you give or receive gifts
with the right hand, not with the left. Using
both hands, however, is acceptable.
If you are invited to an Egyptian
home, baked goods or chocolates are good gift selections.
A summary of this information can be
found at Executive Planet.
For more information go to: