Egypt country overview

The culture of Egypt

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

Egypt information index

Daily life and social customs of Egypt

The population density in inhabited areas is such that people are visible everywhere, even in rural areas. During the early morning and late afternoon, there is a significant number of fellahin on the roads, either going to or coming from the fields with their farm animals. Throughout the day, men can be seen working the land with traditional tools like the hoe and sickle, while occasionally using modern tractors. In the delta, older women in black robes and younger ones in colorful cottons, along with children over the age of 6, assist with less strenuous tasks. However, in some parts of the valley, women over the age of 16 do not work in the fields and are limited to household activities. They rarely appear in public without a black muslin headdress covering their heads and faces. Young children are a constant presence, serving as a reminder of the country’s high birth rate.

Lifestyles in larger cities differ significantly from those in rural areas and are more similar to urban cultures worldwide. While modesty is maintained in urban clothing, especially with the increasing trend of women wearing the hijab since the early 1980s, urban fashion only slightly varies from that of many European cities. Similarly, foreign influences, mostly Western, have greatly impacted urban preferences in art, literature, cuisine, and other aspects.

The family remains the most crucial social unit throughout Egypt. In rural areas, particularly among the Saʿīdī of Upper Egypt and the Bedouin of the deserts, tribal identity holds strong importance, emphasizing blood relationships. In these areas, where state control is weakest, the vendetta remains a significant threat to civil order. Tribal affiliations are nearly nonexistent in urban areas, but the day-to-day functioning of state bureaucracy and business relationships often relies on extensive patronage systems that connect local families with wider networks of relatives and friends.

Egyptian cuisine has been influenced by various Mediterranean regions, including Greece, Turkey, and the Levant. Urban tastes, however, have experienced a more diverse range of foreign influences. Rural cuisine is represented by dishes like fūl mudammis (ful medmes), which consists of slowly cooked fava beans and spices, usually served with side dishes and bread, and is widely regarded as the national food. Another beloved dish is mulūkhiyyah, a thick soup made from the leaf of the Jew’s mallow plant, served with meat or fowl. Kuftah, a spiced meatball, is also commonly consumed. The two predominant types of bread are ʿaysh baladī (“native bread”), made from whole-grain, and ʿaysh shāmī (“Syrian bread”), made from refined flour. Falafel, a fried legume cake, is a staple in the region and likely originated in Egypt. Fish is abundant due to the country’s riverine culture, but it does not make up a significant portion of the diet. Mutton is the most commonly consumed meat, while chicken is ubiquitous, and pigeon is highly popular as a delicacy (with pigeon cotes being a common sight in many villages). Some desserts have been adapted from Turkish cuisine, evident in the use of paper-thin sheets of phyllo pastry. Honey is the most common sweetener, and native fruits, particularly figs and dates, are used in most puddings and desserts. Although the consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited under Islam, locally brewed and fermented drinks can be found, along with imported options. Coffee and tea are popular beverages.

Egyptians celebrate a variety of secular and religious holidays. Secular holidays include Labor Day, Revolution Day (1952), and Armed Forces Day. Religious holidays include the two ʿīds (Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr), the Prophet’s birthday (mawlid), and Coptic Christmas (January 7th).

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