when you're shopping you will be pulled into every kind of shop (mostly perfum) and be offered 'some egyptian traditional hospitaliTEA' - a funny flavoured tea in a glass. we did this in every shop but never bought anything. they told us it was rude to not accept, i am not sure if this is a custom or if it was just to hold us hostage until we bought something.
We were a little worried about dress code etc, but sharm el sheikh is just like any other european holiday resort. If you are a young girl you will get attention whatever way you dress, so we just dressed normally, but didnt walk around in bikini tops in town like you could do in spain.
going to cairo we dressed conservatively, but even then we were pointed at and stared at. if you get any hastle just ignore, if they are looking for money say 'mafeesh fluss', or if they are persistent a good *** off will do (utrukni wa schani)
if shaking hands shake with the right. the left is unclean, ame goes for eating in traditional retaurants.
women do not normally shake hands with men, and tis could cause offence. however, in sharm they are a lot more relaxed.
Obviously one of the main things about shopping in Egypt is the custom of haggling. The shopkeepers will offer a ridiculous price for a product and you should give something way way below this!
We bought an underwater camera from a local shop near to our hotel for LE100 (this was after a LOT of haggling), however, we went to the Kodak shop in Naama Bay where they were priced on the shelves at LE75.... !
I suppose a lot of the local shopkeepers perhaps don't make as much as the ones based centrally so I don't blame them for trying to make a bit more money out of the tourists!
in eygpt it would be ideal to learn some basoc arabic just to get you by as sometimes you need to get rid of pushy salesmen etc. here is some to get you started:
Hello = Ahalan
Thank you = shokran
Please = Min Fadilak
Excuse me = Ann Eazinak
Good = Taib/ Bikair
Bad = Saia/ Mosh Bikair
Do you speak English?= tatakalam Inglesi?
How much is this? = bikam hatha?
It is too expensive = ghalia katheer
these are some usefull phrases that should get you well one your way :D
We visited Egypt in Ramadan. This didn't affect us at all in Sharm El Sheik because it is catered so well for foreign tourists. When in Cairo we got a much better insight the sense of community and celebration associated with Ramadan.
We sat on the pavement edge in Cairo in front of a square filled with tables. The tables were surrounded by the local people who were preparing for the setting of the sun. At that moment the square burst into a flurry of conversation and laughter and passing dishes of food and filling glasses. The sense of togetherness was amazing.
If you are fortunate enough to take a trip to Cairo, its worth remebering to take a long sleeved top/jacket with you if you plan to visit a Mosque. You will be required to cover your shoulders and your legs girls! They dont apply the same rules to the men by the way!
Don't worry too much if you forget the appropriate clothing as they will provide you with a long robe. Be warned though they are thick and heavy and Egypt, especially Cairo is HOT! I didn't have to wear one but a few in our party did.
At the Hyatt, there was no topless sunbathing allowed by the pools. It was, however, apparently allowed on the beaches, even though I didn't actually see anyone doing it. It seems it was a respectful crowd while we were there.
I really wish the hotel would just ban topless sunbathing full stop and not have to bow down to the tourists. Is someone really not going to visit Sharm El Sheikh because they can't get their boobs out??!! If so, it could do without people like that anyway!
And while we are on the subject, some male tourists in Naama Bay walked round without their shirts on in the evenings. This isn't the Costas for goodness sake! Have some damn pride and respect!
Okay, I'll climb off my soap box!
At the end of the day, Egypt is a Muslim country, and topless sunbathing is therefore offensive.
Please have some respect for the country and it's people, and keep your bikinis on.
Its very common and normal to see Egyptian guys holding hands, sometimes they hug and give each other a kiss too, in fact muh more so than a man and a woman. This is a sign of friendship, Do not make the mistake of thinking they are gay, as they will take great offence at this! If you have kids, it may be wise to mention this to them before they see them in the street and comment very loudly! hehe!
It is a local custom to bargain for everything in Egypt, from taxi drive to buying water. But I have noticed that in Naama Bay people are different, they don't bargain, the sellers offer usually only one discount cof about 10% and the buyers agree thinking they have made a good deal. For much lower prices and real bargaining go to the Old Market.
Try the shisha experience. People relax and smoke their shisha (traditional water pipe) while chatting about the experiences of the day. Tobacco for the shisha exists in various flavours, such like apple, strawberry, vanilla... which give a fruity smell and taste. Just smoke it...
it is customary here to tip for EVERYTHING, you tip your waiters, your cleaners, your tour guides, anyone that offers you a service expects a tip. Be careful at the airport though as they just grab your suitcase off the baggge reclaim belt and expect tipping for it, there sometimes you have to be strict and say no.
The Shisha is a Middle East smoking tradition that began hundreds of years ago before the onslaught of cigarette companies.
The Shisha is known by different names in different countries. It is a pipe with a long, flexible stem. The smoke is cooled by being made to pass through water.
You can buy these all over the place in Sharm and there are plenty of outside cafes where you can try out first. Even our hotel had a tent where you could relax and smoke Shisha
Bargaining is a must in Egyptian shops. Always start with half of what the salesman asks and go up slowly. They will still make a good busness. Be always friendly, and see it as a way of entertainment to make bargaining.
If you like tobuy something special, like a shisha (waterpipe) better ask some locals in your hotel about the best or cheapest prices.
It's expected everywhere and makes up a big part of the income of people there. Whether waiter, room attendant, taxi driver or tour bus driver, they are all expecting some tipping. Be generous, give them. Always have 1 Egyptian Pound notes with you, and give them as a tip.
When staying in the hotel, give a few pounds every second day and you can be sure of excellent service.
Forget the Western trading activites and indulge in REAL business! Some of you might get the impression the markets and souks in Egypt are tourist traps and rip offs. This is completely false. It is essential to understand that here, they have done trading the same way for 7,000 years. And they don't care that you are rich or poor or from which country you are. They will try to speak the language of every person that comes into the market and try to sell them something.
If you want a souvenir or just try your acting talent, run into the souk and haggle as much as you can. The first price they tell you is going to be horendously expensive (ie. $200 for a candle, which you can haggle down to $20). Remember they have a lot of stock, and they will sell anything at a profit.
Now, they have 7,000 years of experience, so they are better than you at this. You must say you don't have much money on you, act completely shocked, even when you're only at 10% of the original price and never look to interested in a product (nor unintrested, cause they might think you don't really want it). Call them 'brother' (ya ahri) and play along.
Also, they might be willing to exchange their products for somehing you have; my cousin managed to get 5 kilos of tobacco in Aswan for a plastic ring she had bought for $2 in the US!