Local traditions and culture in Cairo

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  • Local Customs
    by machomikemd
  • Local Customs
    by machomikemd

Most Viewed Local Customs in Cairo

  • freddie18's Profile Photo

    Belly Dancing in Cairo

    by freddie18 Updated Feb 14, 2009

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    I have seen this belly dancer in a Nile Cruise in Cairo.

    A traditional belly dancing has been part of Egyptian culture. The eastern dance which is called as raqs sharqi is performed almost everywhere in Egypt and performed in weddings, birthdays, and other holidays.

    Experience the art of belly dancing while touring the ethnic world of Egypt.

    Belly Dancing in Cairo Belly Dancing in Cairo Belly Dancing in Cairo Belly Dancing in Cairo Belly Dancing in Cairo
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    Whirling Dervishes - Keep on Spinning

    by freddie18 Written Feb 14, 2009

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    Amazing and unique way of dancing!

    A traditional dance that is performed only by men. The dancer keep on spinning from start to the end of the dance which lasted for at least 20 to 30 minutes. I have seen this performance on a Nile Cruise in Cairo wherein the dancer while spinning started pulling layers of his costume and in the end one of the layers opened up like a lantern.

    It is interesting to see this Male Dance which is very different from any other male dance I have seen before.

    Very colourful!

    Male Dancing the Whirling Dervishes Male Dancing the Whirling Dervishes Male Dancing the Whirling Dervishes Male Dancing the Whirling Dervishes Male Dancing the Whirling Dervishes
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    Over-populated Cairo & why Baksheesh

    by VZ-Pam Updated Feb 4, 2008

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    Sometimes we wonder why people in Egypt chase after tourists for money......Most people in the country are very poor & they just tried to make a living. When they see people from other countries they think they are rich. To us, may be many of us think we are not rich....however, compare to them, we are very rich in every aspects.

    I took this picture from my room in Cairo Hilton Ramses. You can see a family live on a roof top without a roof. Yes, Cairo is mostly sunny & no rain, but winter nights can be cold & the dry heat in the summer from concrete is like an oven. The worse is the pollution outdoors that they breathe in everyday. This picture shows a toddle with her grandfather on the roof top. You have no idea how polluted air in Cairo was & I tried not to open the window from the hotel. From that moment, I feel I am very fortunate & I am very rich. So, please torelate all these people who run after you asking for a buck . Living is a struggle for them every day which we never can compare.

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    The story of the red jug

    by Tijavi Written Jun 28, 2007

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    Admittedly, the constant hassling for baksheesh (tips) has made me cynical about the whole country. Yes, Egypt is a poor country (tell that to someone coming from another poor country like mine), but the way tourists were fleeced begs the question: can't poverty and dignity co-exist in Egypt?

    Indeed, this is unfair, biased and dare I say condescending sentiment towards the whole country. One event made me realize I was completely wrong to think that way.

    After a tiring walk around Khan el-Khalili, I found a perfect spot on a pavement to sit on and relax and watch the world pass by. Took out my camera and as I was trying to get a good angle of a sheesha (waterpipe) shop against a mosque, I noticed locals stopping by for a glass of cold, free water at a nearby shop, whose owners have placed a red jug for thirsty souls - without paying a piastre (local equivalent of cent).

    The experience taught me a valuable lesson: never let negative sentiments overwhelm you to the point that you become blind to the goodness of others.

    The red jug People stop by for a free glass of water
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    How to get along in Cairo

    by Bryskiboy Written Jun 28, 2007

    If you smile and remember to be polite then the world of Cairo will open up to you. Do not talk for the sake of talking, be comfortable to just sit and relax, enjoying the views. Cairoans prefer quieter people to one who babble non-stop. By all means ask about things, that's fine as long as it's relevant.

    SMILE, SAY THANKYOU. Be appreciative of the Cairoan generosity. The people are extremely polite and friendly and hospitable. Don't ever worry about this, but you may be expeted to buy something in the end, not always, but it's fun doing it and you meet real people.

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  • Women. What about them in Egypt?

    by MariaK Updated Jun 14, 2007

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    Premerital sex is a taboo in Egypt, but, the presence of foreign women is a real temptation. Men see it with their own eyes that we are easy (on satelite TV that is :)).

    So, some women encounter things like someone following them for a long distance talking passionately or suggesting lewd stuff, someone pinching their bottoms and this kind of things. And these things are disturbing and sometimes frightening.

    Here is some advice that I learnt by heart before going and worked well:

    *They respect married women, so wear a ring anyway (even if not really married). Also if you have male company, as a friend of yours, call him "husband" anyway.

    *Any behaviour that might "suggest" you are flirting might get you into trouble.

    *Eye contact is a sure sign you are flirting (see the previous rule) :) Wear sunglasses.

    *Expose as little flesh as possible. Cover your arms and legs.

    *In case you have an "admirer" making comments that you feel are rude, play deaf and walk away. Don't answer.

    *If you need information ask a woman.

    If you go by these rules you are in the safe side. You may not follow them and be ok anyway. A friend of mine who was with me during my second visit in Cairo, after the trip, told me in a dissapointed manner "You made me bring all long sleeve shirts and I saw so many girls wearing stapshirts in Khan-Al-Khalilli; nothing happened to them!".

    Well, that was true but, another friend in the same trip, went to the same bazaar and a woman grabbed her shirt and started shouting at her. It's up to you.

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  • She is a woman, what the heIl does she know?

    by MariaK Updated Jun 14, 2007

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    A woman in Egypt has a different status than in the western world. Wife, mother, household leader, a creature to be respected. Ok but as a woman she knows nothing and she should certainly accept the will of her husband.

    So, here is the story:

    When we visited Cairo Museum, there was a man selling "papyrus" outside. It was the first time being there, he said 10, I said 5. "Ok" he replied immediately.

    My husband was beside me and he told me in Greek "Come on, look how happy he seems, I'm sure that these things cost very less, we'll find them cheaper elsewhere"... Well indeed he did seem happy as if he had just found a stupid tourist and made his day.

    So I tell him "no" and he turns to my husband "ok my friend, no problem, give me 4". He receives another "no" while we move on but he insists, keeps following us and trying to argue: "But the lady said...".

    And there he goes, my husband (who had obviously already become used to the Egyptian way, huh) replies jokingly:"The lady is just a woman, what does she know, she knows nothing". The man, immediately stopped insisting and following us, shook his head with understanding (and as if he completely agreed), and just left. Just like this. And that's a family joke ever since.

    For the record, in Khan-Al-Khalili, the same "papyrus" (banana leaf) cost half the money (as first price, before bargaining). He was right. Well I should expect it, I'm a woman, what do I know :D :D

    She knew things but she was a queen, that differs
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  • Heavens-Mirror's Profile Photo

    ~ The Arabic Language...Some Useful Phrases ~

    by Heavens-Mirror Written May 15, 2007

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    Although English, French, Spanish and German is widely spoken in Egypt it is still beneficial to learn some of the language. The language in Egypt is Arabic. I have got a couple of books on Egypt which have helped me with the pronunciation of the words... as they can be abit of a mouthful. I have got the Lonely Planet guide to Egypt & also the Eyewitness guide to Egypt. Both books have been fantastic.

    Hello= As-salama alaykum

    Hello (to respond)= Wa alaykum salam

    Goodbye (person leaving)= Ma' al salama

    Goodbye (person responding)= Alla salkmak (to a man), Alla ysalmich (to a lady), Alla ysalimkum (to a group of people)

    Good morning= Sabah al-kheir

    Good afternoon/evening= Masa' al-kheir

    Good afternoon/evening (to respond)= Masa' an-nur

    Goodnight= Tisbah ala'kheir (to a man), Tisbihin ala-kheir (to a lady)

    Pleased to meet you= Fursa sa' ida

    Yes= Na'am

    No= La

    Maybe= Mumkin

    Please= Min fadlik (to a man) Min fadlich (to a lady)

    Thankyou- Schukran

    How are you?= Kef Halak?

    And one of my favourite Arabic words is "No Problem" which is "Mish Mushkila"
    Everything in Egypt is Mish Mushkila even the language.... Its very easy to learn once you've learnt a few basic words.

    ~ No Problem...Mish Mushkila ~

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  • SabrinaSummerville's Profile Photo

    Standard Egyptian Time (S.E.T.)

    by SabrinaSummerville Written May 13, 2007

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    This is the jocular name given to the time that anyone agrees to meet you in Cairo. After a short period doing business there, you will quickly discover that there is no such thing as accurate time keeping. If you have a meeting at 8pm, it is more likely to take place at 9.30pm. If you are to meet a friend for drinks between 9pm and 10pm, he will arrive at 11.30pm. However, the very day that you allow for this 90 minute time lapse will be the day your friend arrives dead on time and you’re still sitting there in your undies deciding what to wear.

    A friendly Canadian that we met over breakfast in our hotel explained to us that the ex-pats refer to this as “S.E.T.” or “Standard Egyptian Time” which refers to the original meeting time plus an hour or two.

    You get used to it pretty quickly and it’s part of the fun of this vibrant city.

    Felucca on the Nile
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  • Heavens-Mirror's Profile Photo

    ~ Celebrating Ramadan ~

    by Heavens-Mirror Updated May 12, 2007

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    I was lucky enough to visit Cairo when Ramadan was in place. It starts around 6th October up until about the 3rd November.

    I spent one evening with my Egyptian Friends Family & enjoyed breaking fast with them at 5.30pm. You listen to Allah on the radio & at the sound of the shot of a gun means you can break fast & eat & drink as much as you like. Everyone then likes to party all night long & enjoy food & drink with there friends & family.

    ~ A Lady Praying ~

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  • SabrinaSummerville's Profile Photo

    KARKADEE

    by SabrinaSummerville Written May 8, 2007

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    This is the red drink that you will be offered everywhere you go in Egypt – every shop, restaurant, and hotel lobby.

    The drink is made from an infusion of hibiscus flowers and thetaste varies a great deal according to whether or not it has been sweetened, where you drink it etc. The first few times I had it I wasn’t crazy about it, but then it was hot and freshly infused without any sweetener. On this last visit to Caro I learned to purchase it in the supermarket ice cold and sweet. It really is just about the most refreshing thing you can drink and is most pleasant.

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    Food in Cairo

    by MM212 Written May 3, 2007

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    Walking around the less privileged areas of Cairo is certainly a humbling experience. The majority of the city's population lives in very poor conditions, yet Egyptians generally have no shortage of food, due to the country's extensive agricultural tradition. Attached are photos of some of the interesting local food and produce I've encountered in the streets of al-Qahira.

    Fresh Delivery! Artichokes and Watermelons Fully stocked cupboard! Watermelon delivery! Egyptian delicacies?!
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  • A tip on tipping: the baksheesh story

    by MariaK Updated Sep 19, 2006

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    Keep a lot of change with you when you visit Egypt. Every service that you require (or not) and is provided to you, means that you will have to give something.

    A man who opened the door for you at the airport, at a hotel or at a restaurant, expects to take a baksheesh. Someone who carries your bags or suitcases. A guard of the tomb who offers to show you some "secret" spot. A local who agrees to pose for a photo (he or his camel, his horse etc). You get the point. Some are asking for a baksheesh just because they are there - this often is the case with children in touristy places... they gather around you shouting "baksheesh, baksheesh".

    When we reached our hotel, the tour guide assured us that "yes, of course, the tips for the hotel stuff are included in the price of the trip, as it was mentioned in the brochure". OK. But the porter comes, he carries our bags, and at the room door he says the magic word "baksheesh". I told him that I only had Greek coins, we had just arrived from the airport. He thought for some seconds and he replied that Greek coins would do the job. Really? What would he do with a foreign coin? As we realized afterwards, he carried the luggage of another couple of the group, and he exchanged the coin (rounding it so that the new baksheesh would be there too). The couple were also wondering where he found the Greek coin, until we talked about it :D

    Keep the change away from your big bills because if they see them they will certainly ask for more baksheesh (after all they saw that you probably can afford it).

    Another tip on tipping in Egypt: cheap ballpoint pens will be a good baksheesh too. Everyone wants them and you get away giving less, so everybody is happy. So, it would be a good idea to buy a box of them.

    A beautiful bill... (to be taken as a souvenir)
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  • If you can't understand Egyptian...

    by MariaK Updated Sep 16, 2006

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    ...try to understand their gestures. Careful, the same gestures don't mean the same thing here (as in your hometown).

    So, if you are talking to a local and:
    1*.he starts shaking his head from side to side: he doesn’t mean “No”, as one would probably mean in your country. He means, “I don’t understand”.

    2*.he raises his eyebrows and lifts his head up and back, maybe doing a “tsk” noice at the same time: he means “No”. You can find this gesture really helpful when someone will be trying to sell you anything that you don’t want. You just raise your eyebrows, incline your head backwards and do a “tsk” noise – they get it (its not certain that they’ll leave though).

    3*. he keeps his fingers stretched out and turning the wrist quickly (like turning a door knob): that stands for “what”, “where”, “who” etc. This might mean also “what’s your problem”, so try to figure out what his face tells you…

    4*: he puts his right hand over his heart: he means “no thanks”. This should make you wonder if you haven’t offered him anything I guess.

    So, when in doubt, start shaking your head from side to side (rule no. 1*).


    At this point I would like to stress out the obvious about communicating in Egypt. When you want to ask someone for directions, you may use your phrase book, right? That’s what I thought when I asked a local woman "where is the entrance of the Citacel" in Cairo. And then she smiled politely, and started explaining in a fast manner. In EGYPTIAN of course. Which I don’t understand. So, I shook my head from side to side, said “thank you” and left. For the record, the Citadel entrance was at the complete opposite side of where we were, so we walked, and walked, and walked...

    It's all Greek to me... (I'd wish)
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    The weekend.

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Sep 3, 2006

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    Fridays are the normal day off for most people in Egypt. Depending on the type of work, the work week may go from Sunday - Thursday, Saturday - Thursday, or Saturday - Wednesday. Thursday night is the night people will go out the most. Yes, there are clubs and yes, expats and Egyptians will go to them, but it is more common to see families going out for dinner and shopping.

    I found it very odd at first that Egyptians of college age would often reserve this night for family activies rather than go out with their friends. Most teens and college age kids in the states would be miserable at the thought of hanging out with mom and grandma on a weekend night at the mall. I love this aspect of Egyptian culture though....the emphasis on family. Family is everything to an Egyptian, and family activities and duties come first....willingly. Of course, this is not alwaaays the case but it is the general way things are. Don't be offended if your Egyptian friends drop plans because of family. It is nothing personal, it is just expected that family comes first. Period.

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