Egyptian Society & Culture

Islam in Egypt
Egyptian cultureIslam is practised by the majority of Egyptians and governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives. Islam emanated from what is today Saudi Arabia. The Prophet Muhammad is seen as the last of God's emissaries (following in the footsteps of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, etc) to bring revelation to mankind. He was distinguished with bringing a message for the whole of mankind, rather than just to a certain peoples. As Moses brought the Torah and Jesus the Bible, Muhammad brought the last book, the Quran. The Quran and the actions of the Prophet (the Sunnah) are used as the basis for all guidance in the religion.

Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day - at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. The exact time is listed in the local newspaper each day. Friday is the Muslim holy day. Everything is closed. Many companies also close on Thursday, making the weekend Thursday and Friday. During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. Expatriates are not required to fast; however, they must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public.

Each night at sunset, families and friends gather together to celebrate the breaking of the fast (iftar). The festivities often continue well into the night. In general, things happen more slowly during Ramadan. Many businesses operate on a reduced schedule. Shops may be open and closed at unusual times.

Family Values
The family is the most significant unit of Egyptian society. Kinship plays an important role in all social relations.
The individual is always subordinate to the family, tribe or group. Nepotism is viewed positively, since it is patronage of one's family. The family consists of both the nuclear and the extended family.

Egyptian Honour
Honour is an important facet of interpersonal relationships. Respect and esteem for people is both a right and an obligation. An individual's honour is intricately entwined with the reputation and honour of everyone in their family. Honour requires that Egyptians demonstrate hospitality to friends and guests. It also dictates that people dress as well as their financial circumstances allow, and show proper respect and deference to their elders and those in authority. A man's word is considered his bond and to go back on your word is to bring dishonour to your family.

Social Class
Social class is very apparent in Egypt since it determines your access to power and position. The social class an Egyptian is born into dictates their everyday life and the opportunities they will have. There are three social classes: upper, middle, and lower. Status is defined more by family background than by absolute wealth. There is little social mobility.

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