Culture of Egypt - Wikipedia
The Egyptian culture was, in fact, life affirming, as the scholar Salima Ikram writes : . among the lower classes and there seems to have been no formal marriage ceremony. . Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of. On the basis of ancient texts, scholars generally divide the history of Egyptian language into five periods: Old Egyptian (from before to about bce). The genetic linguistic relationship between Egyptian (ancient Egyptian and study of the cultural origin of the Egyptian people who created the civilization of the.
Who you know is more important than what you know, so it is important to network and cultivate a number of contracts. Expect to be offered coffee or tea whenever you meet someone, as this demonstrates hospitality.
Even if you do not take a sip, always accept the beverage. Declining the offer is viewed as rejecting the person. Since Egyptians judge people on appearances wear good quality conservative clothes and present yourself well at all times.
Egyptians believe direct eye contact is a sign of honesty and sincerity, so be prepared for disconcertingly intense stares. Egyptians are emotive and use hand gestures when they are excited. In general, they speak softly, although they may also shout or pound the table. This is not indicative of anger; it is merely an attempt to demonstrate a point.
You should demonstrate deference to the most senior person in the group, who will also be their spokesperson. This is a country where hierarchy and rank are very important.
Changes in Ancient Egyptian Language
Business Meeting Etiquette Appointments are necessary and should be made in advance. Confirm the meeting one week in advance, either in writing or by telephone. Reconfirm again a day or two before the meeting. Meetings are generally not private unless there is a need to discuss matters confidentially. In general, Egyptians have an open-door policy, even when they are in a meeting.
This means you may experience frequent interruptions. Others may even wander into the room and start a different discussion. You may join in, but do not try to bring the topic back to the original discussion until the new person leaves. High- level government officials often adhere to more western business practices and hold private meetings without interruptions Business meetings generally start after prolonged inquiries about health, family, etc.
If you send an agenda and presentation materials in advance of the meeting, send both an English and Egyptian Arabic translation. Business Negotiation The social side of business is very important. Egyptians must know and like you to conduct business. Personal relationships are necessary for long-term business. The highest ranking person makes decisions, after obtaining group consensus.
Decisions are reached after great deliberation. If the government is involved, discussions will take even longer since approval must often be given by the ministers of several departments. Business moves at a slow pace. The society is extremely bureaucratic. It may take several visits to accomplish a simple task.
It is advisable to include older people with impressive titles in your team since Egyptians respect age and experience. Expect a fair amount of haggling. Egyptians seldom see an offer as final. Egyptians do not like confrontation and abhor saying 'no'. If they do not respond, it usually is a negative sign. Always include research and documentation to support your claims. In the period of the 3rd dynasty c.
From that time on, until the script was supplanted by an early version of Coptic about the 3rd and 4th centuries ADthe system remained virtually unchanged. Even the number of signs used remained constant at about for more than 2, years.
Whilst most Middle Egyptian is seen written on monuments by hieroglyphs, it was also written using a cursive variantand the related hieratic. Middle Egyptian has been well-understood since then, although certain points of the verbal inflection remained open to revision until the midth century, notably due to the contributions of Hans Jakob Polotsky. This transition was taking place in the later period of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt known as the Amarna Period. Middle Egyptian was retained as a literary standard languageand in this usage survived until the Christianisation of Roman Egypt in the 4th century CE.
- Egyptian language
- Culture of Egypt
Late Egyptian[ edit ] Late Egyptianappearing around BC, is represented by a large body of religious and secular literaturecomprising such examples as the Story of Wenamunthe love poems of the Chester—Beatty I papyrus, and the Instruction of Any. Instructions became a popular literary genre of the New Kingdom, which took the form of advice on proper behavior. Late Egyptian was also the language of New Kingdom administration. An example of this is Zaphnath-Paaneahthe Egyptian name given to Joseph.
The result is that nearly half the days in the year can be considered fasting days by some. Virtually all Egyptian Muslims fast during Ramadan, while the voluntary fasts are followed by a smaller number. The number of days that Egyptian Christians can theoretically fast is even larger. The number is variable, but it includes over days a year, mostly in the periods leading up to Christmas and Easter, plus the Wednesdays and Fridays of each week outside the fasting periods.
Christian fasting means avoiding meat, fish, eggs, milk, butter, and cheese. In the Christian tradition, one theme of fasting is the domination of the body and of emotions by the mind in order to reach a greater purity.
About 25 percent of the gross domestic product comes from industry and about 18 percent from agriculture. The remaining 57 percent includes all other activities, primarily services, including tourism, and the "informal sector" small-scale enterprises that often escape government supervision.
There is also an extensive network of banks and a major construction industry. A stock market on which about thirty stocks are traded emerged in the s. Egypt is a rich agricultural country, with some of the highest yields per unit of land in the world.
The main crops are cotton, sugarcane, wheat, maize, and fava beans with substantial areas given over to fruit orchards primarily citrus and to vegetables. Livestock cattle, water buffalo, sheep, and goats is also important and some land is used to grow fodder crops for these animals.
There are two crops a year on average. Individual farmers try to be self-sufficient in certain crops such as wheat, but on the whole they market what they grow and procure their own food also from the market. Elaborate market networks composed of small-scale traders purchase food crops and trade them into the urban areas, or sometimes between rural areas. On the whole, the marketing sector is characterized by a plethora of small units, although a few large-scale trading companies operate.
Being too small to bargain on price, farmers have to accept the trader's offer. The main inputs to agriculture are land, water, and labor. Land is generally owned by private individuals in small holdings, with an average of about 2.
From to tenancies were guaranteed those renting farmland could not be expelled except under rare conditionsbut this guarantee was repealed in By that year, rented land covered about one-sixth of the farmland, and tenants tended to be poorer than farmers who were also owners.
Nevertheless, tenants had learned to treat farmland as if they owned it, and after had to adjust to higher rents or the loss of the land. Irrigation is central to Egyptian agriculture, and water is supplied by the government to the farmer through a network of canals.
Payment for water is indirect, through the land tax paid by the larger farmers. Water is perceived to be free, and the government continues to support the policy that water should be provided free to farmers. Since farmers must lift the water from the canals to their fields they do incur a cost. Farm labor is primarily family labor, based on the rural family household.
The head of this household mobilizes labor from his family, but may also hire outside labor from time to time, particularly for tasks that require a large group working together. Egyptian agriculture tends to be labor-intensive and indeed could better be described as gardening. Many members of these rural households work as agricultural laborers or outside agriculture, and it is probable that many of these households would not survive without the income from this work. The most common off-farm sources of income are government work as teachers, clerks, or guardsprivate business trucking agricultural goods or tradingand factory work.
A man collecting water from the Dakhla Oasis. Payment for water use is indirect, with fees generated as a land tax by larger farmers. In Egyptian agriculture, the tasks that can be done by a tractor e. Since most farmers cannot afford to own machinery, they rent it as they need it. On the whole, tractors and pumps are owned by the richer farmers who rent out their excess capacity. Egypt is a relatively industrialized country, especially in textiles and garment manufacture, cement, metal works of various kinds, and armaments.
Various makes of automobile are assembled in Egypt. In the second half of the twentieth century, many of these industries were government-owned. At the end of the twentieth century, they were in the process of being privatized. There are also many small private workshops producing shoes, door frames, furniture, clothing, aluminum pots, and similar items for local consumption.
Egypt tends to import more than it exports. Imports include consumer goods, including food, and raw material for industry; exports are largely agricultural products and services. A major Egyptian export consists of workers who labor outside the country but who send money back home. Social Stratification Classes and Castes. In Egypt there is an enormous gap between the very wealthy and the very poor. The culture also encourages deference of the weak, poor, or subaltern to the rich and powerful, in terms of speech, posture, and acquiescence.
The differences among individuals and families in Egypt can be represented by income level or source of income. They can also be represented in choices of consumption style—housing, transport, dress, language, education, music, and the like. Marriage negotiations bring all these differences of taste and income to the forefront. What is less evident in Egypt is a strong class consciousness that might turn potential classes into real ones.
One finds only broad and loose categories that are the subject of much public discussion. The increasing prosperity of Egypt means that the middle class is increasing in relative size, while the gap between the top and the bottom is increasing. One-third of the population is below a poverty line established by the Egyptian government. The growing middle class aspires to a home, a car, and marriage and family life, and increasingly is able to achieve this.
Egypt has had a republican form of government since the overthrow of the monarchy in The government is headed by a president elected for six years. The president designates a prime minister and a council of ministers. The Parliament is elected for five years from constituencies, each of which elects one person to represent workers and peasants and one other.
In addition, the president nominates up to ten others to provide representation to groups that might not otherwise be represented in Parliament. In recent years this has allowed the president to nominate leaders of parties that did not win any seats; Christians, who are rarely elected; and women. In addition, there is a kind of upper house, the Consultative Council, which is two-thirds elected and one-third appointed, and which is supposed to provide for more reflective debate on fundamental issues.
Through the minister of interior, the president also names governors for the twenty-six governorates of Egypt. Elected councils function at the local level. Egypt is a "dominant party" system in which one party regularly controls an enormous majority in Parliament.
There are fourteen other parties, only a few of which have ever been represented in Parliament. These include the Wafd party, heir to the tradition of the struggle for national independence in the s and s, and with a procapitalist orientation; the Socialist Labor Party, heavily dominated by Islamic-oriented leaders; the Progressive Party, heir to the Egyptian leftist tradition; and the Liberal Party. Relatively few women are elected to Parliament, though there are always some.
In the late s seats were set aside for women, and this increased their number, but this provision was later ruled unconstitutional. Usually there are a few women ministers. One of the key roles for women in the current political system is the role of the wife of the president. The current "first lady" has taken on a role of organizing campaigns for literacy and health in support of the government's policies. The extraparliamentary opposition is the Islamic movement, which is not a single movement.
Since specifically religious parties, Muslim or Christian, are prohibited, politically active Muslim militants must either join another party, which many do, or remain outside the formal process, which others do.
There is a sense in which the main political struggle in Egypt is between the secularists of the NDP, linked to the world of business and the high administration, and the values represented by one or another version of the Islamic trend, representing the "opposition. These local councils work in tandem with local representatives of the different ministries such as interior, health, or agriculture to carry out their tasks.
Social Problems and Control. Street crime is relatively rare in Egypt. Most crimes reported in the press are either family dramas or con games of one kind or another. Drugs are illegal, though present, in Egypt, and the users tend to be discreet. Despite the visible presence of traffic police and police guards in areas where there are foreigners, there are also large areas of Cairo, and many villages, with no police presence at all. People are thus thrown back on their own resources to settle disputes, and there are well-known techniques of intervention to break up fistfights and of mediation for more complicated disputes.
Even the police often act as mediators rather than prosecutors. In rural Upper Egypt in particular, disputes between extended families over property and power can develop into feuds. Social control appears to be maintained by a combination of strong values, expressed as Islamic, and by the constant presence of witnesses due to crowded streets and apartments.
Anonymity in large Egyptian cities, let alone in villages, is nearly impossible. Perhaps another way to express the same point is to say that Cairo is a village of fifteen million people. Egypt fought many wars in the second half of the twentieth century, mostly with Israel: In addition, Egypt was involved in the Yemeni civil war in the s, when Saudi Arabia was involved on the other side, and contributed troops to the allies who confronted Iraq over the invasion of Kuwait in — Egypt suffered considerable loss of life in the wars with Israel between andso the situation since then seems more peaceful.
Social Welfare and Change Programs Egyptian citizens are entitled to free education and health care, in addition to employment guarantees for graduates. Services are poor, however, and there are many hidden costs, such as time spent waiting. The transition from socialism to the market system has left the majority of the population without a real safety net. Part of the social policy includes efforts to restructure welfare, and to help unemployed youth set up their own businesses.
Attempts are underway to establish national health insurance and social security systems. Nongovernment efforts in the area of welfare are sporadic.
There is an increasing return to philanthropy in a traditional sense of charity and patronage, in addition to some community-based foundations and associations that provide services. Islamist groups have been active in providing services in poor areas, particularly in health care and educational services. This was the main source for their popularity in the past decade. With government restrictions on Islamist groups, however, such activity has been considerably curtailed.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations Egypt has a long tradition of voluntary associations.
Currently there are over fourteen thousand associations, most of which are devoted to charitable purposes. They are mostly small and local, and none has a mass membership.
Afterthe associations were governed by a law that stipulated fairly close governmental control. A new law allowing somewhat more flexibility was passed in but was declared unconstitutional a year later, so the older law continues to apply. This law was contested by many environmental and human rights associations, because it appeared to prevent them from taking political positions. The main national associations are the professional syndicates for doctors, lawyers, teachers, agricultural officials, and others.
They lobby for their members, and also sometimes play a role on the political scene. Their internal politics tends to be a reflection of national politics, with the main competition between the NDP and the Islamists. The professional syndicates are also governed by restrictive laws, and are periodically suspended by the government for infringing these restrictions.
People wait outside a spice shop in Khan el-Khalili. Business queues are often separated by gender. Household work and child rearing are almost exclusively women's responsibility.
Women also contribute significantly to productive work outside the home, especially in cities. But since the majority of women work in the informal sector, the size of their contribution is often underestimated. In rural areas, women work in the fields in most regions. In addition, women's household responsibilities in villages involve many productive and profitable activities, although they are not generally recognized as "work.
Women may also take part in some stages of preparing crops for market. The Relative Status of Women and Men. In general, men and women have equal legal rights. But equality is not determined only by law. For example, the principle of equal pay applies only in the formal sector.
Women working in the informal sector are often paid less than men. Women do not have the same legal rights as men in the domain of personal status marriage, divorce, child custody. Only Egyptian men have the right to pass on Egyptian nationality to their children. Various feminist and human rights groups, however, are active in promoting legal change in areas of discrimination against women.
At home men have more power than women, and are supposed to make the major decisions. Nevertheless, women have much influence and informal power. Marriage, Family, and Kinship Marriage. One of the critical decisions a woman can make is the choice of marriage partner. The pattern here is one of negotiation among the members of her family about whom she will marry. She is a participant, and must in some sense agree, but many others are involved, including matchmakers.
Similarly a young man may find constraints on his choice of marriage partner. The trend is for marriage partners to be increasingly more like one another in age and level of education. The old hierarchical marriage is giving way to a companionate marriage, especially in the urban middle classes.
Marriage to cousins, however, remains frequent, accounting for 39 percent of marriages in a sample. Since premarital sex is rare, the pressure to marry is high, and almost everyone marries. The actual marriage ceremony is distinct from the legal contract of marriage. It is a major event in the lives of all involved. The young couple must prepare a place to live, while at the same time seeing that the often considerable costs of the ceremony are covered. People spend as much as they can, if not more, on a marriage, and in the upper classes, the sky is the limit.
Polygyny having more than one wife among Muslims is rare, and declining. Around 5 percent of Muslim men have more than one wife, and most of them only two. A polygynous man usually maintains two households.
Divorce is formally easy though families try to reconcile the partners. The rate of divorce is declining, while the absolute number is increasing. When a divorced couple has children, the mother retains custody only while they are young. The father may then claim them. Copts recognize neither polygyny nor divorce. An important signal of family identity is the personal name. Egyptians frequently do not have "family" names in the current Western sense of a last name that is shared by all members of an extended family.
Instead, each person has a given name, followed by the given names of his or her father, grandfather, and so on. For legal purposes one's name is usually "given name, father's name, grandfather's name," resulting in three given names e.
Thus one carries one's paternal lineage and one's status in one's name. In certain parts of rural Egypt, where genealogy is important, people learn to recite a long list of paternal ancestors. Muslim men are likely to have religious names but some have secular names. Christians may carry the names of saints, or may be given names that are Arabic rather than religious.
Women also have religious names but sometimes have more fanciful ones, including names of foreign origin. Women often do not change their names upon marriage.
Although most households now are organized around a nuclear family, there are some extended family households. Marriage was historically patrilocal brides moved to the household of the husbandthough in cities the young couple often establishes a new residence, at least after a couple of years. Even when residence is not shared, extensive kin ties are maintained through frequent family gatherings. Authority tends to be patriarchal, with the senior male in the household generally given the last word and otherwise expecting deference.
Wives, for instance, often are reluctant to assert that they have any serious independent power to make decisions. Islamic law requires partible inheritance. The property of a dead person must be divided among the heirs, usually children and surviving spouse. Male heirs are favored over female heirs by receiving a share that is twice as large. Moreover, any group of heirs should include a male, even if that means tracking down a distant cousin.
A person may not dispose of more than one-third of his or her estate by will, and may not even use this provision to favor one legal heir over another. In other words, a person cannot will this one-third to one son at the expense of another, but could will it to a charity or a nonrelative. Use of this provision is rare, as people accept the Islamic rules and prefer to keep property in the family. Arrangements among heirs, particularly brothers and sisters, however, may result in a different outcome.
For instance, a father may set up his daughter in marriage in lieu of an eventual inheritance. Egyptian kinship is patrilineal, with individuals tracing their descent through their fathers. Socialization Child Rearing and Education. In all parts of Egypt and among all social classes, having children is considered the greatest blessing of all. Caring for children is primarily the women's responsibility. Many Egyptian women both Copt and Muslim abide by the Koranic directive to breast-feed children for two years.
Grandparents and other members of the extended family play an active role in bringing up children. There is a general preference for boys over girls, although in infancy and early childhood children of both sexes are treated with equal love and care. The preference to have at least one son is related to the desire to have an heir, and so provide continuity from father to son. Education is highly valued in Egypt, and families invest a lot in that area. Even low-income families try to educate their children as much as possible.
Education, especially having a university degree, is considered an important avenue for social mobility. But many families cannot afford to educate their children beyond the elementary level.
In addition, many children have to work at an early age to help support their families. Etiquette Public modesty in dress and deportment is highly valued in Egypt. There is a form of dress code that affects women more than men, and that requires clothing that covers all the body but the hands and face.
For women, this most visibly means wearing a head scarf that covers the hair and ears and is pinned under the chin, though there are many other styles ranging from simply covering the hair to covering the entire face.