Egyptian culture dates back thousands of years to the ancient Pharaohs and has been influenced by numerous invaders throughout history. Without a doubt, this colonialist footprint has blended with the country’s rich tradition to define Egyptian culture as we know it today.
Food-based gatherings are in fact one of the main social pillars of Egyptian culture with roundtable family feasts at its forefront. The local palette is geared heavily towards legumes and rice with onions, garlic and plenty of spices. There’s nothing quite like filling up on the delicious national cuisine, including foul, ta’miyah, and koshari, while basking in the hospitality of the locals, be it in the city or a Bedouin camp in Aswan. Take a stroll on the Corniche in Zamalek and stop by any of the numerous Nile cruise boats. Authentic oriental dishes are served against an unbeatable backdrop of dancing city lights and shimmering water, enriched by a gentle breeze. If you’re able to head north to Alexandria, then seafood is just what the doctor ordered. With the Mediterranean Sea just inches away, salt water fish and crustaceans are a dime a dozen. Select your fish and your favorite cooking style, and enjoy a seat by the window where you can watch small boats sail in and out of the marina while the sun sets in the distance on the Mediterranean.
Egypt is also well known for its captivating entertainment. Belly dancing, or oriental dancing as it’s formally known, is a longstanding part of Egyptian culture permeating all facets of life, from cabarets to the most extravagant weddings. These cultural performances extend to the Sufi whirling dervishes and the famous tanoura. Originally a means to gain higher spiritual awareness, this display of dazzling, brightly colored skirts spinning to the hypnotic pulse of the music is guaranteed to mesmerize. The Egyptian’s love of the performing arts even transcends into the world of live Arabic music concerts in the arching halls of the Cairo Opera House and the Sayed Dervish Theatre in Alexandria, where the beat of the tablah, or drum, reverberates into the depths of your bones.
In keeping with the oriental rhythm, Egyptians speak the official language, Arabic. While modern standard Arabic is used in television, government speeches, and educational institutions, Egyptian ‘colloquial’ Arabic is the common form that is universally understood, especially across the Middle East due to Egypt’s prominence in the film industry. Within Egyptian Arabic, a number of different vernaculars exist, still fairly discernable but with a twist. The Bedouin of Sinai have their own dialect that differs from those of the Western Desert. There are also minor linguistic groups, such as that of the Nubians, who speak Eastern Sudanic languages, and other minorities such as Greek and Armenian which have undoubtedly shrunk over time.
Much like the official language, Egyptians across the country share a very similar trait; their friendliness. Egyptians are a very warm, sociable people who are always ready to strike up a conversation. They will offer you directions or assistance whether or not you asked for it, and will go out of their way to take you where you need to be. If you’re invited over to an Egyptian’s house for anything ranging from snacks to a six-course meal, don’t expect to finish off your plate so easily as your generous hosts can refill faster than you can eat. If you truly want to experience Egypt, then you absolutely must mingle with the locals to learn the meaning of the expression “a home away from home”.
Egypt’s culture has so much to offer both locals and visitors who are looking to experience its charm. Whether you’re interested in its ancient history or simply looking for an adventure, this place, and its people, are sure to captivate your very existence.