Egypt Cultural Overview
Egypt is proud of having housed one of the earliest civilizations of the world. In today’s Egypt, the ancient culture interacts with the influence of modern western culture, however being conditioned by the trends of Islam. About 90 percent of the population of Egypt belongs to Islam with a predominance of the Sunni sect. The native Sufi order is also highly popular apart from a minority of Shi’a community. Egyptian constitution requires the legislature to strictly agree with Islamic laws.
Over 90 percent of Egyptians speak Arabic. Since there are regional variations in the dialects of Arabic spoken across the country, the broadcasting media treats Cairo-spoken language as the standard. English is the most common foreign language in Egypt apart from French. Also, traces of people speaking languages like Kenuz, Mahas, and Berber are also found here and there in the country. In urban linguistic enclaves, one might find people speaking languages like Armenian, Greeks and Latin.
Eating is considered in Egypt as an important social activity. Feasts are the central feature of special events and celebrations. The most common daily food of Egypt is bread loaf. Women at home bake bread in mud ovens. Commercially prepared bread receives subsidy from the state and is strictly regulated in terms of quality and price. Legumes are widely used in indigenous cuisines. The national dish is foul, a dish of fava beans seasoned with salt, lemon, cumin and oil. Another popular dish called tamiyya is made from crushed fava beans, added with onions and leeks and fried in oil. Koshari is a rice dish with black lentils, macaroni, tomatoes and onions as ingredients. Halawet al-mulid (sweets and nuts), 'Id al-Adha (a feast from ram), and kahk (a special type of cookie) are dishes that mark important occasions.
Islamic Clothing of Egypt
The jallabia worn by Egyptian men is a long, wide garment with wide sleeves and a round neckline. The deep vent in front is decorated by ornate embroidery. The overall ‘A’ shaped garment is worn with a local wool hat on the head called taqiya. The people of the south wear turbans or wool scarf, whereas the northerners do not. The jallabias worn in the south are quite wide at the bottom to suit horse ride. Unless compelled by working conditions, western clothing is considered immature. Even school going children and office going people change to jallabias once they return home. Educated women of Egypt often dress in a hybrid style combining a modern long dress like the maxi skirt with a hijab. There are two variations in the head coverings for women, namely muhajaba and mu'adabah. The former signifies religiosity and the latter stands for modesty. Mu'adabah is preferred for working and cosmopolitan atmospheres.
Egyptian Religious Values
Religion plays a dominant role in the life of Egyptians. Cairo is well known for its numerous minarets of mosques and towers of churches. The call for prayer heard five times a day regulates the entire scenario at Egypt ranging from business to entertainment. Conscious efforts being on their way to modernize the society, Egypt carefully preserves the aspects of local tradition and Islam.