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Egypt: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Egypt

Courtesy and hospitality are important when doing business in Egypt. The host of a business meeting will usually offer tea or a small snack before commencing. It’s polite to refuse the first offer, but once the host insists, the guest should then accept.


Alcohol is legal, but should be avoided until visitors know their Egyptian colleague's attitude towards drinking, and, if acceptable, should be drunk in moderation. It is not considered seemly for women to over-indulge in alcohol. If invited to a business lunch, expect food to be lavish and plentiful.

Throughout the Arab world, it is considered bad manners either to display anger or to openly criticise another person in public. Tact and diplomacy are always required. In social life, punctuality is almost laughable. For business, visitors should be on time but expect locals to be often late, and do not take offence. Men should not offer to shake a woman's hand, and vice versa, unless clearly invited to do so. Men and women should dress smartly for business meetings – suits and tie for men; suit for women or smart trousers/skirt/jacket – and always dress modestly. Shoulders and knees should never be shown.

Office Hours

Government offices are open 0900-1600 (some until 1700) except Fridays and sometimes Saturdays. Muslim businesses may be closed for Friday prayers, Christian businesses on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. All offices keep shorter hours during Ramadan.


On taking power in 1970, Anwar al-Sadat introduced a policy of infitah (openness) towards investment. Egypt's economy underwent rapid growth during the 1970s with the swift expansion of the oil industry, tourism and the Suez Canal, and it has continued to expand in subsequent decades.

The tourist sector is expanding rapidly, particularly along the Red Sea and Mediterranean coasts, despite sporadic terrorist activities of Islamic fundamentalists. Agriculture, which relies on irrigation from the Nile, employs one-third of the working population. Foreign aid, especially from the USA, is an important source of government funds.



US$336.3 billion (2016).

Main exports

Crude oil, petroleum products, cotton, textiles and metal products.

Main imports

Machinery and equipment, food, chemicals, wood products and fuels.

Main trading partners

USA, Germany, Italy, China and Turkey.

Keeping in Touch in Egypt


Public telephones take cards available from pharmacies, tobacconists and newspaper shops, and are a convenient way to call home. Telephones in hotels can be expensive.

Mobile Phone

Roaming exists with many international mobile phone companies, although coverage is limited to Cairo, Alexandria and major towns along the north coastline of the Red Sea and the Nile. If you’re in Egypt for some time, it is much cheaper to buy a local SIM card, either Vodafone or MobiNil, if your mobile phone is unblocked.


There are internet cafés in the main cities, including Cairo, Alexandria, Dahab and Luxor. Even small, more remote towns including Siwa will have at least one venue, usually in the market area. Connection is usually reliable. Tourists can also access the Internet in hotels, with in-room Wi-Fi available, though often at a hefty price.


The Egyptian press is one of the most influential and widely read in the region, while Egyptian TV and the film industry supplies much of the Arab-speaking world with shows from its Media Production City.

Al-Ahram Weekly ( is the oldest newspaper in the Arab world and is published in English. State-runEgypt Radio Television Union (ERTU) operates domestic networks; it also operates satellite networks such as Nile TV International, which broadcasts some programmes in English and Hebrew. Egypt was the first Arab nation to have its own satellite TV station, Nilesat 101. The country's first private TV stations came on air in 2001, broadcasting via satellite.


The postal system is efficient for international mail. Airmail takes about five days to western Europe, and eight to 10 days to the USA.

Post Office hours

Daily 0900-1400 (some until 1500) except Friday; the central post office in Cairo is open 24 hours.

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