Some students from Egypt are Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program scholarship winners. Click here to learn more about the YES Program.
Egypt, the “cradle of civilization,” embraces a unique mix of modern Islam and Christianity, with Middle Eastern folk and Western cultures. Because 90 percent of Egypt is desert, almost everyone lives close to the Nile. In sprawling, cacophonous Cairo, robes are as common as Levis, donkeys share roadways with BMWs, and buildings made of mud stand next to glass-and-steel high-rises.
While Egyptian life is centered on family and religion, there remains a great difference between the rural and urban peoples of Egypt. Generally speaking, life outside the country’s major cities is in keeping with tradition. Communities are patriarchal, with men in dominant roles. Family ties are very strong and neighbors are often treated as family. People in urban centers such as Cairo and Alexandria still maintain these traditional values, but to a lesser extent. They tend to follow a more modern and Westernized lifestyle. Due to scarcity of land, most families in urban areas live in apartments.
Shopping at outdoor bazaars, shopping malls, going to the cinema, spending a day in a sports club and visiting relatives are favorite family activities. For the most part, Egyptians are extremely patriotic and are known for being helpful and friendly.
Teen activities vary from region to region. Being members of drink and sports clubs, or “nadi,” are common among Egyptian teens and their families. Boys commonly play soccer with friends while girls often meet at each others’ homes in the evening, and strict curfews are enforced and respected. In addition to nadi, cinema, and shopping malls, cafes are also common hang outs for both boys and girls, where they can socialize and smoke water pipes.
Most Egyptian teens dress conservatively; girls tend to keep their shoulders covered, and shorts are uncommon among boys and girls with the exception of beachwear. However, Egyptian style is becoming more Westernized, particularly in the larger cities. Your host student will probably arrive with longer skirts, jeans and other clothing that is not too revealing. It is commonly thought that women in Egypt need to wear head scarves, but this is not true of the vast majority of the population. At school, most students wear uniforms.
The Egyptian diet is typically rich in beans, bread, rice, vegetables, and fruits. Breakfast normally consists of bean cakes and eggs, while lunch is the most significant meal of the day and tends to be high in starches. After lunch is a “siesta,” or afternoon rest, and dinner is usually a lighter meal. Beef is a delicacy in Egypt, so it probably has not been a regular part of your host student’s diet.
The majority of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims and their daily lives are strongly influenced by religion. Your host student may pray five times a day and girls may wear scarves to cover their heads. Urban Egyptians have become less conservative and girls are allowed to date.