In many ways Europeans behave differently from Egyptians. We will give you some hints to avoid the biggest misunderstandings. To begin with, travellers are expected to dress modestly. Clothing should cover the shoulders, while skirts and trousers should reach to the knees. Covering their hair may help women avoid attracting unwanted attention. Topless sunbathing on Dahab beach is really out of the question.
If you want to go into a mosque you are welcome to do so, but your arms and legs must be covered and you will have wear something on your head. Women should cover their hair. You leave your footwear at the entrance to the place of worship. Women are often only admitted to part of the mosque. During religious ceremonies Westerners are not permitted to enter.
If you are invited into someone’s home, always take off your shoes before entering. It is polite to offer a little present to your host. Never eat with your left hand, which is used to wash the backside.
Bargaining: When buying things or services it is usually necessary to bargain in order to reach a reasonable price. This goes for retail prices, taxi fares, et cetera. When you want to purchase valuable souvenirs, in particular, you should take plenty of time – preferably several days. An indicative opening price for expensive goods is three times the price that the seller really wants. This is not true for gold, silver and gems, though, because their margins are much smaller. It is important for you to realise that the retailer will first try to estimate how much he can ask. Sometimes the asking price is outlandishly high. In such cases, do not start negotiating but simply walk away. It is also important to know that as long as you have not mentioned a price you can get out of the bargaining process much easier than after you have started bidding. The pressure to buy may be increased ruthlessly, but remember that these traders are among the better actors of Egypt. Whatever emotion they put on, be sure to come out of the transaction with the result you had in mind. Two more things are important when bargaining. If you find something really beautiful, do not show it but try to come across as indifferent, almost disinterested. Secondly, you will avoid many problems by first asking yourself how much the object concerned is worth in your opinion. Try to reach that price rather than to knock it down to the lowest price at any cost.
Donations and presents: Sometimes during our trips we visit a school or some other institution. In such cases blackboard chalk, notebooks and pens are welcome gifts. As you will experience, people sometimes want something from you. Remember that in Egypt too the principle holds true: “One good turn deserves another.” When someone has done something for you (washed your clothes, posed for a picture), it is perfectly normal – apart from money – to give them a pen or a T-shirt in return. Souvenirs may also be exchanged for clothes, but remember that no one can buy a bread for a T-shirt.
Nature and the environment
To protect the environment we ask you to stick to these rules: * Do not throw waste, paper or cigarette ends (fire hazard) from the coach. * Never pick coral from the sea. Unfortunately, coral and shells are being sold by souvenir traders. In this way tourism is increasingly harmful to the environment, so please do not buy them. Moreover it is illegal to import them into Europe.
Always remember that you are a guest in a country where other conventions are observed. They are not strange, you are the one that is different.