Common misconceptions and clichés about life in Egypt

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in Egypt can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in Egypt?

What are the most common clichés about life in Egypt in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,


I find it interesting that other Americans living here like to paint a picture to their family and friends back home that it's paradise. Not so and they know it. You talk to them face to face and they all have the same problems, dislikes, and concerns as you do.

I hate it that everything is "Tomorrow". A flat will be advertised, but you have to wait till tomorrow to see it. You have to wait for tomorrow to find out answers for questions you need right now! Life is very difficult here in Egypt and as a foreigner we are not used to living like this. Nothing is easy, even getting around Cairo is a mess not to mention taxi drivers always trying to rip you off.  Also, everyone expects a "commission or gift" if they give you any information or help you in any way.

I don't like it that when I open my mouth, everyone assumes I'm rich and wants to charge me triple the prices for everything. I have to make a living like everyone else. The tourist that come here save all year for their holidays, but Egyptians still assume they are loaded. Hurghada is a "poor man's vacation destination"! 

I'm not judging all Egyptians, but I have seen a large amount who are not peaceful and tend to argue and fight all the time. You can't even get in a taxi without him fighting with another driver on the road. Most are not animal lovers so the street dogs and cats are treated mean, tortured or killed. It's horrifying to see dogs shot dead in the street. No laws here to protect them.

I don't think you really want me to go any further. I will say that there are a lot of great people here that make up for the bad as in anywhere else in the world. I have to remind myself that there are more good in the world than bad or it would drive me crazy!!  The weather is great other than the summer where it's unbearable.  suggest anyone traveling here to not come from May to Oct.  Food is good, but boring after a short time. it's great  when you eat it for a week or two, after 3 years, I'm dying for something new :))

Now that I am an old (65+) married lady, I don't experience the same hassles I did when I was much younger. However, I know that younger women do, and I find that appalling. It's one of the worst things about living in Egypt.

On the whole, I find life here comfortable. I'm sure it helps that I am married to a pretty Westernized Egyptian man, don't have the problem of in-laws, and get along well with his adult children. I know my situation is different.

I have learned to live with things happening "tomorrow"; my husband is overcharged as much as I am (probably because people see him with a foreign wife); nothing ever works the way you expect it to.

Having lived in a number of countries, I can say that Egypt is not the worst. That honor belongs to Morocco which has many of the same negative qualities as Egypt and a whole host more!

When I came here, I didn't expect it to be paradise - that's an unrealistic expectation for any country. People who decide to live in Egypt should come with realistic expectations. Understand ahead of time that Egyptians have the same problems as citizens of any other country. Everyone worries about family, about finances, and about the future. It's no different here.

I have just returned to Upper Egypt for a year after being back home in the United States for a six month recess. I came to live here last year and my initial stint was six months. It's becoming my home, and yet I'm not used to it yet.

I live in a village that is as old as the pharaohs, so tradition here is strong.  There are very few amenities, and the ones that are here are unreliable. The internet, electricity and plumbing can come and go constantly. But, of course, I'm not here for a relaxing vacation.

As far a misconceptions go, my friends in the US have two ideas in their heads. First, they believe that I live and exotic and adventurous life here.  Well, actually, I do. But there's problems, of course. Exotic and adventurous does NOT mean convenient and modern.  There are no paved roads, no reliable services, few if any honest government law enforcement or military officials, few people who show up on time or do what they promise, etc., etc. Like others who have commented above, everything's "bukhara" (tomorrow).

The thing that drives me the craziest so far is lack of planning and dishonesty. The excuse for almost every missed appointment, every poorly executed task, every malfunction is that it's the will of God or "that's Egypt for you." Planning ahead does not occur to many, and many people defer to others to avoid hurting feelings or to show respect to those above them in the social pecking order. Whoever is the most esteemed among the group gets the deferential behavior given, and all others must yield to that person's decision, even when that decision inconveniences the entire flow of life.  The dishonesty is also difficult to handle since it's so pervasive and is undertaken in an almost unconscious manner.  It's like breathing.  Most people lie to tell me or someone else what they want to hear.  Truth seems to be a fluid and ephemeral concept, unsuited to the realities of life as it is lived on the street.

I've learned to cope with both problems by using negative feedback designs when I can. If a person says he/she will be at a place by X time, and they don't show up, then I leave or make other plans after 15 minutes has elapsed. When they see that the consequence of being late is a lost business opportunity, dishonor/shame, lost money or simple lack of ability to obtain what the person wishes, the behavior tends to stop fairly quickly. Even if the person is late in the future, he/she knows with me the consequences of that choice and begins to adjust their lives accordingly. The same goes for lying. If the person lies to me, I note the event and ask politely not to be dishonest in the future.  To be fair, I give the person more than one opportunity to change their behavior. After three times, the relationships is either ended or, if I must continue to relate, then I do not entrust certain tasks, information or deferential conduct. I don't advertise that the person is a liar; I just move on.   

The second misconception my friends in the US have of Egypt is that it's dangerous. Since certain groups do operate in the region, and since I've received information from the US Embassy about it, I can't say that I feel a safe here as I do back in the US. But, to me, it's relative. I mean, in the US, it seems everyone has a gun, and I've lived in some pretty dangerous places in US cities.

Since I don't hide the fact that I'm a Christian and since my appearance and speech betrays my nationality, I'm aware that there are some types of speech and behavior I need to avoid--not just for me, but for the Egyptian friends I'm with. Certain topics aren't discussed. Freedom of speech, tolerance and simple good manners aren't part of life here when it comes to matters of gender, faith or politics.

Upper Egypt has a much higher ratio of Christian to Muslim, so you'd figure a greater tolerance and willingness to live cooperatively, symbiotically, etc.  And that is true on one level. But traditions are strong and durable here. Misinformation and misconceptions have endured for generation after generation. The ignorance of the two groups concerning each others'  scripture, confessions and traditions  is staggeringly difficult to comprehend. Gossip becomes fact almost instantly; misperception can become verifiable reality in a heartbeat.  One group can often believe the worst about the other out of the long-standing habits of malice and suspicion.  "Us vs. Them" is a strong mental construct in this society.

Throwing stones? 😱 Where?!

Throwing stones? Everywhere, I suppose! :cheers:

any small or any area with naughty kids and you cant decide where and when

I am an Englishman and I have lived in Egypt on and off for about 10 years now. I don't live here permanently but I live here about six months of the year. Egypt was never my first choice of somewhere to spend the cold winter months but it is convenient to me because I am married to a Russian lady and live in Russia. I chose Egypt  because it was (at the time), on a direct flight line from St Petersburg in Russia, my wife can easily obtain a Visa to enter the country  , the price of property was (at the time) very cheap and the cost of living was very inexpensive..

In my professional life before retirement, I travelled extensively in the world as a diplomat and had a pretty good idea of the situation in many, many countries. However, in my type of employment I was always shielded and protected wherever I went, stayed in the best hotels, used Private transport arrangements and was generally coddled and looked after.

All this changed when I had to fend for myself after retirement.  I became just an ordinary traveller with an ordinary passport and fair game to the foreigners. I decided to settle in a pleasant development just outside of Hurghada  and in the main my wife and I have been very happy in that development, but certainly not so happy when venturing out  or becoming involved with the Egyptian people in matters of commerce or trust. I have never had stones thrown at me and neither has my wife in all the time we have been here!.

One can quite easily get over the thieving taxi drivers because after a while one learns very quickly what the reasonable charges are for any distances travelled,  but even after all this time I still avoid travelling by taxi if I can or use specific taxi drivers whom I know and trust and with whom I've built up a good relationship. I  prefer travelling with my friends in theirprivate transport because I do not drive in Egypt. If I have to travel by taxi and use a taxi driver I do not know, I tell him  the price I'm willing to pay and do not budge from it.  If  the taxi driver does not want to take me for that price I just move on to another taxi. There are plenty now because there are now virtually  no tourists!

as far as shopping goesI do my shopping for  food etc in the supermarkets where the prices are marked and even in the bazaar fruit market the prices are marked in Egyptian and I have taken the time and trouble to learn how to read the prices. It's quite funny to see the price marked in Egyptian in the bazaar and on  asking how much a kilo  of this or that  costs, being told that is three times the marked price!

I have never come across such dishonest people in my life,  who will quite cheerfully promise  you something and never do it and  who will borrow sums of money from you and never pay it back. I have long since ceased to lend any Egyptians any money at all.  Being retired,  I can afford to wait for somebody to do something "tomorrow" but I will not be kept waiting by anybody more than half an hour and if they do not turn up at my house  to do a job within half an hour of when they said they would arrive,  I just do not let them in and send them away. They quickly learn

. As regards other appointments at cafes or the like,  if the people I am eating do not turn up within half an hour I just leave and if they contact me I give them one more chance to be on time the next time and after that I will never deal with them again if they do not turn up on time.
I'm sure that there are many splendid Egyptian people, honest and punctual , but I have met  very few   of them  in all the time  I've been here. One must remember of course that Hurghada  is a tourist town and attracts all the unsavoury elements from  all over Egypt who are there  in order  to fleece tourists. I am told time and time again that the Egyptian population in the Hurghada  is not typical of other places in Egypt. I wonder

After  the first  Egyptian revolution when they got rid of Mubarak,  tourism has been on the decline and it is virtually down to nothing in Sharm and Hurghada now . The  only people I see here nowadays are the full-time  expat residents and people like myself who come for six months of the year or so
I would not recommend Egypt if you can afford something a little bit better. It is not what I came for but I tend now to have as few contacts with Egyptians as I can and this is not a good way to go about living in another country!

Boy, I sure hear you!! I live in Hurghada and have experienced the same thing. People claim to be your brother one day and cheat you the next. We are very untrusting and careful as well. I had American friends who went to Dahab and loved it there. Mostly foreigners, prices were good and they were treated very well.  My American friends then moved to Hurghada and left after one month and they both had great jobs teaching here. So now they are in Mexico and love it there. They said the climate was nicer (they were here last winter and thought it was too cold. lol ) , they live across the street from the beach and have a nice place they pay $172/monthly. They both have teaching jobs as well. They said the people were very nice and friendly. Didn't have the same issues as here. I've been there but it's been years . I really miss good Mexican Food and was sad when the Mexican restaurant in the Turtle Inn in El Gouna closed down. Their chef was from Cancun and was amazing.  I know this sounds crazy, but we feel if you own a car here life is so much easier and a better quality. You are treated differently and you come into contact with a higher class of people as well. Been here over 3 years. It's better than Cairo, but we have our challenges here as well.

It's a challenging experience living in cairo egypt ,but I always say that it is the best of the worst when you compare to it's neighbours .you have to find your level have less to do with the locals in business and be very firm and strong in your contacts.
They are always good chance takers.egypt is not the place for the social weak or mr nice is a survival zone ,the people go to all lengths to survive it's tough so they are not going to be financially nice.
Tourists have an illusional vision about egypt until they get stung by the egyptian bee.
My advice if you want to live in egypt study the first few months how the real egypt operates.they are warm nice people but very hard survivors.
Which can be termed crooked.
It is not a place for poor ,penny pinching foreigners anymore times have changed.income has to be dollar to have a decent life.these days there are not many so called cheap countries left.
I enjoy the challenge living in egypt as long as I know that when I give out money I know what it is going out for.
Egypt is still a very nice interesting country to live but know why you are there.

thanks Pricilla great to hear from you love

New topic