The Culture Of Eygpt The Spoken And Written Languages Cultural Studies Essay

The most widely spoken language in Egypt is Egyptian Arabic (Maṣri). It descended from the spoken Arabic brought to Egypt during the AD seventh-century Muslim conquest. Its development was influenced mainly by the indigenous Copto-Egyptian language of pre-Islamic Egypt and later by other languages such as Turkish. It is the national language of Egypt, spoken by more than 76 million people. It is also one of the most widely spoken and studied varieties of Arabic.

English and French are also widely spoken and used in business circles. For almost 13 centuries Arabic has been the written and spoken language of Egypt. Before the Arab invasion in AD 639, Coptic, the language descended from ancient Egyptian, was the language of both religious and everyday life for the mass of the population. By the 12th century, however, it had been totally replaced by Arabic, continuing only as a liturgical language for the Coptic Orthodox Church. Arabic has become the language of both the Egyptian Christian and Muslim. The written form of the Arabic language, in grammar and syntax, has remained considerably unchanged since the 7th century. In other ways, however, the written language has changed the modern forms of style, word sequence, and terminology are simpler and more flexible than in classical Arabic and are often directly derivative of English or French. 


The majority religion in Egypt is Islam, of which the Sunnis are the largest sect. The 1971 constitution declares Islam to be the state religion. According to official estimates, 90% of the populations are Muslim and 8% to 10% are Christian, with the Coptic Orthodox Church being the largest Christian denomination. Other denominations represented include Armenian Apostolic, Greek and Syrian Orthodox, Catholics, and a variety of evangelical Protestant denominations. The Baha'i faith is also represented. The Jewish community is extremely small.

There is a significant Christian minority in Egypt, who makes up around 15% of the population. Over 90% of Egyptian Christians belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, an Oriental Orthodox Church. Other native Egyptian Christians are adherents of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church of Egypt and various other Protestant denominations. Non-native Christian communities are largely found in the urban regions of Cairo and Alexandria.

Millions of Egyptians follow the Christian faith as members of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Coptic Christians face discrimination at multiple levels of the government, ranging from a disproportional representation in government ministries to laws that limit their ability to build or repair churches.] The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life ranks Egypt as the fifth worst country in the world for religious freedom. The Pew Forum also ranks Egypt among the 12 worst countries in the world in terms of religious violence against religious minorities and in terms of social hostilities against Christians.] The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed Egypt on its watch list for religious freedom that requires close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government


Egypt's culture and history date back thousands of years to the times of the ancient Pharaohs. While some of these ancient traditions remain evident, modern Egypt has evolved greatly due to impacts of immigrants from other Arab nations. Visitors to Egypt will notice that Egyptian people are mild-mannered and very polite, as a result of their religious principles. Understanding Egyptian customs and culture is essential to a successful trip to Egypt.

Egyptian people are generally very helpful, so tourists rarely have trouble finding assistance with directions or recommendations. It is not unusual for an entire crowd of Egyptians to surround you trying to answer a query. They stand very close when speaking, requiring very little personal space. Egyptians are accustomed to refusing every invitation the first time it was offered, so if your offer is genuine, repeat it a second time. The same goes with invitations from Egyptian people. They will offer something once out of politeness, but you know the offer is sincere if it is repeated. If you accept an invitation into an Egyptian home, such as for a meal, and you do not show, the hosts would be humiliated.

Women in Egypt are expected to be conservative and modest, in following with the Islamic principles for women. Unknown men should never approach an Egyptian woman; instead questions and concerns should be addressed toward other men. A large percentage of Egyptian women maintain their virginity until marriage, because virginity is seen as a sign of morality and men prefer to marry virgin women. Women are educated and often the pride of her parents until she is married. Women are widely present within the professional workforce, working as doctors, lawyers, college professors and diplomats. Women often wear a head scarf as a symbol of modesty and to discourage male advances in the professional field. They are expected to keep their arms and legs covered, especially in religious arenas.


Egypt - Women

Peasant women would wear a gallebaya outdoors but in the city gallibaya tended to be worn only indoors. For public wear a woman would wear a wide woman's dress called a tob sebleh.

Wide trousers were worn as underclothing gathered below knee and falling to ankles.

The woman's kaftan was called a yelek. This was lined, with the neck open to breast and buttoned or laced along side seams for shaping. It had high side slit over trousers. Girded with shawl. Women would wear a shirt under the yelek, and a djubbeh or binnish over it.

In Alexandria and Cairo, women would also wear the melaya luf - a large rectangular wrap worn for modesty, warmth, and used to carry things.

City women often worn a bur`a - a long rectangular face veil either of white cotton or open weave - and a headscarf. Another head covering was the mandil sometimes decorated with pom poms. Among the fellahin a bag like hattah was sometimes worn.


The basic traditional Egyptian garment for men is a long shirt (gallibaya). Tilke also separates one with a looser fit under the arms (eri) and very wide version of the gallibaya called a kamis which was worn by fellahin. While working fellahin would hitch up the skirt of the gallebaya and wrap it around their thighs.

Over the gallebaya a kaftan (often striped) is worn. A kaftan is a full length garment like a coat with long wide sleeves open in front and often bound by a fabric belt (hizan). Over the kaftan is a binish - a cloth overcoat with wide sleeves - often slit below usually dark grey and unlined. Alternatively, a djubbeh which has a more complex cut than the binish could be worn especially by Turks during the Ottoman occupation. The `ulama also wear a jubbah over stripped kaftan. The jubbah was a long, wide sleeved gown which reached to feet and was buttoned half way down

However, from the 1800s European dress replaced traditional dress among the Ottoman court and this was taken up by members of the elite. Therefore, senior civil servants and members of the ruling intelligentsia could be seen in Egypt in European style clothing.

However European headwear was not adopted. Instead Sultan Mahmud Khan II decreed that checheya heargear would be worn. In Egypt this was called "tarboosh". Later Mohammed Ali was to incorporate the tarboosh as part of the military uniform. This was abolished as headwear after the 1952 revolution. For further information on the layers worn see Male Headwear


Food is a very important part of the Egyptian culture. Feasts are the significant 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 a subsidy from the state and is stringently controlled in terms of quality and price. Legumes are widely used in native 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), 'I’d al-Adha (a feast from ram), and kahk (a special type of cookie) are dishes that mark important occasions.

Eating is a vital social activity, and is central to marking special events and ceremonial occasions. In cities, bread is sold in bakeries. Restaurants are widespread all over the country. They vary from stalls selling customary street food to posh restaurants serving international cuisine.

One main difference between traditional, usually rural, and urban middle-class eating habits concerns the seating and service of food. In villages, people sit on a carpet, and food is placed on a very low round wooden table. Each person has a spoon, and everyone eats directly from the service dish. In cities, people sit on chairs around Western-style dining tables. Each person has his or her own plate, spoon, fork, and knife. In rural areas, the main meal is after dark; in the urban areas it is often in late afternoon after office workers return home.