Egypt is a country that is both secular and religious, with companies falling under either Shari’a or standard Egyptian law according to whether they are Islamic or not. After Egypt became an independent country, its businesses were often state-controlled. However, since the 1980s businesses have become more independent.

Egypt is a country that is both secular and religious, with companies falling under either Shari’a or standard Egyptian law according to whether they are Islamic or not. After Egypt became an independent country, its businesses were often state-controlled. However, since the 1980s businesses have become more independent.

The Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa led to many governmental changes – it remains to be seen what, if any, effect this will have on business.

Communication

Egypt facts
Ethnic groups: 99 percent Egyptian, 0.9 percent Nubian, 0.1 percent Greek

Language: Arabic

Capital: Cairo

Currency: Egyptian pound

National holidays: Christmas (Jan 7), National Police Day (Jan 25), Sinai Liberation Day (Apr 25), Labour Day (May 1), Revolution Day (Jul 23), Armed Forces Day (Oct 6). Several national holidays move date each year. These include Sham El Nessim, Islamic New Year, Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha

Business hours: Sunday to Thursday, 9am to 4 or 5pm. Hours are likely to change during Ramadan

Egyptian Arabic is by far the most commonly-used language in Egypt, although English is widely-spoken and often used in business.

As with many other Middle Eastern countries, body language and personal space differ from what we in the UK are used to – people tend to stand much closer to one another and maintain stronger eye contact in Egypt.

Similarly to the UAE, people also converse differently – flattery is far more common. This should not be viewed as a tactic – it is just the way in which people across many Middle Eastern and surrounding countries communicate. You should aim to use similar language.

Always try to avoid political discussions, and never enquire about business associates’ female family members.

Business structures

Always remember that some Egyptian businesses, although not all, are governed by Shari’a law. Muslim businesses will be governed by a religious supervisory board to ensure that they adhere to Shari’a law. This will include mandatory prayer sessions at intervals throughout the day and hiring Muslim-only employees.

Finance for businesses also works differently, with the risk being more evenly shared between shareholders and lenders.

Most businesses in Egypt will be extremely hierarchical, although managers will usually seek the opinions of their employees when it comes to major decisions. The final decision will always lie with the manager, though, and employees are expected to follow instructions to the letter. Managers in Egypt tend not to take risks, and always bear in mind that religious issues will usually have an effect on decisions.

Meetings

As with most Arabic countries, personal relationships are of the utmost importance. Who you know can really help. Initial meetings may involve a lot of small talk even when pressed for time. Do not try and rush through these meetings. It may be difficult to schedule more than one meeting per day as you may not have a fixed schedule, or the schedule may overrun. Agreed start and end times for meetings are often ignored.

In Egypt, Thursdays and Fridays are days of rest – it would be better to try not to schedule meetings on these days.

Team work

Generally, teams do not act as a group working together, but as individuals meeting separate goals to achieve one target. Teams will usually have one strong leader who will allocate tasks. Team members expect to receive direct instructions and feedback. There are a lot of family-run businesses in the private sector and as a result many teams appear family-oriented.

Clothing

Dress should be conservative and not too flashy. Men should wear suits or trousers, shirts and ties, women should wear modest clothing, always with long sleeves and skirts should be at least knee-length. Remember it can be extremely hot – stick to lightweight fabrics. Never wear native attire.