CAIRO – 3 August 2017: Egypt has a rich culture that combines the deeply rooted traditions of an ancient civilization and “Egyptianized” customs of other cultures. Although the Giza Pyramids are one of the seven Wonders of the World, there is more to Egypt than that.
1. Egypt is home to some of Africa’s oldest monastery and mosque
Egypt is home to the first known monastery in Africa and the world; the Monastery of Saint Anthony in the mountains of the Eastern Desert, south of Suez. It was there where monasticism was founded.
St. Anthony Monastery – CC via Wikimedia Commons/Berthold Werner
One of the first mosques ever built in Africa is located in old Cairo; that is Amr ibn al-Aas mosque. It is named after the Muslim commander who established the then- new capital of Egypt; Fustat.
Amr Ibn al-Aas mosque – CC via Wikimedia Commons/Frank Schulenburg
2. It snows in Egypt
Snow is a usual scene in St. Catherine city, which is situated at an elevation of 1,586m in South Sinai. It is unusual in Cairo, although it has started to happen in the past few years.
Snow in the city of St. Catherine - CC via Wikimedia Commons/Zoltan Matrahazi
Snow in New Cairo in 2013 – Twitter user i3atef
3. Bread is life
In the Egyptian dialect of Arabic, bread (eish) means life. Bread is a staple of Egyptian meals; no wonder it is subsidized for the public. There are at least eight types of bread in Egypt; the most common is “eish balady,” but there is a kind made in Siwa where they mix dates in the ingredients.
Egyptian bread – CC via Wikimedia Commons/Cairocamels B. Simpson
4. The Eye of Horus
Many Egyptians deeply believe in the effects of the evil eye. They have a unique mix of means to counter hasad
(envy), from their Pharaonic ancestors to Arab symbols.
The Eye of Horus in Dendara Temple, Qena – CC via Wikimedia Commons/Soutekh67
The Eye of Horus represented protection and good health in ancient Egypt, and is pretty much still used in the same way in modern Egypt. The symbol of “an eye” is mixed with the symbol of an open hand, which has roots in Arab culture, as well as the blue bead, which resembles an eye, again. All this is mixed with the color blue, which is believed to absorb negative energy coming out of an evil eye, and sometimes Egyptian proverbs or Islamic phrases that are meant to shield a person from the evil eye, such as “Allahu Akbar” and “Mashallah.”
An amulet that bears the eye that protects from envy – Sayidaty.net
5. Egypt’s genius location
Being a transcontinental nation, Egypt’s ever central role in geopolitics is attributed to the Isthmus of Suez, which connects Africa and Asia by land and its Suez Canal allows world trade to navigate between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Atlas of Egypt - CC via Wikimedia Commons
“Egypt is the cornerstone and the land corner of the Continental Triad that composed the Old World, and the only [country] where two continents meet and a third is that close, especially that it is located at the intersection of four ribs of these continents. As such, it not only has the advantageous location of the central position in the heart of the Old World or its portal site and gate, but it also has its focal, nodal position,” encyclopedic geographer Gamal Hemdan said in his book the Character of Egypt.
6. The ancient Egyptian calendar
The 13-month Coptic calendar is based on the ancient Egyptian calendar, and is still used by all Egyptian farmers because it keeps precise track of local agricultural seasons.
Agriculture in ancient Egypt – CC via Wikimedia Commons
The names of the Coptic months are derived from their original hieroglyphic labels. Every month has a rhyming proverb that describes its weather or the agricultural activity that best suits it.
An Egyptian farm – CC via Wikimedia Commons/Mohamed Kamal
Perhaps the months frequently used by Egyptians who do not come from a farming background are Tubah and Amshir, the former for being cold (begins January 9-10) and the latter for being windy (begins February 8-9).
7. Egyptians intensely feel their gallbladders
When an Egyptian gets fed up with someone, they would say “you have decrepitated my gallbladder.” The gallbladder is attached to the liver, and Egyptians are aware of the liver, too. Many Egyptian parents call their children “my liver,” and it is common in Arabic literature to cite the liver as the organ that stores feelings and emotions.
The gallbladder and the digestive system – CC via Wikimedia Commons
The villages of Nubia, southern Egypt, are characterized by colorful homes. The rest of Egyptians admire them for their artistic houses and cleanliness. They are also known for their hospitality, good manners and honesty.
Nubian houses of Anakato - Select Egypt Travel
Egyptian cotton is superior to all cotton grown anywhere else in the world. No other cotton matches the fine cotton of Egypt in terms of softness, strength, length, and better colors.
Cotton - CC via Wikimedia Commons/Mike Beauregard
10. Natural gas
The largest natural gas field ever found in the Mediterranean lies in Egyptian waters. Zohr natural gas field was discovered in 2015 by Italian energy company Eni. The total gas in the field is estimated to be around 850 billion cubic meters and it will start production in early 2018.
Eni operations in Egypt – Eni.com
11. Egyptians hate to eat alone
If an Egyptian is eating while someone else who can see him is not, the former will most definitely invite the latter to eat with him. First of all, Egyptians do not like to eat on their own; they believe that eating in a group will enhance their appetite.
Egyptian food - CC via Flickr/Weldon Kennedy
Secondly, they worry the other person may be hungry but does not say. Several proverbs prove this, such as ellie yakol lewahdo yezwar
(that who eats on his own will choke on food), loama haniya tekafi miya
(a happy morsel suffices a hundred people).
12. Leaving footwear upside down brings bad luck
When an Egyptian sees shoes or flip flops upside down, he would volunteer to turn it back to its right position. As usual, it is believed to be an ancient Egyptian superstition; upside down shoes face the gods, and that is really rude. Now Egyptians believe there is one God, and it is still rude to leave footwear upside down.
Flip-flops – CC via Pixabay
Much like the rest of the Arab world, Egyptians believe it is rude if you cross your legs so the sole of your shoe faces someone else. So much that we will not post a picture of footwear placed upside down.
13. Boatman invitations
Egyptians will extend a lot of “boatman invitations,” which are invitations that are only extended when the other person will most probably turn them down, or just to sound generous.
You will hear a lot of “you do not have to pay for this,” “please stay for the night,” “have lunch with us,” “come and eat with us,” when they do not really mean it, but it would be rude not to invite someone over to something. It gets confusing because sometimes it is difficult to distinguish boatman invitation from real invitations, and when you accept a boatman invitation, it is just embarrassing for everyone involved.
Fishing boats in Alexandria - CC via Flickr/Jay Galvin
It is called a boatman invitation because Egyptian generosity amounts to someone on a boat inviting a friend on the shore for tea, knowing it is impossible for him to join. Unless he swims, which he probably will not do. Not for tea, anyway.
14. The unmatched White Desert
Egypt hosts the White Desert national park in the Farafra Oasis in the Western Desert. The massive chalk rock formations of giant mushrooms or pebbles bear unequalled witness to ancient sandstorms in the area.
The White Desert of Egypt – CC via Flickr/neiljs
15. World’s longest and deepest dives have been in Egypt
Egyptian scuba diver Walaa Hafez set a Guinness World Record in 2015 for the longest open saltwater scuba dive, staying down for a total of 51 hours and 20 minutes in Hurghada.
In 2014, Egyptian Ahmed Gabr broke the record for the deepest scuba dive, plunging an astonishing 332.35 m (1,090 ft 4.5 in) in the Red Sea off the coast of Dahab.
It is no wonder that Egypt hits the two records since its Red Sea is world famous for incredibly beautiful diving spots, such as the SS Thistlegorm and Shark & Yolanda Reef in Ras Mohamed national park at the southern tip of Sinai Peninsula.
SS Thistlegorm – CC via Wikimedia Commons
Shark & Yolanda Reef – CC via Flickr/Matt Kieffer