Think of Egypt and most people immediately picture the Great Pyramids. Yet while these are reason enough to visit the country themselves, there is so much more to this vast and enchanting land. The Egyptians have inhabited it since the rest of the world’s civilisations were still in metaphorical diapers and over five thousand years of history is inscribed in its ancient tombs and monuments. Contemporary Egypt is no less fascinating, as beneath the apparent chaos of the streets of Cairo and Alexandria lie a very modern and forward looking nation.
For business, Egypt requires patience. Relationships can take time to build and deals are rarely wrapped up in a day. Relax and take the time to sight-see; wander through historic Cairo and pay a visit to Khan el-Khalili, one of the world’s great bazaars; visit Tutankhamen’s tomb and marvel at the treasures of Egyptian antiquity; take a side trip to Sinai and go diving in the Red Sea; or take a cruise on the Nile and see the sun set over the delta.
Take the time to get to know the people, too. Egyptians are a fascinating and often surprising people who take great pride in their country and love few things more than a good argument. Sharp and emotive they will do their very best to challenge your established views and when you leave Egypt you can find that it has left an indelible mark upon your soul.
Most international flights go to Cairo, though there are six other international airports. Port Said is served by ferries from Cyprus, the Middle East and the European mainland, which generally run weekly or biweekly to each destination. Buses and trains to neighbouring countries are limited; it is not possible to get to Sudan by land.
Public transport is cheap and comprehensive. Avoid the train network which is slow and in need of modernisation; buses are faster, cheaper and more comfortable.
Language: Arabic. French is widely understood.
Climate: Arid. Hot all year round, little rainfall. Temperature Max: 34°C (June), Min 6°C (January). Rainfall: Max 10mm (January), Min 0mm (June-September)
Currency: Egyptian pounds (EGP)
Business etiquette: Be well presented, dress conservatively and show deference to business leaders – hierarchy and respect are important. Handshakes can be prolonged; smile and make good eye contact. The social side of business is extremely important and it can take time to build a relationship.
Tipping: Tipping is generally not expected – tip if you receive good service.
Duty free: 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 200g tobacco; 1 litre of alcoholic beverage; perfume for personal use; 1 litre of eau de cologne.
Safety: Egypt is generally a safe country. Watch out for scams and pickpockets. Some tourists have been targeted by terrorists in the past, particularly in Sinai.
Laws: Possession of drugs can lead to the death penalty. Homosexuality and sexual relations outside marriage can lead to imprisonment.
Healthcare: Vaccinations required for diphtheria, hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid. Public hospitals are open to public, with a good standard in Cairo and Alexandria. Health insurance is recommended.
Socket type: Type C