National name: Jumhuriyyat Misr al-'Arabiyya/Arab Republic of Egypt
Hot and dry, except for the winter months of December to February, when some days can be overcast and chilly. Temperatures increase going south and rainfall is rare except for an occasional day in winter.
Summer temperatures vary between 3l°C (87°F) and 50°C (122°F) in the North (around Cairo). In winter the temperature can become as low as 6°C at night, with day temperatures of 18°C.
Houses are not isolated and not always equipped with heaters so make sure to bring your socks and stockings! As well as hot water bottles for the kids. Especially the evenings can be quite cold inside the house.
The whole of Egypt can be affected by the Khamseem in March/April: this is a hot and dry wind that brings a lot of sand and dust in the atmosphere and can make visibility poor. Contact lens wearers should wear their glasses on these days.
In summer it is often too hot to be outside for long periods, so sightseeing and camping is mostly undertaken in the cooler season (from October until May).
People with asthmatic problems may see their conditions worsen in Cairo's polluted air. However due to the dry climate some families experience improvements of the symptoms. Living on the outskirts of the city in New Cairo (Katameya and Arabella) which is a generally windier and higher location, alleviates some of these problems as well. If asthma is a problem, it may be worth bringing humidifiers and air cleaners (there are some available on the local market, but supply is erratic). Filters will need to be replaced a lot more often than in Europe, so bring a large supply.
The official language is Classical Arabic, followed by Egyptian colloquial Arabic.
The business language is a mixture of Arabic and English. Some French is spoken. There are numerous opportunities for language tuition, both via institutes (CSA in Maadi, British Council, International Language Institute, Dutch Institute, American University) and privately. It is not necessary, but certainly very helpful, to speak a little bit of the local language (particularly with domestic staff, whose English may be limited). Please check with the outpost team or local HR for the language training policy.
Religion in Egypt permeates almost every aspects of life and is endorsed by law. Egypt is predominantly Sunni Muslim but there is a small and significant number of Coptic Christians as well and a smaller number of non-immigrant Bahá'í population and Jews. The original Ancient Egyptian religion has all but disappeared.
The Islamic call to prayer is heard five times a day throughout the country and has the informal effect of regulating the pace of daily life. Cairo is famous for its numerous mosque minarets and church towers.
There is generally a relaxed attitude to foreigners in Egypt, although being a Muslim country it is wise for modesty in dress when out and about. The exception to this is possibly when in a tourist area – in a resort on the Red Sea, for example. Ladies, topless sunbathing is illegal in Egypt even in the resorts.
There is the fast of Ramadan (a month) followed by 'Eid el Fitr' celebrations. Ramadan moves forward by around 10 days each year. Ramadan 2012 is expected from approx. July 20th – August 18th. For 2013 the Ramadan period is approx. July 9th – August 7th. Then there is 'Eid el Adha' during which the pilgrimage to Mecca is made. Apart from that the Christian community has their own feasts (Christmas, Palm Sunday).
A small percentage of the Egyptian population is Coptic Orthodox Christian. The ancient Coptic area of Cairo is fascinating to visit.
It can be quite cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, so you must bring clothes for different seasons. Dress is mainly casual, with some 'smart casual' and some evening clothes. Cotton is generally preferable for most of the year. But a fleece in winter is definitely something you need. Layers of clothing is advisable if you go in and out, because of the difference in temperature.
If you go out for lunch or dinner remember to bring a shawl or cardigan as the air conditioners are normally put on 16C in the restaurants.
Office wear is smart casual/formal with shirt, optional tie and jackets, if required, in winter.
In general you can purchase a wide selection of clothes locally. There are now a couple of huge Western style shopping centers in Heliopolis and Giza. European style men‘s leisure clothing is readily available (good quality, cotton and at reasonable prices) although there can be a problem getting mens shoes if you take a large size. Ladies‘ leisure time clothing in European styles are becoming more available.
Women should cover their heads and dress modestly when visiting a Mosque.
Some schools have a uniform, which can be bought at the school. Black shoes are normally a problem so if you know the school insist on black shoes for their students, bring them with you. Children can wear anything outside school hours. Take into account that teenage girls cannot always wear what they would like to wear in the home country. Bring a cardigan or a shirt with sleeves.
There may be some events where black tie and evening / cocktail dress is appropriate. You may want to bring these with you although they can also be bought or made locally.
It is safe to wear jewellery. Moreover, safes can be bought locally