Egypt - Wherever you go in Egypt, whether cruising on the Nile or swimming in the Red Sea, the sun-baked scenery connects you to the past. Skyscrapers and shopping malls mix with bazaars and mosques to make Egypt's cities a fascinating experience.
While it is appreciated when one is treated with respect, sometimes yelling is the only way to get your point across. Raise your voice only as a last resort and when it really matters.
Business owners and employees do not practice the concept of cause and effect. They don't understand that expatriates will stop using their services if they aren't satisfactory, or if they're being double charged. This isn't going to change, so if the produce man keeps slipping rotten fruit or vegetables into the bottom of your sack, keep looking for someone who will sell you only the best, or insist on choosing your own, and stop shopping at stores that charge twice for your purchases or ring-up extras.
Those who aren't used to dealing with the Western proclivity for punctuality, seldom arrive on time. This is particularly true for workmen. And when they say something will be fixed bokra (tomorrow), don't count on it, or that it will be fixed properly.
While there are talented craftsman who can create anything you want, workmen sent to your house by your landlord will usually not fall into that category. Because wealthier Egyptians often terrorize their workmen and household help while paying them a fraction of their worth, they get what they pay for. Your best alternative is to insist upon dealing with only one firm that repairs things by Western standards. Ask other expats who they recommend.
An Egyptian will probably be reluctant to tell you that something isn't available. They'll do everything in their power to find it for you, but if they don't succeed, to save face, they'll keep putting you off until you go away.
If you're a single woman, expect to be ignored when you want something done a certain way. As a last resort, ask a man or an Egyptian to intervene on your behalf.
It is often difficult to return anything and receive a refund. But if you deal with a reputable store and have kept the receipt and original container, you'll have a better chance.
Not my fault: to admit that one has made a mistake is to lose face. If you understand that this is a cultural norm, you will be able to deal with it.
Because most of the floors in Egypt are made from native stone, marble or granite, they can be very slippery. Before you arrive, place a bit of electrical tape on the bottom of your shoes.
Egyptians in every strata of society are nosy. They're used to living in close quarters and sharing the most minute and personal details of their lives. They have incredible memories and consider your private life an open book to be shared with the world.
Egyptians are also superstitious, and a tiny bit paranoid that someone else has put a curse (the evil eye) on them to take what they have. When you see an exceptionally beautiful child being carried by a parent, it is not appropriate to comment upon how pretty it is. Rather, one should do what Egyptians do to protect the child from the envy of a barren woman, tell the child it is ugly, lazy and stupid.
Public bathrooms everywhere but in nice hotels can be revolting, especially those for women. Egyptian women use a hose attached to the toilet to clean themselves, so toilet paper isn't always available and there's usually a puddle of water on the floor. Most restrooms have a normal toilet, but in the countryside, don't be surprised to find a floor drain instead.
Anything that's available in Cairo can be delivered to your front door. Even the veterinarian will make house calls! Year round, one can purchase fresh baladi (locally grown) and imported flowers, fruit, herbs, vegetables, chickens, lamb, veal, beef, and a cornucopia of Middle Eastern and Western breads, cheese, eggs, juice, flour, spices, cereal, and other basic food and cleaning staples. Although Muslims do not eat pork, there are specialty shops where you can buy it.
Each week more Western products, like pet food, kitty litter, snacks, cleaning products, prepackaged foods, etc. become available in Western style grocery stores, but the price is higher than it would be at home. Availability is inconsistent. When you find a product you use a lot, buy extras.