Before any social interaction you must greet everyone present with a smile and good eye contact.
In most cases, direct eye contact is acceptable. It is a sign of respect, sincerity and honesty. Sometimes, Egyptians will hold an intense stare, more than is typical in a western country. However, per Islamic principles, males and females may lower their gaze and avoid sustained eye contact with each other as a sign of respect.
An arm's length is the typical physical distance maintained between people of the same gender. Women will stand closer to each other but prefer to keep a distance from men.
The gesture to ask someone to wait a moment is done by touching all fingers to the thumb then moving the palm up and down. To point, you use your index finger.
It is rude to point the heel or any part of the foot toward another person. Showing the sole of one's shoe is also impolite.
The Egyptian culture highly values good quality conservative clothing and presentation. It is okay to be relaxed and informal as long as you remain sensitive and polite. This will make your Egyptian companions feel well received and comfortable in your presence.
Youngsters and youth show respect by not challenging their seniors and by using special verbal terms of address for aunts, uncles, grandparents and older non-relatives.
Avoid talking to or walking in front of a Muslim while he is praying.
When offered a compliment, show appreciation by responding with an equally respectful compliment on the same subject or, if they are Muslim, by wishing Allah's (God's) blessings.
Acknowledging the history of Egypt and the country's cultural heritage and showing an understanding of Egyptian history and contemporary culture will impress your local friends.
While Egyptians are proud of their cultural heritage, the modern Egyptian culture is dynamic and has significantly changed throughout history. Avoid pigeon-holing contemporary Egyptian culture against ancient Egypt.
When entering a group, you should lightly shake hands with the people you know.
Light handshakes are often prolonged and generally accompanied with a broad smile and direct eye contact.
When meeting for the first time, don't be surprised if an Egyptian tells a joke or two as this is normal. They often use humour while chatting and love it when their jokes are appreciated.
Use first names unless you were not invited to do so. Address the person by using their title (e.g. Mr, Mrs, Dr, etc.) along with their first name or surname depending on how intimately you know them.
The most common greeting is 'salamo alaikum' ('peace be with you'), to which you should reply with 'Wa alaikum al-salam' ('peace be with you too'). In some areas, 'Sabah el Khair (good morning) and 'Masa el Khair (good evening) are the typical greetings.
Often, you will find that greetings depend on the class, religion and gender of the person so if you're not sure about the most appropriate greeting, just follow the lead of your Egyptian friend or tour guide.
Egyptian greetings can be quite lengthy, with inquiries about your health, the well-being of your family, etc.
GREETINGS BASED ON GENDER
Men greeting men: Typically, when meeting for the first time, a light handshake with the right hand is typical. Friends and relatives kiss on both cheeks. That may be accompanied with a hug and a back slap while shaking hands with the right hand.
Women greeting women: Typically, when meeting for the first time, a simple nod of acknowledgement or a light handshake is expected. Friends and relatives often kiss on both cheeks while shaking hands and in some parts of Egypt it is customary to kiss three times.
Greetings between men and women: There is little to no public display of affection between opposite genders during a conversation or when in public places. A handshake may be acceptable if the woman extends her hand first. If she does not, then a man will bow his head as a sign of acceptance. Kissing on the cheek is acceptable for very closely related while married couples may walk arm in arm.
Close friends and family: frequently touch each other while acquaintances will usually refrain from doing so. Same gender close friends may hold hands or kiss when greeting in public.
Not visiting someone for a long time is considered a sign of the relationship's insignificance, especially one's family.
Egyptians are gerally quite relaxed towards time and strict punctuality is not commonly practised. So when someone gives you an appointment be sure to ask "Western or Egyptian time?"
Adults living away from their parents often visit on Fridays and holidays.
When visiting a mosque or someone's home, remove your shoes before entering.
Egyptians prepare elaborate and lavish meals when they have guests. It indicates their generosity and even if they do not eat meat on a daily basis, they will cook it for their guests and they will always cook much more than you will ever be able to finish.
It is customary to bring good quality chocolates or sweets to the hostess as a token of gratitude when you're invited to a home cooked meal.
When you are invited to an Egyptian's home is for a dinner party, wait for the host or hostess to indicate your seat for you.
Show respect for the intelligence of an Egyptian especially if they show evidence of higher education. Egyptian doctors, engineers or those who have travelled a lot are likely well educated and highly trained, with many holding multiple university degrees.
Egyptians tend to give compliments generously so whenever possible, return the compliments by praising their strengths and virtues.
During a sit-down mean, you should always wait for the host to serve you rather than helping yourself.
Taking second helpings is considered a compliment to the cook.
Leaveing a small amount of food on your plate once you have finished eating symbolises abundance and is a compliment to the host for providing so well.
When you want to compliment the food, make a statement rather than asking a question. For example, asking 'how was this made?' may mean that you are sceptical about the food.
Always eat communal food with your right hand, as the left hand is usually reserved for personal hygiene.
Alcohol is usually not offered, nor consumed with food. Only offer alcohol to your Egyptian companions if you know they drink.
In Islam, the consumption of pork and pig-related products is forbidden. It is offensive to offer pork to Muslims.
It is always a good idea to bring a small gift to your Egyptian host's children and is a welcome gesture.
Those receiving gifts tend not to open then as soon as they are received.
Avoid giving flowers as a gift. Flowers are typically for weddings, the sick or during periods of mourning.
Like most people living on the Mediterranean sea, Egyptians are highly expressive and passionate. Their storytelling is animated and full of wordplay and jokes. They freely and openly display happiness and gratitude. Grief and sorrow are also expressed, particularly in the case of the death of a loved one.
Public displays of anger are discouraged and could be considered insulting.
Try not to say anything insulting or derogatory. Instead, take an indirect approach towards corrective remarks to minimise the possibility of tarnishing someone's honour.
Avoid crass or dirty jokes as this type of humour is generally not appreciated in Egypt.
Foreigners openly criticising Egyptian politics risk seeming suspicious or insulting. Discussing Egyptian politics is acceptable, and Egyptians tend to have a high level of political awareness. The conversation should be in the form of an open dialogue. Avoid carelessly expressing opinions and criticism, especially towards religion.
Subjects like the Israeli-Palestinian relations and opinions of Islam stir strong or sensitive feelings among most Egyptians. Be diplomatic should these topics arise in conversation.
Note that 'Egyptian' and 'Arab' are not synonymous but are two distinct cultures and ethnicities. Do not assume that your Egyptian companion identifies himself or herself as Arab.
Egyptians tend to avoid confrontation and replying with a direct 'no'. Usually, they will offer a lengthy reply that may not answer the question. Depending on the context and who they are talking to, they may be direct in certain instances. For example, a senior person (by position or age) may be more direct when speaking with those below them. In such cases, direct communication is not meant to offend the other.