Somewhere, sometime, someone taught me the futility of voicing a problem or a complaint without also being able to provide the solution.  It is an exercise I still try to practice today – though I must admit that my present circumstances and location quite often leave me lost for words.Writing this is probably more for myself than it is for anyone else.  Venting (temper tantrums) can be of use to a degree in the immediate moment of a perceived disaster, disappointment or mishap.  However, continuous venting over time ceases to act as a release valve and can instead become a tool which wreaks havoc on the physical body not to mention changing a personality into a suicidal (or murderous) maniac at it’s worst manifestation.

I am now going to take some observations I have made over time in this lovely land of Egypt – observations that I have to admit from the outset do not reflect well on the Egyptian population (or at least those of them I have had personal contact with), and I promise to write an equally glowing account of their positive aspects and attributes to balance things up asap.  I am not using this as a prolonged moaning session…, I am going to attempt to come to some conclusion as to why these traits are evident here.  The conclusion may simply turn out to be (because I really don’t know where this essay is going!) an effort to make an excuse for the average Egyptian or ………I don’t know……… (now that’s a phrase I use a million times a day here).  On the other hand it may lead to the phrase “God forgive them, for they know not what they do!”   A phrase I have used in the past which acted like honey on a burn and soothed my soul!

The prevalent, dominant Egyptian characteristics, activities, behaviors that cause me pain, anguish and frustration are:
  • Rarely if ever do they do what they say they will do.
  • NEVER come when they say they will.
  • HATE saying “No” so they say “In sh’a Allah”
  • HATE saying “I don’t know” so will tell you any kind of rubbish or send you in the wrong direction.
  • Have no concept of “personal space”  yours NOR theirs.

Egyptians think every tourist is Donald Trump on a mission to distribute his wealth, consequently there are 1,000 different ways to part a non-Egyptian and his money – and pretty much everywhere there are two prices – tourist price and Egyptian price.  Have you heard the one about the Egyptian who sold Luxor Temple to a Japanese Lady?????   That particular Egyptian has not been seen around Luxor since!  This leads onto the street hassle in Luxor – a subject in itself!

Egyptians appear to import everything from China and sell everything under the sun happy that if it looks like an air-conditioner and has a foreign brand name on  it – that’s enough, it doesn’t actually HAVE TO work like an air conditioner is supposed to!  This applies to most household and functional items.

Egyptians fall asleep at the drop of a hat anywhere, anytime and wouldn’t wake up if there was a bomb in the street – consequently they have absolutely NO consideration whatsoever past midnight for anyone who might possible be sleeping.  They have no concept of what constitutes noise pollution.  So they speed up and down streets on motorbikes and in cars honking like they have won the world cup.  They stand in the street and instead of ringing the doorbell – they shout and shout and shout the name of the person they are looking for……anytime, day or night, makes no difference. 

Egyptians have no idea about communal ownership, community spirit, neighbourly co-operation, consequently the entrances and stairways of their buildings are dirty, unpainted and dilapidated – nobody owns the common areas so nobody takes responsibility, and they look down on the person (should there happen to be one) who cleans it occasionally – but God forbid they would get together and buy a tin of paint to spruce it up!  That would most definitely be a “bridge too far” 

Egyptians have no idea about community or street hygiene so they spit and throw used tissues, nappies and household rubbish into the street, RIGHT OUTSIDE THEIR OWN DOORS, and expect someone else to clean it up.  They treat their animals abominably and can’t understand why foreigners are shocked at this….but then their hierarchy goes like this….Dad hits Mom – Mom hits the kids – the kids hit each other down the pecking line, then the youngest goes in the street and mistreats whatever misfortunate cat, puppy or passing donkey he can get his hands on. 

Egyptians say “I speak English”  then you ask them a question and they stare blankly back at you…..’cos they don’t speak English and have no idea AT ALL what you are saying to them and then they make it even worse by jumping in with “I know, I know, I know”  when in fact you KNOW they don’t know!  True example…..a friend staying with me went to the Post Office to send some goods home by mail.  Just in case it didn’t arrive at it’s destination he wanted to give the Post Office official my address in Luxor.  So he phone me up, passed the mobile to the official and the conversation went like this.

Me:  You want my home address?  Yes?
Official:  No!  I know! I know! I know!
Me:  You know what?
Official:  What hotel you stay in!

Two minutes into the conversation I ended up telling my friend just to write my phone number on the paper.  Before going to Egypt it may be wise to understand the communication problems in Egypt and how to converse with the man in the street…..

Egyptian Taxi drivers see a tourist getting out of a taxi and immediately shout from across the road “Tax! Tax!”  COME ON!  They just saw him getting OUT of one….so what?  The motto is don’t let a tourist pass you by without shouting something at him!  No matter how ridiculous you may seem!

Egyptian construction workers must think…..(really I don’t know what they think….do they think?)  The law says “No loud work after 6pm”….so what do they do?  Wait until 11pm or maybe even 1am and then start hammering and banging away…..which is ok if everyone around them is Egyptian ‘cos like I said they are not going to hear or heed it anyway……oh, and never mind the tourist hotel just across the road, the lights going on in all the rooms or the hotel manager dancing up and down in the street in anger!  What could possibly be wrong with those foreigners?

Now, now…don’t get me wrong here….that was not a rant or a venting….that was a personal clarification and stratification (lovely word) of my thoughts…….and now I am going to look at the possible causes of these habits…………………wait!  I’m thinking!………………Still thinking!………….nearly there!  ……………….  Got it!

I think most of us “foreigners” would have been taught somewhere, sometime by someone, maybe parents, teachers, some religions…..we would have been taught the concept of “putting yourself in the other person’s place”,  “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes”.  We would have been taught to ask ourselves the question “how would I like it if that was done to me?”  The follow up to that question would have been…..”if I don’t like it – he probably wouldn’t like it either”.  “If that hurt me – it would probably hurt him also” .

So, I don’t like to be lied to, have things or time stolen from me….as a result I do my best not to lie, mislead or steal from anyone else, especially their time – because time is probably the most precious, measurable, invisible and, little thought of commodity, any of us own…..the minutes of our time make up the minutes of our lives.

I have actually thought over the above list quite a lot.  This is not a frivolous piece of writing though I did try to inject a little humour.  Seriously…….I do believe it is because the concept of putting yourself in the other person’s place is not taught here that this bad behavior exists – I have been met with blank looks when I ask people if they have been taught it here……nobody has ever answered me ‘yes’, except some Christians and for the most part they don’t take it seriously either – so it must be an “Egyptian thing” – not to consider other people’s comfort or discomfort.  If the ‘changing places’ concept was taught and thought about in Egypt – Egyptians could not behave so unilaterally in the fashion they do…..from the guy cleaning the street right up to government level this behavior is downright dishonest, disgusting and debilitating for people, business, economics and Country.

THE PROBLEM – Personal Dishonesty and Lack of Consideration for others leading to Personal Isolation  a bad International Image for Egypt.

THE SOLUTION – A campaign to publicly and privately promote the concept of  “putting yourself in the other person’s place”.

I have presented a problem.  I have presented “A” solution.  Do you have a better solution?

Did you like this post?  Please leave a comment and share via the links in the box below – thanks for dropping by!


  1. Hi Kim,
    I have fixed the link – thank you for telling me. There is a way to deal with hassle in the street and you can read about it in that post.
    I can’t point you to information about the 5 bodies – I don’t remember where I picked it up 🙁 Egyptians believed we have physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and magical bodies and Luxor Temple is a healing Temple for those 5 bodies. I should be doing a blog on that as soon as I get the time 🙂 I will be happy to have you visit Mara House for a coffee with me when you are in Luxor if you like – just call beforehand to make sure I am here 01007571855.

  2. Mara, my husband and I have just loved reading all your posts – they have been soooo helpful. I was not able to get to the link you give below – did I miss something? I also wanted to ask you about Karnak and healing of the 5 bodies. I would love to hear more about that. Can you point me to any information? Finally, I’d just like to say to you, and anyone else out there, that if I had not booked my hotel in Luxor already – a place reported to have very friendly, helpful owners (also independent, not a chain…) I would book with you in a heartbeat! Thanks for your advice, and for representing the best of your country, as I try to represent mine well (USA – we have our issues too!)

  3. Kim W.
    Glad you enjoy my posts and I am delighted you are coming to Egypt. Yes, it is sad that we cannot be our normal friendly and polite selves to a degree here….but if you read this post you will see that most people get the wrong advice on how to deal with the street hassle – also the bargaining and buying customs are explained here so you will be able to see that the tourists who say “no” etc are (in the eyes of the Egyptians) engaging in the art of bargaining 🙂

    They say “what doesn’t kill us, makes us strong” and I am sure you will get on just fine, you seem to be doing your research and forewarned is forearmed.

    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions you don’t find answers to 🙂 Thank you so much for leaving your thoughts here.

  4. I have really enjoyed reading your posts. I am getting ready to bring my family over to Egypt, and I feel bad that I have read so many stories that it is going to be hard for me to be polite to anyone…being afraid they will grab my ticket out of my hand or lead me to a shop and close the doors. I am fortunate enough to be able to travel with my children and am happy to be generous, but not happy to be bilked….I wish I felt confident I will know the difference when I get there!

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