Egypt Gift Giving Customs

From Giftypedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Flag of Egypt.jpg
Egypt pyramids.jpg
Flag of Egypt
Capital: Cairo
Official Language: Arabic
Currency: Egyptian pounds
Religion: Predominately Islam
Government: Republic

Think of Egypt, and ancient civilization comes to mind complete with pharaohs, temples, deserts and pyramids. A prime location for earth's antiquities, Egypt is a country with lots to see and do, but there is a lot of etiquette to consider when traveling to Egypt. Egyptians are known to be a very religious people. Because many of their traditions are religious based, it is important to learn about Egyptian etiquette if you are planning a trip to Egypt. [1]

Gift Giving in Egypt

Gift giving in Egypt is evident throughout history. Idols and pyramids were built to house the pharaohs and filled with treasures. Gifts were given to kings in the medieval age to gain allegiance in a war or to gain personal favor. Typical gifts were of gold, silver and jewels – even herds of animals. Today, the tradition of gift giving continues in Egypt, especially during Egyptian holidays.

If you will be visiting an Egyptian home during your travels, here are some Egyptian etiquette tips to keep in mind:[2]

Things to Know Things to Avoid
  1. Take a gift if you are invited to an Egyptian's home for dinner. Ideas would include good quality fruit, pastries, cookies or other sweets. Practical gifts for the family are acceptable as well.
  2. If you have been staying with a family, an appropriate thank you gift would be an expensive item representative of your country – something that would be hard to obtain in Egypt.
  3. A small gift for the children is acceptable and shows affection.
  4. Always give gifts with the right hand. Both hands may be used if the gift is heavy.
  5. Always wrap the gift. Gifts are typically wrapped twice – first in ordinary paper and then again in brightly colored paper, although white paper is acceptable.
  6. For a man to give a woman the gift, it must be presented as from his mother, wife or sister. Otherwise, the gift may be perceived as too personal.
  7. Remove your shoes upon entering an Egyptian's home.
  8. Compliment your host's house.
  9. Generally, gifts should be opened later unless the gift is to be enjoyed right away - such as dessert for dinner. In this case, the gift may be opened in front of the giver.
  1. Do not give flowers. These are usually reserved for weddings or the sick.
  2. Do not praise the children – it is believed to bring them ill fortune
  3. Do not admire something in their home too directly – Egyptians may feel the obligation to give it to you. In return, you would be expected to reciprocate with a gift of similar value.
  4. Never give the Qu'ran as a gift – it is not appropriate for personal or business gift giving due to its significance.

Egyptian home.jpg

Business Gift Giving

Business gift giving in Egypt is not common in the social setting, but is accepted as a gesture of thanks in the business relationship. If you have business in Egypt, expect a farewell gift on your last meeting.


  • Personalize your gift by having it engraved to add a personal touch.
  • Present your gift immediately upon arrival in the country.
  • Make sure you give or receive gifts with the right hand, not with the left. Using both hands is acceptable.
  • Do give electronic gadgets. The gift of a compass is an example of an appropriate gift as Muslims always face the east when saying their daily prayers no matter where they are in the world.
  • Offer your gift humbly and incidentally.

Egypt Compass.jpg

Do not give...

  • Too expensive or elaborate of a gift as it may be perceived as a bribe.
  • Gifts with political connotations from the US. Many Arabs disagree with US politics.
  • Alcohol or items made from alcohol, such as cologne or perfume. Devout Muslims don't drink alcohol.
  • Pork - Egyptians do not eat pork.
  • Art, including photographs that depict natural scenes. It is Islamic belief that man should not reproduce what God has made.
  • Cutlery, as it represents the severing of a relationship.
  • Too personal of a gift as gifts symbolically show the relationship between the giver and the receiver
  • Gifts to any other business relationship other than your key contact person, usually the decision maker.

Religion and Gift Giving

Ramadan boys.jpg


Gift giving in Egypt is most prevalent during Egyptian holidays. The birthday of the Prophet Mohammed (Mouled Al-Nabi), is geared particularly toward children. The children receive candy gifts usually sold in open markets, although most are not allowed to eat them for hygienic reasons. Candy dolls are common for the girls and candy horses for the boys, both elaborately decorated with paper and beads.

At the beginning of Ramadan, all children are given the gift of a lantern made of colored glass and tin. The children carry them out into the dusk to show them off. Because all children get the same gift, only the small children show much interest in the lanterns. The adults give gifts to the poor during Ramadan.

The Feast of Breaking the Fast (Eid Al Fitr), the end of Ramadan, is celebrated by all Muslims. Children are traditionally given new clothes. During the 3 day feast, children are given cash from every adult they come in contact with. Wives commonly receive gifts of jewelry from their husbands.

Flight into Egypt.jpg


Coptic Christians (Egyptian Christians) celebrate Christmas on January 7. As in the West, children are the focus and are given new clothes to wear on Christmas Eve, January 6th. However, Egyptian children tend to show less excitement about toys received on Christmas Day. This is due to the fact that their gifts are often purchased at Christmas bazaars where profits go to charity, and the selection and quality is poor. Older children may receive small gifts of cash from extended family members and women generally receive gifts of clothing. [3]

Related Pages

International Gift Customs
Egyptian Holidays
How to Avoid Controversial or Inappropriate Gifts
Etiquette for Office / Business Gift Giving
Middle East Gift Giving Customs


  1. Articlesbase - Gift Giving History
  2. The Global Etiquette Guide to Africa and the Middle East
  3. Hellum - Gift giving holidays in Egypt