Top tips for exporting to Egypt

UK companies discover that there is a particular way of doing business in Egypt and it tends not to be rushed. Although you should aim to arrive at meetings on time, the truth is that punctuality is not particularly high on the list of priorities. Sometimes contacts are late or do not show up at all for meetings. It is common practice to keep foreign business people waiting. Realistically, then, it may only be possible to carry out one appointment per day. Another fact to consider is the traffic. Cairo is one of the most gridlocked cities in the world.

Meetings tend not to be private. There are frequent interruptions, not least from your contact’s friends and family. You may even find several meetings taking place simultaneously. The trick is to keep calm and relaxed. Don’t expect things to proceed at break-neck Western speed. Learn patience.

No business takes place on the Muslim holy day of Friday. Many people do not work on Thursdays either leaving a Sunday to Wednesday working week. Working hours for business, government and banks are reduced during the month of Ramadan. Any documents you send should ideally include the Western date as well as the Hijrah (Arabic) date.

Since Egyptians dress modestly with most of the body covered despite the heat, you should respect this. The normal male attire for business meetings is a suit, buttoned-up shirt and tie. Women business travellers need to adopt extremely sober clothing at all times with long sleeves and hemlines well below the knee. If your outfit attracts stares from men, then it is probably too risqué.

Conversationally Egyptians can be quite tactile and intimate – perhaps more than the average Westerner is used to. They like to joke and talk about themselves. Avoid sensitive topics such as Israel.

Gift-giving is widespread. Make sure you use your right hand or both hands (not the left) when giving or receiving goods. Egyptians like confectionaries and small electronic gadgets. Small, well-made compasses are also popular (it enables a Muslim to determine the direction of Mecca especially when travelling). Business cards should be printed in English on one side and Arabic on the other.

Finally, when dining in a business or entertainment setting don’t eat everything on your plate. Leaving a small portion shows your host you’ve had enough.


UK Trade & Investment
Deena El Kheiashy
British Embassy
7 Ahmed Ragheb Street
Garden City
Tel: (002) (02) 2791 6000

Egyptian-British Chamber of Commerce
299 Oxford Street
Tel: 0207 499 3100
Fax: 020 7499 1070