History and Development of Egyptian Culture
Egyptian culture is around five thousand years old. One of the earliest civilizations in the world, their stable and rich culture has influenced the cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After the era of the Pharaos, Egypt itself came under the influence of Hellenism, Christianity, and finally adopted Islamic culture. Modern Egypt has adhered to its cultural roots and also adopted various aspects of modern western culture. Egypt is considered the cultural capital of Arab world due to its ancient history, cosmopolitanism, and strong Islamic traditions. The Arabian entertainment and creative industry is also dominated by the Egyptian culture.
The ancient Egyptian culture and society was very well-organized and divided according to class, status, wealth and locale. Each province had its own temple, deity, beliefs, capital, practices and even ethnic origin. Most of the things like Wealth, social status and even careers were inherited. Most of the population was working class and did not have formal education. They had a pyramid like social structure where the King was on top and it was mostly an inherited title. He usually had a divine status and was named Pharaoh. He was also the high priest of Egypt. He was followed by his assistant. Below them existed the priests and the army generals followed by officials and mayors. Egyptian population is divided into four cultural groups consisting of Copts, Bedouins, Nubians and Egyptian village peasants. A considerable amount of Egypt’s population now lives in larger cities, mostly Cairo and Alexandria.
Egyptian society is male dominated. The patriarchal system requires the support and loyalty of all members of the family in return for security and protection. Adults are expected to respect and care for their elderly parents. Egyptians are very conservative about the notion of honor, especially when it comes to the issue of women and their protection. Women are expected to dress and behave modestly. Women, who wear revealing attire, speak in loud voice or show sensual behavior in public, bring dishonor to their family. Outside her home, a married woman traditionally wears a black outer dress over her brightly colored housedress and covers her hair with a long veil. She wears her dowry of gold necklaces and silver bracelets and anklets. Her husband dresses in a long robe, cotton in summer and wool in winter. He often covers his head with a scarf wound like a turban and in the winter adds a wool jacket. Modern western dresses are also worn in present Egypt but in a very conservative way.
Language and literature
The Arabic language is the language of communication in Egypt. Classical Arabic is used by the media and in formal writing, but the spoken Arabic is colloquial and varies from one region to the next. The colloquial Arabic of Cairo is widely understood throughout the Arab world. Ancient Egyptian literature dates back to the Old Kingdom, in the third millennium BC. Religious literature is best known for its hymns to various gods. The oldest extant Egyptian literature is the Pyramid Texts: the mythology and rituals carved around the tombs of rulers. Egypt has had a strong cinematic and theater tradition since the 1930s
In Egypt, the prominent culture is that of Islam. About 90% of Egypt’s population is Muslim, with a Sunni majority. About 9% of the population is Coptic Christian and other religions form the rest 1 percent. Egyptians are very religious. Egyptians will never leave a slipper or a shoe turned upside down, or a pair of scissors open; these are signs of bad luck. They never throw bread on the floor. There is also a moral culture, which is very admirable in Egypt. In a city the size of Cairo, there is virtually no crime rate. Though many believe that this is due to stiff punishment, but the real reason is the population’s loyalty to their religious faith. The virtual absence of drinking and drugs among the local population has a lot to do with it. Except for religious occasions, the social code is for all Egyptians.
Most of the inhabitants in Egyptian villages live in mud-brick homes, their thick walls insulating against the afternoon heat. Flat roofs, exposed to the northern evening breezes, serve as cool sleeping quarters as well as storage areas. Many houses still have dirt floors and lack electricity or running water. Wandering throughout Egypt’s deserts, Bedouin nomads continually search for fresh grazing for their camels and goats and water for their families. Village women once spent much of their lives cooking, but today, they are equal partners in relationships and take a growing and active role in society. The main meal consists of rice, bread, beans, vegetables and occasional meat.
The Egyptian Ministry of Culture presides over a variety of western-style cultural institutions such as the Cairo Opera House, the National Puppet Theater, the Pocket Theater and the National Symphony, as well as museums. Egypt has also produced some of the greatest 20th century Arab writers from Taha Hussein and Tawfiq Al Hakim to Nobel prize-winner novelist Naguib Mahfouz. It has also produced some of the greatest modern artisans. Egyptians are friendly, hospitable and modest. Egypt is a country with an immense cultural mix. You will find traditions that remain from the time of the Pharaohs and also various tribal customs along with the modern way of life. Fortunately, foreigners are not expected to know or follow Egyptian culture and social codes, but are so much appreciated if they show awareness.