At Work in Cairo

Work Usage in Cairo

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Egypt is promptly becoming an increasingly metropolitan area. The rebellion in the spring has upset many norms in the country, but it is reforming and continuing to grow.

Business Culture

Companies fall into the category of either Islamic or non-Islamic in orientation. Those companies which are Islamic in orientation will govern their approach to business through the strict interpretation of classical Sharia (Islamic) law. Arabic is the official language of Egypt, but nearly everyone speaks at least some English.

As in most of the Arab world, personal relationships are vital to doing business. While initial meetings can seem overly formal, this is an important point in getting to know your business contacts. There is a tendency to be in close proximity to other people, paired with strong same-sex eye contact, which can result in uncomfortable situations for foreign workers.

Time is viewed as relative and flexible. Agreed upon start and finish times may not be adhered to and patience is more than a virtue, it's necessary.

Gift Giving is advisable. Gifts should be small and personal. However, when giving gifts be conscious of Muslim sensitivities and avoid the following:

  • alcohol
  • pork
  • knives
  • pigskin
  • perfumes with alcohol

Egyptian managers are primarily male. Management is expected to be cautious and not take too many risks. Decision-making can seem extremely slow. Managers consult with colleagues, but expect to hold final say on decisions.

Working Hours

Egypt is a Muslim country with people working from Sunday to Thursday. Fridays and Saturdays are holy days and mandated off from work. Arranging meetings on a Thursday is not recommended.

Work days are from 9:00 until 16:00 or 17:00. These hours always shrink during Ramadan.


Egypt's minimum wage is 700 EGP per month. It is set by the government for the public sector. Average salary ranges from 20,000 to 45,000 Egyptian pounds a year.


An employment contract should be in writing and the employee should read and understand all conditions before signing. If it is in a language other than your mother tongue, you should allow a trusted advisor (like a lawyer or financial advisor) that is fluent in that language to inspect it.

An employment contract must be written in Arabic, in three copies: one for the employer, one for the worker, and one for the social insurance office. It should specify the employer's and employee's names, the start date of the contract, the work to be performed and the remuneration to be paid in return. Other important provisions of a contract are the probation period, benefits, and the period of notice. In addition, employment contracts must not provide for immoral or illegal tasks.

Basic Types of Contracts

Individual Employment Contract - This is the typical contract in which an employee work for an employer for a consideration (pay). The contract is concerned with certain rights and obligations: the employee must perform the relevant work, while the employer must pay the employee's remuneration and social security contributions, allow the employee paid holidays, etc.

Collective Labour Agreement - Based on negotiations between unions and employers, it contains provisions on the conclusion, content and termination of individual employment contracts, the rights and obligations of the contracting parties and how the agreement itself shall be applied and monitored. In many cases a standard employment contract is also signed.

Probationary Period

It is common for a new employee to undergo a probationary period. During the probationary period, either party can terminate the contract at any time subject to seven days's notice. Exceptions are possible provided they are agreed on in a written agreement, a standard contract or a collective labor agreement. A probationary period should not exceed three months.


After the probationary period, an employment contract may be terminated. Punishable offenses include:

  • False identity or submitted false documents
  • Acting negligently, causing the employer considerable loss, provided the employer informs the competent authorities of the incident within 24 hours of becoming aware of it
  • Despite having received a previous written warning, failed to observe written instructions displayed in a prominent place, compliance with which is necessary to ensure the safety of the workers and of the establishment
  • Absent without a valid reason for more than 20 days a year, or for more than ten consecutive days, provided that the worker is first warned in writing by the employer after ten days of absence in the former case and after five days in the latter
  • Divulged professional secrets concerning the enterprise employing him/her, which caused serious damages to the enterprise
  • Competing with the employer in the same field of activity
  • Found in a state of obvious drunkenness or under the influence of drugs within working hours
  • Assaulted the employer or the employer's representative, or has committed a serious act of violence against any of his/her superiors during or in connection with his/her work
  • Not respected the rules on strikes

The notice period must be at least: 2 months if the workers uninterrupted period of service with the employer is less than ten years
3 months if that period exceeds ten years

If a fixed-term contract is concluded for more than five years, the worker has the right to terminate it, without paying penalties to the employer, provided that a three-month notice period is respected.

Time Off

Egypt uses 3 calendars: Gregorian calendar, Hegra calendar (Islamic) and Coptic calendar. This means that dates of holidays vary from one year to another.

Annual Leave

Employees are entitled to annual paid leave of three weeks (twenty-one days) after a full year of service. This increases to one month (thirty days) after a decade of consecutive employment, regardless if it is with the same company or not. Also, employees of age fifty or over are eligible for thirty days' holiday, too.


The Egyptian government provides for paid public holidays. Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and dates are approximations.

During the lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night and normal business patterns are interrupted. Some restaurants are closed during the day, but most tourist attractions and hotels are not affected. For more on Ramadan, read the article "Respecting Ramadan as a Traveler or Expat".

  • 7 January - Coptic Christmas Day
  • 15 February - Birth of the Prophet
  • 25 Apr - Sinai Liberation Day (Sinai only)
  • 27 April - Sham el-Nassim (Coptic Easter)
  • 1 May - Labour Day
  • 23 July - National Day
  • August - Ramadan
  • 12 September - Coptic New Year
  • 6 October - Armed Forces Day
  • November 6th - 7th - Feast of the Sacrifice
  • 26 November - Islamic New Year

Update 4/12/2011


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