Were it not for illness in the family, we would be returning from Egypt tomorrow. (Pictured is King Tut) Here is some of what we learned in our research for the trip.
The following is adapted from Frommer’s Egypt Travel Guide:
Appropriate Attire -- To avoid harassment, women should wear skirts or trousers that reach below the knee, and sleeves that cover the shoulders. At beach resorts, clubs and very upscale restaurants, the dress code is much looser, and young, rich women can be seen in skimpy skirts and tube tops. In mosques, women are expected to cover their hair, and not expose any skin other than their hands, face and feet.
Men should always wear shirts that cover their shoulders and refrain from wearing shorts unless they're in a beach area. Both men and women should take their shoes off before entering a mosque. In general, it's a good idea to wear closed shoes if you expect to do a lot of walking, since Egyptian streets are often muddy, or strewn with garbage and broken glass.
Gestures -- The most useful gesture is placing your right hand over your heart, which expresses gratitude and humility, and is often used as a polite way of saying no. For example, it can be used if someone is insisting that you enter their shop for a cup of coffee, or trying to hand you a gift that you don't want to accept.
Holding your hand in mid air, palm down and tipping it back and forth means "so-so" or a "little bit."
Stretching your hand out with your palm facing out is a way to ward off evil, and is offensive if you do it in someone's face. If you want to indicate the number five, make sure your palm faces you.
It's impolite to show others the soles of your feet or shoes. If you're sitting with your legs crossed, always make sure your soles are facing down.
Avoiding Offense -- Egypt's complex behavioral code is all about maintaining honor, saving face and skirting touchy subjects.
The formality of relationships between the sexes is one of the most important differences you should be aware of. When greeting a member of the opposite sex, a handshake is sufficient, as only members of the same sex hug and kiss. Aggressive flirtation, whether it's eye contact or touching, should be kept to a minimum. Especially if you're a woman and engage in this kind of behavior, you'll be considered "loose," and your advances will be interpreted as an invitation for sex.