Working in Egypt

Egypt may not be the most popular expat destination in the Middle East, but it has plenty of job opportunities, especially in the oil industry and education. The construction, agriculture and technology sectors are also strong.

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Doing business

Egypt’s strategic position and control of the Suez Canal make it a good base in the Middle East – and many multinational companies have set up headquarters in Cairo.

Both business and tourism have taken a severe knock as a result of the political unrest, and the Egyptian economy has faltered. The situation hasn’t fully stabilised, but it’s hoped that policy reforms by the current government will lead to recovery and growth.

In The World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business Survey, Egypt was ranked 122nd out of 190 countries, scoring poorly in a number of areas, including trading across borders and enforcing contracts.

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Business culture

Egyptians place huge value on building personal relationships with business partners. They’re also known for their negotiation skills, which can draw out business dealings even more. This can be frustrating for expats, but patience is key – so don’t try to speed things up with high-pressure tactics.

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Meetings

You can expect plenty of small talk before getting down to business. And don’t be surprised if meetings are interrupted by phone calls or visitors.

Networking

Egyptians prefer to do business with people they know and trust – so use your contacts to facilitate introductions. Making eye contact is important because it conveys honesty.

Honour

Maintaining someone’s honour (or saving face) is vital in Egyptian society – so avoid embarrassing or humiliating your colleagues in public.

Etiquette

Islamic customs govern many aspects of Egyptian business culture. For example, you shouldn’t give or accept business cards or refreshments with your left hand because it’s considered unclean.

Fast facts

Business language

The official language is Arabic, but English is used in business circles.

Business hours

Usually from 7.30am to 2.30pm, Sunday to Thursday. Some businesses are open on Friday mornings.

Dress

Smart and conservative, especially for women.

Greeting

The standard business greeting is a handshake accompanied by the words ‘assalamu alaikum’. Men should greet women with a slight nod of the head or wait for them to initiate a handshake. Close associates may kiss each other on the cheek.

Gifts

It’s customary to exchange gifts in Egyptian business circles. Gifts should be of a high quality and wrapped. Never give anything containing alcohol or made of pigskin.

Gender equality

Most senior positions are held by men, but expat businesswomen are respected, as long as they dress and behave conservatively.

Expat salaries

Expats don’t usually move to Egypt for financial reasons. If you’re paid in a foreign currency such as sterling or US dollars, you’ll probably earn more than expats paid in Egyptian pounds.

A broadening experience. Challenging, rich in culture and opportunities to grow and develop business, personal and family matters. It's a challenging but enriching experience.

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

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Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.