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Working Conditions and Etiquette in Cairo

Working in Cairo is a great option if you are interested in acquiring work experience in the Middle East. As a national and regional driving force, the Egyptian capital offers various business opportunities for expats. Find out what they are and how to approach them on InterNations.
The majestic Nile is still of great importance for Cairo's economy.

When working in Cairo as an expat, you will most likely get paid substantially more than your Egyptian colleagues. To some, the wages might still seem somewhat low when converted into Western currencies. However, the low cost of living in Cairo usually allows for a very comfortable life on a regular expat salary.

You can expect work days of 8 hours for 5 days a week from Sunday to Thursday. Friday, the holy day in Islam, is the principal day off. The working week could occasionally include Saturdays as well.

Social Security

Only Egyptian nationals with full-time employment pay social security contributions. There is a threshold maximum on the amount that the employee and employer have to pay. They only pay on the first 912.5 EGP of the base pay (normal salary) and 1,200 EGP for the variable pay (bonuses and commissions). The percentage paid for these two categories are 14% and 11% respectively.

Egypt has totalization agreements with Greece, Cyprus, Sudan, and the Netherlands, so that individuals do not end up paying social security taxes in two countries at the same time. Unfortunately, social security does not cover expats, with a few exceptions. Thus, it is best for expats to talk to their employer, local security office, private wealth manager, or financial advisor about what to do. 

Business Etiquette

Expats from Western countries should always be aware that Egypt is part of the Muslim world. Business is no exception in this regard.

Business dress code in Egypt tends to be fairly conservative. This applies especially to women: Skirts should always at least cover the knee. Blouses, shirts, and dresses should feature a high neckline and sleeves that reach to the elbow. For men, shorts or sandals are absolutely unacceptable in the business world. Also, it is preferable that you wear long-sleeved shirts. If you have trouble getting used to the heat, rest assured that air-conditioning is very common in Cairo’s offices.

Try to keep the subject of money out of any conversation you might have. Discussing finances is not customary in Egypt, and insisting on the subject might seem both rude and impatient.

Punctuality is not valued as highly as in some other countries. Prepare to be left waiting more often than not. Try not to make more than one important appointment a day. Chances are you will not be able to handle more.

Among men, friendly kisses on the cheek are very common. This is a customary sign of respect and goodwill. While you will exchange handshakes upon first meeting your Egyptian colleagues, it is important to be familiar with this tradition, as you will inevitably come in contact with it. Kisses are only exchanged between members of the same sex, though. Please abstain from applying this custom to superiors and especially to members of the opposite sex.


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Paul Zimmerer

"Before I moved to Cairo I contacted some local members on InterNations. They gave me some great assistance."

Barbara Sciera

"Cairo is a bustling metropolis. Through InterNations I met some other expat women. Now we meet on a weekly basis."

Global Expat Guide