Egypt’s ancient temples and pyramids have attracted tourists for more than two millennia. Today, Egypt is home to a unique social mix that includes everything from ancient traditions, modern Islam and Christianity, art and culture from the Middle East to Western music and film.
Since 90% of Egypt is covered by desert, almost all Egyptians live in the area around the Nile. In the capital Cairo you see a jumble of new and old. The city is characterized by its unbridled growth and noise, and it is just as common to walk in robes as in Levis jeans. The donkeys share the roads with BMWs, and buildings made of mud stand side by side with high-rise buildings of glass and steel.
Surrounded by so many different influences, the Egyptians remain a religiously dedicated people. They are devoted to their families, hospitable to strangers and skeptical about whether capitalism and economic growth – understood in the Western sense – really improve the quality of their relaxed lives.
- CAPITAL CITY: Cairo
- LANGUAGE: Egyptian Arabic
- CURRENCY: Egyptian Pound (EGP)
- AREA: 1,001,450 km2
- POPULATION: 91,353,000 (2016 estimate)
People and community
Life in Egypt usually revolves around your host family, religious events and activities. You may live all over Egypt, but it is most likely in cities or suburbs around Alexandria, Cairo, El Fayoum, El Menya, Giza, Ismailia, Port Said and Tanta. If you are in an urban area, you can expect to live in an apartment, while exchange students in rural areas usually live with the host family in a large house. Jokes are a common way to socialize, so just jump on the bandwagon.
You will probably go to a regular Egyptian school, even if some exchange students go to an international American school. The school year runs from September to May with a two-week break in January. According to TopSchoolsintheUSA, the school week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday. Most students wear uniforms. Some subjects are taught in English, and others in Arabic. Depending on the school, you may be allowed to choose some of your subjects yourself.
The official language of Egypt is Arabic, but many regional dialects are spoken throughout the country. English is also widely used, and English is taught already in the 1st grade in schools. AFS can help you find a course in Arabic, and your host school may have Arabic as a second language on the schedule.
The Egyptian diet is typically rich in beans, bread, rice, vegetables and fruits. Lunch is the most important meal of the day and is often followed by an afternoon rest. Falafel and koshary (a bowl of rice and lentils) can be bought by street vendors all over Egypt.