The Egyptian People
Demographics and Personality
Demographically speaking, Egypt’s population is comprised of some 80 million inhabitants largely located in the villages, towns and cities within close proximity of the River Nile and the coastal resorts of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
90% of the population are Sunni Muslims (with a much smaller percentage of Shiites) with the next largest religious demographic being Coptic Christians (circa 10%).
The indigenous inhabitants of the Sinai Peninsular are Bedouin (traditional nomadic people) recognisable by their red and white kufiya (head scarves) and long white djellaba (all in one dress worn by men similar to a Kaftan).
Around Aswan and the south the population is comprised largely of Nubians (descendents of the one time mighty Kingdom of Nubia) many of whom were displaced and relocated within the region after the construction of the High Aswan Dam and the subsequent flooding of many traditional Nubian settlements in the 1960s.
Despite obvious similarities in culture, language and religion, many Egyptians do not consider themselves to be ‘Arabs’ (who only came to Egypt in 639AD) claiming instead to be of North African or even Pharaonic descent.
In reality, Egypt has undergone so many conquests and conquerors over the years since the mighty ancient kingdoms (Greeks, Romans, Mukluks, Arabs, French and British to mention a few) that it’s difficult to identify a unifying national ethnicity, and any pharaohnic bloodline has likely been heavily diluted.
Generally speaking, Egyptians are extremely friendly, hospitable and honest people who welcome the opportunity to interact with both male and female visitors.
Indeed, as a solo traveller you’ll never feel alone in Egypt or short of a partner for conversation.
And make eye contact for more than a split second and you will likely illicit the customary, friendly greeting ‘Welcome to Egypt’ from a complete stranger (imagine the same occurrence in one of the capital cities of Western Europe?).
Egyptians are curious people, and whether male or female it’s not unusual for visitors to be stared at – sometime by an entire crowd. This can be a little unnerving at first but wave and smile and the ice will quickly shatter.
Unfortunately most tourists stick to the big resorts (Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh) and therefore only ever come in to contact with Egypt’s overly persistent (and often annoying) touts, shop keepers and salesmen.
Similarly there is also a sleazy demographic of Egyptian men that also seem to inhabit these same resorts in search of a western girlfriend (read more about travelling as a woman in Egypt).
Please don’t judge all Egyptians by this minority or be put off by the sales people. Real Egyptians (those without an agenda) tend to be more reserved and timid and you may well have to initiate a conversation.
If you’re keen to meet Egyptians prior to your trip, you can do so through the couch surfer’s project prior to your trip (see link in resource box below).