Local laws and customs
Local laws reflect the fact that Egypt is predominantly an Islamic country. Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs. This is especially important during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. Dress modestly, especially in rural areas, mosques and souqs (markets). Women’s clothes should cover the legs and upper arms. Men should cover their chests. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. What may be acceptable in the tourist resort areas may not be in other areas.
In 2019, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 5 May and finish on 4 June. See Travelling during Ramadan
Drinking alcohol in the street and anywhere other than a licensed restaurant or bar is not allowed and can lead to arrest.
Possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs is a serious offence and can, even for small amounts, lead to lengthy prison sentences (25 years), life imprisonment or the death penalty. Those sentenced to life imprisonment on drugs charges will normally spend the rest of their life in prison with no possibility of parole or pardon. Khat is illegal in Egypt.
Publicising strongly negative opinions about Egypt or making political comments, including about the President or security forces, can cause trouble with the authorities. In some cases, derogatory comments on social media have led to custodial sentences.
Photography of, or near, military official installations is strictly prohibited. This includes the Suez Canal. Don’t photograph officials without their consent. There are sensitivities about taking photographs of public buildings or infrastructure. British nationals have been arrested for photographing electricity stations, train stations and bridges if you are in any doubt seek permission before taking photographs. Don’t use radio controlled helicopters or ‘drones’ to take photographs.
The import, production or use of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) is banned in Egypt unless you have prior authorisation from the Egyptian Ministry of Defence. Citizens who use, manufacture or import drones without the approrpriate authorisation will be punished by prison terms ranging from one to 7 years and/or fines ranging from EGP 5,000 to EGP 50,000.
Although same-sex sexual activity is not explicitly criminalised in Egypt, the charge of “debauchery” has been used to prosecute LGBT people. The flying of a rainbow flag at a concert in September 2017 led to the arrest of at least 66 individuals on debauchery charges. There is little public acceptance of homosexuality in Egypt. Public expressions of homosexuality and/or public displays of affection between same-sex couples are likely to attract a high degree of unwelcome attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The government does not interfere with the practice of Christianity but encouraging conversion to the Christian faith is illegal.
Egyptian family law is very different from UK law and particular caution is needed when, for example, child custody becomes an issue.