1. Egypt is not in Africa.
At least you could get the impressions when talking to Egyptians. They always make a point of distinguishing between Egypt and the rest of the continent, as their own country weren’t part of it. “Oh, you’re travelling to Africa soon.” Well, I AM already travelling in Africa… Geographically speaking, Egypt is close to Europe and the Arabic world, the latter of course also having a great influence on the culture. Very often, Egyptians have never been to other parts of Africa - which might also add to the estranged relationship the Egyptians seem to have with their continent.
2. Egyptians love German…
…number plates. Yes, they are all over cars driving around the country, the most popular cities include Heidelberg and Munich. Egyptians will buy a fake German number plates and put them underneath their official plate - which doesn’t seem to be a problem with the officials. Some of the duplicates are quite close to the original, others will display a German city but then underneath the Euro-Sign you’ll find an E for Spain or you see one with the German city of BA which stands for… Bayern?
3. Do you love Hitler? I love Hitler!
We learned that - mostly among the more uneducated - people it is common to refer to Hitler as a man who has done great good to the world. This goes back to the ongoing conflict between Egypt and Israel, more exactly the Arabic-Israeli conflict. 85% of Egyptians oppose the diplomatic recognition of Israel, anti-Israelic incitement is commonly present in the media. The glorification of Hitler is the populist, in-your-face-peak-of-the-iceberg - but you will find copies of Mein Kampf in bookstores.
4. No day without a sugar high.
You think you like quite a good amount of sugar in your tea or coffee? Go ahead and order a cup in Egypt - you’ll cringe and feel the need to call your dentist for a check-up right away. Not only drinks but everything that is supposed to be sweet is … SWEET. Take a look around the candy section in a supermarket - with most of the products you’ll probably be like Is this even edible?!
5. Tissue Mania.
This one stayed a mystery to us. Tissues are everywhere: I challenge you to go anywhere in Egypt and search for a box of tissues - it won’t take you longer than a minute. They are especially popular on the dashboards of cars and trucks will even display a collection of at least 20 of them lined up along their windshield.
6. I help you; you help me.
Oh, the Egyptians and their willingness to help - always tied to a favor you will have to do in return. You don’t want help? Well, it will be forced on you and still be excepted that you then do your part as well. You probably learn to deal with it when you spend more time and it will definitely get things done as opposed to sticking to your German correctness - but for our short visit it was so ANNOYING.
7. The two faces of Egypt.
# 6 being said we HAVE to go to bat for two kinds of people that do not impersonate the above mentioned mentality: individuals who were welcoming and going out of their way to help us (even if they were rare) and of course the Nubians, whose people live in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan and are one of the most welcoming hosts we have met.
8. Sugar Mamas.
One night, when we were sitting on the banks of the Nile, enjoying a late lunch, we couldn’t help but notice the composition of many couples walking by: an older western woman hand in hand with a much younger Arabic guy. It struck us as the inversion of the classic old-German-dude-young-Asian-girl combo which, it turned out, it is. Especially Luxor is a popular destination for European women looking for a second spring to meet young Egyptians looking for financial support.
9. Solar powered cars.
Egypt is a big player in the market of solar powered cars. Or so one could think when filling up the car at the gas stations. You are constantly being offered solar - which is nothing else but the good old dirty Diesel.