Focus On Egypt


Population: 84,474,000
Monetary unit: Egyptian pound (LE)
Capital city: Cairo
Major languages: Arabic
Major religions: Muslim 84.4%8; Christian 15.1%, of which Orthodox 13.6%, Protestant 0.8%, Roman Catholic 0.3%; nonreligious 0.5%
Ethnic composition: Egyptian Arab 84.1%; Sudanese Arab 5.5%; Arabized Berber 2.0%; Bedouin 2.0%; Rom (Gypsy) 1.6%; other 4.8%
Age breakdown: under 15, 31.7%; 15–29, 31.3%; 30–44, 18.5%; 45–59, 12.4%; 60–74, 5.1%; 75 and over, 1.0%
Life expectancy: male 70.2 years; female 74.8 years
Education: Percentage of population age 10 and over hav- ing: no formal schooling 41.6%; incomplete primary education/incomplete sec- ondary 20.7%; complete secondary/some higher 28.1%; university 9.4%; advanced degree 0.2%. Literacy (2007): total population age 15 and over lit- erate 72.0%; males 83.6%; females 60.7%
Urban/Rural split: urban 43.0%; rural 57.0%
Income per household (USD): $2,070
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


With its 85 million people Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world. Furthermore, as Maha Abouelenein, head of global communications & public affairs at Google MENA observes, it also has one of the largest media industries: “Egypt has many media outlets and news organisations,” she says. “This year, online journalism has taken off. The size of the Egyptian media market presents many opportunities for companies to deliver their key messages to the large population.”

The PR industry has come a long way in a short space of time. Nada Rezk, head of North Africa Media Relations at Huawei Technologies, recalls how five to seven years ago, PR was known as greeting people at airports. “Now, however, PR is the most important tool companies have for delivering their messages to a specific audience in a memorable, credible and affordable way,” she adds.


Sarah Ibrahim, public & media relations senior manager at Barclays Bank Egypt believes it was the arrival of multinationals in Egypt that prompted this change. She explains: “When big multinationals like Coca-ColaExxon Mobil, PEPSI, Oracle and others opened their franchises in Egypt, they brought in true PR professionals.”

More recently, the January 2011 revolution further accelerated the growth of the media and PR industries. The hegemony of the state media was shattered, prompting the launch of a flurry of independent media outlets, and the pivotal role played by social media in that revolution has led to a huge surge in the number of Egyptians joining, and using, social media sites.


Working There

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Permits and visas

Anyone considering relocating to Egypt should be aware of the current unstable political situation. In early 2011, an uprising against the Mubarak government led to rioting and outbreaks of violence and many expats were evacuated out of the country. The revolt was uncharacteristic, but expats should still be wary.

Getting a job in Egypt is impossible without a work visa, and these can only be obtained if you have a formal job offer and contract from a company or sponsor. Expats who want to stay longer than three months should apply for an

entry visa at least three months before arriving in the country. (Almost all the expat jobs are in Cairo and it’s very likely that this will be where you end up living.)

Thanks to the seemingly constant changes in requirements, the paperwork necessary for obtaining a residency visa and work permit is best handled by your company or by a professional agency.

Driving licence

Your home country license is only valid for 3 months from your date of arrival. After that you have to obtain an Egyptian license.



The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound (£);

$1 = £6

€1 = £8

£1 = £11.50

(correct as of October 2011)

For some reason, Egyptian coins are notoriously hard to get hold of, so don't be surprised if a merchant rounds up a price to the nearest pound. And then of course there's the heavy emphasis on tipping or ‘baksheesh'.

What has to be understood is that the average Egyptian often has to work more than one job to make ends meet and usually thinks of foreigners as wealthy. This leads to baksheesh - the idea that everyone must be tipped for every minor service. It's particularly common in the major cities so it's worth double-checking all your receipts; cashiers will have no qualms about adding a stiff baksheesh to your bill.

The cost of living in Egypt can be kept low if you take the trouble to familiarise yourself with the area you live in. For example, taxis aren't very expensive, but the public transport is even cheaper. Food is also a small expense if you learn where to buy it. If you opt to avoid meat and dine in simple places it's possible to survive on a food budget of E£15 (£1.60) per day.

Rental prices

Most companies employing someone from abroad will supply you with accommodation or allocate an accommodation allowance as part of your salary. However, if you do find that you have to find your own place to live, try to head for an expat-heavy area. Not only will there be people to help and advise you but these areas also tend to be wealthier, which means you can expect a wider range of amenities and facilities.

(The popular expat areas in Cairo are Zamalek, Maadi and Mohandesin, though areas like Heliopolis, Giza and New Cairo are also gaining popularity.)

Rental prices are negotiated between the landlord and tenant and there are no laws governing the amount so it’s always worth bargaining. The prices are usually indicative of the area the accommodation is in and what amenities the property has. The agent or landlord will usually ask for one to three months rent in advance plus a security deposit, which is usually one month’s rent.

As a rough guide, a furnished two bedroom apartment in a good area will cost around E£3,000. Monthly utility bills are comparatively cheap; even with constant air-conditioning you’re unlikely to spend more than £50 per month.


Expats brought in from abroad to work in Egypt are often on a higher salary and are usually paid in Euros, British Pounds or US Dollars. Expats who are hired from within Egypt are paid in the local currency and tend to earn much less.


Unfortunately, living in Egypt doesn’t mean you no longer have to pay tax in your home country. But, Egypt has signed tax treaties with many countries and this protects you from paying income tax in both places. Expats are still liable for income tax in Egypt, depending on residency status.

Income is taxed progressively from 20% to 40%, depending on your gross income. The whole tax system is rather complicated and it’s probably best to hire a professional expat tax agency to help you manage the process.

Culture Snapshot


The Egyptian people are an ethnic blend of many other cultures; including, Greek, Arab, Armenian, Turkish, African, Syrian and Palestinian, and around 90% are Sunni Muslim.

As with any predominantly Muslim country, you do need to be respectful of the main Islamic customs and traditions. For example, don't show too much bare flesh - especially as a woman - and don't go out eating or drinking in public during Ramadan. It won't win you any friends amongst the locals! Public displays of affection between men and women should also be avoided, even if you're married. Although Egyptian men are frequently seen to hold hands and will often greet one another with a kiss on the cheek.

That being said, expats are not expected to adhere meticulously to Islamic law. Although Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol or

eating pork, both these items are available to non-Muslims at specialist supermarkets. And, in actual fact, the Egyptian nightlife in some areas is not too dissimilar from the
atmosphere of western clubs and bars.


Obviously, a big plus point is that Egypt is sunny all year round. It’s situated almost entirely in the Sahara Desert and, with the exception of the narrow coastline that borders the Med, it remains hot and dry most of the time. Leave your long-johns and thermals at home because you definitely won’t need them!

A rather more unique aspect of the weather in Egypt is the khamsin. This hot spring wind sweeps across northern Africa in April and peaks between March and May. The sand and dust gets whipped up and blown around and can obscure visibility and get into your eyes and clothing.


One of the largest health concerns in Egypt is sanitation. You should only drink and cook with bottled water and ensure vegetables and fruit are washed thoroughly. The good news is, that if you find places to eat in that you trust you can enjoy a three-course meal for as little as £110 (£11).

For expats who are unused to Egypt, the pollution and noise can seem inescapable, particularly in Cairo, where people tend to live and work in close proximity. Women from western cultures may find the transition to the male-focussed society quite hard, especially as unaccompanied women can often find themselves the target of verbal - and occasionally physical - harassment. Learning a little Arabic and trying your best to fit in with local customs is the best way to ease the transition.

All local costs/regulations correct as of October 2011. While Fabric and PRWeek endeavour to provide the correct information they accept no liability.




According to the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology the number of Internet users grew 21% in the year to May 2011.  Between March and May 2011 Facebook gained more than half a million new users, a 38% growth in just three months.

However, perhaps the clearest evidence of the new importance of social media is that within a week of Mubarak stepping down, the military council set up its own Facebook page. It has attracted a lot of attention with more than 1.25 million “likes” to date and on some communiqués more than 21,000 comments.



Since the revolution around 20 new satellite stations and a dozen newspapers have launched. There are now more than 500 newspapers, journals and magazines including Al Masry Al Youm, Al Shorouk, Al Ahram, Al Akhbar, Al Destor, Al Youm 7, The Daily News Egypt, Akhbar Al Youm, Al Wafd and Al Gomhoria.


There are more than 100 televisions channels including Al Hayat, Dream, ESC, Nile Channels and Mehwar. There are more than 60 AM radio stations and 20 FM stations including Nogoom FM. Abouelenein comments: “There is no golden ace to land. Instead as PR professionals we have to talk to everyone - the traditional media, the online media and social media. We need to be where our consumers are.”

Major Brands

FMCG brands have a strong editorial presence in Egypt with Nestle, P&G, Coca-Cola, Tiger Chips, Persil, Sprite, 7Up and Lipton Tea leading the way. IT and Telecommunications is another major sector and Google, Huawei, Ericsson, Samsung, Mobinil Vodafone and Etisalat are the notable brands in that space. The other sector of note is automotive and Mahindra is the key player there.



Ibrahim at Barclays Bank Egypt believes that over the past two or three years there has been a shift in the relationship between corporates and PR agencies. “At first most of the senior PR professionals were in the agencies,” she says. “Gradually they've shifted to corporate positions, meaning that corporates tend to hire agencies less for consultancy advice and more for campaign execution.”


Multinational agencies like Hill + Knowlton Strategies, Leo BurnettMimac, Ogilvy, Promoseven and Weber Shandwick have a strong presence in Egypt, but are being pursued by a pack of emerging regional and local agencies which includes TRACCS, Editors and Rada.


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