Egypt is a country with a long and distinguished history, replete with a rich and diverse culture. Once home to some of the leading minds in human civilisation, ancient Egyptians have been credited with the advent of the written word, literature, mathematics, and geometry. Let’s not forget they were also the architects behind the world-famous pyramids.
Although their legacy as a trailblazing nation is undisputed, their various laws have been criticised by world leaders around the globe. In this article we take a look at some of the most baffling laws in Egypt, and see how they compare to those in the United Kingdom (UK).
Law 1: Gambling
Online betting has long been legalised in the UK, and it is nighon impossible to escape the all-dominating allure of the industry in popular media, advertising, and everyday life. The online betting industry also provides an enormous financial windfall to the British government.
The Gambling Commission which answers to the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport regulates the industry (with the exception of spread betting which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) under the terms of the Gambling Act of 2005.
The Gambling Commission was established under the terms of the Gambling Act of 2005, assuming its full power two years later.
It took over many of the responsibilities previously held by the Gaming Board for Great Britain, and it also became responsible for the regulation of online gambling. Additionally, in 2013 it took over regulation of the National Lottery from the National Lottery Commission.
According to the Gambling Act of 2005, the Gambling Commission has the power to issue a license to gambling operators and impose fines, or revoke licenses if necessary. The act states the objectives of the Gambling Commission to be as follows:
- Preventing gambling from becoming a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder, or being used to support crime
- Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
- Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling
When it comes to providing online gambling services to UK residents, only companies whose operations are based in the UK can be issued licenses by the Gambling Commission.
However, the organization has a whitelist of approved gambling jurisdictions. Operators who obtain licenses from within those jurisdictions may also service UK customers.
In 2017 the gross gambling yield of the industry was £13.9 billion, a third of which was from the online sector. Gambling also provides over 100,000 jobs for people in the United Kingdom.
The industry is heavily regulated by Theresa May’s government, and online betting companies are compelled to follow stringent laws regarding money-laundering, and the prevention of problem gambling.
The relaxed laws in the UK have encouraged healthy competition in the industry as well. This has given rise to a number of gambling sub-categories where companies have focused on specific customer-bases and markets.
One such website which has decided not to compete with mainstream betting companies in the UK is Rose Slots. Offering games that tap into a range of niches, and are tailored towards the demographic of middle-aged women, with generous bonus offers, they have enjoyed enormous success.
The rise of in Rose Slots shows the equality and diversity of the gambling industry in the UK, and how competition has allowed it to create a gaming site that caters for a non-traditional gambling demographic. Even just looking at these UK slot games it has available, indicates quite how broad the gambling culture is in the country – with game themed around cult movies, and popular music acts.
Egypt has none of these services available to its citizens – gambling is strictly forbidden,by Islamic law (shari’a) on the grounds that “the agreement between participants is based on immoral inducement provided by entirely wishful hopes in the participants’ minds that they will gain by mere chance, with no consideration for the possibility of loss,”and is only available to foreign tourists, with the exception of the state-run lottery. Egypt has derived most of its laws from the Qu’ran, which strictly forbids the practice of gambling.In scriptureit is stated in the Quran that games of chance, including gambling (qimar), are a “grave sin” and “abominations of Satan’s handiwork”.
They ask you about wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them both lies grave sin, though some benefit, to mankind. But their sin is more grave than their benefit.’
— Qur’an, 2:219 (al-Baqara)
However, many Egyptian citizens utilise online betting companies from different countries, as the ban on internet gambling is not widely regulated in Egypt. In physical land-based casinos, all guests must show their passports to gain entry, and prove that they are foreign visitors.
The gambling laws in Egypt seem particularly hypercritical when you consider that the state-run national lottery is widely advertised by the government.As a result of Egyptians’ strong fascination with gambling, there are plenty of land-based casino across the country. Due to the fact that government sanctioned casinos are only open to foreigners, it comes in handy that there are lots of online gambling sites on offer in Egypt. Additionally, there are many lotteries available, while sports betting is another popular pastime. Poker has also started to gain popularity, with the same applying for online poker games, including Caribbean Stud Poker.
Law 2: Controlled Drugs
In the UK, Tramadol is a prescription-only drug issued to patients struggling with pain trauma – such as post-surgery pain, or conditions such as chronic back pain. Tramadol, like Diazepam and Fentanyl, is a controlled drug, as there is a risk of misuse, due to the addictive nature of the drug.Tramadol has become a Schedule 3 controlled drug as of 10 June 2014, as the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has a duty to keep drug
misuse in the UK under review, and to advise the government on measures for
preventing misuse and social problems arising from it. From a review of Tramadol, the
ACMD recommended the legislative changes following an increasing number of
reports within the NHS involving Tramadol, and the significant harm when misused
including death. The legislative changes are considered to provide the correct
controls to prevent the diversion and misuse of Tramadol.The ACMD also recommended that prescribers and other healthcare professionalswho prescribe, or come into contact with people who use Tramadol, should be given appropriate training and support concerning its misuse and adverse effects,especially with regards to its “dual-action”.
The following are the prescription requirements for a Schedule 3 controlled drug:
- Tramadol prescriptions will only be valid for 28 days.
- Prescriber – the prescription needs to be signed by the prescriber, with the
date it was signed, and the address of the prescriber-practice included on the
prescription (which must be within the UK).
- Quantity – The maximum quantity to be supplied should not exceed 30 days,
in line with the Department of Health recommendations for Schedule 2, 3 and
4 controlled drugs. This is not a legal restriction, but a prescriber must be able
to justify the quantity requested on a clinical basis if more than 30 days’
supply is prescribed. When required quantities should also not exceed the
month’s supply. Please note this may result in additional prescription charges
for some patients that they should be made aware of.
The total quantity of medicine to be supplied must be stated in words and
figures on the prescription.
- Dose – the dose must be clearly defined. For example:Not legally acceptable: Take as directed; When required; Decrease dose by50mg every four days.Legally acceptable: Take One as directed; Take Two every six hours whenrequired.
- The formulation and strength (as tramadol is available in more than onestrength) must also be stated on the prescription.
From 10 June 2014, community pharmacists may contact the Practice for non-urgent
replacement prescriptions if they are presented with a Tramadol prescription dated
before the legislation came into force. The community pharmacist may also contact
the Practice if they have a Tramadol prescription that is awaiting collection or owing,
to ask the prescriber to review the prescription and issue a replacement.
Tramadol can no longer be prescribed as part of the NHS repeat dispensing scheme
as Schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs cannot be prescribed under these
arrangements. Community pharmacists have been advised to check all NHS repeat
dispensing prescriptions that they hold for Tramadol, and to contact the prescriber to
request a review of any tramadol prescriptions and if needed, a replacement FP10
In Egypt, however, it is a banned drug, as the country recently endured an opioid misuse crisis with Tramadol being the number oneabused drug. According to the Egyptian Drug Authority, the Ministry of Health and Population issued a decree on 12 February 2012 that Tramadol, according to Article 1, is added to Section 2 of roster number 1, complementary to the Anti-Narcotics Act number 182of 1960, for the Tramadol substance, its equivalent, salts, isotopes and any ingredient used in its preparation.
However,Laura Plummer from Hull did not know this when she visited Egypt in late 2017.
She was travelling to meet her husband, and brought with her 295 Tramadol tablets (roughly 2 and a half months’ supply) for her partner, as he was suffering from back pain following a recent car crash.
Upon arrival, Plummer was inspected at customs, and subsequently sentenced to 3 years in the infamous Al Qanater prison in Cairo. The woman claimed to have been unaware of the laws in Egypt, but judges did not view that as a sufficient excuse.
Despite several efforts from the British Foreign Office, Plummer still remains in custody, and has over 2 years remaining in her sentence. If British nationals are travelling to another country with a controlled drug, they must seek permission from the Home Office, prior to travelling.
Unfortunately for Laura Plummer, she was unaware of this when she flew to Egypt.
Nevertheless, now you know, so exercise caution when travelling to Egypt with prescription drugs.
Law 3: Debauchery
In 1967 homosexuality was officially decriminalised in England and Wales, with Northern Scotland (1980) and Ireland (1982) following suit shortly after. Gay marriage was then legalised in mainland Britain in 2013, which signalled a major step towards equality in the country, however, the laws in Egypt are not quite as progressive.
Whilst the act of homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt, it is heavily frowned upon and homosexuals are vulnerable to prosecution under ‘debauchery’ laws. In 2014, 16 men were sentenced to 3 years imprisonment after flying the Rainbow Flag at a festival.
These men were charged under the Anti-Prostitution Act No 10 law of 1961in Egypt, which prohibits ‘habitual debauchery,’ and the promotion of homosexual activity. The British Foreign Office advises homosexual citizens travelling to Egypt to not to show affection for one another in public, and not to tell people about their sexual preferences.
How to remain on the right side of the law in Egypt
The Foreign Office provides extensive advice to UK citizens looking to travel to Egypt, along with a full list of laws that differ from the UK. As Egypt is a predominantly Islamic-run country, there is a huge list of laws which do not apply in the UK.
Women must always dress modestly, and all visitors should adhere to local customs, and establishedreligious practices. Egypt is a country with various grey areas, however, behaviour in tourist resorts is largely ignored by the authorities.
If venturing out of a tourist resort, you must be sure to be on your best behaviour in order to avoid breaking the law, and landing yourself with a harsh prison sentence. Gamblers must be aware that they can bet in casinos as foreign nationals, but not so online.
Travellers on prescription drugs must check the status of that drug in Egypt prior to travel, and if necessary apply for special dispensation from the Home Office. Homosexuals must also hide their sexual preferences—certainly in public—to avoid being accused of debauchery.
Criticism of the President, the government, or the country’s laws online, may lead to a custodial sentence, so be discreet on social media too.
Although these are not laws, familiarising yourself with the culture of the country you’re visiting will enable you to enjoy a have a fun-filled trip, especially one with such a rich historical heritage, and one of the world’s greatest civilisations.
Keep in mind that most Egyptian employees expect tips after performing a service, known as Baksheesh. This can be expected for something as little as pressing the button in the elevator. Many workers will even ask you to tip them before you get a chance. The typical tip for minor services is 50pt to 1 LE. Due to the general shortage of small change, you may be forced to give 5 LE to do simple things like use the bathroom. Just understand that this is part of the culture.
Do not photograph people without their permission, and in areas frequented by tourists do not be surprised if a bit of baksheesh is requested. If you’re male, don’t be surprised if another male holds your hand or forearm or engages in some form of bodily contact – there’s no taboo against men holding hands and unlike in the West, this behaviour is not associated with homosexuality. In general, Egyptians are a lot more comfortable with less personal space than are most Westerners; however, pairs of Westerners should be cautious in engaging in same-sex contact. Normal contact is quite acceptable (shaking hands, pats on the shoulder, etc.) but holding hands could be mistaken in Westerners as a sign of homosexuality, which is quite taboo in Egypt. Smoking is very common and cigarettes are very cheap in Egypt.
Gamal Abdul Nasser, the second President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and many others are considered national heroes in Egypt; you should say absolutely nothing that could be perceived as offensive or derogatory regarding him. Tread carefully around such topics and let others guide the openness of the discussion. Many Egyptians have a different interpretation concerning ambiguous expressions such as freedom of speech and democracy. Likewise, don’t bring up politics and other delicate issues impulsively. It is advisable not to discuss Israel even if tempted; do not speak loudly about it as it may attract unwanted attention, even if you are only talking about it as a travel destination.
Never discuss religion from an atheistic or similar point of view. Even highly educated Egyptians who studied abroad won’t appreciate it and doors will close for you. Also be aware that the Islamic “call to prayer” takes place five times a day, and can be heard loudly almost anywhere you go. Just understand that most Egyptians are used to it, and enjoy it as part of the cultural experience.
Take great care if you choose to drink, especially if you’re from countries where heavy drinking is accepted. Even if you are used to it, you can’t estimate the effects of the climate, even at night. The impact drunk people have on Egyptians is quite considerable, and very negative. The best plan is just to abstain or limit yourself to one drink per meal while in Egypt, and it will be cheaper too!
Do not elicit any conversations about politics, but don’t be afraid to partake if a local you are speaking with (typically a middle-class and well educated shopkeeper) begins a rant about his hatred for the current administration (for whom they blame, rightly or wrongly, for the drop in tourism and economic loss). This will be a common theme that you’ll find many of the friendly locals go into, but certainly you don’t want to be seen as a foreigner coming in to insult their government with knowledge of only what you hear in the media.
Egyptians are generally a conservative people and many are religious and dress very conservatively. Although they accommodate foreigners being dressed a lot more skimpily, it is prudent not dress provocatively, if only to avoid having people stare at you. It is best to wear pants or jeans instead of shorts, as only tourists wear these. In modern nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars in Cairo, Alexandria, and other tourist destinations, you’ll find the dress code to be much less restrictive. Official or social functions and smart restaurants usually require more formal wear.
At the Giza Pyramids and other such places during the hot summer months, short sleeve tops and even sleeveless tops are acceptable for women (especially when travelling with a tour group). However, you should carry a scarf or something to cover up more, while travelling to, or from, the tourist destination.
Women should cover their arms and legs if travelling alone, and covering your hair may help to keep away unwanted attention. Though as a foreigner, you may get plenty of attention no matter what you wear, mainly including people staring at you along with some verbal harassment which you can try to ignore. Egyptian women, even those who wear the full hijab, (full hair and body dress cover) are often subjected to sexual harassment, including cat calls. You may find that completely covering up does not make a huge difference, with regards to harassment, versus wearing a top with shorter sleeves. In regards to harassment, it’s also important how you act. Going out with a group of people is also helpful, and the best thing to do is ignore men who give you unwanted attention. They want to get some reaction out of you. Also, one sign of respect is to use the Arabic greeting, “Asalamualaikum” (means “hello, peace be upon you”), and the other person should reply “Walaikumasalam” (“peace be upon you”). That lets the person know you want respect, and nothing else.