7 Illegal Things in Egypt That You Might Not Know About
Updated: Apr 7, 2019
So obviously none of us ever *intend* to break the law (well…), but when it comes to foreign countries especially, it’s always a smart idea to be on the right side of the legal system.
Below are a few things that tourists might not think twice about, but are actually illegal in Egypt. It’s good to always be aware of these things just so you don’t find yourself doing something that gets you into a very unnecessary bind. We’re here to have fun, people!!!
Unless you have explicit permission from the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority, you unfortunately won’t be able to get those sweet aerial views of the Pyramids that you had your eye on *sad emoji*. It’s a bummer, but oh well.
It’s also probably a good idea to leave your drone at home completely (even if you’re heading to another destination before/after Egypt) because there have been numerous reported incidents of drones being seized at Cairo Airport. You might be able to wrangle out of them seizing it, but only after an hour or two of intense questioning, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
And while fancy video equipment isn’t illegal, you’ll probably be stopped at Customs for extensive questioning regarding the equipment, so it’s best to just keep your electronic equipment limited and sweet.
If you desperately need a drone for whatever reason, you can contact the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority here: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Sharing an apartment or hotel room with an Egyptian of the opposite sex if you’re not married
Egyptian law requires that any Egyptian man or woman sharing a room or apartment with a member of the opposite sex have a marriage certificate.
If you’re a foreigner and your partner or friend or whomever you plan to share a room with is foreign too, then you don’t need a marriage certificate and you’re totally fine. Nationality is obviously proven by passport. For example, a hotel in Egypt won’t allow an Egyptian passport-holder and a foreign passport-holder couple to share the same room, but they would allow two foreign passport-holders.
You can also share hotel rooms & apartments with Egyptian friends of the same sex without any issue.
3. Photography near military facilities
If you’re wandering around with your camera, make sure you keep an eye out for military buildings or sites because photography there is prohibited for national security.
If you find yourself accidentally taking pictures near a military facility (in your defense, you probably had no idea that’s what it was), you might find officers come up to you suddenly and demand that you stop shooting/filming. They also might require you to show them the pictures you took and delete them.
Usually the problem won’t be escalated beyond that, but make sure you comply with their demands to stop shooting and to delete the pictures taken so that you’re left to continue on your merry way as soon as possible.
4. The rainbow flag
In 2017 there was an uproar in Egypt over the raising of the rainbow flag at a music concert. Homosexuality isn’t *technically* illegal in Egypt, but many of the LGBTQ community have been questioned and arrested under “debauchery laws”. Many Egyptians view homosexuality as immoral and a crime, and after the 2017 concert the rainbow flag was banned alongside any media statements that supported homosexuality.
This does not mean at all that gay or LGBTQ tourists shouldn’t come to Egypt. It just means that vocally supporting homosexuality or waving the rainbow flag in a public setting isn’t the smartest thing to do. PDA between gay couples in public spaces is also something you should definitely try to avoid.
5. Bringing certain medications into the country
There was a recent brouhaha when a British tourist was arrested in Hurghada Airport for bringing in 290 tablets of the painkiller Tramadol. While Tramadol is legal in the UK, it’s banned in Egypt due to the large amount of people who abuse it as a substitute for heroin.
If there’s certain prescription medications you *must* bring with you into the country, make sure that a) you don’t bring in a large quantity, just the amount you need, and b) that you have a medical certificate from your doctor.
Egypt offers a huge array of medication over the counter so it’s very easy to procure basic meds, painkillers, antibiotics, heart medicine, etc.
6. Drinking on Islamic holidays (except in hotels)
During the month of Ramadan and a couple other days of the year (Islamic New Year, for example), the restaurants and bars of the city become dry, meaning it’s illegal for them to serve alcohol to anyone, including foreigners.
Even retail shops like Drinkies will be closed for the full month of Ramadan; for the singular days, the ban on alcohol usually lasts for 24 hours, from sunset to sunset.
The exception to this is hotels. If you’re a foreign-passport holder, you’re allowed to drink alcohol in hotel restaurants, bars, the lobby, your room, etc.
7. Severely criticizing Egypt publicly or on social media (while you’re in the country)
This is a relatively new case so we’re not sure to what extent the government cracks down on public bad-mouthers, but we’ll give you the heads up anyway.
In June 2018 a Lebanese tourist was sentenced to 8 years in prison because she posted a Facebook video calling Egypt a “son of a bitch country”. She was arrested at Cairo Airport prior to her flight home.
So our advice to you would be, that no matter your *personal* thoughts on the country, keep it cute while you’re on Egyptian soil and then let it rip once you’re back home (but hopefully that won’t be the case!!!)
Local recommendation: while the above “illegal things” might make you feel worried or anxious about walking the straight and narrow while in Egypt, there’s really no reason to be worried. 99% of tourists have zero brushes with the law, and officers tend to be understanding towards accidental offenders.