Religion: The two main religions in Egypt are Islam and Coptic Christianity.
People who have adopted Islam as their religion are called “Muslims”. The word Muslim essentially means, “One who surrenders to Allah (God). The greatest majority of Egyptians today are Muslims and, as conveyed by the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) obedience to the five tenets of Islam (the Creed being most important) are required:
- Creed: There is one God (Allah) and His messenger is Mohamed.
- Pray five times a day
- Zakat (the giving of alms) to those in need. This amount is 2.5% of any savings a person might have and that remained untouched for a period of one year.
- Seyam (fasting) during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset.
- Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca at least once in a person’s life, if financially possible.
The festival Eid al Adha commemorates the willingness of Abrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismael. Other names for this festival are Eid al Kebir or Kurban Bairum. It is customary for working people to have a holiday of at least two days during this time and employers usually give their domestic help half a month’s salary for these two days. Families often travel during this period to visit the gravesites of departed family at the beginning of this 3-day celebration.
Coptic Christians (Copts) consider themselves to be the original descendants of the Ancient Egyptians. According to traditional beliefs, Saint Mark brought Christianity to Egypt about 50 years after the death of Jesus. The Copts were inhabitants of Egypt during the time the Arabs conquered Egypt in the 6th century. Coptic Christians believe in the Old and New Testament and in all Saints.
Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January and are expected to fast for 45 days beforehand. There are additional times throughout the year when fasting is observed.
The principal celebrations for Coptic Christians are Christmas and Easter On these days, they give alms (Hassana) buy new clothes, visit relatives and exchange sweets. Coptic Christians are encouraged to give 10% of their income to the poor or to support the church.