Egypt/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.2 National definition of culture

Culture, in its narrow sense, refers to the creative and artistic intellectual activities of man, primarily literature and the arts and then certain other forms of intellectual labour[1].

Beginning in the mid-seventies, the concept of culture in Egypt has been linked to economy. Culture was transformed into a commodity that depends on a number of cultural industries (such as museums, the theatre industry, and handcrafts, including textiles, carpets, pottery, ceramics, and glass and metal handcrafted items, etc). The importance of such arts stems from the fact that they represent the history and cultural concepts of a people: its identity (see chapters 1 and 5).

The national definition of culture in Egypt can be linked to religious identity. With the early eighties, support and promotion of the radical Wahhabi religious culture started to increase. Wahhabism transforms religion into mere rituals and costumes. Many Egyptians who travelled to work in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Countries brought back with them a large part of Gulf culture into Egypt, including the hijab (headscarf) and the niqab (veil) which have turned into a controversial social fashion that continues to provoke controversy and spawn fatwas, in newspapers, on TV channels, in the parliament, and even in the MOC. The minister had made statements attacking hijab only to retract them later before the parliament. Controversy over fatwas, religious rituals, and Islamic law in the last three decades has occupied a large part of Egyptian life. This situation has fuelled a number of industries, such as creation of star preachers (Amr Khalid and others), the design and manufacture of “veiled fashion”, and of course printing, publishing and promoting tremendous numbers of religious books.

[1] Ahmad  Khalifah (supervisor), The Arabic Social Sciences Dictionary, UNESCO and the Regional Arabic Centre for Research and Documentation of Social Sciences (1st edition) Cairo, 1994, subject: culture.

Chapter published: 01-04-2016