Egyptian culture has been known to humor the idea of superstitions and habits that bring about good or bad luck – many Egyptians remember their parents and grandparents making strange claims that they would just accept at face value to avoid seeming disrespectful.
As a child, my late grandmother told me that if I hung my clothes inside out, my day would turn ‘inside out’ as well – meaning I’d stay up all night and end up sleeping all day.
Over time, I realized this was just her way of encouraging her grandchildren to hang their clothes neatly. Talk to almost any Egyptian and you’ll hear similar anecdotes – while some are stranger than others, they’re all humorous odes to the odd things we believed as children.
We asked some Egyptians about the strangest superstitions they recall hearing during their childhoods and some were rather endearing…
“I learned from my grandma that if you walk or pass in between two people while they are chatting, this will cause them to break ties and walk their separate ways. So, every time I walked between her and someone else, she’d hold my arm and make me walk back again to undo the curse!” – Nadine Hesham, 34
“Don’t kiss someone on the eye or you will be separated, even if that kiss is by mistake then it is an omen for separation.” – Cinderella Nabil, 37
Others were oddly bathroom-specific…
“I didn’t grow up hearing superstitions from my parents but I remember people telling me not to whistle in the bathroom because it brings bad luck.” – Aya Zain, 29
“If you stay undressed in the bathroom for too long, you’ll get possessed by a spirit (3afreet), and if you sing in the bathroom it might possess you too.” – Mohannad El Morsy, 30
Some were religious…
“If you’re praying in a group and your toes don’t touch, you’re leaving space for the devil to stand between you.” – Aly Khalifa, 27
“A flip flop (shebsheb) facing the sky is a cuss out to God.” – Moataza Khalid, 33
Some involved household rodents and insects…
“That the gecko (bors) is haram and that killing it rids you of evil energy in the home.” – Khaled Halawa, 33
“That having big ants [called ‘Farsi’ ants in Egypt] at home is a result of the evil eye. I heard it from my sister but I’m not sure how she got that info.” – Basant Samhout, 22
Some just sought to discourage dangerous behaviors…
“When I was eight or nine years old, I set our trash can on fire after seeing a woman on the street set garbage on fire. To scare me, my mom told me that if I ever set something on fire again I would be like Abo Regl Maslookha (the man with the skinned leg).
However, I sat with my cousins later on and we started doing an analysis of Abo Regl Maslookha and concluded that he wasn’t necessarily an evil person or someone to be afraid of. Maybe he just spilled hot water on his leg! So, the superstition that he is scary or screaming is just because he’s in pain because of his injury, and that he’s probably a kind person. Plus, he has a skinned leg…if he chases us, he won’t be able to catch us!” – Ahmed Ali, 36
Thankfully, many were debunked with the help of science and logic…
“My grandmother, Allah yerhamha, used to tell me that if I didn’t finish all my food, it would chase me and eat me instead during the Day of Judgment. I kept believing this until I once questioned how Molokheya would be able to run.” – Tarek Assem, 31
“That not covering my mouth while yawning will invite the devil to urinate in my mouth, and that if I sing out loud in the bathroom, snakes will crawl out from the drain. That’s the legacy of my grandma’s mom. I guess the first one was her old-school way of changing behavioral patterns. As for the second one, I lived with it till I developed a more logical mindset that understood how sewers, urban living, and snakes work.” – Mohy Omar, 31
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