As in most of the Arab world, personal relationships are the key to a successful meeting and good quality relationships can help to cut through the tendency towards an overly bureaucratic approach.
Who you are and who you know really matter and for that reason it is often important to appoint a local go-between who has ready-made contacts who can operate on your behalf (and local often means local to the city or town.)
Initial meetings can often seem very formal to western businessmen and involve coffee, cake and lots of small talk – even when time is very short. Do not make the mistake of seeing these formalities as a waste of valuable time, as they form an integral part of the early relationship-building process. If time is not restricted, these formalities can start to eat away at the day and it is sometimes difficult to schedule more than one meeting per day.
If concrete issues are discussed, it is advisable to ensure that specific actions are agreed upon and that individuals are tasked to perform them. If this is not done, things can very often drift and several months can elapse without any discernible progress being made.
Time is very elastic and agreed start and finish times should not be relied upon. Patience is very necessary.
Do not try to arrange meetings on a Friday (or even Thursday) as these are the days of rest.
It is advisable to travel to Egypt on business with a good supply of gifts, which can be given to key contacts. Gifts should be small and it is quite a good idea if they convey something of where you come from.
However, when giving gifts be conscious of Muslim sensitivities and avoid the following: