Notes on Compulsory Army Service in Egypt

For full recipes, please visit our recently launched Egyptian Cuisine Recipes web site.

Many countries have some form of compulsory Army service for a certain period, including Netherlands, Israel, Turkey, Egypt and others. In Egypt, service in the army was compulsory for most of the 20th century. It is restricted to males 18 years to 35 years who do have another male brother, and is physically and mentally fit. Those who study can have a temporary reprieve until they finish their study, to a maximum of 24 or so. The duration of the service varies from 1 year (plus 3 months training) for university graduates, to 3 years for those with only elementary education. Before 1952, service could be avoided if one paid a large sum of money to the government. After 1952, and in the name of equality, this practice was abolished, and every eligible person had to serve. On the face of it, service in the army makes a young youth ready for combat if need be, teaches him to be adaptable, resourceful and tough. Reality is much different though. The army in Egypt, just like many other countries, is the culmination of bureaucracy, favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, corruption. All of these are rampant in the government, but more so in the army.The reasons for this are plenty. Those who serve in the army are two types: the recruits forced to serve before they can hold a job, or  travel abroad, and career staff. The career staff are two classes, the higher rank army officers (Second Lieutenant to General), and the lower rank (Private, Sargeant, ...etc.). The officers are either from a technical background (medicine, engineering, ...etc.) graduating from normal technical colleges, or of military disciplines, graduating from specialized military academies. Most join the army because it is a guaranteed government job that pays a relatively good salary and pension, and comes with many perks, such as use of army clubs, percieved social status, ...etc.. The lower rank officers are mostly people from lower social levels who have no education and join the Army because it is the only hope they have for a paying job. This is true in most armies of the world, including Canada, UK, USA and others. These lower rank officers can later go up to the first few ranks of officers, but are often derogatorily called ضابط مخلة (Dufflebag Officer), because they joined the armies as private rank soldiers.Many of the permanent  staff, specially the lower rank ones, disdain the temporary recruits, envying them for having education and better job prospects. They therefore use all the tricks to make their life miserable for the duration they are in the army. Some get the sick feeling of pleasure from the misery of others. Some feel satisfaction from being able to humilate a medical doctor or an engineer. Most of this is allowed in the name of teaching discipline and absolute obedience. Others use their position and influence as a secondary source of income. For example, they would agree to give recruits extra vacation days in return for a bribe. Some of these recruits, most likely farmers with no education at all, need the vacations because they have married early and have a family to support, so they need the vacation to work.Those lucky recruits with connections can practically spend the whole duration at home, with all the paper work arranged to make them look like they have been "sent on a mission" or "on loan" to some other unit. This is reminiscent of George W Bush national guard service during the Vietnam War era, but on a larger scale.Those with no connections, and no money for bribes can only watch how cruel real life is  ... So, the army is mostly a demoralizing experience for those forced to do the compulsory service. Some reverse wisdom can be seen in proverbs and saying that are famous in the army such as:

  • "Injustice to all is justice!" الظلم لما يعم يبقى عدل This is told by officers when recruits complain of some situation. The response is to apply injustice to everyone, then it becomes justice. Of course, not even this twisted logic is true, given the bribes and favoritism that are widely practiced.
  • "In the army, you have to find a way"الجيش قال لك اتصرف. This used to mean resourcefulness, and making do with what you have. However it gradually evolved into "the ends justify the means", such as bribes.
  • "Talk only about yourself" اتكلم عن نفسك بس. A rebellion in the army is a big disaster to the chain of command. A mutiny used to be punishable by death (e.g. Fletcher Christian and the Mutiny on the Bounty). Hence, the army always do not want any kind of groups forming under any circumstances.

Of course, the Egyptian army is up to the challenge in the battlefield, no doubts about that. However, the compulsory draft system is absolutely useless, and is a remnant from another age.



army exemption certificate

Can anyone please inform of the length of time it takes to be issued the egyptian army certificate.My husband and I were in egypt since november,I myself had to leave the end of january due to being pregnant.Now my husband is currently stuck in egypt till this day,has been told he has a temporary clearance from army and is awaiting his official cert.Everytime he goes down to see if he can obtain it to travel back to Ireland they give him another 10-15days excuse. Can anyone pls tell me why they are doing this?

Am in the same situation? Do

Am in the same situation? Do you have any further information you could share with me? Thanks, Amy

What are the odds?

Hi. I'm English, my fiance is Egyptian, naturally. He is 27 years old. He had his national service postponed whilst he was "at" university, though like so many others, he was working. His father died when he was 18 years old. He had four older sisters' weddings to pay for, his mother to support, though he does have two younger brothers. One is working, one is still studying. He is talking about enrolling at another university to get another three years postponement, then, god willing, paying the fine at 30 and being free of it. He said he'd be happy to do military service, but as he has no degree this will mean 3 years on a wage that he can't even sustain himself, let alone his family. Also, we'd like to get married, and I would prefer to live here as I'm part way through studying for a qualification which would be meaningless in Egypt.

He always says it's ok, don't worry, everything will be fine, but I was reading tonight that sometimes they don't just get a fine. Sometimes it's a 1-3 year jail term, if the judge feels that way inclined on the day. I'm getting more and more anxious.

I want to get married here but if we apply for the fiance visa are the Egyptian officials going to automatically say no? Does he have to give them a reason to travel or is that for the British Embassy when he applies for the visa? Or, if he does get the postponement from the university, will he have to give a reason why he wants to travel when he asks them for the stamp or what have you? So many questions. Sorry. We do want to do everything above board and there's no way of him getting "lost" and overstaying when he gets here. I work in the legal profession and it has to be 100% legit.

I guess I'm grasping at straws trying to find any way out of it. Ooh, my grandmother worked for the police force, my brother works for the Home Office (British Government Department) and my boss ran for parliament. Do you think they might decline him on this basis? Is it worth a trip to Israel? Should I convince him he should grow a beard? Any advice would be more than welcome.

Thanks for listening.

question, I have a friend who


I have a friend who has an Egyptian boyfriend, according to him he left before serving in the military, he now has an emergency which will require him to go back to Egypt but he is only 27 and according to him he is not returning because he will be forced to join the millitary or will get punished for evading his service. Is this accurate, if so is there anything that can be done if he is in the middle of his US Citizenship?

I have a question, My best

I have a question, My best firend has an Egyptian boyfriend who left Egypt before entering the military. He is now 27 and has a family emergency and will need to go back. He is in the middle of obtianing his US Citizenship and is dreading it. I dont know if its true but from what he said if he goes back he will be drafted or punished for not doing it before and leaving. Is this accurate if not is ther anything he can do? PLEASE HELP


Hi,,im looking for information please.. i am to be married to an egyptian man from luxor,,he is a teacher and an only son,,he has one sister,, he cares for his mother,, my question is ,, do you know if he still has to do the service in the army,, i have been told he can buy himself out for 28,000 egyptan pounds,,, is this true,,or a scam.. many thanks


How did you meet this "teacher"? Does he work or frequent tourist areas in Luxor or what? Why does he do so if he is not working in tourism? How can he be a teacher then?

To answer your question: if he is the only son for his parents, there is no army service at all for him. He would be exempt, even if his father is alive, and even if he has one or more female siblings.

If he is asking you for money to get exemption, then it is definitely a scam.

Please read my article and comments on warning to female tourists thinking of marrying Egyptians.

To Allison re the army

Beware of your "teacher" future husband in Luxor.I know of the man who perpetuates this scam and he is looking for a way to get some quick money from you. He has had and has, many foreign wives. The ususal price for a buy out of the army is 5000 LE or so I have heard. Dump him fast!

Egyptian husband has a green card...

My Egyptian husband has a green card here in the US with me...we have lived in the US together for two years...before he got his visa to come here, he got permission to leave the country because he showed as being enrolled in university. If he is no longer enrolled in university, can the army take him, and what are the chances? Thank you!

When I say take him...

Sorry...when I say take him, I mean if we want to go back to visit his family...Thank you!