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.



ok but you said i was a dual

ok but you said i was a dual citizen. My question is what do I have to do to be considered a dual citizen?

I plan on being in Egypt for about 8 months. I will be working there. Not just a tourist. So I need to make sure I am still there and avoiding the army situation. Not just fleeing the country.

Don't know ...

I answered your question about army service to the best of my knowledge.

I don't know the official answers to what constitutes dual citizenship. Since you are 23 years old, a birth certificate is not enough for other things. You need a National ID (RAQAM QAWMI), and I am not sure if the birth certificate is enough to have that issued.

Staying there is not an issue. Work is another matter. Not sure what employers require if you do not have a National ID. If you have been offered employment, or it is via relatives or acquaintances, then they have it sorted out. If you plan to look for work through regular channels, then I am not sure if that is going to net you any jobs.

Another option is that you consider yourself a foreigner, and get a work permit. Don't know much about what that entails.
Khalid Baheyeldin

hi Im British married to


Im British married to Egyptian he got he's settlement visa came to England with me but due to family urgency he returned back within 1 month now he can't come out the country due to some military issue? can you explain to me why he can't leave the country when he has a stamp on he's passport, he is struggling to get a certificate from he's university to get out the country as it can only be given once a year, Can you think of a way out for him im currently expecting our baby

What stamp?

What stamp? You mean settlement in England?

That has no bearing on his status in Egypt, since he is still using his Egyptian passport for travel.

If he a) has not completed his army service, nor b) has an exemption due to medical reasons or due to having no male siblings, nor c) has a postponement due to studying at a university, then cannot go out until he finishes the army service.

I am not sure on what details he needs for the university, nor how frequently it can be issued.

He should have weighed the risks of all this before he went back home.

P.S. I am not sure this comment is going to apply in your case, but I have the feeling that a lot of Egyptian males marry Western women just to get residence and eventually citizenship. I have seen this in many comments above. They then use the army as an excuse to break off the relation. I hope that is not the case for you, for the sake of the innocent baby.
Khalid Baheyeldin

If he is stuck and cant get

If he is stuck and cant get out, have him go to the school and tell them he needs a paper to get his drivers license, they know which paper it is, with that paper, make a new passport and say it was stolen, then get tickets to sudan for either his mother or his father, then go to the school and tell them he needs to travel to acompany his father and show them his tickets, his new passport, and his father or mothers passport with the ticktes. They will give him the paper to travel, then travel thru sudan.

wait your right in what you

wait your right in what you say he does have postpontment studying at uni but the truth is he's not studying they gave him a certificate to travel out the country the first time but this time round they saying he cannot obtain this certificate he can only get it once a year, do you know if this sounds true? I want to believe him but i'm not sure what to believe anymore especially in my state. he didn't like England as it was but the fact he wants to come after a year Please shed some light. O by the way yes he has a settlement visa for 2 years so it won't be a problem for him to come back into the country.

Summer jobs

The idea of allowing university students to travel is for summer jobs and the like.

Because it is now autumn, and not summer, this may be why they are not giving him the permit to travel.

Can't tell for sure if this is valid and sincere or not.

Whan you say "did not like England" and "wants to come after a year", these do not sound very assuring, are they?

Somehow I am suspicious, but I can only judge from two messages, which is not much.

Why don't you ask him directly whether he wants to continue this marriage or not, or if he is just being evasive and buying time?
Khalid Baheyeldin

Let me explain to you he's a

Let me explain to you he's a drop out at University they gave him the first permit without a problem we travelled in August he went back in September he's been trying to get another one to leave but he's being told he can't have one they can only issue once a year? He's a drop out student for Port Said University but currently working in Sharm hope this sheds light on what he's all about.. yes he didn't like England the fact he kept telling me in my pregnancy i told him many a times to go and when he got the news he went and now tells me to go there i'v told him i can't move there its better future for my child here hence he will come back but dont you worry i won't give him a right a stay so fast i'll keep extending it, that's if we have a relationship left just spoke to him about all this and he said i told you why don't you believe me? khalas you have anything more to say i said no goodnight oops i know that's a sign of trouble

Thanks for your help your a star whoever you are!!!

Well ...

Well, I can't make out what the last few sentences mean exactly. Seems things may not be going well.

Regardless, a few points:

- Marriage can suffer or fail with people close or far apart.

- I feel somewhat ashamed of what some Egyptians are doing. But in a large country of 70+ million, there is bound to be every type of people in there.

I wish European girls are more careful picking whom they associate with when in Egypt, or in other tourist areas (Spain, Italy and others). I read too many horror stories about them being taken for a ride, whether it is getting money from relatively rich tourists by resort workers, or some temporary sexual gratification, or longer term emotional relationships, and gaining residence and/or citizenship in European countries.
Khalid Baheyeldin

Yes!!! I know what u mean

Yes!!! I know what u mean about resort workers having a one night stand with female tourists. I once chatted with this egyptian guy who works in a hotel and he told me that he was seduced by this spanish lady tourist to come up to her room and have sex with her. He told me he had muta'a marriage with her and i was like WHAT??!! Astaghfirullah my hands itched to slap his face. BTW about the military thing, I'm currently having a relationship with an egyptian guy who is currently conscripted into the army. We're not married yet so we don't have to go through all those marriage-army issues. InshaAllah, i do hope to marry him after he leaves the army and finds a job. My advice to all lady foreigners out there: Do not marry an Egyptian man until he has already completed his military service.