Confusion over Egyptian closing times

The Egyptian government has delayed implementing its nationwide closing hours, a controversial piece of legislation that has generated a backlash from the public and business owners, particularly in the capital Cairo whose all-night bars have earned it a reputation as a city that never sleeps.

The government has said that the legislation - which would oblige shops to close each night at 22.00, and restaurants and bars at midnight - would save an annual three billion Egyptian pounds (about €383 million) by conserving electricity in a country crippled by economic crisis and fuel shortages. However many commentators see the move as a curfew or an attempt by Islamists and secular conservatives to "tame" the Egyptian population which has been involved in widespread protests since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

The curfew was originally meant to come into effect on 3 November, but two days before its introduction the government postponed the legislation until the following week, pending "executive regulations". Lobbying from business interest groups that described the plan as unclear and say it would lead to higher unemployment may also have influenced the government’s decision.

Egypt’s Union of Chambers of Commerce has suggested extending the shops' closing time to 23.00 for big cities and tourist sites such as Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and resort areas like Sharm el-Sheikh. Critics of the plan believe that it would be almost impossible to enforce in Cairo, with its estimated 18 million inhabitants and multitude of late night traders.

Pharmacies and businesses with a tourism license will be exempt from the new regulations.