Cairo: Egypt’s Suez Canal province of Al Esmailia has started enforcing an order obliging coffee shops to close by midnight in an attempt to curtail high divorce rates, Egyptian media reported on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the province’s Governor Maj. Gen. Hamdi Othman ordered cafes and cybergame stores to end their daily business by 1am in summer and midnight in winter, departing from a long tradition in Egypt where different businesses can remain open round the clock.
“Husbands sitting at cafes for long hours and their spending of money ranging from 600 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh133 to Dh221) per month is one reason for the divorce phenomenon,” the governor told a family-awareness gathering in the city.
He was also quoted as saying that divorce rates in the province are high if compared to its population of around 1.3 million people.
A relevant circular, signed by the governor, states that the early closure comes to the benefit of public health and ease the pressure on electricity and water facilities in Al Esmailia, around 115 kilometres from Cairo.
Violators of the order can face permanent closure of their stores.
It is not clear yet if other Egyptian cities will follow suit.
Coffee shops in working-class and upmarket areas are rife in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country of nearly 100 million people.
The majority of Egyptians have felt the pinch of tough austerity measures that the government says is necessary to heal the country’s ailing economy. The measures, which have secured Egypt a badly needed loan of $12 billion over three years from the IMF, included cuts in energy subsidy and flotation of the local pound.
In recent years, Egypt’s state officials and experts have warned against a spike in divorce rates in the country.
Divorce reached 198,000 cases in 2017, up 3.2 per cent against the previous year, according to official figures.
The Egyptian family spends an average 4.7 per cent of its income per month on smoking, according to a report released this week by the state statistics centre, the Central Agency for Public Statistics and Mobilisation.