Traditionally viewed within Islam as unclean, the role of dogs in Egyptian society is now changing. Once a rarity, pet dogs are now a common sight in cities like Cairo, with dog ownership soaring over the past decade.

According to the Egyptian Kennel Association, the number of registered dog owners in the country jumped from 2,000 in 2016 to over 860,000 in 2019. Experts say the increase is due to a changing culture in the Arab world.

In mainstream Islam, dogs are seen as unclean animals, with Muslims only allowed to own dogs for the purposes of guarding or hunting. Recently, well-respected Egyptian religious scholars have come forward with fatwas, or a ruling on Islamic law, arguing that dogs are not unclean, and owning them would not undermine a Muslim’s piety.

Some experts say the pet ownership reflects Egyptians’ desires to stress social identity and embrace lifestyles not common in the country.