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Egypt travel guide

Egypt

travel guide

Egypt, formally the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental republic that spans the northeastern corner of Africa and the southwest corner of Asia via the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered to the northeast by the Gaza Strip and Israel, to the east by the Gulf of Aqaba, to the east and south by the Red Sea, to the south by Sudan, and to the west by Libya. Jordan is across the Gulf of Aqaba, and Saudi Arabia is across the Sinai Peninsula, however Jordan and Saudi Arabia do not have a territorial border with Egypt. It is the only continuous Afrasian nation on the planet.

Egypt has one of the world’s oldest histories, having emerged as one of the world’s first nation states in the ninth millennium BC. Ancient Egypt, considered a birthplace of civilisation, witnessed some of the first advances in writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organized religion, and central government. Iconic structures like the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well as the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, represent this heritage and continue to be a key focus of archaeological study and public fascination across the world.

Egypt’s rich cultural legacy is an important component of its national identity, which has withstood and, at times, incorporated numerous foreign influences such as Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and European. Egypt, one of the oldest Christian centers, was Islamized in the seventh century and remains a primarily Muslim country, but with a sizable Christian minority.

Egypt is the most populated country in North Africa and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa (after Nigeria and Ethiopia), and the fifteenth-most populous in the world, with a population of over 90 million people. The vast majority of its inhabitants reside around the Nile River’s banks, a region of roughly 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles), where the only fertile land can be found. The vast swaths of the Sahara desert, which cover the majority of Egypt’s land, are sparsely populated. About half of Egypt’s population lives in cities, with the majority concentrated in Greater Cairo, Alexandria, and other large Nile Delta cities.

Egypt now is seen as a regional and intermediate power, with substantial cultural, political, and military clout in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Muslim world. Egypt’s economy is one of the most diverse and largest in the Middle East, and it is expected to be one of the greatest in the twenty-first century. Egypt belongs to the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab League, the African Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

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Egypt - Info Card

Population

102,674,145

Currency

Egyptian pound (LE) (EGP)

Time zone

UTC+2 (EGY)

Area

1,010,408 km2 (390,121 sq mi)

Calling code

+20

Official language

Arabic

Egypt - Introduction

Weather & Climate in Egypt

Egypt’s climate is generally classified as desert. It is an extension of the great Sahara desert that encircles North Africa, and except for the narrow strip of irrigated land along the Nile, very little could survive there. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, remarked: “Egypt is the gift of the Nile.

Note that sandstorms can occur from March to May, especially during the day. These storms not only make the air sandy and very dry, but they also temporarily increase the temperature. Sandstorms can always occur at other times of the year, but rarely, and in winter they do not usually increase the temperature.

Summers are usually hot, rainless and extremely sunny, but the air can be humid on the coast and very dry in the south, off the coast and away from the Nile Delta. Winters are temperate. The months of November to March are certainly the most pleasant months to travel to Egypt. Only the northern coast (from the sea 50 km south) receives some rain in winter; the rest of Egypt receives little or no rain at all. So you don’t need rain gear!

Thunderstorms accompanied by heavy rains, often lasting several hours, are not uncommon in Alexandria, Marsa Matruh, and all other northern coastal areas, and even in the delta. In some years, showers can last a full day or more, although the rain tends to be lighter. Hail is not uncommon either, especially in the desert where the weather is generally colder and light hail and even frost can occur on non-rainy days.

In the Sinai Mountains, and also in the Red Sea Mountains that stretch along the Red Sea coast on the eastern side of the country, there is generally more rain than in the surrounding desert, as rain clouds tend to form when warm air evaporates and rises as it moves over higher ground. Flooding is a common weather phenomenon in these areas because a lot of rain can fall in a very short time (often a day or two), not counting thunder and lightning. Because of the desert and the lack of lush vegetation, rainwater falls rapidly on hills and mountains, flooding local areas. In fact, every year local newspapers report flash floods in the Sinai and Upper Egypt (southern Egypt) regions, such as in Assiut, Luxor, Aswan, Sohag, and so on. However, these floods usually occur only two or three times a year, or not at all in some years. When they do occur, however, it is often at the beginning of the season, in September or October, or at the end of winter, in February. Because of this risk, caution should be exercised when venturing into the desert or camping in certain areas, as water can suddenly drain from nearby mountains and hills. It can sometimes carry a fairly strong current that is known to cause the houses of rural people who have built their homes of mud, brick, and other fragile materials to collapse. The poor risk drowning in the flood waters, which is strange for a desert country that does not receive much rainfall.

In addition, at higher altitudes, such as on the peaks of the Sinai Mountains, temperatures can drop much more than in the surrounding areas. For example, snowfall can occur during the winter months, as temperatures can drop below freezing, as well as frost even in low-lying desert areas, where temperatures are usually a few degrees colder than in the cities.

The coldest time of the year is during December, January and February. However, the winter days in the southern parts of the Nile Valley are warmer, but their nights are as cool as those in the northern places.

Visitors should be aware that most houses and apartments in Egypt do not have central heating as in countries with a colder climate, as the main concern of the weather in Egypt is heat. Therefore, although the weather is not so cold for a western traveler, it may be colder inside the house during the day, but the temperature is more stable inside than outside. In Cairo, indoor temperatures without air conditioning are about 15°C on the coldest winter days and about 34°C on the hottest summer days.

Remarkable climatic characteristics :

  • Alexandria and Rafah are the wettest places.
  • Assiut is the driest city
  • Aswan as well as Luxor are destinations that experience the hottest days of summer.
  • St. Catherine’s (South Sinai mountain region) has the coldest nights and harshest winters.

Cities or seaside resorts where the summer days are the coolest :

  • Marsa Matruh
  • Port Said

Places where temperature fluctuations are the smallest:

  • Port Said
  • Kosseir
  • Ras El Bar (a coastal town near Damietta)
  • Baltim (on the north coast in the middle)
  • Damietta (at the eastern end of the Nile basin on the north coast)
  • Alexandria

Cities or seaside resorts where winter nights are the warmest :

  • Marsa Alam
  • Kosseir
  • Sharm el Sheikh

Cities with the greatest temperature fluctuations between day and night :

  • Luxor
  • Minya (in the center of the Nile Valley)
  • Sohag (south of the Nile valley)
  • Qena (south of the Nile valley)

Geography Of Egypt

Egypt lies mainly between latitudes 22° and 32°N, and longitudes 25° and 35°E. With 1,001,450 square kilometers, it is the 30th largest country in the world. As a result of Egypt’s extremely dry climate, the major concentration of population is along the narrow valleys as well as the Nile Delta, with approximately 99% of the population occupying about 5.5% of its total land area. 98% of Egyptians are living in 3% of the country’s territory.

It is bordered by Libya on the west, Sudan on the south and Israel with the Gaza Strip on the east. Egypt, a transcontinental country, is linked by a land bridge ( Straits of Suez) between Africa and Asia, and by a waterway ( Suez Canal) connecting the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean through the Red Sea.

Except for the Nile Valley, most of the Egyptian landscape is desert, with a few scattered oases. The wind creates vast sand dunes more than 30 meters high. The Sahara Desert and parts of the Libyan Desert are part of Egypt. These deserts protected the empire of the pharaohs from western threats and were called “red earth” in ancient Egypt.

Cities include Alexandria, the second largest city; Aswan; Assiut; Cairo, the capital and largest city of modern Egypt; El Mahalla El Kubra; Giza, the site of the Pyramid of Cheops; Hurghada; Luxor; Kom Ombo; Port Safaga; Port Said; Sharm El Sheikh; Suez, where the southern end of the Suez Canal is located; Zagazig; and Minya. Oases include Bahariya, Dakhla, Farafra, Kharga, and Siwa. Protected areas include Ras Mohamed National Park, Zaranik Protectorate, and Siwa.

On March 13, 2015, plans for a new capital of Egypt were announced.

Language in Egypt

The mother tongue spoken in most of the country and the national lingua franca is Egyptian Arabic.

The official language of Egypt is standard Arabic. Although it is not very pronounced, it is taught in schools and therefore understood by almost everyone except for a small minority, mainly uneducated people, Bedouins and desert dwellers. The Standard Arabic is the language that is used in the majority of written and official forms, including TV, print newspapers, official government speeches, education and teaching institutions.

Egyptian Arabic is one of the many regional (mostly incomprehensible) dialects of Arabic. Each country in the Arab world has its own dialect; Egyptian Arabic has the largest number of native speakers and is actually understood to varying degrees by many Arabic speakers, particularly in neighbouring countries, due to the popularity of Egyptian cinema and media in the Middle East.

Most of the educated inhabitants learn English at school. Travellers are unlikely to have difficulty finding someone who speaks English, especially in cities and tourist centres. Although people who attend these schools may have levels of language proficiency that vary according to their education and socio-economic class (the higher the level, the better the proficiency).

In the educated class, people over the age of 40 are generally more likely to speak French, as French was the predominant language of education in the past, before English became dominant.

Other languages such as German, Italian, Spanish and Russian may be spoken by tour guides as many tourists come from Europe speaking these languages.

Following the usual rules of politeness, instead of simply starting a conversation with someone in English, you should ask them: “Do you speak English? So much the better if you can do it in Egyptian Arabic: betetkallem engelīzi? (speaking to a man) or betetkallemi engelīzi ? (addressed to a woman).

In the southern parts of the country, such as Luxor and Aswan, the local language is Sa’idi Arabic and is different from the Egyptian metropolitan Arabic spoken in the north of the country. In the far south, there are also black Africans who speak completely different Nubian languages. But in principle everyone can speak Egyptian Arabic, and in the cities they can often speak Standard Arabic and English as well.

The inhabitants of Siwa and the western deserts of Egypt speak a language called Siwi (a Berber language), which is an unwritten language of their own. They are bilingual in Egyptian Arabic.

Bedouin tribes (mainly Sinai natives) in other parts of Egypt have their own Arabic dialect that ordinary urban Egyptians would not normally understand, but these people will also be bilingual in the Egyptian dialect.

Contrary to what some people believe, no one speaks or understands hieroglyphics (the ancient Egyptian language of the pharaohs), except those who have studied Egyptology or work in the field of archaeology or visit museums.

Demographics Of Egypt

In 2015, with a population of around 88 million, Egypt was the most populated nation in the Middle East and the 3rd most populated country in the African continent. Its population grew rapidly from 1970 to 2010 due to medical advances and the increase in agricultural productivity made possible by the Green Revolution. The population of Egypt was estimated at 3 million when Napoleon invaded the country in 1798.

The Egyptian population is highly urbanised and concentrated along the Nile (particularly in Cairo and Alexandria), in the delta and near the Suez Canal. Demographically, the Egyptians are divided between those who live in the large urban centres and the Fellahin or farmers from the rural areas.

An estimated 2.7 million Egyptians live abroad. Most of these Egyptian migrants, about 70%, are living in Arab countries ( Saudi Arabia with 923,600, Libya with 332,600, Jordan with 226,850, Kuwait with 190,550 while the rest are living in other parts of the region) while the remaining 30% live predominantly in Europe and North America (318,000 in the US, 110,000 are in Canada) as well as 90,000 in Italy.

Of all people in the ancient Middle East, only the Egyptians have remained to be where they have been and they have remained what they were, despite having changed their language once as well as their religion twice. In a way, they represent the oldest nation in the world. For most of its history, Egypt has been a state, but only in recent years it has become a true nation state, having a national government which claims the allegiance of its citizens at the basis of a common identity.

Ethnic groups in Egypt

With 91% of the total population, ethnic Egyptians represent the largest ethnic group in the country. Minorities include the Abazas, Turks, Greeks, Arab Bedouins living in the Eastern Desert and Sinai Peninsula, Berber-speaking Siwis in the Siwa Oasis and also the Nubian populations based alongside the Nile. There are also tribal communities of the Bejacunities, which are concentrated in the most south-eastern corner of the country, and a number of cathedral clans, especially in the Nile Delta and Faiyum, which are gradually being assimilated as urbanisation progresses.

Egypt is also home to an unknown number of refugees and asylum seekers, estimated at between 500,000 and 3 million. There are about 70,000 Palestinian refugees and about 150,000 recently arrived Iraqi refugees, but the number of the largest group, the Sudanese, is controversial. The once vibrant and ancient Greek and Jewish communities in Egypt have almost disappeared, and only a small number have remained in the country, but many Egyptian Jews visit the country for religious or other reasons and for tourism. Several important Jewish archaeological and historical sites are located in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities.

Religion in Egypt

With Islam as the state religion, Egypt is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country. The proportion of followers of different religions is a controversial issue in Egypt. An estimated 90% are identified as Muslims, 9% as Coptic Christians and 1% as other Christian denominations.  Non-denominational Muslims make up about 12% of the population.

Despite being a predominantly Christian country before the 7th century, Egypt gradually became a predominantly Muslim country after the arrival of Islam and developed into a political and cultural center of the Muslim world. During Anwar Sadat’s reign, the Islam has become the official national religion while Sharia law has become the main source of law. Approximately 15 million Egyptians followed the orders of the indigenous Sufis, however the Sufi leadership has claimed that this number is much higher, since many Egyptian Sufis are not formally registered as members of a Sufi order.

There is also a Shiite minority. According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, there are between 1 and 2.2 million Shiites, potentially as many as 3 million. The population of Ahmadiyya is assumed to be less than approximately 50,000, while the Salafi (ultraconservative) population was estimated to be 5-6 million. Famous for its numerous mosqueminarets, Cairo is known as the “city of 1,000 minarets”.

Of the Christian minority in Egypt, over 90% belong to the indigenous Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, an Oriental Orthodox Christian church. Other native Egyptian Christians are followers of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church of Egypt and various other Protestant denominations. Christian communities are mainly concentrated in the urban areas of Cairo and Alexandria, among them are the Syro-Lebanese, who are Greek Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Maronite Catholics.

In the past, ethnic Greeks also represented a large Greek Orthodox population. Similarly, Armenians formed the then larger Armenian Orthodox and Catholic communities. Egypt, used to have a very large Roman Catholic community, mostly made up of Italians and Maltese. This non-native community had been much larger in Egypt before Nasser’s regime and nationalization.

Egypt is home to two major religious institutions, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, founded by St. Mark the Evangelist in the middle of the 1st century AD, and the Al-Azhar University, founded by the Fatimids in 970 AD as the first Islamic school and university in the world.

Egypt only acknowledges 3 religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Other faiths and Muslim minority sects practised by Egyptians, such as the small Bahá’í and Ahmadi community, are not recognised by the state and face persecution because they are branded as extreme right-wing groups that threaten Egypt’s national security.  Individuals, particularly Baha’is and atheists, who wish to state their religion (or lack thereof) on their government-imposed identity cards are denied this opportunity (see the controversy over the Egyptian identity card), and are put in the position of either not receiving the required identity card or lying about their faith. A court decision in 2008 allowed members of non-recognised faiths to be expelled and leave the religious field blank.

Economy of Egypt

Egyptian economy largely depends on agriculture, the media, petroleum imports, natural gas and of course tourism. More than 3 million of Egyptians also works abroad, predominantly in Saudi Arabia, across the Persian Gulf and Europe. The completion of the Aswan Dam in 1970 and the resulting Lake Nasser changed the traditional place of the Nile in Egyptian agriculture and ecology. A rapidly growing population, limited arable land and dependence on the Nile continue to overexploit resources and put the economy under pressure.

Egypt has been receiving foreign aid from the US on average US$2.2 billion per year since 1979 making it the 3rd largest recipient of such aid from the US after the war in Iraq. The Egyptian economy relies mainly on these sources of income: tourism, remittances from Egyptians working abroad and income from the Suez Canal.

Egypt has a developed energy market based on coal, oil, natural gas and hydroelectric power. About 600,000 tonnes (590,000 long; 660,000 short) of coal are extracted each year in the North-East Sinai. The oil and gas is produced in the Western desert regions, in the Gulf of Suez and in the Nile Delta. There are huge gas resources in Egypt, which is estimated at 2,180 cubic kilometres (520 mcf). According to the Egyptian General Petroleum Co (EGPC), the country will reduce its gas exports in 2013 and will ask major industries to cut production this summer to avoid an energy crisis and prevent political unrest, Reuters reported. Egypt is counting on Qatar’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter to provide additional gas volumes during the summer, while encouraging plants to plan annual maintenance for peak demand months, GEPC chairman Tarek El Barkatawy said. Egypt produces its own energy but has been a net importer of oil since 2008 and is rapidly becoming a net importer of natural gas.

After a period of stagnation, economic conditions have improved considerably thanks to the adoption of a more liberal economic policy by the government, as well as increased revenues from tourism and a booming stock market. In its annual report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has ranked Egypt among the countries in the world that are implementing economic reforms.  Among the most important economic reforms that the government has implemented since 2003 is the drastic reduction of customs duties and tariffs. A new tax law introduced in 2005 reduced corporate tax from 40% to 20%, resulting in a reported 100% increase in tax revenues by 2006.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Egypt increased significantly before Hosni Mubarak’s departure and exceeded US$6 billion in 2006 thanks to the economic liberalisation and privatisation measures taken by Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieddin.  After the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, there has been a tremendous decrease in foreign investment as well as in tourism revenues, which was followed by a 60 % decrease in the foreign exchange reserves, a decrease in growth of 3 % and the fast devaluation of the Egyptian currency.

Although one of the main obstacles the Egyptian economy continues to face is the limited flow of wealth to the average population, many Egyptians criticise their government for higher commodity prices while their standard of living or purchasing power is relatively stagnant. Corruption is often cited by Egyptians as the main obstacle to further economic growth. The government has promised a complete reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure, the money being used for the newly acquired third mobile phone licence (US$3 billion), which was paid for by Etisalat in 2006. In the Corruption Perception Index 2013, Egypt ranks 114th out of 177.

The most well-known multinational companies in Egypt are the Orascom Group and Raya Contact Center. The information technology (IT) sector has expanded rapidly in recent years. Many start-ups are selling outsourcing services to North America and Europe, working with companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and other large corporations, as well as many small and medium-sized enterprises. Among these companies are Xceed Contact Centre, Raya, E Group Connections and C3. The IT sector has been stimulated by new Egyptian entrepreneurs with the support of the government.

Approximately 2.7 million Egyptians working abroad actively participate in the development of their country by remittances ($7.8 billion in 2009) and through the circulation of both human and social capital and investment. According to the World Bank, remittances, i.e. money earned by Egyptians living abroad and sent home, reached a record level of US$ 21 billion in 2012.

The distribution of income in Egyptian society is moderately unequal, because an estimated 35-40% of the Egyptian population earn less than the equivalent of US$ 2 per day, while only about 2-3% can be considered wealthy.

Internet & Communications in Egypt

Egypt has a fairly modern telephone service with three GSM mobile telephone operators. The three mobile telephone operators are Orange, Vodafone and Etisalat. The main centres are in Alexandria, Cairo, Al Mansurah, Ismailia, Suez and Tanta. Roaming services are available, but you should check with your service provider. It is also possible to buy a tourist mobile connection for the duration of your stay, which usually costs around EGP 30.

Internet access is easy to find and cheap. Most cities, such as Greater Cairo and Luxor, and even small tourist towns, such as Edfu, have an abundance of small Internet cafes. The price per hour is usually between 2 and 10 EGP, depending on location and speed. In addition, an increasing number of cafes, restaurants, hotel lobbies and other places offer free wireless internet access. Free Wi-Fi (Mobilnil) is also available in modern cafés such as the Cilantro and Costa Coffee, where you can access it by obtaining a 2-hour “promotional” card from the waiter, and if you go to almost all McDonald’s you have access to free Wi-Fi.

Note that free internet can be unsafe and monitored, try using a proxy for privacy protection.

Tourism in Egypt

For Egypt, tourism is one of the most significant economic sectors. In 2008, more than 12.8 million tourists visited Egypt and generated revenues of almost US$ 11 billion. The tourism sector employs about 12% of the Egyptian labour force. Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou has told industry experts and reporters that in 2012 tourism generated approximately $9.4 billion, which is slightly increased from $9 billion in 2011.

The necropolis of Giza is the most iconic site in Egypt. Giza is also Egypt’s most famous tourist destination since the Ancient World and it was made popular in Hellenistic periods during which the Great Pyramid was listed as one of the 7 Wonders of the World by the Antipater of Sidon. Today it is the only one of these wonders of the world that still exists.

Egypt has a large number of Mediterranean and Red Sea beaches, stretching over more than 3,000 km. The Red Sea has calm waters, colourful coral reefs, rare fish and beautiful mountains. The beaches of the Akba Gulf also offer opportunities for water sports. With its beautiful location on the Gulf of Suez, Safaga is the top of the Red Sea zone. Not to be missed are Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor ( well known as the largest open-air museum of the world), Dahab, Ras Sidr, Marsa Alam, Safaga as well as the north coastline of the Mediterranean Sea which are important destinations for leisure tourism.

With many tourist activities in Egypt, it is considered an entertaining place for historical, religious, medical and entertainment tourism. To enter Egypt, a valid passport and in most cases a visa is required.

Entry Requirements For Egypt

Egypt is one of only three countries in the Middle East that tolerate Israeli citizens in their country. Therefore, entry into Egypt is not a problem for holders of Israeli passports.

As Egypt is a major tourist destination whose economy depends on tourists’ money, it is relatively easy to enter the country or obtain a visa if necessary. There are three types of Egyptian visas:

  • Tourist visa – usually valid for up to 3 months and issued for single or multiple entry.
  • Entry visa – required for any foreigner entering Egypt for purposes other than tourism, e.g. to work, study, etc. Possession of a valid entry visa is required to complete the process of residence in Egypt.
  • Transit visa – rarely required and only for certain nationalities

Entry visas can be applied for at Egyptian diplomatic and consular missions abroad or at the entry visa department of the Travel Documents, Immigration and Nationality Authority (TDINA). Non-Egyptian travellers must have a valid passport.

Citizens of the United Kingdom, the EU, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Macedonia, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Ukraine and the United States can obtain a visa on arrival at major ports of entry. The fees for the visa are as follows:

  • USD25 – Single Entry Visa
  • USD35 – Multiple-entry visa

Nationals of Bahrain, Guinea, South Korea, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen are granted a 3-month visa on arrival. Kuwaiti nationals are granted a 6-month residence permit on arrival. Chinese and Malaysian nationals are granted a 15-day visa on arrival. Chinese citizens (only those from Hong Kong and the Macao SAR) can stay for 30 days without a visa.

Egypt has announced its intention to stop offering visas on arrival to individual travellers who do not arrive as part of a package tour, [www] but the introduction of this policy, originally scheduled for May 2015, has been temporarily postponed. (www] [www]

Nationals of the following countries currently require a visa before entering Egypt, which must be obtained from an Egyptian consulate or embassy abroad:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, R. Congo, DR Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kenya, DPR Korea, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, South Africa, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mauritania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Kyrgyzstan. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey (except for persons under 20 and over 45), Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Visitors entering Egypt via the Taba border crossing or Sharm el-Sheikh airport can be exempted from the visa requirement and receive a 14-day free entry visa to visit the Aqaba coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Visitors wishing to leave the Sinai Peninsula and travel to Cairo and other Egyptian cities must be in possession of a full Egyptian visa, although strictly speaking, chances are no one will check this unless you are trying to leave the country. They are not issued at the Taba border post and must be purchased in advance either in the country of residence, at the Egyptian consulate in Eilat, or at the airport on arrival. Visitors travelling as part of organised tours can often get their visas at the border, but you should check in advance with their travel agent or tour operator to find out if this is available to them. People who hold a residence permit for Egypt do not need to apply for an entry visa if they leave the country and return within the period of validity of their residence permit or within six months, whichever is shorter.

Tourists visiting Sharm el Sheikh and intending to dive outside the local areas (e.g. Ras Mohammed) must apply for a tourist visa, as this technically means leaving the Sharm el Sheikh area, and therefore a visa is required. The boat managers can check the dive boats during their journey, so it is advisable to obtain the visa in advance: you and the boat driver may be fined if you are caught without the appropriate visa. Most reputable dive centres will ask for your visa before allowing you to participate in these trips.

Egypt has peaceful relations with Israel, but the degree of friendship varies, as do the direct ties between the two countries. Since December 2009, direct air service between Cairo and Tel Aviv has been suspended for several years. The bus service seems to continue, as described below. Be sure to check the situation when planning, and again at the last minute.

Destinations In Egypt

Cities in Egypt

  • Greater Cairo – the capital of Egypt and is home to the Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum and stunning Islamic architecture..
  • Alexandria – Egypt’s Window on the Mediterranean, with glimpses of the past still palpable
  • Aswan – a more relaxed option, full of curiosities
  • Hurghada – a Red Sea town filled with all-inclusive resorts and scuba diving
  • Luxor – gateway to the Valley of the Kings, among other fabulous attractions.
  • Port Said – the center of the third largest metropolitan area, has a cosmopolitan heritage and is home to the Port Said Lighthouse.
  • Sharm el Sheikh – a very popular resort on the Sinai Peninsula, with some of the best diving in the world.

Regions in Egypt

  • Lower Egypt
    includes the north of the Nile Delta and the Mediterranean coast; Cairo, Alexandria
  • Average Egypt
    the area along the Nile where the historic upper and lower kingdoms met
  • Upper Egypt
    a series of astonishing city-temples on the southern part of the Nile
  • Western Desert
    Location of the western oases: five green points, each with its own attractions
  • Red Sea Coast
    Luxury resorts, diving and marine life
  • Sinai
    Rugged and isolated peninsula with fascinating remains of the past, high mountains and great diving possibilities.

Other destinations in Egypt

  • Abu Simbel – a very isolated place in the far south, with some beautiful ancient temples
  • Dahab – in the Sinai, east of Sharm el Sheikh, a center for hikers, with excellent dives
  • Karnak – scattered temples built with an emphasis on grandeur, an impressive avenue of ram-headed sphinxes runs through the center
  • Memphis and Saqqarah – both filled with relics and ruins of ancient Egypt, they are often combined in a day trip from Cairo
  • Siwa – a beautiful and secluded oasis near the Libyan border
  • Saint Catherine is home to the oldest permanently inhabited monastery, Mount Sinai and Mount Catherine (the highest mountain in Egypt) and the true Bedouin culture.
  • Taba Heights – a seaside resort specially designed for tourists, overlooking Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia
  • The Valley of the Kings

How to get in Egypt

Get In - By plane

Egypt has several international airports:

  • Cairo International Airport — It is the main entry point and hub airport for the national airline  Egyptair.
  • Alexandria Nozha
  • Luxor International Airport — has become the recipient of an increasing number of scheduled international flights, mainly from Europe, in addition to charter flights.
  • Aswan International Airport
  • Hurghada International Airport — provides charter flights.
  • Sharm el Sheikh International Airport — provides charter flights.
  • Borg el Arab International Airport
  • Marsa Alam International Airport

Get In - By boat

Ferries regularly connect Aqaba to Nuweiba on the Sinai Peninsula, bypassing Israel and the sometimes complicated border regulations. There is generally no visa fee to enter Jordan via Aqaba, as it is part of the free trade area. The route to Nuweiba has been operated by AB Maritime. It is also possible to travel from Saudi Arabia to several ports on the Red Sea coast.

There is also a weekly ferry from Wadi Halfa in Sudan to Aswan.

There used to be a ferry service from Venice to Alexandria via Tartus in Syria, operated by Visemar Lines. However, due to the political situation in Syria, the ferry has been discontinued and there are no longer passenger ferries between Europe and Egypt. For those who want to travel by ferry, the only option is to travel by cargo ship.

Get In - By bus

A coach trip to Egypt is a cheaper option than a short flight from neighbouring countries. A trip between Jordan and Cairo can cost as little as 45 US dollars (35 euros). The disadvantage, of course, is that it takes time, and even though today’s buses have plush seats and air conditioning, it’s quite uncomfortable, as you’re tied to a seat for 40 hours. In addition, foreigners entering Egypt by bus have to pay a tax of 63 EGP.

Israel is the most popular country for bus travel, and travellers can easily reach Egypt by bus from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. However, there are no cross-border connections. The most common route is to take a bus to Eilat, where you can cross the border at Taba and take a bus to Cairo or Sinai. There are usually only two or three buses a day from Taba to the different destinations; one service in the morning and one in the afternoon, with occasional departures in the early evening.

Plan your arrival in Eilat accordingly and be prepared to spend the night in Eilat or Taba if you arrive late. As usual, entering Israel by bus means getting your passport stamped, and many Arab countries will refuse you entry.

Other routes to Cairo are operated by Jordanian bus companies (JETT), which run direct flights from Amman twice a week.

SAPTCO provides daily connections from Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. There are also buses from Benghazi, but these could be suspended due to the unclear security situation in that city. Travel time for all these destinations varies from 25 to 40 hours.

Get In - By car

Petrol is fairly cheap in Egypt, prices are heavily subsidised and have recently fallen to less than 1.25 USD/US gallon. If you decide to rent a car, petrol won’t add much to the cost. Car rental companies have a minimum age requirement of 21 years.Driving in Egypt is very different from driving in a Western country and is not for the faint of heart.

If you don’t really need this option, it is just as easy and probably cheaper to take a taxi and explore the country by plane, train and/or bus. As you will see shortly after your arrival, there is little respect for traffic regulations and there are very few signs indicating traffic rules. You could also become the target of the Egyptian police, who will look for a bribe and choose an insignificant offence that you have committed and that you could not have avoided and stayed on the road.

How to get around in Egypt

Get Around - By train

The state-owned Egyptian National Railways operates almost all trains in Egypt. The Cairo-Alexandria line is a busy train line with frequent daily services. For journeys from Cairo to Luxor and Aswan in Upper Egypt, there are night trains operated by a separate private company called Abela Egypt. On ENR trains, a first-class ticket costs only a few dollars more than a second-class ticket and you will find it much more pleasant and comfortable.

Train tickets can be purchased at the reservation desks at most major stations once you are in Egypt, although you will often need to be patient. It is also advisable to buy tickets in advance, as trains may be full during peak hours. Except during rush hours, it’s usually not difficult to buy first-class tickets on the day of travel or the day before. To avoid complications, book as far in advance as possible.

The entry of foreigners is subject to security restrictions. Several websites report that foreigners are only allowed to buy tickets for certain trains. Some websites indicate that you can buy tickets directly from a conductor. This may still change.

You can buy train tickets through a travel agency in Egypt, preferably at least one day before your departure, but you will have to pay a commission to avoid the inevitable hassles at the station. Some travel agencies can make advance bookings by email, fax or telephone. There are several reservation desks ( for instance, one for each class and each destination group) available if you are planning to purchase a ticket at Cairo’s Ramses station. Check with the locals (who are usually very helpful) to make sure you are in the right queue. The station sells tickets in Egyptian pounds, with the exception of the Abela Egypt luxury berth, which must be paid for in foreign currency (dollars, euros or pounds sterling).

First class tickets are relatively cheap and are a good choice, although second class is more than sufficient for many. Travellers are unlikely to want to know anything below second class (the condition and equipment of toilets, for example, diminishes rapidly after this level). If you have to travel in a lower class because of overbooking, look for the first opportunity to ‘upgrade’ yourself to a free seat – you may pay a small surcharge when you check your ticket, but it’s worth it. Note that sanitary facilities on Egyptian trains are rudimentary at best, even in first class. It is therefore advisable to prepare toiletries for long journeys: wet wipes and hand disinfectant are far from being a must.

Get Around - By bus

Egypt has an extensive network of long distance buses, mostly operated by public companies. Their names are Pullman, West Delta, Golden Arrow, Super Jet, East Delta, El Gouna, Upper Egypt Bus Co and Bedouin Bus. The popular routes are operated by more than one company. Some bus companies allow you to book seats in advance, while others sell seats based on availability.

Be wary of buying tickets from bus vendors on the street or in front of your hotel. Smaller companies are sometimes unlicensed and can save money on security. Since January 2006, there have been eight serious bus accidents involving foreign nationals, resulting in more than 100 deaths. If you are a passenger in a vehicle travelling at an unsafe speed, you should encourage the driver to slow down.

Road accidents are very frequent in Egypt, mainly due to poor road conditions, dangerous driving and failure to enforce the highway code. The police estimate that more than 6 000 people are killed in road accidents in Egypt every year. Other estimates suggest the figure is much higher.

Get Around - By taxi

It’s important to know that in major cities, especially Cairo, the main roads are often congested during rush hours and this can double the time it takes to reach your destination.

In cities, taxis are a convenient and inexpensive means of transport. Although they are generally safe, taxis are just as unpredictable as other drivers, especially in Cairo, and you should be aware that fake taxis sometimes run. Make sure they have official markings on the dashboard or elsewhere; taxis are always painted in special colours to identify them, as is the taxi badge on the roof of the car. In Cairo, taxis are all white (rarely with advertisements on the sides), they are to be preferred as they have a digital meter that tells you how much you have to pay and you do not have to pay more than the meter tells you, you can tell the driver in advance that you will only pay what the meter indicates. Other older taxis are black and white, there are also the rarer Cairo taxis, all yellow, also with meters. In Luxor they are blue and white, in Alexandria they are yellow and black. It is usually more interesting to use a taxi or one of the good guides in Cairo and Luxor instead of travelling in a sightseeing bus.

Apparently, Cairo is the only place in Egypt where there is a large stock of modern metered taxis. Since January 2009, all taxis at Sharm El Sheikh airport are equipped with taximeters and must be used. In general, it is best to ask your hotel or an Egyptian acquaintance for point-to-point prices. You can also ask a pedestrian or police officer for the exact fare. The best way to hire a taxi is to stand by the roadside and reach out. You won’t have any trouble attracting a taxi, especially if you are obviously a Westerner. In general, it is advisable to take white taxis that use the meter, as black and white taxis usually haggle at the end of the trip. Some white taxi drivers will not turn on the meter until you ask them to, and if they say the meter is broken, it is best to ask the driver to drop you off before you go far. It is important to have some change with you (a few 5 and 10 notes), as some drivers say they don’t have change to leave with the rest of your money.

If you are in a black-and-white taxi, negotiate a price and destination before you get in the car. Get out of the car at the end of the journey and make sure you have everything you need before handing over payment to the driver. If the driver yells, that’s probably okay, but if he or she gets out of the car, you are almost certainly underpaid. Prices can vary widely, but examples include 20 EGP for a trip from central Cairo to Giza, 10 EGP for a trip in central Cairo and 5 EGP for a short trip around the city. Note that locals pay less of these prices for unmetered taxis; the local price in a taxi from Giza or central Cairo to the airport is 25-30 EGP. Don’t be tempted to give them more because of the economic situation; otherwise swindling foreigners becomes more common, which usually contributes to inflation. Be aware that some of the prices listed here have already been slightly inflated to the expected level for tourists, which is not usually the level that Egyptians will have to pay. You can also hire taxis for whole days, for between 100 and 200 EGP, if you make longer journeys from Cairo to Saqqara and Dashur, for example. In the city, they are also happy to wait for you (often for a small extra charge, but ask the driver), even if you have to walk around for a few hours.

Most taxi drivers can speak enough English to be able to bargain about prices and where you are going, but rarely more than that. Some are more or less fluent, and they will act as guides, telling you important places as you go along, but they can be hard to find. Drivers often expect to be paid a little more for this, but do not feel that they are paying for services you have not requested. If you find a good English-speaking driver, don’t forget to ask for a card or a phone number, as they are often available at all times, making your journey more reliable.

In 2007, a new line of privately owned taxis was introduced in Cairo as a pilot project. They are all clean and air-conditioned. Chauffeurs have formal uniforms and are able to communicate in at least one foreign language, which is usually English. These taxis are distinguished by their bright yellow colour. They can be picked up in the street if they are free, or hired at one of their stops (including one on Tahrir Square in the city centre). These new taxis use electricity meters that count per kilometre, starting at 2.50 EGP. They are usually a little more expensive than ordinary taxis; you can call 16516 in Cairo two hours in advance to hire a taxi if you can’t find them where you’re looking.

Get Around - By metro

In 2013, there are two complete metro lines, one of which is not yet completed, serving only parts of Greater Cairo. Their tickets cost one Egyptian pound. They are the fastest means of transport, but are always crowded during rush hours and only operate from 6am to around 11.30pm. During the month of Ramadan, they operate from about 7am until after midnight until about 1am. Since the end of 2013, the Tahrir station (called Sadat) has been closed until further notice, and the metros no longer stop there.

Get Around - By boat

A ferry connects the seaside resort of Hurghada with Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea. The journey takes 90 minutes for the EGP400, although in rough seas it can take much longer.

Get Around - By plane

The domestic air network is quite extensive and covers most of Egypt’s major cities. The national carrier EgyptAir offers most scheduled flights and is the easiest place to check before leaving. It offers flights from Cairo to a range of cities and attractions throughout the country, the most common being Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh, Alexandria, Marsa Matruh, Marsa Alam and the Kharga oasis.

Airlines used to have a two-tier fare structure that made fares more than four times more expensive for foreigners than for locals. Since early 2007, they have moved to a system where everyone pays the same fare, regardless of nationality. Fares are still relatively cheap – for example, a one-day round trip to Luxor costs around USD 170. It is advisable to book early, as flights are booked quickly in high season.

Local travel agencies have websites and can sometimes welcome you at the last minute, but it is safer to book in advance. Travellers can also check prices and book flights on the EgyptAir website, but only with a Visa or MasterCard. Online ticket sales close 72 hours in advance. Travel agents can still make reservations. The national call centre cannot sell tickets over the phone, but they will direct you to a local travel agency; you can also ask your hotel staff to direct you to travel agencies in your area. EgyptAir has an extensive network of offices strategically located around the country that can sell you tickets.

Things To See in Egypt

The main attractions of any visit to Egypt are the well-known monuments of Lower (North) and Upper (South) Egypt. The most famous are:

Greater Cairo

  • the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx
  • the Egyptian museum
  • Saqqara and Dahshur pyramids and temples
  • Citadel of Salah El Din and Mosque of Mohamed Ali
  • Al Hussein Mosque and Khan al Khalili Bazaar

Alexandria

Alexandria, with its many historical sites and the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, is the country’s main summer attraction for Egyptians fleeing the summer heat and looking for a place to spend their vacations. Tourist attractions include Roman and Greek monuments, the Bibliotheca Alexandria, Qa’edbay Castle and Qasr El Montaza (El Montaza Palace).

Luxor

The temples of Luxor and the West Bank of the Nile

  • the Valley of the Kings
  • the temples of Abu Simbel

Aswan

In Aswan, you can see even more temples and ancient monuments. You can also visit Geziret El Nabatat ( The Plant Island ). It is an island in the Aswan Nile planted with rare species of plants, trees and flowers.

Perhaps the most popular activity in Luxor and Aswan is the Nile cruise on a boat from Aswan to Luxor. It allows you to stop at any place along the Nile where you can see all the famous ancient monuments as well as experience being in a five-star hotel boat in the Nile.

  • The Red Sea resorts on the Sinai Peninsula, including Dahab, Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh. This part of the Red Sea has some of the greatest diving opportunities in the world.
  • The sights of the Sinai Peninsula, including the Monastery of St. Catherine and Mount Sinai.
  • The western desert and the oases there, including Siwa,
  • Memphis, with some relics from ancient Egypt-including a huge statue of Rameses II that recalls the image that inspired the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Things To Do In Egypt

  • For the foreign traveler, there is much to do in Egypt. In addition to visiting and seeing the ancient temples and artifacts of ancient Egypt, there is also much to see in each city. In fact, each city in Egypt has its own charm of things to see, with its history, culture, activities, and people who are often different in nature from those in other parts of Egypt.
  • Cairo, for example, has so much to do and see. In addition to the history of ancient Egypt, there is the history of the Romans, Greeks, the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic Empire, the Ottomans, and finally the history of modern Egypt.
  • Jewish and Christian History To learn more about Egypt’s Christian and Jewish history, visit a local tourist office and ask for the names of local churches and Jewish synagogues. There are at least two Jewish synagogues dating back many years, when Egypt had a few hundred thousand Jews in the country, who eventually left when Israel was created.
  • There are plenty of old and very interesting churches scattered in various parts of Cairo, such as central Cairo, Heliopolis, Korba, Shubra, Abbasiya, Zamalek and Maadi. Some of these churches have been in existence for several hundred years and their architecture is similar to that of churches in Western countries, often built by Europeans who did much of the city’s architecture in the 19th century, as a nod to the modern buildings of Europe at that time.
  • Modern Cairo If you want to see modern Cairo, try walking through the streets of Zamalek, Maadi, Mohandiseen or Heliopolis where you can see some of the most modern buildings and experience the Egyptian way of life.
  • Local cafes and restaurants For a friendly time, try sitting in one of the local coffee shops where you can meet and chat with other Egyptians. There are many cafes and restaurants throughout Cairo, all catering to different tastes and backgrounds and ranging from very cheap to very expensive.
  • Local brands including Coffee Roastery, Cilantro, Grand Cafe and Costa Coffee are among the many local chains. Generally speaking, you can find a café or restaurant in every neighbourhood in Cairo.
  • Sports and Leisure ClubsIf the heat is too hot, you can visit one of the famous sports clubs, such as the Gezira Club in Zamalek or the Seid Club (known in English as the Shooting Club) in Mohandiseen, where you can swim in the pool or sit in the shade and comfort of the trees and lush gardens. Entry for foreigners can be obtained by purchasing a day pass for 20 to 30 Egyptian pounds, which allows the person to enjoy all the club’s facilities, including all sports. There are, of course, changing rooms and restaurants in the club where one can have a meal or a drink after engaging in any activity.
  • Nightlife: If you like nightlife, there are a number of nightclubs and discos where you can drink and dance to some of the most modern tunes in the West, as well as listen to Arabic music. Music ranges from dance and trance to hip hop, rap, techno, rock and pop. These clubs are usually located in five-star hotels or in neighborhoods such as Mohandiseen and Zamalek.
  • Here are some examples: The Cairo Jazz Club (mohandiseen) Purple (on a boat in Zamalek) Hard Rock Cafe (inside the big hay hotel in Garden City) The Obergine (pub and bar in Zamalek).
  • Adventures in the desert: For more adventures, try to go to the Haram district in Cairo and look for stables. There you can rent a horse for a few hours and go horseback riding, or even ride a camel in the desert near the pyramids and the Sphinx. The best time to do this is at night, when you can see all the stars shining together in the sky and capture the magical feeling of the place. You will be accompanied by a local guide who will accompany you on another horse or camel. You can also join a group of other people or groups of friends who, like you, love to ride horses in the desert near the pyramids.
  • Nile Boat: Try taking a Feluca boat (a small boat that can carry up to 20 people) on the Nile from Cairo. Here you can experience the beauty of the Nile and the surrounding landscape, where you can see the city, its buildings and streets from the water. Depending on the weather, you can do this by day or night, but you should go to the Giza district and walk along the Nile Corniche and ask one of the locals to rent this boat.
  • Islamic Cairo / Fatimid Cairo: If you are interested in Islamic architecture and history, you should go to Islamic Cairo, (El Gamalaya district or Khan El Khalili). There you will see many buildings and some mosques and you will see how buildings and houses were built in the Islamic period of Egypt. There is also a souk or (bazaar) where you can buy many different souvenirs and items.
  • Alexandria: Since the foundation of Alexandria in 332/31 BC by Alexander the Great, “the Pearl of the Mediterranean” has been one of the most important places in Egyptian history. After the death of the King of Macedonia, the city developed under the Ptolemies to become the intellectual and cultural center of the entire Hellenistic world. Great scholars have lived and worked in the Museion.

Food & Drink In Egypt

Food In Egypt

Egypt can be a fantastic place to try a unique selection of food: not too spicy and well seasoned with herbs. For a convenient selection of Egyptian cuisine and staples, check out the Felfela restaurant chain in Cairo. However, some visitors complain that they have become almost too touristy and have abandoned certain elements of authenticity. A more affordable and widespread alternative is the Arabiata restaurant chain. Arabiata is considered by locals as the number one place for Egyptian delicacies such as falafel and fūl as well.

Strangely enough, beware of any restaurant listed in the popular guides. Even if the restaurant used to be great, it is likely that after publication they will create a “special” English menu with very high prices.

Like many countries by the sea, Egypt has many restaurants and fish markets, so you should definitely try the fish and seafood. Fish markets often have food stalls nearby where you can indicate the types of fish to be cooked. The stalls usually have a communal table, and locals are just as likely as tourists.

Hygiene

Be aware that, depending on the location, hygiene is not always present. The number of tourists suffering from some kind of parasitic or bacterial infection is very high. Despite protests to the contrary, you should use common sense and bring appropriate medication to deal with any problems. “Antinal” (nifuroxazide), an intestinal antiseptic, is cheap, effective and available in all pharmacies. Immodium” or similar products are prescription medicines.

Although Antinal is very effective, sometimes when nothing else helps, older people should check the brand with their doctor before relying on it because it contains a high concentration of active ingredient that is not approved by the US FDA or the UK Medicines Agency.

People who plan to stay in Egypt for more than 2-3 weeks should be cautious when using Antinal, as it can hinder their ability to develop immunity to local bacteria and make traveller’s diarrhea a more common problem.

Local dishes

Many local dishes are vegetarian or vegan, which can be explained by the high cost of meat in Egypt and the influence of Coptic Christianity (whose frequent fasts require a vegan diet).

Classic Egyptian dishes: The fūl medammes dish is one of the most common Egyptian dishes; it consists of beans (fūl) cooked slowly in a copper pot (other types of metal pots do not produce the right flavour) and partially or completely crushed. fūl medammes is served with cumin, vegetable oil, optional chopped parsley, onion, garlic, lemon juice and chilli, and is usually eaten with Egyptian bread (baladi) or occasionally with leavened pita bread (shāmi).

You should try the classic falāfel, which are fried ground bean dumplings (but better known worldwide for the ground chickpea version usually found in other Middle Eastern kitchens) thought to have been invented by Egyptian Bedouins. They are usually served as fast food or snacks.

Koshari is a famous dish that is usually a mixture of macaroni, lentils, rice and chickpeas, topped with tomato sauce and fried onions. Very popular with locals and a must for tourists. The scraped version is called tâgen.

In addition, hummus, a food based on chickpeas, is also widely available in the Middle East.

Kofta (meatballs) and kebabs are also popular.

Egyptian cuisine is very similar to the cuisine of Middle Eastern countries. Dishes such as stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, shawarma sandwiches are common in Egypt and the region.

Exotic fruits

This is one of the most reasonably priced countries in which Europeans have the opportunity to taste a wide assortment of fresh exotic fruits. The fruits such as guava, mango, watermelon and banana are available widely in the fruit stalls, particularly in the local non-tourist markets.

Drinks In Egypt

Water

Bottled water is available everywhere. Many of the local brands (Baraka, Hayat and Siwa) cost same as those of the international brands, which are also available: Nestle Pure LifeDasani (bottled by Coca-Cola) and Aquafina (bottled by Pepsi). Evian is less available and expensive. A caution regarding a local brand “Baraka”: Although it is perfectly safe for people to drink this water, due to the high mineral content of the well water, a slight aftertaste of baking soda may be noticed.

No matter where you buy bottled water (even hotels are not entirely reliable), before accepting it, check that it is sealed with a clear plastic seal and that the neck ring is still attached to the lid by the breakable plastic threads. It is common to collect empty but new bottles and fill them with tap water, one of which can make you sick. Not all brands have the clear plastic lid, but all the good ones do.

Safety of bottled water

It is important not to buy foreign brands as they may not be safe to drink. In 2012, the Ministry of Health has ordered the following brands of bottled water off the shelves: Alpha, Hadir, Seway, Aqua Delta, Tiba, Aqua Mina and AquaSoteir.

Some of the former have been licensed since 2013, but the Ministry of Health has issued warnings against other unlicensed brands:

  • Unauthorised and dangerous marks : (Safa, el Waha, Ganna, Sahari, Life, el Wadi, Zamzam ).

However, the Ministry of Health has stated that there are only 17 licensed trademarks that are safe to drink in 2013. This is the case :

  • 17 brands of safes under licence: (Hayah, Safi, Aqua Siwa ,Siwa, Aman Siwa, Organica, Nahl, Aqua Sky, Mineral, Vira, Nestlé, Baraka, Alpha, Aquafina, Tiba, Aqua Delta, Dasani, Aqua Paris ).

Among the authorised brands, the locals advise tourists to avoid baraka if possible, as it contains a high concentration of mineral salts and has a somewhat unpleasant taste.

Juices

A wide range of juices are extensively available in Egypt – àSàb (sugar cane; قصب); liquorice (`erk sūs عرق سوس); sobya (white juice; سوبيا); tàmr (sweet dates; تمر) as well as several fresh fruit juices (almost in the same shop, which can be all these types of juice except liquorice, which you can find elsewhere).

Hibiscus, known locally as karkadē (كركديه) or `ennāb (عناب), is also a famous juice especially in Luxor, whether it is drunk hot or cold, but in Egypt people prefer to drink it cold.

Hibiscus and liquorice should not be consumed excessively as they may not be safe for people with low or high blood pressure. Hibiscus can lower blood pressure, while licorice can raise it.

Alcoholic drinks

Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, and alcoholic beverages are religiously forbidden (haram) to strictly racticing Muslims – but not by law. Nevertheless, Egyptians tend to adopt a relaxed and pragmatic attitude towards alcohol for non-Muslims and foreigners. It is tolerated by the vast majority of Egyptians and consumed by a significant number of them. Establishments selling alcoholic beverages must obtain a special licence and pay additional taxes to operate.

Alcoholic beverages and bottled drinks are readily available throughout the country (especially in major cities and tourist centres). Please note, however, that public drunkenness (especially the noisy and obnoxious variety) is definitely frowned upon – without precaution, you could end up on land in a police cell. Try to be a good ambassador: If you have to be “tipsy”, limit yourself to the hotel or nearby! It is actually quite rare to see drunk tourists, even in tourist areas. It is illegal to drink alcohol in public and it is advisable not to try drinking in the street; however, on New Year’s Eve 2013, many Egyptians were seen drunk and holding alcoholic beverages in the streets of Cairo.

The cheapest alcoholic beverage is beer. The most common brands are : Stella (not Artois) and Sakkara, which are common lagers in Egypt (about 4%), both brewed by Heineken’s Egyptian subsidiary, Ahram Beverages Company. Other local brands are available, most of them with a higher alcohol variant, with values of 8% or even 10%. Foreign brands produced under licence in Egypt include Heineken and Meister, but they are slightly more expensive.

More expensive alcoholic drinks than beer are carbonated vodka cocktails with 10% alcohol, especially ID Double Edge, which is popular with alcoholics. There is also a selection of spirits (generally available only in liquor shops, and usually at reasonable prices in liquor shops that cater mainly to Egyptians). Wine is available; however, the prices of imported wines tend to be high, even astronomical, and local wines (e.g. Omar Khayyam) are extremely overpriced due to their rather poor quality.

Don’t buy anything you don’t know or suspect because there is a risk that it is counterfeit and that it contains methyl alcohol (a cheap and toxic type of alcohol that causes blindness).

Restrictions on alcohol

Alcohol laws in Egypt are officially much more liberal than in other Muslim countries, with the exception of the month of Ramadan, during which alcohol is strictly banned. During Ramadan, Egyptian law only allows foreign passport holders to purchase alcohol. However, the application of this law is far from consistent. In tourist areas such as Luxor, alcohol is sold even during Ramadan, and those who look like foreigners are not asked to show their passports or other documents.

During the month of Ramadan, the only places where alcohol is available are western-style hotels and pubs/restaurants, which are primarily intended for foreigners. On certain days of the year, such as the full moon in the month before Ramadan, alcohol is completely prohibited. In addition, some hotels and bars that welcome foreigners stop serving alcohol during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – call ahead to ensure that alcohol is always served to avoid disappointment.

Money & Shopping In Egypt

Currency

The local currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP), which is divided into 100 piasters. (The currency is often written in LE, (an abbreviation of the French Egyptian pound) or using the £ sign with or without additional letters: E£ and £E.

  • Coins: The denominations are 25pt, 50pt and 1 pound. You don’t really need to know the name of the piaster, because the smallest denomination in circulation since 2014 is 25 piasters, and this one is almost always called “quarter pound” (rob` genē ربع جنيه), and the 50 piasters, “half pound” (noSS genē نص جنيه).
  • Paper money: Banknote denominations are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 pounds sterling.

In Egypt, the pound is called sterling, genē esterlīni (جنيه استرلينى).

The Egyptian pound has depreciated gradually over the last few decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Egyptian pound was almost as valuable as the British pound. Since 2011, the exchange rate has become relatively unstable and inflation has accelerated. In 2016, the Egyptian pound is worth about 11 times less than at its peak, and especially this year, inflation has become so high that the loss of U.S. dollar reserves is such that the exchange of Egyptian pounds for U.S. dollars or euros is hardly accepted by banks. The black market exchange rate has therefore increased and the purchase of one US dollar has reached almost 18 Egyptian pounds!

  • Foreign exchange and banks

Please note that banks and exchange offices, or anyone who changes currencies, will easily charge you an extra fee for the official exchange rate. Foreign currency can be exchanged at exchange offices or banks, so there is no need to use street money changers. Many upscale hotels charge in US dollars or Euros and are happy to accept them as a means of payment, often at a higher rate than the Egyptian pound. ATMs are ubiquitous in cities and are probably the best option of all; they often offer the best rate, and many foreign banks have branches in Egypt. Banks are open from Sunday to Thursday from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm.

Counterfeit or expired bills are not really a problem, but it can be difficult to exchange books outside the country. American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted, but only the major hotels and restaurants in Cairo and restaurants in tourist areas willingly accept credit cards as a means of payment. Traveller’s cheques can be exchanged at any bank, but this may take some time.

Before leaving Egypt, even if you are traveling to neighboring Middle Eastern countries, you must change your currency into U.S. dollars, euros or pounds sterling. Money changers in other countries will give you 30 to 50 percent more per Egyptian pound than the rate you get in Egypt if they accept Egyptian currency. When you exchange U.S. dollars, euros, or pounds sterling, the difference is relatively small, so you lose only a few percent.

Tipping

Due to the country’s economic situation, with an ever-increasing population and depletion of resources, this means that many people may be unemployed (a much higher rate than in more developed countries). People working in the services and hospitality industry ( such as restaurants, hotels and bars) are probably also undervalued as their wages are unlikely to reflect the value of their work. It is even more difficult for them to live with the problem of relentless inflation, which means that the prices of everything, even basic commodities like food and water, rise sharply while their wages remain the same, and when they do rise, they do not increase even a fraction of the increase that the prices have led to.

This means that 90% of those working in the service/hospitality sector try to make their main source of income from tips. In fact, for these people, tips constitute a large part of their income because without them, their monthly salary would simply not be enough to survive in a country where prices are constantly increasing and salaries remain the same.

Keep in mind that these people often lead difficult lives, are often responsible for feeding large families and may very well live in poverty simply because their income from work is not enough to lead a simple life. Many of them are forced to take these jobs because otherwise they would not be able to find any other work in a country where unemployment and overpopulation are so high.

Thus, almost everyone in your hotel will ask you for a tip, even if they have only done a small thing. You don’t need to give a big tip, because often even the smallest tickets are appreciated. However, you are not required to tip if you feel that you received no service or assistance, or if you feel that the service was poor. No one will be angry or disrespectful to you if you did not tip.

Most public washrooms are staffed and visitors are expected to tip staff. Some washroom attendants, especially in tourist areas, distribute toilet paper according to the tip they receive. Foreigners are particularly sensitive to tipping, and although some residents request or demand a tip, it is often not warranted.

There is no rule as to what is considered a tip, so be prepared to pay an Egyptian pound or two in case you want to use the toilet, for example. For services such as tour guides or translators, a tip of 20% or more is generally expected. Cab drivers offer their services on the basis of agreed prices, not objective meters as in other countries. There is therefore no provision for tipping when using a cab, although it is of course accepted if offered. In restaurants, tipping is expected and can range from a few pounds to 15%.

If you ask a stranger for directions, advice is not necessary and may even be considered offensive. Uniformed officials, such as police officers, should not be tipped. Remember that bribery is technically illegal, but it is likely that nothing will happen to you. Last but not least, be aware that as a foreign tourist, you are considered by many to be easy money, and you should not be forced to tip for unnecessary or unsolicited “services”, such as self-proclaimed tour guides who cling to you.

Some general orientations

  • Lifeguard: EGP3
  • Cruises: 30 EGP/day, shared by all staff on board
  • Guide: EGP40/day
  • Groom: EGP10 for all bags
  • Hotel porter: EGP10 for services rendered (such as calling cabs)
  • Restaurants : In high-end restaurants, a service charge (10-12%) is added to the bill, but a 5-10% tip is usual. Tips are not necessary in fast food restaurants.
  • Cab driver: not necessary, especially if you have agreed on the price in advance, no more than 10% of the measured price.
  • On-site supervisors: EGP5 if they are doing something useful, otherwise not
  • Driver: 10 EGP/day

Shopping

Egypt is a paradise for shopping, particularly if you are looking for Egyptian-themed gifts and other kitsch things. However, there is also a range of quality products to buy, often at bargain prices. Some of the most popular purchases are:

  • Alabaster bowls, figurines, etc. are common throughout Egypt.
  • antiques (NB: no antiques whose trade is illegal in Egypt)
  • Carpets and rugs
  • Cotton products and clothing can be purchased in Khan El Khalili for approximately 30 to 40 EGP. Egyptian cotton clothes of better quality can be purchased at various chain shops, such as Mobaco Cottons and Concrete, both of which have numerous branches across the country. While clothes can be expensive by Egyptian standards , they are relatively cheap by Western standards, when you consider the quality.
  • Inlaid products, such as backgammon boards
  • Jewelry cartridges are an excellent souvenir. They are metal plates in the shape of an elongated oval on which your name is engraved in hieroglyphics.
  • Cabbage powder Real eye makeup (eyeliner) based on Egyptian kohl can be purchased in many stores for a small fee. It is a black powder, about the size of a teaspoon, usually sold in a small package or carved wooden container. It is usually applied generously to the inner eyelids with a kind of large toothpick/thin stick, going around the eye. Very dramatic. But a little goes a long way! Cleopatra had her eyes made up by lying on the floor and asking someone to put a miniature spoonful of powder in each eye. When the eye cracked, the makeup spread well around the eyes and flowed down the sides, creating the classic look. Be aware, however, that most eye pencils contain lead sulfide, which is a health concern. Ask for a lead-free kajal.
  • Lanterns (fanūs; pl. fawanīs) Lanterns made of cut and stamped metal, often with stained glass, stylishly hold a votive candle.
  • Leather products
  • Music
  • Papyrus (barded) However, most of the papyrus you will see is actually made of another type of reed, not real “papyrus”, which is extremely rare. If the difference is important to you, know what you are buying and negotiate the price accordingly. If in doubt, assume that the papyrus you are offered to buy is not authentic.
  • Perfume – You can buy perfume in almost every souvenir store. Be sure to ask the seller to prove to you that there is no alcohol mixed in the perfume. Standard rates should be in the range of 1 to 2 EGP per gram.
  • Hooks (shīsha)
  • Spices (tawābel) – can be purchased on the colorful stalls of most Egyptian markets. Dried herbs and spices are generally of better quality than those available in Western supermarkets and are up to 4 or 5 times cheaper, although the final price depends on negotiations and local conditions.

Note: When shopping in markets or dealing with street vendors, remember to bargain. This is part of the selling game that both parties must play.

There are also many western brands everywhere. You will find many shopping malls in Egypt, of which the most common is City Stars Mall, which is probably the largest centre for entertainment in all of Middle East and Africa.There you will find all the fast food you want such as Mcdonald’s, KFC, Hardees, Pizza Hut, etc. Clothing brands like Morgan, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Facconable, Givenchy, Esprit, and many others.

Purchases in Egypt include goods and merchandise that represent souvenirs from ancient and modern Egypt. They include small pyramids, obelisks as well as souvenir statues, which are available for purchase at more tourist locations such as Khan el-Khalili and Muslim Cairo.

You can also make general purchases of clothing and other merchandise in Cairo, such as in the modern shopping malls City Stars, City Centre or Nile City (home to some of the world’s most famous designer brands, including Guess, Calvin Klein, Armani, Hugo Boss, etc.).

Festivals & Events In Egypt

Public Holidays

On the following Egyptian public holidays (civil and religious), banks, shops and businesses are closed and public transport may be limited:

  • 7 January (Eastern Orthodox Christmas)
  • 25 January (day of the Egyptian revolution)
  • 25 April (Sinai Liberation Day)
  • 1 May (Labour Day)
  • 23 July (day of the July revolution)
  • 6 October (Armed Forces Day)
  • 1st Shawwal, the 10th month of Hijri (Eid al Fitr, “Breakfast Festival”)
  • 10th Dhu al Hijjah, the 12th month of Hijri (Eid al Adha, “Feast of Sacrifice”)
  • Working reduced hours during the 29 OR 30 days of Ramadan.

As Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, their exact dates vary from year to year.

Ramadan

Ramadan is the 9th month according to the Islamic calendar which is the most significant month for Muslims, which is the predominant religion in Egypt. In commemoration of the moment when God revealed the Koran to Muhammad, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking or smoking during this holy month until sunset each day. Although strict observance of Ramadan is reserved for Muslims, some Muslims appreciate that non-Muslims do not eat or smoke in public places. During Ramadan, many restaurants and cafes do not open until after sunset. Public transport operates less frequently, shops close earlier before sunset and the pace of life (especially business) is generally slow.

As expected, at the exact minute of sunset, the whole country rests and embarks on the main meal of the day (iftar, “breaking the fast”), which almost always takes place as a social event between large groups of friends. Many wealthier people offer (Tables of the Merciful God موائد الرحمن) in the streets of Cairo to serve free full meals to passers-by, the poorest or workers who cannot leave their posts at this time. The prayers become popular “social” events, which some like to embellish with special before and after sweets. An hour or two later, an astonishing flowering of cities takes place. The streets, sometimes richly decorated throughout the month, have continuous rush hours until the early hours of the morning. Some shops and cafés make most of their annual profit at this time. The cost of television and radio advertising soars during this period and entertainment is at its peak.

Festivals

Egypt celebrates many religious festivals and carnivals, also known as Mulid. They are usually associated with a particular Coptic or Sufi saint, but are often celebrated by Egyptians of all faiths and religions. Ramadan has a special flair in Egypt. It is celebrated with sounds, lights (local lanterns called fawanees) and lots of torches, so many Muslim tourists from the region flock to Egypt to be part of it during Ramadan.

Sham en Nisim , an ancient spring festival, (Coptic: Ϭⲱⲙ ‘ⲛⲛⲓⲥⲓⲙ shom en nisim) have been celebrated by Egyptians for thousands of years, typically after Easter Sunday, during the months of Palem Udeh (April) and Pasun (May) in Egypt.

Traditions & Customs In Egypt

Remember that most Egyptian workers expect tips after providing a service. This can be expected for something as small as pushing the lift button. Many workers will even ask you to tip them before you have a chance to do so. The typical tip for small services is 1 EGP (about 14 US cents). Because of the general lack of change, you may have to tip the EGP5 for simple things like using the toilet. It is important to understand that this is part of the culture; the value of this tip is very small for most Westerners, but is a good part of the monthly income of many Egyptians.

Greeting people

When addressing a person or a group of people for the first time, it is best to say the local variant of the Islamic greeting “es-salāmu-`alēku”, which literally means “peace be with you”. This is the most common form of saying “hello” to someone. It creates friendliness between you and people you don’t know, establishes rapport and helps to build respect! It is also considered polite to say this when you are talking to someone, rather than just asking for something or talking directly to them.

Additional greeting forms include ‘SàbâH el khēr’ – ‘Hello’, ‘masā’ el khēr’ – Good evening, some more relaxed ‘ezzayyak’ addressed to men, and ‘ezzayyek’ addressed to women.

On leaving, one can say the same “es-salāmu-`alēku”, or simply “ma`a s-salāma”, literally, “with security” or “with well-being”, which means “goodbye”. More educated Egyptians say “bye-bye”, derived from the English word “goodbye” or “buh-bye”, when they leave others.

Smile: Most people appreciate a smile, and most Egyptians smile when talking to someone for the first time. People who do not smile when they speak are considered arrogant, rude, aggressive, unfriendly, etc.

However, be careful not to be too friendly or too smiling, especially if you are a woman talking to an Egyptian, as he may mistakenly think that you are trying to befriend him or ask him to flirt with you or hit on you. Even in a man-to-man conversation, being too friendly could give the other person the opportunity to take advantage of you in some way. Always use common sense.

Dress code in Egypt

Egyptians are generally a conservative people and most of them are religious and dress very conservatively. Although they accept that foreigners dress much more conservatively, it is advisable not to dress provocatively, if only to avoid people looking at you. It is preferable to wear trousers, jeans, long shorts rather than short shorts as they are only worn by tourists. The dress code is significantly less restrictive for modern nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars in major tourist destinations including Cairo and Alexandria. Formal or social occasions and luxury restaurants usually require more formal dress.

At the Pyramids of Giza and other such sites during the summer months, short-sleeved tops and even sleeveless tops are accepted for women (especially if you are travelling with a group of tourists). However, you should bring a scarf or something to cover yourself on the way to your destination. In addition, it is perfectly acceptable for women to wear sandals in the summer, and you will even see some women wearing hijab wearing sandals.

Women should cover their arms and legs when travelling alone, there is no need to cover their hair; many Christian women walk comfortably in Egypt with their hair uncovered. Although as a foreigner, you can attract a lot of attention no matter what you are wearing, including being stared at by people watching you, as well as some verbal harassment that you may try to ignore. Egyptian women, even those wearing the full hijab, are often victims of sexual harassment, including in queues. You will find that a full hijab does not make much difference in terms of harassment, as opposed to wearing a short sleeved top. In terms of harassment, how you act is also important. Going out with a group of people is also helpful, and it is best to ignore men who give you unwanted attention. They want to get a reaction from you. A sign of respect is also the Arabic greeting “Asalamualaikum” (which means “Hello, peace be with you”), and the other person should answer “Walaikumasalam” (“Peace be with you”). This allows the person to know that you want to be respected and nothing else.

Mosque etiquette

Do not enter a mosque with shoes, sandals, slippers, boots, etc. of any kind, as it is very disrespectful. Always remove them before entering the mosque as they carry dirt from the street and the mosque (a place of prayer) must be clean. However, you can keep your socks on.

Also avoid appearing in front of people in prayer. The reason is that when people kneel, they kneel before God. If you stand in front of someone while they are praying or kneeling, it is as if they are kneeling in front of you or worshipping you, a total taboo and against the very foundations of Islam. Otherwise, it is perfectly acceptable for visitors or Christian Egyptians to walk normally in the streets or shops during prayer hours.

Public expression of affection

As in most other countries in the Muslim world, in the Middle East and even in some conservative non-Muslim countries, affection should not be shown in public. Egyptians are conservative and things like kissing your girlfriend or boyfriend in public are considered offensive, rude or disrespectful. An embrace in public is less offensive, especially when it is a greeting to a spouse or family member you haven’t seen for some time.

You will notice man-to-man kisses on the cheeks when Egyptian men meet their friends, family or someone they know well. This should not be confused with the man-to-man kissing of some homosexuals in some Western countries. More rarely, some Egyptian men like to walk next to their male friend, arms tied together like a loop in another loop. Again, this is not homosexual behaviour.

Other issues

Do not photograph people without their permission, and in areas frequented by tourists, do not be surprised if a tip is asked for. In Egypt, smoking is extremely widespread and it is also very cheap.

Most Egyptians tend to speak loudly when speaking, which is common in some other countries in the region. They don’t shout, but you’ll notice the difference.

Gamal Abdul Nasser, the second president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and many others are considered national heroes in Egypt; you must say absolutely nothing that could be perceived as insulting or derogatory to him. Treat these topics with care and let others guide the opening of the discussion. Many Egyptians have different interpretations of ambiguous expressions such as freedom of expression and democracy. It is advisable not to talk about Israel even if you are tempted to do so; don’t talk about it out loud as it might attract unwanted attention, even if you are only talking about the country as a destination.

Be very careful in your choice of alcoholic beverages, especially if you come from countries where excessive alcohol consumption is accepted. Even if you are used to it, you cannot estimate the impact of the climate, even at night. The impact that drunk people have on Egyptians is quite significant and very negative. The best plan is to abstain or limit yourself to one drink per meal during your stay in Egypt; it will also be cheaper.

Culture In Egypt

Egypt is a recognised cultural pioneer in the Arabic-speaking world. Contemporary Arab and Middle Eastern culture is strongly influenced by Egyptian literature, music, cinema and television. In the 1950s and 1960s, Egypt played a leading regional role, which gave an additional and lasting boost to the reputation of Egyptian culture in the Arabic-speaking world.

Egyptian identity evolved over a long period of occupation to accommodate Islam, Christianity and Judaism; and a new language, Arabic, and its spoken descendant, Egyptian Arabic, which is also based on many words from ancient Egypt.

The work of the scholar Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, from the beginning of the 19th century, revived interest in Egyptian antiquity and introduced Egyptian society to the principles of the Enlightenment. Tahtawi, together with the educational reformer Ali Mubarak, founded an indigenous school of Egyptology on the model of medieval Egyptian scholars such as Suyuti and Maqrizi, who had themselves studied the history, language and antiquities of Egypt.

Egypt’s renaissance reached its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries thanks to the work of people such as Muhammad Abduh, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, Muhammad Loutfi Goumah, Tawfiq el-Hakim, Louis Awad, Qasim Amin, Salama Moussa, Taha Hussein and Mahmoud Mokhtar. They established a liberal path for Egypt, which was expressed in a strong commitment to the principles of individual freedom, secularism and a belief in progress made through science.

Art

The Egyptians were one of the first great civilizations to codify design elements in art and architecture. Egyptian blue, also known as calcium copper silicate, is a pigment that has been used by the Egyptians for thousands of years. It is regarded as the very first synthetic pigment.The murals created in the service of the pharaohs followed a strict code of rules and visual meanings. Egyptian civilization is known for its colossal pyramids, temples and monumental tombs.

Well-known examples include the Pyramid of Djoser, designed by the former architect and engineer Imhotep, the Sphinx and the Temple of Abu Simbel. From the vernacular architecture of Hassan Fathi and Ramses Wissa Wassef to the sculptures of Mahmoud Mokhtar and the distinctive Coptic iconography of Isaac Fanas, modern and contemporary Egyptian art is as diverse as any work on the international art scene. The Cairo Opera House is the main venue for the performing arts in the Egyptian capital.

Literature

Egyptian literature has its origins in ancient Egypt and is among the oldest known literatures. In fact, the Egyptians were the first culture to develop literature as we know it today, i.e. the book. It is an important cultural element in the life of the Egyptians. The novelists and poets from Egypt were among the first to experiment with the modern style of Arabic literature, and the style they had developed has been widely copied across the Middle East. Zaynab, the first modern Egyptian novel written by Muhammad Husayn Haykal, was originally released in Egyptian on 1913. The Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arab-language writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Egyptian writers include Nawal El Saadawi, known for her feminist activism, and Alifa Rifaat, who also writes about women and tradition.

Popular poetry represents the favourite Literary style among the Egyptians, exemplified in the works of Ahmed Fuad Negm (Faghmi), Salah Jaheen and Abdel Rahman el-Abnoudi.

Popular culture

Egypt’s media industry is thriving, with more than thirty satellite channels and over a hundred feature films produced each year.

The Egyptian media is very influential throughout the Arab world, due to its large audience and its increasing freedom from state control. Media freedom is guaranteed in the constitution, but many laws still limit this right.

Cinema

With the advent of sound, Egyptian cinema has become a regional force. In 1936, Studio Misr, financed by the industrialist Talaat Harb, became the first Egyptian studio, a role it retained for three decades. For more than 100 years, more than 4,000 films have been produced in Egypt, three quarters of the total Arab production. Egypt is considered to be the leading country in the Middle East in the field of cinema. Actors from all over the Arab world aspire to appear in Egyptian cinema to become famous. The Cairo International Film Festival has been ranked by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations as one of the 11 highest rated festivals in the world.

Music

Egyptian music is a rich blend of indigenous, Mediterranean, African and Western elements. It has been an integral part of Egyptian culture since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians attributed to one of their gods, Hathor, the invention of music, which Osiris in turn used in his efforts to civilise the world. Since then, the Egyptians have used musical instruments.

The beginnings of contemporary Egyptian music can be traced back to the work of people such as Abdu al-Hamuli, Almaz and Mahmoud Osman, who influenced the later work of Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Abdel Halim Hafez, whose era is considered to be the golden age of music in Egypt and throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Among the great contemporary Egyptian pop singers are Amr Diab and Mohamed Mounir.

Dance

Today, Egypt is often regarded as the home of belly dancing. There are two main styles of Egyptian belly dance: raqs baladi and raqs sharki.There are also many folk and character dances that can be part of a belly dancer’s repertoire in the Egyptian style, as well as the modern street dance shaabi, which shares some elements with raqs baladi.

Museums

Egypt has one of the oldest civilisations of the world.It has been in contact with many other civilizations and nations and has passed through so many eras, from prehistoric times to modern times, including Pharaonic, Roman, Greek, Islamic and many others. Due to the diversity of these periods, the constant contact with other nations and the number of conflicts that Egypt has experienced, there are at least 60 museums in Egypt, mainly covering a wide range of these periods and conflicts.

The three most important museums in Egypt are the Egyptian Museum with more than 120,000 pieces, the Egyptian National Military Museum and the Panorama of October 6th.

The Great Egyptian Museum (GEM), also known as the Giza Museum, is a museum under construction that will house the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the world, it has been called the largest archaeological museum in the world. The museum is scheduled to open in 2015. It will be located on a 50-hectare site about two kilometres from the Giza Necropolis and is part of a new master plan for the plateau.

Cuisine

Egyptian cuisine is particularly well suited to a vegetarian diet, as it relies heavily on vegetable dishes. While the cuisine of Alexandria and the Egyptian coast tends to be very rich in fish and shellfish, the cuisine of Egypt is mainly composed of ingredients that are growing from the ground. Meat has always been very expensive for most Egyptians, so a large number of vegetarian dishes have been developed.

Koshari ( a blend of rice, lentils and macaroni) is considered to be the national dish. Fried onions can also be added to koshari. In addition, ful medames (bean purée) is one of the most popular dishes. Beans are also used to prepare falafel (also called “ta’meyya”), which originated in Egypt and may have spread to other parts of the Middle East. Roasted garlic with coriander is added to mulukhiyya, a popular green soup made from finely chopped jute leaves, sometimes with chicken or rabbit.

History Of Egypt

Prehistory and Ancient Egypt

Along the terraces of the Nile, in the desert oases, there is evidence of rock carvings. In the 10th millennium BC, the culture of hunters and fishermen was replaced by that of grain milling. Climate change or overgrazing around 8000 BC began to dry up the grasslands of Egypt, creating the Sahara desert. The first tribal peoples migrated to the Nile, where they developed a sedentary agricultural economy and a more centralised society.

Around 6000 BC, a Neolithic culture was established in the Nile valley. During the Neolithic period, a number of indigenous communities developed autonomously in Upper and Lower Egypt. The Badarian culture and the subsequent Naqada series are generally considered to be the precursors of dynastic Egypt. The oldest known site in Lower Egypt, Merimda, predates Badarian by about seven hundred years. The modern communities of Lower Egypt, though culturally distinct, maintained frequent contact through trade and coexisted with their southern counterparts for the remaining 2,000 years or more. The first known evidence of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared during the Predynastic period on ceramic vessels of Naqada III, dating from around 3200 BC.

Around 3150 BC a unified kingdom was founded by King Menes, followed by a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three centuries. Egyptian culture flourished during this long period and remained typically Egyptian in its religion, art, language and customs. The first two ruling dynasties of unified Egypt paved the way for the period of the Old Kingdom (around 2700-2200 BC), during which many pyramids were built, including the Djoser Pyramid of the Third Dynasty and the Giza Pyramids of the Fourth Dynasty.

The first interim period marked the beginning of a period of political upheaval lasting about 150 years. However, increased flooding of the Nile and a stabilization of government brought new prosperity to the country in the Middle Kingdom around 2040 BC, which reached its peak during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. A second period of disunity heralded the arrival of the first foreign dynasty in power in Egypt, the Semitic Hyksos. The Hyksos invaders took large parts of Lower Egypt around 1650 BC and established a new capital at Avaris. They were driven out by a force from Upper Egypt led by Ahmose I, who founded the 18th dynasty and moved the capital from Memphis to Thebes.

The New Kingdom around 1550-1070 BC began with the 18th Dynasty and marked the rise of Egypt as an international power, extending to its maximum extent to an empire as far east as Tombos in Nubia and including parts of the Levant to the east. Some of the most famous pharaohs date from this period, including Hatshepsut, Thutmes III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramses II. The first historically attested expression of monotheism appeared during this period under the name Atenism. Constant interaction with other nations brought many new ideas to the New Kingdom. The country was then invaded and conquered by Libyans, Nubians and Assyrians, but the native Egyptians finally drove them out and regained control of their lands.

The mighty Achaemenid Persians, led by Cambyses II, began their conquest of Egypt in 525 BC, eventually capturing Pharaoh Psamtik III at the Battle of Pelusium. The whole of the Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt, from 525 BC to 402 BC, was a purely Persian period, with the exception of Petyubastis III, during which the Achaemenid kings all received the title of pharaoh. Some revolts against the Persians, temporarily successful, marked the fifth century BC, but Egypt was never able to overthrow the Persians definitively.

The thirtieth dynasty was the last indigenous dynasty to rule during the Pharaonic era. It fell to the Persians in 343 BC after the defeat in battle of the last indigenous pharaoh, King Nektanebo II. This thirty-first dynasty of Egypt did not last long, however, as the Persians were overthrown by Alexander the Great a few decades later.

Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt

The Ptolemaic kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state that extended from southern Syria in the east to Cyrene in the west and south to the border with Nubia. Alexandria became the capital and a centre of Greek culture and trade. To be recognised by the native Egyptian population, they called themselves the successors of the pharaohs. Later, Ptolemy incorporated Egyptian traditions, expressed in public monuments in Egyptian styles and clothing, as well as taking part in the religious life of Egypt.

The last Ptolemaic ruler of the dynasty was Cleopatra VII, who killed herself ( from a stab wound caused by her own hand) shortly after Octavian’s conquest of Alexandria and the flight of his mercenary troops, and after burying her lover Mark Antony.

The Ptolemies had to face rebellions by native Egyptians, often triggered by an undesirable regime, and were embroiled in civil and foreign wars that led to the decline of the empire and its annexation by Rome. Nevertheless, Hellenistic culture continued to flourish in Egypt after the Muslim conquest.

Christianity was introduced to Egypt by Saint Mark the Evangelist in the 1st century. The reign of Diocletian (284-305 AD) marked the transition from the Roman to the Byzantine period in Egypt, when many of the Egyptian Christians were persecuted.The New Testament had already been translated into Egyptian at that time. After the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, an independent Egyptian Coptic Church was firmly established.

Middle Ages (7th -15th)

The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a brief Sassanid invasion at the beginning of the 7th century, in the midst of the Byzantine-Asian War of 602-628, during which they established a new short-lived province for ten years, known as Sassanid Egypt until 639-42, when Egypt was invaded and conquered by the Islamic Empire through the Muslim Arabs. When they defeated the Byzantine armies in Egypt, the Arabs introduced Sunni Islam into the country. These first rites had survived the period of Coptic Christianity.

Muslim rulers appointed by the Caliphate retained control of Egypt for the next six centuries, with Cairo being the seat of the Fatimid Caliphate. With the end of the Ayyubid Kurdish dynasty, the Mamelukes, a Turkic-Circassian military caste, took control around 1250. At the end of the 13th century, Egypt linked the Red Sea, India, Malaysia and the East Indies. The Black Death, in the mid-14th century, killed about 40% of the country’s population.

Ottoman Egypt (1517-1867)

In 1517 Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and later became a province of the Ottoman Empire. Its defensive militarism took a heavy toll on both its civil society and its economic institutions. Portuguese merchants took over its trade. Between 1687 and 1731, Egypt experienced six famines. The 1784 famine cost the country about one-sixth of its population.

Egypt has always been a difficult province for the Ottoman sultans to control, partly because of the continuing power and influence of the Mamelukes, the Egyptian military caste that ruled the country for centuries.

Egypt remained semi-autonomous under the Mamelukes until it was captured by Napoleon Bonaparte’s French forces in 1798 (see French Campaign in Egypt and Syria). After the defeat of the French against the British, a power vacuum was created in Egypt and a three-way power struggle ensued between the Ottoman Turks, the Egyptian Mamelukes who had ruled Egypt for centuries and the Albanian mercenaries in the service of the Ottomans.

Foundation of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty

Following his expulsion from France, Muhammad Ali Pasha, commander of the Ottoman Albanian army of Egypt, gained power in 1805. Although he bore the title of viceroy of Egypt, his subordination to the Ottoman gate was only nominal. Muhammad Ali established a dynasty that would rule Egypt until the revolution of 1952.

The introduction of long-fibre cotton in 1820 transformed agriculture into a cash monoculture by the end of the century, concentrating land ownership and shifting production to international markets.

Muhammad Ali had annexed northern Sudan (1820-1824), Syria (1833) as well as parts of Arabia and Anatolia, however in 1841 the European powers, concerned with Muhammad Ali’s own attempts to overthrow the Ottoman Empire, forced him to return the majority of his conquests to the Ottoman Empire. His military ambition forced him to modernise the country: he built industries, a system of canals for irrigation and transport, and reformed the civil service.

He built a military state in which about four percent of the population served in the army to elevate Egypt to a powerful position in the Ottoman Empire in a way that bears several similarities to Soviet (non-communist) strategies in the 20th century.

Muhammad Ali Pasha developed the army from one that had gathered in the tradition of drudgery to a large modernised army. He introduced conscription into the male peasantry in 19th century Egypt and took an innovative approach to creating his great army by strengthening it in numbers and capabilities. There was no provision for the training and education of new soldiers; the new concepts were also reinforced by isolation. Men were kept in barracks so as not to be distracted from their growth as a military unit to be reckoned with. Eventually, the disgust with the military way of life faded and a new ideology of nationalism and pride took hold. It was with the help of this newly reborn military unit that Muhammad Ali asserted his reign over Egypt.

The policies pursued by Mohammad Ali Pasha during his reign partly explain why computing power in Egypt has increased at a remarkably low rate compared to other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, with investment in training being limited to the military and industrial sectors.

Muhammad Ali was briefly replaced by his son Ibrahim (in September 1848), then by a grandson Abbas I (in November 1848), then by Syed (1854) and Isma’il (1863), who promoted science and agriculture and banned slavery in Egypt.

The end of Ottoman Egypt

During the reign of Muhammad Ali, Egypt remained nominally a province of the Ottoman Empire. In 1867, it received the status of an autonomous vassal state or kedivat, a status that remained in force until 1914.

Suez Canal, constructed in collaboration with France, was finished in 1869. Its construction led to huge debts to European banks and caused resentment among the population because of the heavy taxation it demanded. In 1875, Ismail was forced to sell the Egyptian share of the canal to the British government. This meant that within 3 years the British and French rulers were placed in the Egyptian cabinet and became “the real power in the government, backed by the financial strength of the bondholders”.

Other circumstances, such as epidemic diseases (rinderpest in the 1880s), floods and wars, led to the economic slowdown and further increased Egypt’s dependence on foreign debt.

Later, the dynasty became a British puppet. Together, Ismail and Tewfik Pasha had ruled Egypt as a quasi-independent state under the authority of the Ottoman Empire suzerainty until the British occupation in 1882.

Local discontent with Ismail and European interference led to the formation of the first nationalist factions in 1879, with Ahmad Urabi as a leading figure.

British Protectorate

The Khedivat of Egypt remained a de jure Ottoman province until 5 November 1914, when it was declared a British protectorate in response to the decision of the young Turks of the Ottoman Empire to join the Central Powers in World War I. The Khedivat of Egypt remained a de jure Ottoman province until 5 November 1914, when it was declared a British protectorate in response to the decision of the young Turks of the Ottoman Empire to enter World War I alongside the Central Powers.

In 1914, the protectorate was formalised and the title of Head of State was changed to Sultan to reject the continued supremacy of the Ottoman Sultan, who had supported the central powers during the First World War. Abbas II abdicated as Khettaib and his uncle Hussein Kamel took over as Sultan.

After the First World War, Saad Zaghloul and his Wafd party led the Egyptian nationalist movement to a majority in the local councils. When the British exiled Zaghlul and his comrades-in-arms to Malta on 8 March 1919, the country rose up in its first modern revolution. The uprising prompted the British government to unilaterally declare Egypt’s independence on 22 February 1922.

In 1923, the new government drafted and implemented a constitution based on a parliamentary system. Saad Zaghlul was popularly elected Prime Minister of Egypt in 1924. In 1936, the Anglo-Egyptian treaty was concluded. The remaining influence of the British and the increasing political involvement of the king led to instability and the dissolution of the parliament in a military coup d’état called the Revolution of 1952. The Free Officers’ Movement forced King Faroukt to abdicate in favour of his son Fuad. The military presence of the British in Egypt remained until 1954.

Republic (1953-)

After the revolution of 1952 by the Free Officers’ Movement, power in Egypt passed into the hands of the military. On 18 June 1953, the Egyptian Republic was proclaimed, with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic.

Rule of President Nasser (1956-1970)

In 1954 Naguib was forced to step down by Gamal Abdel Nasser (a real master architect of the 1952 movement) and was subsequently put under house arrest. On 13 June 1956, British forces completed their withdrawal from the occupied area of the Suez Canal. On 26 July 1956, it nationalised the Suez Canal, triggering the Suez Crisis of 1956.

In 1958, Egypt and Syria established a a sovereign union, known as the United Arab Republic. The union was short-lived and ended in 1961 with the secession of Syria, thus ending the union. During most of its existence, the United Arab Republic has also been in close alliance with North Yemen ( aka the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen), also known as the United Arab States. In 1959, the all-Palestinian government of the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian client state, was absorbed by the United Arab Republic under the pretext of Arab union and was never restored.

In the early 1960s, Egypt became fully involved in the civil war in North Yemen. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser supported the Yemeni Republicans with up to 70,000 Egyptian soldiers and chemical weapons. Despite several military actions and peace conferences, the war has stalled. The Egyptian commitment in Yemen was subsequently seriously compromised.

In mid-May 1967, the Soviet Union warned Nasser of an imminent Israeli attack on Syria. Although Chief of the General Staff Mohamed Fawzi verified that this claim was “unfounded”, Nasser took three successive steps that made war virtually inevitable: on 14 May, he moved his troops into the Sinai near the border with Israel; on 19 May, he expelled the UN peacekeepers stationed in the Sinai peninsula on the border with Israel; and on 23 May, he closed the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping. On 26 May, Nasser said: “The battle will be general and our main objective will be the destruction of Israel. 

Israel reiterated that the closure of the Strait of Tiran was a casus belli. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Egypt was attacked by Israel, resulting in the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, which had been occupied by Egypt during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. During the 1967 war, an emergency law was enacted, which remained in force until 2012, with the exception of an 18-month interruption in 1980/81. Under this law, police powers were extended, constitutional rights were suspended and censorship was legalised.

During the fall of the Egyptian monarchy at the beginning of the 1950s, less than 500,000 Egyptians were regarded as upper class and wealthy, while 4 million were regarded as middle class and 17 million as lower class and poor. Fewer than half of primary school-age children are enrolled in school, and most are boys. Nasser’s policy changed this. Agrarian reform and land distribution, the dramatic growth of university education and government support for domestic industries have greatly improved social mobility and flattened the social curve. From the school year 1953-54 to 1965-66, total enrolment in public schools more than doubled. Millions of previously poor Egyptians joined the middle class through education and public sector jobs. Under Nasser, doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers and journalists formed the bulk of Egypt’s growing middle class. In the 1960s, the Egyptian economy went from lethargy to the brink of collapse, society became less free and the appeal of Nasser weakened considerably.

President Mubarak (1981-2011)

Hosni Mubarak gained power following the assassination of Sadat by a referendum where he was the only candidate.

Hosni Mubarak reaffirmed Egypt’s relations with Israel, but eased tensions with its Arab neighbours. Domestically, Mubarak faced serious problems. Although agricultural and industrial production developed, the economy could not keep pace with the demographic explosion. Poverty and mass unemployment drove families out of the countryside and into cities such as Cairo, where they found themselves in overcrowded slums and struggled to survive.

In the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, terrorist attacks in Egypt became more numerous and more serious and began to target Christian Copts, foreign tourists and government officials. In the 1990s, an Islamist group, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, carried out an extensive campaign of violence, ranging from assassinations and attempted assassinations of prominent writers and intellectuals to repeated attacks on tourists and foreigners. Serious damage was done to the largest sector of the Egyptian economy – tourism – and thus also to the government, but the livelihoods of many people on whom the group depended were also destroyed.

Under Mubarak’s reign, the political scene was dominated by the National Democratic Party, founded by Sadat in 1978. It adopted the Trade Union Law of 1993, the Press Law of 1995 and the Law on Non-State Associations of 1999, which restricted freedom of association and expression through new regulations and draconian sanctions for violations. As a result, parliamentary politics had become virtually meaningless by the late 1990s, and other means of political expression were also curtailed.

61 people, mainly tourists, have been slaughtered on 17 November 1997 in the vicinity of Luxor.

At the end of February 2005, Mubarak announced a reform of the law on presidential elections, paving the way for multi-candidate elections for the first time since the 1952 movement. However, the new law restricted the number of candidates and made it easy for Mubarak to win re-election. Voter turnout was less than 25%. Election observers also accused the government of interfering in the election process. Shortly after the election, Mubarak has jailed his runner-up, Ayman Nour.

Human Rights Watch’s 2006 report on Egypt detailed serious human rights violations, including systematic torture, arbitrary detention and trials before military and state security courts. In 2007, Amnesty International published a report stating that Egypt has become an international torture centre where other nations send suspects for interrogation, often in the context of the war on terrorism. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly refuted the report.

Constitutional amendments adopted on 19 March 2007 banned parties from using religion as a basis for political activity, allowed a new anti-terrorism law to be drafted, gave police broad powers of arrest and surveillance, and gave the President the power to dissolve Parliament and end judicial oversight of elections. In 2009, Dr Ali El Deen Hilal Dessouki, Media Secretary of the National Democratic Party (NDP), described Egypt as a “pharaonic” political system and democracy as a “long-term goal”. Dessouki also said that “the real centre of power in Egypt is the army”.

The revolution and its consequences

Large-scale demonstrations against the Mubarak government began on 25 January 2011. Mubarak resigned and fled Cairo on 11 February 2011. In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, there were shouts of jubilation. Subsequently, the Egyptian army has taken control of the government. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, President of the Supreme Council of Military Affairs, became the de-facto interim state leader. On 13 February 2011, the military dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution.

On 19 March 2011, a constitutional referendum is being held. On 28 November 2011, Egypt held its first parliamentary elections since the previous regime came to power. Voter turnout was high and no major irregularities or violence were reported. Mohammed Morsi has been elected as President on the 24th of June 2012. On 2 August 2012, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil announced the composition of his 35-member cabinet with 28 new members, including four from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Liberal and secular parties have left the Constituent Assembly as they consider it an imposition of rigid Islamic practices, while Muslim Brotherhood followers have joined Mr Morsi. On 22 November 2012, President Morsi issued a preliminary statement that shielded his decrees from challenge and sought to protect the work of the Constituent Assembly.

This movement led to massive protests and violent actions throughout Egypt. On 5 December 2012, tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Morsi clashed in what has been described as the largest violent battle between Islamists and their opponents since the country’s revolution. Mohamed Morsi proposed a “national dialogue” with opposition leaders, but refused to cancel the constitutional referendum in December 2012.

On 3 July 2013, the military ousted President Morsi in a coup d’état and set up an interim government. This decision was taken three days after mass demonstrations for and against the Morsi regime were held throughout Egypt.

On 4 July 2013, Adly Mansour, 68, president of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt, was sworn in as interim president of the new government after Morsi’s ouster. Egyptian authorities, backed by the military, cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, imprisoning thousands and killing hundreds of demonstrators in the streets. Many Muslim Brotherhood leaders and activists were sentenced to death or life imprisonment in a series of mass trials.

On January 18, 2014, a new constitution was introduced by the administrator government, which was approved by 98.1% of voters in a referendum. Turnout was low, with only 38.6% of registered voters voting, although this figure is higher than the 33% who participated in a referendum during Mursi’s term in office. On 26 March 2014, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the head of the Egyptian armed forces, which controlled the country at the time, resigned from the army and announced that he will be standing as a potential candidate in the 2014 presidential elections.The election, held between 26 and 28 May 2014, resulted in a landslide for el-Sisi.. The Muslim Brotherhood and some liberal and secular activist groups boycotted the election. Although military-supported authorities extended the election to a third day, voter turnout was 46%, lower than the 52% turnout for the 2012 election.

Stay Safe & Healthy In Egypt

Stay Safe In Egypt

WARNING: The governments of several countries warned against unnecessary travel to Egypt after the army threatened a coup due to ongoing protests against President Mohamed Morsi. (This coup d’état actually took place in 2013; there have been numerous arrests of journalists and the human rights situation remains problematic.)Egypt deals with drug offences with extreme severity. The death penalty is mandatory for those convicted of drug trafficking.

Illegal use can result in up to ten years’ imprisonment or a heavy fine, or both. You can be charged with illicit use as long as traces of illegal drugs are found in your system, even if you can prove they were used outside the country, and you can be charged with trafficking as long as drugs are found in bags in your possession or in your room, even if they are not yours and you are aware of it – so be careful with your possessions.

Emergency numbers

  • Police: 122
  • Outpatient clinic: 123
  • Fire brigade: 180
  • Motorway: 136
  • Natural gas: 129

Fraud and hassle

Travellers often complain of harassment and fraud while in Egypt. Although annoying, most of these acts are quite harmless, such as trying to lure you into a local papyrus or perfume shop.

Generally, you will be approached by someone who speaks fluent English and starts a conversation under social pretences. He (and it will always be a “he”) will then try to lure you into his favourite (most expensive) gift shop for a cup of tea or something else. This can also happen outside of museums, etc. where the scammer will try to make you believe that the “museum is closed” or whatever.

Although it is never dangerous, bickering can be annoying, especially in major tourist areas. There is no way to avoid it, but a polite shukran (no thanks) helps a lot. That being said, try to take harassment with a smile. If you allow yourself to be harassed by someone who is trying to sell you something, your holiday will not be very happy.

Even more annoying are taxi drivers or others who get a commission to take you to the hotel of their choice, paying a commission for each guest they receive. Stay firm on this point. If they insist, simply ask to be dropped off in a street or landmark near where you want to go. This scam is particularly common with airport taxi drivers.

Egypt is generally a safe and welcoming country for travellers. Egyptians are, on the whole, very friendly – if you need help, they will generally try to help you as much as they can.

Gay and lesbian travellers should be cautious and refrain from open and public displays. While in pre-revolutionary times a few gay bars in major cities could operate in a semi-open manner, the situation has deteriorated and members of gay baths or gay marriage societies have been specifically prosecuted for “debauchery” in 2014.

Officially, cannabis and other narcotics are prohibited and punishable by heavy penalties; the same applies to the abuse of prescription drugs. Nevertheless, hashish in particular is widely used, even among Egyptians; it is considered part of Egyptian culture to some extent, and is generally considered much less offensive than alcohol, with many Egyptian clerics considering it to be makruh (allowed but disapproved) rather than haraam (prohibited).

Many Egyptians who are reluctant to drink alcohol do not think of consuming hashish; it is commonly used on festive occasions in rural areas in some parts of the country and in many Sufi rituals throughout the country. The police are notorious for using hashish possession as an excuse to arrest and brutalise people, but their targets are usually locals, not tourists, and as long as you do not irritate the security forces or otherwise attract their attention, it is unlikely – and we must stress, unlikely, but not impossible – that foreigners will suffer unduly from private cannabis use in Egypt.

Egyptian men compliment women; do not take offence if they do so to you. Men need not worry either; if they do this to your partner/daughter, it will only be a compliment and hopefully will go no further.

If you are a woman travelling alone or with another woman, be warned that some men will touch you or grab a part of your body, whether you are negotiating with them or just walking down the street. Dressing modestly will not deter them. If you get angry because they have touched you, they and all spectators, male or female, will be amused. The best way to avoid this is to wear a wedding ring and not be too friendly.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a security issue and the country’s terrorist groups have an unpleasant record of targeting Western tourists and the places they visit. Egyptian security forces remain at a very high level of alert.

However, the chances of being affected by terrorism are statistically low, and most of the attacks only killed Egyptians, adding to the disgust of the vast majority of Egyptians for extremists. The government only takes the issue very seriously when it is financially damaging, and tourist sites are heavily guarded, although the level and competence of the Egyptian police leaves much to be desired. For instance, when you take a taxi from Cairo to Alexandria, you will probably be stopped at a checkpoint before leaving Cairo.They will sometimes ask you where you are going and sometimes contact the Alexandria checkpoint to make sure you reach your destination within a certain time.

The same is true for most desert travel, particularly in Upper Egypt, which is probably best avoided because of the growing religious tensions that lurk beneath the surface and which, although seemingly harmless, have the ability to erupt without warning. During the various stages of your journey you may be escorted by the local police who will expect some sort of financial payment. They will accompany you to your destination, wait there until you are finished, and will usually stay behind at one of the next checkpoints, as they often have nothing else to do and because tourists are considered signs of $. The best example of this is when you travel from Aswan to Abu Simbel to visit the temple of Ramses II. An armed tourist policeman gets into your tourist bus and escorts you to Abu Simbel. After your visit, he accompanies you in the same bus to Aswan, again because this is part of his job and without tourists there would be no jobs and there would be no reason to ensure the safety of your own citizens since they are not a financial asset to them.

There are also many tourist policemen armed with AK-47s who patrol the Giza plateau on camels. They are there to ensure the safety of tourists, because the pyramids are the crown jewels of all Egyptian antiquities, although they have been very poorly maintained in recent years, with no investment from the inside, only from the outside, by countries and historical groups who cannot bear to sit back and watch the ruin that the local government allows these wonderful sites to become. Some tourists may find it exciting, even amusing, to take pictures with these policemen on camels. However, as they are all on patrol, it is not uncommon for them to verbally warn you not to pose next to them to take a picture with them, although anything is possible for a fee or financial payment.

Gay/lesbian

Egypt is an Islamic and conservative country. Any manifestation of homosexuality is considered strange, bizarre, disrespectful and can, in most cases, lead to hostile reactions. Depending on the situation, place and time, it can range from strange looks to physical violence. Gays and lesbians should therefore be discreet during their stay in Egypt.

The gay scene in Egypt is not as open and free as in the West. In the past, homosexuals have been arrested and detained by police in Cairo and even tortured for engaging in homosexual activity. Human rights groups have condemned these actions, and the Egyptian government has come under pressure from various quarters, including the United States, to end this degrading treatment of homosexuals. The most notorious arrests took place in 2001 on a boat called the Queen Boat on the Nile in the Zamalek district. Since then there have been further arrests, but the exact situation of homosexuals in recent years is uncertain.

There are no official places for gays to cruise or meet other people.

Crime

Pickpocketing is a problem in major Egyptian cities, especially in Greater Cairo. Many residents choose not to carry a wallet at all, but to keep their money in a clip in their pocket, and tourists would be well advised to do the same. On the positive side, violent crime is rare and it is very unlikely that you will be the victim of an assault or robbery. However, if you are the victim of a crime, you can get support from local pedestrians by shouting “Harami” (thief), but do not chase after him as this is the easiest way to get lost and most criminals carry pocket knives.

Overall, scams are the main problem in Egypt. Be aware that many Egyptians who start a conversation with you in Cairo and Luxor want your money. There is a very underhanded tactic of making “friends”, showing you around, showing you things, even taking you to their house for dinner and then asking you for money. So basically, if something sounds just too good to be true, then it probably is.Charge absolutely everything, because if you say afterwards, “I thought it was free,” you’re going to have a nasty fight.

Demonstrations

Protests against the Egyptian government have continued since 2011. Caution is advised near protest areas. The demonstration or/and the reaction of security forces to it could become violent. Thugs take advantage of the lack of police security in and around protest areas. Numerous cases of rape, violent robbery and murder of foreigners have been reported.

Stay Safe In Egypt

Liquids

Make sure you drink plenty of water: Egypt has an extremely dry climate for most of the year – a fact aggravated by high temperatures in late summer – and countless travellers every year experience the discomfort and dangers of dehydration. It is not enough to be thirsty to indicate danger – carry a bottle of water and keep drinking! If you don’t feel the need to urinate for a long time, or if you only urinate very small amounts of dark yellow urine, these are signs of incipient dehydration.

Egyptian tap water is considered safe by most people, but it often makes travellers ill. It is not recommended for regular consumption, mainly because of the very local differences in quality. Bottled mineral water is widely available. Be wary, however, of the old scam whereby vendors resell bottled water after filling it from another (possibly dubious) source. Always make ….sure the seal is intact before you part with your money (or drink it), and inform the tourist police if you catch someone doing so.

Be a little careful with the fruit juice, as some vendors may mix it with water. You should also be careful with milk, as it may not be pasteurised. Try to buy milk only from reputable shops. Hot drinks such as tea and coffee are usually good because the water has been boiled first, but also be careful with ice cubes.

Sun

Winter is usually the time when the sun is at its mildest, especially in December, and it is the weakest in northern Egypt. Egypt has a desert climate, which means that there are hardly any clouds during the hottest months. So expect extremely sunny days, especially from June to August, and try to avoid direct sunlight from 9am (10am in summer) to 3pm (4pm in summer). Bring a good pair of sunglasses and wear a good sunscreen, although this is ineffective if exposed skin becomes clammy. In addition, you can wear a baseball cap or something similar if you don’t want to stand out, as this is the most popular headgear for urban Egyptians.

Schistosomiasis

To avoid contracting the dreaded schistosomiasis parasite (also called bilharziasis), a flat worm that pierces the skin, don’t swim in the Nile and don’t venture into other Egyptian waters, even if the country’s inhabitants do. It is also advisable not to walk barefoot on freshly watered lawns for the same reason.

Although it can take weeks or even months for the disease to manifest itself, it is advisable to consult a local doctor if you think you have been exposed, as he or she is familiar with the diagnosis and treatment and it will cost you pennies rather than dollars. Symptoms include fever, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fatigue, so the disease can easily be mistaken for the flu or food poisoning, but flatworm eggs can be identified by a stool test and the disease can usually be cured with a single dose of praziquantel.

Bird flu outbreaks in Egypt have killed 23 people since 2006. The last death occurred in December 2008.

Vaccinations and malaria

The following vaccinations are generally recommended for Egypt:

  • All routine vaccinations, including: measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination, chickenpox (varicella) vaccination, polio vaccination and annual influenza vaccination.
  • Hepatitis A and typhoid fever.
  • Hepatitis B if sexual contact, tattoo/piercing or medical procedures are planned.
  • Rabies if an extended stay is planned, especially for outdoor activities.

There is a low risk of malaria in P. vivax only in the Aswan region of Egypt. While travelling to Aswan, travellers are advised to avoid mosquito bites.

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