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As ancient as it is mysterious, Egypt's wonders are many. Most obviously, the complex pyramid structures have long been Egypt's hallmark. Indeed, it is testament to their brilliance that today, in a time of such modernity, visitors still flock to Egypt to marvel at the pyramids and the Sphinx.
Egyptian tourism is abundantly blessed: beyond the remains of the ancient Egyptian civilization, visitors can also enjoy remnants of Greek and Roman influence on the land, as well as centuries-old Christian churches and equally impressive Islamic mosques. The Red Sea and its stunning coral formation have long been considered by divers as one of the world's best spots. And even if you're not all too keen on diving, the Egyptian underwater world may soon interest you: there have been hints of development making it possible to view the submerged palace of Cleopatra.
Home to one of the oldest known world civilisations, the state of Egypt was first founded around the start of the third millenium BC. It remained one of the strongest political powers of its time until its annexation by Rome in 30 BC. During this period many great cities were founded and monuments built. The wealth of ancient historical artifice, beautifully preserved by the desert, remains one of the main draws for the modern traveller.
The Roman annexation was the first of a series of occupations. Amongst them were the Greek, Persians, Arabs, Ottomans, French and British, all of which have left their mark on the country. The new Egyptian Government drafted and implemented a new constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary representative system. Egypt was finally restored to full independence under the Presidency of Abdel Nasser in 1936. On 18 June 1953, the Egyptian Republic was declared, with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic.
Nasser assumed power as President in June 1956. British forces completed their withdrawal from the occupied Suez Canal Zone on 13 June 1956. His nationalization of the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956 prompted the 1956 Suez Crisis.
Three years after the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel had invaded and occupied Sinai, Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. Sadat switched Egypt's Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. Sadat made a historic visit to Israel in 1977, which led to the 1979 peace treaty in exchange for the complete Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. Sadat's initiative sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt's expulsion from the Arab League, but it was supported by the vast majority of Egyptians.
Beginning on 25 January 2011, a series of street demonstrations, protests, and civil disobedience acts have taken place in Egypt, with organisers counting on the Tunisian uprising to inspire the crowds to mobilize. The demonstrations and riots were reported to have started over police brutality, state of emergency laws, unemployment, desire to raise the minimum wage, lack of housing, food inflation, corruption, lack of freedom of speech, and poor living conditions. The protests' main goal was achieved on February 11, when President Hosni Mubarak resigned after a rule of 30 years, leaving the military in charge of the country. How Egypts political future will evolve remains to be seen.
The majority of Egypt is based around the fertile Nile floodplain and delta. Several other large settlements, including Siwa, are located in desert oases. Most of the rest of Egypt consists of sparsely populated desert, including a section of the Sahara, and the rocky and arid Sinai Peninsula. Egypt shares international borders with Libya, Sudan and Israel.
The Sahara Desert is the largest desert in the world and is about the size of the United States. This desert covers ninety percent of Egypt and only has small settlements known as oasis near underground springs. The desert heat and blowing winds make the desert a natural barrier to protect Egypt from invasion. This protection allowed the Egyptians to focus their wealth on their many construction projects instead of building defensive structures.
The natural barrier of the huge Sahara Desert and the waters of the Famous Rivers#Nile River made Egypt an ideal location for people to live. The geography of Egypt made it possible for the ancient people of this region to flourish and develop a civilization which still marvels the entire world.
The Pyramids of Giza are some of the most recognizable sights in the world including the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Sphinx. These mega-structures were built thousands of years ago to protect the remains of long dead kings. The construction of these pyramids cost countless lives and tons of gold. These large structures easily attracted the attention of tomb robbers and were raided thousands of years ago. Today the Pyramids of Giza are one of the most popular sights in the world are next to Cairo. Bear in mind that the Pyramids of Giza are not the only Pyramids built, and there are many more that can be visited.
Khan el-Khalili is a major souq, or open air market, in the old city of Cairo. This souk is one of the main tourist attractions in Cairo and sells clothing, cloth, spices, souvenirs and Egpytian jewelry. There are also perfumes at good prices and yummy street food. The souq was orginally opened in 1382 and has been doing a brisk business ever since.
The Siwa Oasis is a major oasis 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the Libyan border and 560 kilometres (348 miles) from Cairo This stunning oasis has been a hot spot of human activity since the 10th millennium BC. Today it is a center for a Berber population of 20,000 people. With their natural diet and clean living, Siwans have the best lifespan of all Egyptians, with many Siwans living upwards of 95 years. There is also no crime in this area; the last one was over ten years ago, both committed by and against outsiders. Be aware that the area is far more conservative than Cairo. It is impossible to obtain alchohol, and visitors, especially women, will want to cover up as much as possible. The towns are built in amazing ways and this hard to get place is worth the trek.
The Bahariya Oasis is more to the center of the country, about 360 kilometres (225 miles) from Cairo and is a depression with some magnificent villages, culture and desert landscapes. It is located int the Western Desert of Egypt, together with the Farafra Oasis and the Dakhla Oasis. Near the Farafra Oasis you'll find the spectacular White Desert. Other oases include the Kharga Oasis (the southernmost of the Western Desert oases) and the Faiyum Oasis, the northernmost and immediately west of the capital.
This is an area famous for the magnificent temple of Abu Simbel. The entrance of this grand temple is made up of four enormous statues of Pharaoh Ramses who built this entrance in an effort to command respect from the Nubians. Similar to the temples on Philae and Kalabsha, Abu Simbel was also relocated by UNESCO to its current location in an effort to protect it from the rising waters of the Nile caused by the construction of a large dam. An Abu Simbel tour is certainly worth while.
Luxor was once the capital of Upper Egypt, when the city still went by the name of Thebe. Now the city is one of the main tourist attractions of the country. One of the main attractions is the temple complex of Karnak on the eastern side of the Nile. On the other side hidden away in the mountains, you can find the The Valley of the Kings, with it's many tombs, including of course the tomb discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, the tomb of Tutankhamun.
There are a couple huge festivals in Egypt which attract many tourists each year, and are fun to watch and take part in.
The Abu Simbel Festival celebrates one of the most incredible sights in the world, the temple of Abu Simbel. The temple was designed so that twice a year the inner sanctum would light up and create an amazing spectacle. It's a breathtaking sight and together with the music, food and dance accompanying the festival, it is a day not to be missed.
The Cairo Oriental Dance Festival celebrates and pays homage to the beautiful Belly Dance. It is celebrated every year in Cairo from July 20-26 and you have the chance to see some of the world's best belly dancers, as well as chat to scholars on this ancient form of dance. With the workshops on offer you will not only have a chance to try the dance for yourself but also learn all about its history and cultural impact in Egypt.
Egypt lies almost entirely within the Sahara desert and has hot and dry conditions year round. Only a small strip along the Mediterranean coastline is a wetter and has more mild temperatures. It is generally still warm during winter, and hot during summer - potentially extremely hot (50 °C in some cities, for example Luxor and Aswan). Don't go out during the day without plenty of water, a hat, shades and sun screen. Nights can be extremely cold in the desert, although only during the colder wintermonths of December to February. Most of the country averages only between 25 mm and 50 mm of rain a year, while the coastal strip has roughly 150 mm of rain a year, still quite dry to support crops.
Most of the rain here (for example in Alexandria) falls between November and February, during the cooler months. Temperatures are still around 20 °C during the day and slightly above 10 °C at night. In summer, temperatures are roughly 10 °C higher, both during the day and night. With southern winds though temperatures can reach 44 °C in summer as well. These high temperatures (also in Cairo) mainly occur during spring and early summer when hot, dry and dusty winds (Khamsin) blows from the Sahara.
More to the south, Egypt becomes very very dry and sunny as well. Aswan for example has virtually no rain whatsoever, making it one of the driest places on earth. Temperatures between November and February are pleasantly warm, between 23 °C and 28 °C, while average daytime temperatures in summer are above 40 °C, but records of 51 °C have been measured here!.
Dozens of airlines fly to and from Egypt from several destinations worldwide. Easyjet has started lowcost flights between Sharm el-Sheikh or Hurghada and London. Many budget operators and charter airlines fly from Europe and the Middle East to Egypt, mostly to Cairo but others to regional destinations including Hurghada International Airport, Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport and Luxor. The last caters mainly to charter flights from Europe and several other destinations. Marsa Alam International Airport (RMF) offers a wide range of flights as well.
Egypt Air is the national airline of Egypt and is based at Cairo International Airport (CAI), 15 kilometres northeast of the centre of Cairo. It has international scheduled flights to and from Abu Dhabi, Accra, Addis Ababa, Aleppo, Alexandria, Algiers, Amman, Amsterdam, Asmara, Athens, Bahrain, Bangkok, Barcelona, Beijing, Beirut, Benghazi, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Casablanca, Damascus, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Düsseldorf, Entebbe, Frankfurt, Geneva, Guangzhou, Hurghada, Istanbul, Jeddah, Johannesburg, Kano, Khartoum, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait, Lagos, Larnaca, Lisbon, London, Luxor, Kuwait, Madrid, Medina, Milan, Montréal, Moscow, Mumbai, Munich, Muscat, Nairobi, New York, Osaka, Paphos, Paris, Riyadh, Rome, Sana'a, Sharjah, Tokyo, Tripoli, Tunis and Vienna.
There are no international trains, though you can get from Egypt to Aswan and take the ferry to Wadi Halfa in Sudan from there where there is onward transport including a train.
You are able to take cars across the borders from Israel and Sudan if you are planning on travelling overland through Africa. Though note that you are not able to cross from Egypt to Israel with a private vehicle, only from Israel into Egypt. Egypt - Sudan is ok in both directions. You won't need a visa for Israel, but you do need one before you enter Egypt, otherwise you can only visit the Sinai Peninsula. You also need a Sudanese visa before arrival.
You need the right papers, insurance and expect some hassling and maybe a bribe when going to Sudan. Note that it's not possible to cross into Libya with your own vehicle. You need to pre-arrange transport and tours in Libya before arriving and a visa as well.
Buses travel between Cairo, Alexandria and several cities in Israel (Eilat, onwards to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) and Jordan (Aqaba, Amman). The buses to Jordan use the ferry between Nuweiba and Aqaba and buses leave from both Alexandria and Cairo for several Jordanese places.
The border crossing via Rafah using the Gaza strip as a short cut between Cairo and Tel Aviv is not available at the moment as borders are kept closed firmly during the last couple of years. You can also cross between Egypt and Libya (to Tobruk and Benghazi for example) by bus or shared taxi but you have to arrange visa before you do (in both directions!) and when entering Libya you are met with your tourguide, as independent travel is not allowed. There is no public transport between Egypt and Sudan, other than the ferry between Aswan and Wadi Halfa.
There are ferries between Aqaba, Jordan and Nuweiba on the Sinai peninsula. There is a daily fast ferry (US$90 for First class and US$70 for economy seat) leaving at 11:00am from Jordan and 3:00pm from Egypt. It takes 1 to 2 hours depending on sea conditions. The slow ferry leaves daily as well but costs almost the same and is much less comfortable and much slower indeed! These ferries are operated by AB Maritime, do check their website for more details. Citizens of most European countries, North America, Australia and New Zealand can get a visa for free when entering Aqaba.
In the summer season (May-October) there is a twice weekly ferry between Port Said (Egypt) and Limassol (Cyprus).
There is a irregular services between Suez and Jeddah (taking 36 hours!) but generally this is not of much use for travellers at all, because of the strict visa regulations in Saudi Arabia. There is also a fast ferry between Hurghada and Dubba, taking around 3 hours.
Apart from onward ferries from Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), you can take a weekly ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa in Sudan. You will need a valid Sudanese visa or otherwise you won't be able to board the ferry. Check departures localy as these may vary. It takes about 20 hours on average.
Egypt Air operates flights between Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Sharm El Sheikh, Assiut and Hurghada and most cities are served at least daily.
Egyptian National Railways has trains between the Libyan border to Alexandria and south to Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, with a few branches to Port Said and Suez. There are also several luxury air-conditioned day and night trains with sleeping and restaurant cars from Cairo to Luxor and Aswan. If travelling overnight, you can reserve at the Abela Egypt website. for some reason, only first class carriages are accessible to tourists in Egypt now, with second class tickets being sold to Egyptian nationals only. First class seating is comfortable, however, with aircon and plenty of room to move around.
You can rent cars with major international as well as local companies and you have to be at least 25 years of age and have International driving permit and insurance. If bringing your own car, you need a carnet de passage. The main roads along the coast, Nile river and delta and the desert loop Asyut to Giza are all paved.
There is a national bus system serving most major cities and towns along the coast and Nile. The main routes include Cairo to Sinai destination like St Catherine, Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab, and Taba. Another route is Suez to Sharm el-Sheikh and Sharm el-Sheikh to Taba, Nuweiba, Dahab and St Catherine. Coach services operate between Cairo and a bunch of places towards Hurghada. There are also service taxis (usually Peugeot 504 and 505 station) which leave when they are so full that breathing becomes challenge.
There are both slow and fast ferry services between Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, taking 1.5 to 6 hours.
Most other services are of the more touristic ones, including traditional Nile sailing boats (feluccas), which can be hired by the hour and there are alot longer Nile cruises operating between Luxor and Aswan, and sometimes all the way from Cairo.
If you would like to sail the Nile in style then you can hop onboard a Dahabiya. Instead of hearing the motor of a cruise ship, you will be able to enjoy the unspoilt tranquility of the Nile and let the wind guide you to your destination. Each Dahabiya varies, and some tour companies offer trips where you will only be sharing this immense boat with a few other people, as opposed to the many crammed cruise ships you'll see out there.
Most travellers can get a visa upon arrival, including nationals of the USA, Canada, the UK, most European countries, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. If you are arriving from the border crossing with Israel and are only visiting the Sinai Peninsula you don't need a visa. If you travel further and your pasport is controlled, you will have to pay a fine.
Also note that if you are arriving overland (from Libya or Sudan) you might need a visa beforehand! Check the nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate for details.
The following nationals do not need a visa when visiting Egypt:
Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.
Citizens of the following countries are required to be in possession of a pre-arrival visa:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia,Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestinia, Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and all African countries.
See also Money Matters
Egyptian Pound (EGP; symbol E£) = 100 piastres.
Notes come in denominations of E£200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 1, 50 piastres and 25 piastres.
Coins come in denominations of 25, 20, 10 and 5 piastres. There is also a new LE 1 coin.
There are jobs for foreigners in Egypt, but they are few and far between outside of the capital. Jobs can be paid in both local currency and foreign currency. The most lucrative jobs are those that pay in US dollars, and once converted to the local currency, enables you to live comfortably in Egypt.
The job market works predominantly on word of mouth rather than through job listings, though sometimes you will see adverts in local newspapers. A lot of foreigners will have organized their work placement in their native country before travelling to Egypt. You don't necessarily have to speak Arabic to work in Egypt, though it is always recommended to take some classes when you arrive as it will help you to make contacts and fit in more easily with the local culture.
The official language of Egypt is Arabic, although English is widely spoken.
The food in Egypt is simple, filling and tasty, the most popular being Taamiya, a falafel made with local green beans and spices and is served in pitta bread. Shwarma is good quality and typically Egyptian and consists of marinated lamb with salad and homous served in pitta. Fuul means 'beans' and is served in many ways, usually with onions, tomato and spices. Baba Ganush is made from pureed grilled aubergine and is served with pitta bread at most meals.
If you get the chance, ask around for the local Kushari shop which serves a cheap but delicious dish, also called Kushari -rice, macaroni, lentils, onions with a spicy tomato sauce poured over it. Western dishes can be found in hotel restaurants or in more upmarket parts of the cities.
Alcohol is available in most tourist areas of Egypt, such as Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and of course along the popular coastal areas. It is however difficult, often impossible, to find in the Western Desert areas and in central Egypt. Over-indulgence in public is viewed as disrespectful and generally unacceptible, therefore alcohol is best enjoyed in hotels bars and restaurants. During the month of Ramadan, where most of the country will be fasting during the day, alcohol will be less freely available and you would need to be even more discrete about consuming it in public. Local Sakkara and Stella beers are the most popular beers and there are some decent Egyptians wines from Alexandria. Do bear in mind that hangovers in hot, dry climates like Egypt can be unbearable!
Karkaday is deep red coloured non-alcoholic drink, made from an infusion of hibiscus flowers and is available in tea shops all over Egypt. It apparentlye keeps you warm when it's cold and cool when it's hot! If it is a little sour for your taste, it can be served with sugar.
See also Travel Health
Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is only required upon entering Egypte when you have been to an infected country within 7 days of entering the country, except when travelling from Argentina or Paraguay.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Egypte. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
If you go out during the day, be sure to take plenty of water with you to ensure you are well hydrated. If you are worried about tummy bugs, you may need to wash your hands more often than usual with good old fashioned soap and water when you can, especially when handling the and before eating.
Egypt can get incredibly hot, especially during the summer months. Make sure you wear plenty of high factor sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Heat exhaustion is very serious and will ruin your holiday. Be aware that you do not necessarily have to feel thirsty to become chronically dehydrated. So make sure to keep drinking water even before you feel thirsty.
Although Egypt's tap water is officially safe to drink, it tastes pretty awful, due to the chlorine content, and you are more susceptible to getting ill as your body is used to less chlorinated water. It is best to stick to bottled water, which is sold cheaply throughout the country.
With food, beware of undercooked meats, go for fruit that has been peeled, and stay away from ice cream sold on the street. Stick to the busy restaurants rather than the empty ones, for obvious reasons! Some people decide to stay away from eating salads, on the basis that they have probably been washed in tap water.
An important tip for ensuring good health in Egypt is to constantly wash your hands, especially if you've been handling cash. Dirty notes and coins which are exchanged from person to person carry a lot of bacteria and may cause you to catch a bug if you don't wash your hands enough. You can buy some portable hand wash gel to remind youself to use it frequently and have it with you for the whole trip.
See also Travel Safety
It is ok to be quite harsh with the men or kids in egypt. Saying "yalla im shee" means go away and yalla yalla in a more friendly get up and go fashion, the women are more inclind to help you out if they see that you know their rules and what they'd say if being hassled. unless your alone down a dark alley feel free to tell them to go away. Remember that you are not their property and they can see that in your face if you stand up in believeing in that.
The crime rate in Egypt is low but you should definitely take precautions. Keep a good eye on your passport and valuables at all times, use hotel safes and be aware of pickpockets. If you are the victim of any crime you must report it to the Tourist Police immediately.
There are plenty of internet cafes in towns, half the price of the hotel internets.
See also International Telephone Calls
If you need to call your taxi or guide you can buy an egyptian mobile for around 100 LE. Make sure you buy the call card and get it put into your new phone.
Egypt Post is the national postal service in Egypt. Services are generally reliable, affordable though pretty slow, even if you send post domestically. International letters and postcards take days, if not weeks if send to the US or Australia. They do have express mail services though, but these are relatively expensive. Opening hours of post officies are mostly from 8:30am to 2:00pm or 3:00pm daily except Friday, when all of them are closed. The central ones might keep longer hours, generally until 8:00pm. You can buy stamps here, or at certain newspaper kiosks. In touristic areas, these are available at many shops as well. For parcels, it's much better to use international courier services such as DHL, TNT or UPS.
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Ask Mohamed Abdul a question about Egypt
visits to Egypt and advices
Ask egypttravels a question about Egypt
I'm a tour guide since 1999 and working as a webmaster for 2 of the greatest travel portals in Egypt serving almost 160 travel agents all over Egypt, so I know most of them and who is capable of doing what according to the type of service required and the budget you are deciding to pay.
Ask globaltrotter a question about Egypt
I backpacked in Egypt for three weeks when I was 18.
Ask wouterrr a question about Egypt
I should be able to help you regarding your travel trough the northern parts of Egypt.
Ask mseif_99 a question about Egypt
As a resident of the always tourist-troubled and also a tourist dream destination, it is so common in Egypt to hear & read stories of people got scammed, or most commonly miss-guided.
I'am An architect, living in Cairo, but have experienced most of the travelers' Egypt's destinations, encountering many activities, starting from just visiting the pyramids in Giza, to interacting with the people in the busy nights of Cairo, snorkeling in the red sea, climbing/hiking Mount Sinai in St.Catherine, camping in the desert under the full-moon light...etc.
Hopefully I can answer your queries, and aid you to enjoy your stay.
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