Regime: Unitary semi-presidential republic
Area: 1 010 407 km2
Population: 89 056 000 (2015)
Currency: Egyptian pound (EGP)
Time Zone: GMT +2 (winter) / GMT +3 (summer)
Official language: Egyptian Arabic
Calling Code: +20
GDP (PPP per capita): $ 3 724
The capital of Egypt is a city that manages to make all others cities seem relatively empty. But the hustle and bustle of this busy city is worth affronting for a chance to experience the beauty on show, both within the city centre and greater Cairo. Whether you head to downtown Cairo for the Egyptian Museum, or across the river for the Khan el-Khalili bazaar or the great pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, the sheer size and unique nature of these monument will require a special entry in you travel dairy.
Constructed by Alexander the Great and called home by Queen Cleopatra, Alexandria is a rather special city. History, however, decided that the past should stay in the past and many of the sight of this great city, such as the Pharos lighthouse or the Great Library, have been lost. Today the city is home to many writers and artists with an influx of holiday makers from Cairo during the summer. Alexandria boasts amazing beaches, seafood and spectacular diving spots that’s include the fallen lighthouse, wartime wrecks and sunken cities.
If its history you’re after, Luxor is the place to be, with The Valley of the Kings, with the tombs of Tutankhamun and a collection of Ramses; the temples of Karnak and the Theban Necropolis. The areas surrounding Luxor can be viewed in comfort on a cruise along the Nile, which is worthwhile for the sites such as Edfu and Kom Ombo.
Crystal clear water, exotic fish and none of those fenced in “holiday camps”. This laid back town is one of the few tourist spot along the coast that have not suffered from the same amount of growth as the other holiday destinations. If you feel like following the footsteps of Moses, Mount Sinai is within reach and maybe you can get your own set of commandments.
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Weather/ When to leave:
This is a country when you choose the time of the year according to how much sunburn you can handle. With this in mind, the summer months from June to August will roast all but the locals. The Mediterranean coast, however, remains bearable with lower temperatures. For the rest of the country, which is not on the coast, winter is the high season and the best time of the year to visit is between October and February.
Thanks to the deciphering of the Rosetta stone, many of Egypt’s ancient secrets have revealed the thousands of years of recorded history. This discovery of one of the oldest civilisations shows different languages, religions and art. But even with these discoveries, many of its wonders have been lost. The country has had many rulers of the ages ranging from Egyptian Pharaohs to the Romans.
Egyptians have been playing music with harps and flutes as well as with indigenous instruments like the ney or the oud since 4000 BC. After the 7th century AD the style of music adapted to the Muslim world with the increased use of percussion instruments. Today Egyptian music varies from pop to folk where it is often used to communicate social issues. This music is often accompanied by belly dancing, otherwise known as Raqs Sharqi, an art form that originated in Egypt.
Egypt was declared as a Muslim state in 1980, whereas up until this time the country was declared as secular. The ancient Egyptian religion no longer exists, with the second largest religion adhered to in the country being Christianity.
Egyptian dishes share many similarities with many of the eastern Mediterranean countries with meals including kebabs and falafel. More country specific dishes include Ful medame, vegetables and fava beans; Kushari, a mix of rice, macaroni and lentils with a tomato and vinegar sauce; and Molokhis, a bitter broth made from Jute leaves.
Places not to miss:
Pyramids of Giza
Whether they were made by aliens or Egyptians, these impressive structures were constructed as tombs to the pharaohs. The oldest and largest of these pyramids if known as the Pyramid of Khufu and is also the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This pyramid, measuring almost 150m in height, was completed around 2560 BC.
Although this museum displays a smaller collection than that in the Cairo museum, it takes pride in the quality and uncluttered way in which each item is arranged with clear multilingual labelling. The collection includes items from Tutankhamun, Ramesses I and Ahmose I.
The mosque, otherwise known as the mosque of the most resplendent or the most blooming, was built in 970’s.It was the first mosque in Cairo and is also the second oldest continuously run university in the world. The mosque contains five minarets that each have their own balconies and intracitely carved columns. The tomb chamber contains a particularly beautiful mihrab, a niche which indicates the location of Mecca, and therefore the direction to pray.
Things to do:
An unforgettable way to experience all of the history and sites of this country is get around through the use of camels and jeeps. These tours allow you to visit the pyramids, stop off in a refreshing oasis and mix with the desert dwellers as they smoke a waterpipe (shisha). It is best to make use of the organised trips as some of the guides will attempt to extort some rather imaginative charges once the tour is over.
A great way to enjoy the river Nile is with a cruise on the Nile Maxim. These barges floats along the Nile while you enjoy a live band, belly dancers, food and the view.
- The Abu Simbel Festival (February)
- South Sinai Camel Festival (May)
- Art Festival (August)
- Abu Simbal Festival to celebrate Ramses II (October)
Passport and Visa:
The Egyptian government has recently changed the way that visas have been handed out, and they can no longer be available on arrival.
Holders of passports from the following countries do not require visas in order to enter and stay within Egypt for less than 3 months: Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. (Although certain countries have additional requirements)
When in Cairo it is possible to get around with the metro system, but this is the only city with this system as an option. For any travelling outside on Cairo there are a variety of options ranging from the Tuk-Tuks to buses.
When using the buses, trams or pretty much any form of transport in Egypt the numbers displayed will be a lot easier to understand if you are able to read Arabic numbers.
Health and safety:
Almost anything that is done for you in Egypt will be followed one word: “baksheesh”. It is very common for people to ask tourists for tips, but watch out for certain individuals who abuse this system and you will be encountered with a list of hidden charges at the end of your tour or taxi ride or even if someone hands you some toilet paper.
The current situation in Egypt is rather unstable at the moment, with certain countries announcing a high threat from terrorism and therefore advising against travelling to certain regions.
Egypt’s power is delivered through a European socket, which means it will work with adapter A, E and F, with a voltage of 220-240 volts.
- Honour is a very import facet of the Egyptian way of life, this means that respect needs to be shown
- Handshakes are the normal way of greeting, but a kiss to both cheeks while shaking hand can be seen between people that know each other well.
- Men and women shake hand as well, unless the woman does not put forward her hand. In this situation the man will simply bow his head in greeting.
- Shoes are often removes before entering the house
- Eating should be done with only the right hand, and should you wish to stop eating, leaving a small amount of food on the plate will stop the host from refilling your plate.
- When you meet someone, you will be offered a drink. It is considered rejection if you refuse the drink and it should therefore be taken even if you do not intend on drinking it.