could be said to have six different super-sites to view while
you tour Egypt. Each has its own flavor, and mostly each serves
a different purpose. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, most of these
tourist areas to visit while you tour Egypt do not depend on
ancient monuments to sustain them. In fact, only Luxor is
completely dependent on this trade. These super-sites to visit
while you tour Egypt consist of:
and the immediate area around the City. It could in fact be
argued that this area extends to Marsa Matruh to the west on the
coast. The area has a Mediterranean feel about it, and the
attraction is the Mediterranean Sea, and to the people of Cairo,
a somewhat cooler climate. The mighty Macedonian Alexander the
Great came to Egypt in 331 BC, after conquering Greece and
selected a small fishing village on the Mediterranean coast to
establish his new capital, Alexandria. The city is oriented
around Midan Ramla and Midan Saad Zaghoul, the large square that
runs down to the waterfront. Alexandria once had a great library
that contained more than 500,000 volumes, and at its peak the
city was a great repository of science, philosophy and
intellectual thought and learning.
The Graeco-Roman Museum
is a must to see while on tour in Egypt. It contains relics that
date back to the 3rd century BC. There's a magnificent black
granite sculpture of Apis, the sacred bull worshipped by
Egyptians, as well as an assortment of mummies, sarcophagi,
pottery, jewellery and ancient tapestries. Another highlight is
one of the few historical depictions of the Pharos of
Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The only
Roman Amphitheatre in Egypt was rediscovered in 1964. Its 13
white marble terraces are in excellent condition and excavation
work is still under way, although the dig has shifted a little
to the north of the theatre.
is a massive 25m (82ft) pink granite monument measuring 9m
(30ft) around its girth. The pillar should rightfully called
Diocletian's Pillar, as it was built for the emperor in AD 297,
and was the only monument left standing following the violent
arrival of the Crusaders around 1000 years later. The Catacombs
of Kom ash-Shuqqafa are the largest known Roman burial site in
Egypt, and consist of three tiers of burial tombs, chambers and
hallways. The catacombs were begun in the 2nd century AD and
were later expanded to hold more than 300 corpses. There's a
banquet hall where the grieving would pay their respects with a
funeral feast. Experts are hoping to discover Cleopatra's Palace
under the sea bed off Alexandria; platforms, pavements and
columns have been found, and in 1998 a black granite statue of a
priest of Isis and a diorite sphinx were raised from the sea.
Cleopatra's Library was destroyed by the Crusaders.
Tour Egypt and visit
and the immediate area around the City. Cairo has everything.
Cairo has great hotels, entertainment, restaurants, all manner
of monuments from throughout the history of Egypt and it is
often the entry point for most people that tour Egypt. It even
has bowling allies and several golf courses to choose from.
isn't a gentle city. Home to more than 16 million Egyptians,
Arabs, Africans and sundry others; the 'Mother of the World' is
an all-out assault on the senses. Chaotic, noisy, polluted,
totally unpredictable and seething with people, the sheer
intensity of the city will either seduce or appall.
has plenty of fine 19th-century buildings, modern art and
sculpture, precious green spaces and ancient districts (Islamic
Cairo is a Unison World Heritage Site). Then there are the
Pharaonic sites that stretch south of the city, not to mention
Those Pyramids and That River.
and the surrounding area. Luxor is a living museum with vast
numbers of ancient Egyptian monuments including the famous
Valley of the Kings where Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered. It
is also highly oriented to tourists, and might be thought of in
the same regard as a theme park, where the attractions just
happen to be real monuments. Built on the site of the ancient
city of Thebes, Luxor is one of Egypt's prime tourist
destinations. People have been visiting the magnificent
monuments of Luxor, Karnak, Hatshepsut and Ramses III for
thousands of years. Feluccas (local sail boats) and old barges
shuffle along the Nile between the luxury Nile River Cruises
ships cruising to and from Cairo and Aswan.
was built by Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC) on the site of
an older temple built by Hatshepsut and added to by Tutankhamun,
Ramses II, Alexander the Great and various Romans. Excavation
work has been under way since 1885. The Temples of Karnak are a
spectacular series of monuments that were the main place of
worship in Theban times. They can be divided into the Amun
Temple Enclosure, which is the largest; the Mut Temple Enclosure
on the south side; and the Montu Temple Enclosure. The lonely
statues of the
Colossi of Memnon
are the first things most people see when they arrive on the
West bank, though the
of the Kings,
including the spectacular tombs of Nefertari (currently closed)
and Tutankhamun are the big attraction. Luxor is accessible from
Cairo by buses, trains which run every day as well as daily
and the surrounding area. Aswan is probably the least of the
super-site areas you can visit while you tour Egypt, but has
great hotels, along with the huge Lake Nasser just to the south.
Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city has long been the country's
gateway to Africa. The prosperous market city straddles the
crossroads of the ancient caravan routes, at the 'other' end of
the Nile, not far above the Tropic of Cancer. In ancient times
it was a garrison town known as Swenet (meaning trade), and it
was also important to the early Coptic Christians. The main town
and temple area of Swenet were located on Elephantine Island in
the middle of Nile (the island was known then as Abu, and later
renamed by the Greeks). The temples and ruins here are not
nearly as well preserved and impressive as that elsewhere in the
country, but there are other good reasons to visit. If you're
not 'tombed out', a visit to the Tombs of the Nobles is
worthwhile, and a highlight is the Nubian Museum, showcasing
history, art and Nubian culture from the prehistoric to the
present. The Nile is glorious here as it makes its way down from
the massive High Dam and Lake Nasser - watching the feluccas
glide by as the sun sets over the Nile is an experience you're
unlikely to forget.
and the surrounding area, particularly
Not to far apart are El Gouna, Hurghada and Safaga, and these
areas contain just about everything you would like to have while
you tour Egypt, with the exception of ancient monuments. They
make up for that with every variety of water sports, several
golf courses, casinos and more. The Red Sea area has less of an
Egyptian feel, but not as European as the Sinai.
Sharm El Sheikh
and the surrounding area including Sharks Bay. This is the
Sinai super-site, again with most everything any tourist might
wish. There are even some wonderful Christian monuments nearby,
and the water sports, as at Hurghada, are all inclusive. Diving
in this area is widely regarded as the best in the world.
This is not to say that there are many more tourist
destinations, particularly on the Red Sea and in Sinai, and on
Egypt's mainland interior, the oases. However, in much of the
rest of the mainland interior, travel and destinations are
limited. However, the tourist super-sites encompass perhaps
ninety-five percent of the ancient monuments and most else there
is to do in Egypt.
the wannabe Koh Samui of the Middle East, Dahab is 85km (53mi)
north of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Gulf of Aqaba, near the southern
tip of Sinai. Dahab was once a sleepy backwater, but these days
there are more backpackers than Bedouin, and the town has become
something of a lazy layover. There's dirt-cheap accommodation
virtually on the beach and inexpensive restaurants and hotels,
and the swimming and snorkeling in the Gulf of Aqaba are
magnificent. Buses connect Dahab with Sharm el-Sheikh, Cairo and
Suez each day.
Abu Simbel is a temple built by Ramesses II (c.1279-1213 B.C.E.)
in ancient Nubia, where he wished to demonstrate his power and
his divine nature. Four colossal (65 feet/20 meters high)
statues of him sit in pairs flanking the entrance. The alignment
of the temple is such that twice a year the sun’s rays reach
into the innermost sanctuary to illuminate the seated statues of
Ptah, Amun-Re, Ramesses II, and Re- Horakhty. The temple was cut
out of the sandstone cliffs above the Nile River in an area near
the Second Cataract.
Not only are the two temples at Abu Simbel among the most
magnificent monuments in the world but their removal and
reconstruction was an historic event in itself. When the temples
(280 km from Aswan) were threatened by submersion in
due to the construction of the
Aswan High Dam
the Egyptian Government secured the support of UNESCO and
launched a world wide appeal. During the salvage operation which
began in 1964 and continued until 1968, the two temples were
dismantled and raised over 60 meters up the sandstone cliff
where they had been built more than 3,000 years before. Here
they were reassembled, in the exact same relationship to each
other and the sun, and covered with an artificial mountain. Most
of the joins in the stone have now been filled by antiquity
experts, but inside the temples it is still possible to see
where the blocks were cut. You can also go inside the man made
dome and see an exhibition of photographs showing the different
stages of the massive removal project.
Abu Simbel was first reported by J. L. Burckhardt in 1813, when
he came over the mountain and only saw the facade of the great
temple as he was preparing to leave that area via the Nile. The
two temples, that of Ramesses II primarily dedicated to
Re-Harakhte, and that of his wife, Nefertari dedicated to
Hathor, became a must see for Victorians on tour in Egypt, even
though it required a trip up the Nile, and often they were
covered deeply in sand, as they were when Burckhardt found them.
Nile River Cruises,
A first time visitor to Egypt who wants a classical experience
could do well to book a Nile cruise. Of course modern airlines
shuttle tourists to the southern region of Egypt, but
historically the Nile River Cruise was really the only way to
visit the temples and tombs located along this stretch of the
river. It is still a popular means of visiting upper Egypt and
has many advantages to other means of travel.
First of all, it is very nice to unpack and once and have your
hotel travel with you, rather then the hectic routine that
accompanies the stop and go itineraries of air and land tours.
But besides the more relaxed mode of travel, there are other
significant advantages. Nile cruises often visit a wider variety
of antiquities along the banks of the river. But equally
important, they also allow the tourist to gain a prospective of
the rural Egypt, where people live much the same way they did
even thousands of years ago, in mud brick homes, tending their
fields with wooden plows and moving produce via donkey. It is a
wonderful experience to sit on a shaded deck of a floating
hotel, sipping an iced beverage while watching 5,000 years of
culture slowly drift by.
St Catherine’s Monastery,
The center of religious tourism in Sinai. Mount Catherine is the
highest point in the Sinai Peninsula standing at 2.642 m, the
second highest is Mount Sinai (Moses’s Mountain) at 2,285m.
It is popular to climb Mount Sinai during the early morning
hours to arrive at the top just as the sun raises. St. Catherine
is one of the most famous monasteries in the world, although
having the smallest diocese.
The Monastery dates back to the third century AD and was the
first monastery in the world. Its name derives from Dorthea the
daughter of the Govenor of Alexandria who converted to
Christianity and was then baptized by the name Catherine.
St Catherine's is best included in you itinerary as a day
excursions from Sharm el Sheik while you tour Egypt.
"The bud of the stem of the Nile"
The name Fayoum originates from the hieroglyphic word Bayoum,
which meant "the Sea", a reference to the large Lake Qaroun
Only two hours for its year-round warm climate, numerous water
wheels (introduced by the Ptolemies in the 3rd century BC) and
lush agricultural land. Opposite the local marketplace in Fayoum
City is the Hanging Mosque, built above five arches, and nearby
is the 15th century Mosque of Khunda Asla-Bey built by Sultan
Qaitbey for his wife.
Fayoum has been a traditional hunting ground since Pharaonic
times when Crocodiopolis, centre of the cult of Sobek, was the
capital of the region. There are many Pharaonic sites in the
area, for example: the red granite obelisk of Senusert I and the
pyramid of Senusert II at Al-Lahun, the pyramid of Amenemhat III
at Hawara, and the remains of the ancient city of Karais, where
you can camp and visit the site museum, in addition to safari
Wadi Al-Hitan, or the Valley of the Whales, is an expanse of
desert littered with fossils, and located behind a mountain
known as Gabal Gar Gohannam (The Mountain Next to Hell). It is
true that, in the light of the setting sun, the mountain seems
ablaze with an eerie red light.
Wadi Al-Hitan is also near the Al-Qatrani mountain range, well
known for its value as a geological site: "Of all the important
sites in Egypt, Al-Qatrani is the object of the most studies
because it used to be a jungle, populated by all kinds of
mammals. The whole area, about 150km of desert today, is an
open-air geological museum," notes Mohammadein Hassan, a
geologist and a ranger in the Wadi Al-Rayan protectorate. Hassan
adds that this area is famous worldwide for its rare vertebrate
fossils and mega-fossils.
Studies of Gabal Gar Gohannam have shown that most of the
fossils in the area are of marine creatures. Complete skeletons
of sharks, dogfish and whales have been located. According to
Mustafa Mahmmoud, the Egyptian-Italian project co-director in
the Wadi Rayan protectorate, this area was under water 40 to 50
million years ago. To date, 34 whale skeletons have been
discovered, with tails reaching up to 18m in length.
Located 365 km south west of Giza and 200 km from Fafafra Oasis.
The Oases are famous for their palm trees, olives, apricots,
rice and corn. Intertwined trees provide attractive scenery with
contrast to massive sand dunes. The region is rich in wildlife
of migrant birds and deer. Bawiti is the capital of Baharia
Oases that occupies a hillside. The oases are famous for their
398 mineral and sulphur springs. The most famous are Bir Hakima,
Bir Halfa, Bir Al Matar, and Bir El Ghaba. The old Roman springs
flow through cracked stones. Ein El Bishmo springs flow through
both hot and cold water flow from separate sources then blend in
a rocky creek, in addition to Al Qasaa wells. Baharia oases
archaeological sites date back to Pharaonic periods. "zis zis"
was the original name of the region. Most of the antiquities
belong to the 26th dynasty "Saite period". A major
archaeological site El Qasr houses Ein El Mifatala, Qarat Helwa
and Al Tibniya area that includes Alexander the great temple. El
Maron, El Dist and El Maghrafa antiquities are located next to
limestone temple in El Qasr area. El Bawiti houses, the largest
Ptolemaic necropolis dedicated to Ibis bird. Its historic tombs
are located in the complex of (Youssef Selim, El Sheikh Soby and
El Heez area is famous for its ancient churches, palaces and
Roman tombs. Binantiew tomb dates back to 26th dynasty and
represents unique Pharaonic paintings. "Valley of the Golden
Mummies" has been recently discovered in a Roman necropolis, 6
km from Bawiti.
On tour in Egypt, visitors can arrange safari trips to the oases
while enjoying Bedouin folklore in the evenings. Baharia oases
are connected with Siwa and Farafra oases through a motorway.
Al Kharga Oasis:
Al Kharga used to be the last but one stop on the Forty Days
Road, the infamous slave-trade route between North Africa and
the tropical south. Today, it is the biggest New Valley oasis.
Outside the main centre is the Temple of Hibis, built on the
site of a Saite, Persian and Ptolemaic settlement. One of the
few Persian monuments in Egypt, the 6th century B.C. temple is
well-preserved with painted vultures and huge reliefs of Darius
greeting Egyptian gods on the outer walls. Ten kilometers away,
the Necropolis of Al-Bagawat houses 263 mud brick tombs with
Coptic murals, including the remains of one of the oldest
churches in Egypt: the Tomb of Peace and the Tomb of the Exodus.
Pharaonic monuments include Al-Ghuwayta Temple which dates from
522 B.C., Nadoura Citadel, Qasr El Zayyan that dates back to the
Ptolemaic era, and the Museum of Antiquities.
The thermal springs of Bulaq and Nasser to the south, are famous
for water temperatures up to 43oC and reputed to be suitable for
the treatment of rheumatism and allergies. Camping facilities
are available. Further south in Baris Oasis, the second largest
settlement in Al Kharga. It houses Roman Temple of Dush,
dedicated to Isis and Serapis.
Al Dakhla Oasis:
Dominated on its northern horizon by a wall of rose-colored
rock. Fertile cultived areas are dotted between sand dunes along
the roads from Farafra and Kharga in this area of outstanding
natural beauty. The capital, Mut, houses the Museum of Heritage,
a traditional house. Rooms, with sculpted clay figures, are
arranged to show different aspects of Al Dakhla culture and
Islamic Village of Al-Qasr, about 35km from Mut, houses ruins of
an Ayubid mosque and is an interesting place to visit while you
tour Egypt. The Pharaonic Balat tombs date from the 6th dynasty
and Qalamon village dates back to the Turkish era. On the way
back to Mut, located Bir Al Gabal, a palm-fringed salt lake
where you can camp and picnic.
Other day-trips from Mut could include the 1st century
Al-Mozawaka tombs and Deir Al-Hagar, a temple which was
originally dedicated to the Theban Triad. After exploring the
temple, bathe in the hot sulphur spring nearby. Visit Bashendi
to see Roman tombs and a factory where carpets are still woven
with scenes of Al Dakhla life. Nearby lays the Islamic Balaat
village, a trading post with ancient Nubia. The oasis abounds in
springs and wells of which the most famous are those of Mut 3.
Their temperature reaches 43oC and you can stay in equipped
chalets. Ain Al-Qasr springs are located about 12 km in the
mountain so that you can camp; enjoy one-day trip and Safari.
Known as Ta-iht or the Land of the Cow in Pharaonic times, is an
isolated village, of which the oldest part lies on a hillside,
next to peaceful palm groves; a short ride away, there are hot
sulphur springs at Bir Setta and El-Mufid Lake where you can
swim. The oasis houses Qasr Al-Farafra and Qasr Abu Minqar which
are ruins of Roman buildings. An art center that houses a museum
and studio exhibiting paintings and ceramics of a local artist
is situated in a garden full of sculptures made of materials
available in the desert. Beautiful hand-knitted camel-hair
sweaters, socks and scarves are also local products. Day-trips
by jeep and camel trecks from here to the white Desert,
Bahariya, Dakhla and Siwa can be arranged.
The White Desert:
A trip to the White Desert is something that no visitor to the
New Valley should miss. Travelers coming from Bahariya will
cross through the Black Desert, passing the tiny oasis of El
Heez on the way. Nearby, there are some Roman ruins, including a
church with Coptic graffiti. Bahariya and Farafra are separated
by huge golden sand dunes which make a stunning photograph
during the journey. Once you enter the White Desert through
Al-Sillim passage, you meet a unique landscape of surreal
wind-eroded rock formations which is particularly fascinating at
sunrise or sunset. Camel and jeep trips, including a hot meal
and fresh bread, made in the sand Bedouin style, can be arranged
Siwa is one of the most fascinating oases on the edge of the
Great Sand Sea. Its rich history includes that visit of
Alexander the Great to Amun Prophecy Temple in order to predict
the prophecy of Amun in 331 BC. Siwans have their own culture
and customs, and they speak a Berber language, Siwi, rather than
Arabic. Many women still wear traditional costumes and silver
jewellery like those displayed in the Traditional Siwans House
Museum at the town centre. Siwa remains one of the best places
to buy jewellery, rugs, baskets, traditional robes and
head-dresses, decorated with antique coins.
The original settlement, Aghurmi, was superseded by Shali,
founded in 1203. Set among thick palm groves, walled gardens and
olive orchards, with numerous fresh-water springs and salt
lakes, modern Siwa was established over the ruins of ancient
Shali. Climb through the ruins of the old city for the
magnificent views of the whole oasis. Wlak, rent a bicycle or
ride in a curette (donkey cart) to outlying sights and places
where you can relax.
These include 26th Dynasty tombs with murals and inscriptions at
Jebel Al-Mawta (The Hill of the Dead) and the temple of Amun, an
acropolis temple dating from around 550 BC. Near the Oracle are
the ruined temple of Amun and the famous Cleopatra Bath, a deep
pool of bubbling water where you can bathe. Another favorite
bathing spot is Fatnis Island, on the salt lake of Briket Siwa,
surrounded by palm trees and beautiful scenery.
Deciding when to come to Egypt depends a lot on where you want
to go. Everywhere south of Cairo is uncomfortably hot in the
summer months (June-August), especially Luxor and Aswan, so
winter (December-February) is definitely the best time to visit
these areas. Summer is also the time when the Mediterranean
coast is at its most crowded, but winter in Cairo can get pretty
cool. March to May or September to November is the best time to
enjoy the warm days without the crush of bodies on the beaches
and the midday heat of high summer.
Most of Egypt is subtropical area, but the southern part of
Upper Egypt is tropical. Northern winds temper the climate along
the Mediterranean, but the interior areas are very hot. Egypt's
climate is hot and dry most of the year. During the winter
months - December, January and February - average daily
temperatures stay up around 20°C (68°F) on the Mediterranean
coast and a pleasant 26°C (80°F) in Aswan. Maximum temperatures
get to 31°C (88°F) and 50°C (122°F) respectively. Winter nights
only get down to 8°C (45°F), a very Egyptian version of chilly.
The temperature sinks quickly after sunset because of the high
radiation rate under cloudless skies. Alexandria receives the
most rain with 19cm (7.5in) each year, while Aswan is almost
bone-dry with just 2mm annually. Rainfall averages about 2
inches a year, but sudden storms sometimes cause devastating
flash floods. Between March and April the Khamsin blows in from
the Western Desert at up to 150kph (93mph). Relative humidity
varies from 68% in February to over 70% in August to 77% in
Egyptian Pound (LE) = 100 piastres (pt)
Most foreign currencies, cash or travelers cheque can easily be
changed in Egypt. There are many exchange bureaus in the larger
cities but they mainly only deal in cash. Visa and MasterCard
are good for cash advances and together with American Express
and JCb cards and Euro card can be used in a wide range of shops
and hotels. If you are traveling to lesser tourist areas while
touring Egypt, the best currencies to have are US dollars,
Pounds Sterling and Egyptian Pounds.
Banking are usually open Sunday to Thursday : 0830 to 1400 hours
Electric Power is 220V running at 50Hz. The Plug types used are:
Round pin attachment plug
For the tours on our itineraries the cost of entrances to the
various historical sites are included. Here are a few exceptions
to be noted.
Entrance in the Pyramids at Giza. Guaranteed entrance to the
pyramid of Cheops is limited and costs extra.
Egypt Air have regular flights from everywhere to Cairo.
There is a variety of good options for getting to Egypt, with
good connections between Cairo and many European cities.
Super-cheap holiday packages including hotel vouchers can work
out cheaper than booking a flight independently, and you can
just chuck the vouchers away if resorts aren't your style.
Flights from elsewhere can be expensive and it's worth looking
into flying to Europe first and then making your way to Egypt
from there, as this is often a cheaper option than flying
Egypt's national air carrier is Egypt Air, and Air Sinai also
has good connections in Egypt. Most travelers come into Egypt
through Cairo, although people are increasingly disembarking at
Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Hurghada (Al-Ghardaka) and Sharm
el-Sheikh. These airports are serviced by a number of smaller
carriers and charter companies with direct connections to
Other connections from elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East
include the bus from Israel via the Gulf of Aqaba or the
southern edge of the Gaza Strip, and ferries from Jordan, Saudi
Arabia and Kuwait.
Do not drink water from taps in Egypt. Bottled water is readily
available and is cheap, approx LE1.5 per 1.5 liters.
Health risks: schistosomiasis (bilharzias) (Don't paddle in the
Egypt is probably the world's oldest civilization having emerged
from the Nile Valley around 3,100 years ago, historically.
Egypt is probably one of the oldest vacation spots. Early
Greeks, Romans and others went there just for fun, and to see
the wonders of some of mankind's earliest triumphs. But Egypt is
much more than Pyramids and monuments. It is also Red Sea scuba
diving, hot night spots, luxury hotels and five star
restaurants. It is romantic cruises down the Nile on festive
river boats, a night at the grand opera and it is a cultural
experience like none you have ever experienced. Egypt is a land
bustling with life, sound, visual beauty and excitement. More
than anything else, we want you to think of Egypt as fun. For
thousands of years, it has been the playground of emperors and
kings, and we hope you will take the time to find out why.
The regularity and richness of the annual Nile River flood,
coupled with semi-isolation provided by deserts to the east and
west, allowed for the development of one of the world's great
civilizations. A unified kingdom arose circa 3200 B.C. and a
series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia.
The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 B.C., who in
turn were replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. It was
the Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the
7th century and who ruled for the next six centuries. A local
military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 and
continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman
Turks in 1517. Following the completion of the Suez Canal in
1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub, but
also fell heavily into debt. Ostensibly to protect its
investments, Britain seized control of Egypt's government in
1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued
until 1914. Partially independent from the UK in 1922, Egypt
acquired full sovereignty following World War II. The completion
of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have
altered the time-honored place of the Nile River in the
agriculture and ecology of Egypt. A rapidly growing population
(the largest in the Arab world), limited arable land, and
dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and
stress society. The government has struggled to ready the
economy for the new millennium through economic reform and
massive investment in communications and physical
Modern Egypt is an amalgam of these legacies and more,
juxtaposed with modern influences. Mud-brick villages stand
beside millennia-old ruins surrounded by buildings of steel and
glass. Some townsfolk dress in long flowing robes, others in
Levis and Reeboks, and city traffic competes with donkey-drawn
carts and wandering goats. Nowhere are these contrasts played
out so colorfully as in Cairo, a massive city thronged with
people and ringing to the sound of car horns, ghetto-blasters
and muezzins summoning the faithful to prayer. While you tour
Egypt, you can see that Egypt isn't all chaos and clatter,
however. It's also a diver's dream dip, a trek across the sands
on a camel or a long lazy punt down the Nile.
Population: 76,117,421 (July 2004 EST.)
Population Growth; 1.83% (2004 EST.)
Expectancy: Total population: 70.71 years, male: 68.22
years, female: 73.31 years (2004 EST.)
adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 EST.)
Groups: Eastern Hamitic stock (Egyptians, Bedouins, and
Berbers) 99%, Greek, Nubian, Armenian, other European
(primarily Italian and French) 1%
Religions: Muslim (mostly Sunni) 94%, Coptic Christian and
other 6%Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write,
total population: 57.7%, male: 68.3%, female: 46.9% (2003
Tipping and gratuities
Tipping is a way of life in Egypt and bus drivers and tour
guides expect it at restaurants. Having said this, you still
retain the right to tip and it is highly dependant on your
satisfaction of the services received.
Here is a rough guide to tipping:
drivers for a group day tour: LE 03,-
for a group day tour: LE 10,-
driver for a private day tour: LE 05,-
for a private day tour: LE 15,-
handling: LE 02,- per bag per trip
These tips will be given to the driver, guide at the completion
of the services.
Cruise: LE 30,- per night for the whole crew.
be given to the reception of the cruise vessel at the
completion of the cruise.
Restaurants/Bars –12% of the bill.
Telephone main lines: 7.43 million (2002) Cellular Telephones:
Telephone System: general assessment: large system; underwent
extensive upgrading during 1990s and is reasonably modern;
Internet access and cellular service are available. Principal
centers at Alexandria, Cairo, Al Mansurah, Ismailia, Suez, and
Tanta are connected by coaxial cable and microwave radio relay
international: country code - 20; satellite earth stations - 2
Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean), 1 Internet users:
1.9 million (2002)
Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by
Egypt has a very good system of public and private transport.
Domestic air travel is clearly the quickest way to get around
while you tour Egypt; although it's probably only worth
considering if you have lots of money and little time. Otherwise
the transport options include buses, trains and boats, and even
camels, donkeys and horses.
If you're claustrophobic or have a weak stomach you might be
uncomfortable traveling on the buses and trains, but they are a
great way to meet local people and get a feel for the culture.
Buses service virtually every town in Egypt and the 5000km
(3100mi) of rail also connects just about every town in the
country from Aswan to Alexandria.
You can also hire service taxis that shunt car loads of
passengers between towns and cities. These vehicles are
traditionally Peugeot 504s, however Toyota minibuses are
becoming popular as service taxis or microbuses, and they
usually congregate at the train and bus stations. The drivers
wait until they're full (very full!) before they budge.
Flying is a good way to get around the country. Egypt Air offers
daily flights between Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu
Simbel, Hurghada, Sharm el-Sheikh, Oasis. Air Sinai has flights
from Cairo to Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Luxor, Ras El Nakab and
Egypt has a regular efficient train service traveling between
every major town within the country and offering a range of
services from plush air-conditioned sleepers to 3rd class.
Discounts are available for holders of Student cards and
children under 9 years old.
An efficient bus services is available from to and from all the
major cities in the country including the Sinai.
Ferries run between Egypt and Sudan, South Sinai and Jordan, and
Sharm el-sheikh and Hurghada
Situated at the northeastern corner of Africa, Egypt is bordered
on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, in the east by Israel and
the Red Sea, in the South by Sudan, and to the west by Libya.
Hacking a whopping square chunk out of Africa's northeast
corner, Egypt stretches over more than a million square km. More
than 94% of the land area is barren desert though, which has
induced 90% of the population to squish into just 3% of the
total land area, the fertile Nile Valley and Delta.
The altitude of Egypt ranges from 132 m (436 ft) below sea level
in the Libyan Desert to about 2,629 m (8,600ft) at Mount
Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula. The Nile delta is a broad
alluvial land, sloping to the sea for 100 miles, with a 155 mile
maritime front between Alexandria and Port Sa'id. South of
Cairo. Most of the country (known as Upper Egypt) is a tableland
rising to some 457m (1,500 ft), and the narrow valley of the
Nile is enclosed by cliffs as high as 548m (1,800 ft). A series
of cascades and rapids at Aswan, known as the First Cataract,
forms a barrier to movement upstream.
The bulk of the country is covered by the Sahara (translated as
“desert”), which north of Aswan is usually called the Libyan
Desert, East of the Nile, the Arabian Desert extends to the Red
Sea. The Western Desert consists of low-lying sand dunes and
many depressions. The outstanding geographical feature is the
Nile River, on which human existence depends, for its annual
floods provide the water necessary for agriculture.
Egypt borders Libya in the west, Sudan in the south, the
Mediterranean Sea in the north, and the Red Sea and Israel in
the east. The eastern region, across the Suez Canal, is Sinai.
This region slopes up to the high mountains of Mt Katherine
(Gebel Katharine at 2642m/8666ft is Egypt's highest point) and
Mt Sinai. Along Egypt's Mediterranean coast there are countless
white-sand beaches, some developed as tourist resorts but many
still pristine and isolated. North of Cairo the Nile splits into
a series of tributaries that flow into the Mediterranean.
Visas are required by all nationals except those of Malta and
Arab countries. These can either be obtained from your home
country at the port and airport of arrival except for South
Africans where it must be obtained in South Africa. If traveling
overland visas can be obtained from neighboring countries
without much of a problem. You can apply for either a single
entry visa which entitles the holder to a stay of up to one
month, tour Egypt and is valid for presentation for up to three
months, or you can apply for a multiple entry visa which is
limited for up to three visits. You cannot get a visa at the
There is normally a two week grace period beyond the expiry date
of your visa. Visas can be extended for up to a period of six
months but you will normally be required to show you have
sufficient to support your stay and show bank receipts proving
you have changed sufficient money. Credit card receipts for
purchases or cash advances are generally not accepted.
You can visit the Sinai area between the Israeli border crossing
of Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh without a visa, but you will only be
issued with an entry stamp enabling you to stay 14 days.
It is no longer a requirement for nationals entering Egypt to
register with the police within one week of arrival - this was
abolished early 1997.