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General Info of Egypt 

 

 

The Country

Geography 

Climate and Weather

Passports and Visas 

Registration

Money

Business Hours 

Health Concerns

What To Bring/Wear

Electricity

People

Safety

Airport Procedures

Language

Time Difference

Transportation

Tipping

Food

National Holidays

Communications

 

 

 

 

 The Country

 

Egypt occupies the upper northeastern corner of Africa and, with the exception of the Nile River Valley and its Delta, is mainly a flat, vegetation-free desert.  The Nile flows north and empties into the Mediterranean Sea which forms the country’s northern boundary.  Egypt is bordered on the south by Sudan, to the west by Libya and to its east by the Red Sea, and beyond the Sinai Peninsula, by Israel.  The country encompasses about 626,000 square miles (1,002,000 square kilometers) and at its most distant reaches is 640 miles from north to south and 775 miles from east to west.

 

The country’s official name is the Arab Republic of Egypt (ARE).  The president is also Commander in Chief of the army and head of the National Defense Council.  The president appoints the prime minister and the rest of the cabinet.  Egypt’s National Assembly has representatives from all districts throughout the country with women and Copts represented by quota.

 

The economy, formerly almost totally agrarian, now receives a lion’s share of its hard currency income from tourism which is likely to continue and is therefore carefully safeguarded.  Petroleum firms contribute income as well, and Egypt receives aid from more developed countries as well as revenue from the Suez Canal.

 

For more info about Egypt, please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt

 

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 Geography

 

There are 2 deserts:  the Eastern or Arabian Desert from the Nile to the Red Sea and the Western or Libya Desert, separated from the Sahara by sandstone and limestone highlands.  There are 6 inhabited oases watered for the most part through underground strata with water flowing north from Equatorial Africa.  Some of this water may take as many as 500 years to reach its final oasis destination.  The Sinai Peninsula separates the continents of Africa and Asia and is bordered by the Gulf of Aqaba on the east and the Gulf of Suez on the west.  Containing 6% of Egypt’s land area the Sinai is harsh desert in the north and granite mountains in the south.  The Red Sea is over 1200 miles long and almost 1-1/2 miles deep.  It is part of the fault line juncture between the African and Arabian Tectonic plates which culminates in the south in Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

 

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 Climate and Weather

 

Egypt is known for mild winters and typical desert temperatures:  chilly nights and hot days.  Humidity tends to be very low, as does rainfall.  Some major cities typical temperature ranges include:

 

City (F)

Winter

Spring

Summer

Fall

Alexandria

69/51

80/58

86/69

86/62

Cairo

69/51

90/51

96/63

89/57

Luxor

79/42

103/50

107/72

103/54

Aswan

79/49

103/57

108/79

103/51

Sharm El Sheikh

70/52

79/61

97/72

82/68

 

Temperatures given are in Fahrenheit degrees (F). Note the 50 degree fluctuations that are normal in places. For updated weather forecast, please visit: https://weather.yahoo.com/egypt/cairo/cairo-1521894/

 

 

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 Passport and Visas

 

Both are required for entry.  The tourist can obtain a visa at the Cairo International Airport on arrival.  The single entry visa is good for one entry into the country for a stay of one month.  If plans are to leave and then return, request the multiple-entry visa. Your tour agency should also be able to advise you directly regarding visas, or you can purchase a business visa directly from the Egyptian embassy in your country. As entry requirements vary by country, costs and procedures vary and you should contact your local embassy if adequate information is not available for you. Visitors those previously experiencing difficulty with visa status in Egypt, must obtain a visa prior to arrival. Egypt requires a passport valid at least six months from the date of departure to Egypt.

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 Registration

 

Within 7 days of arrival every visitor must register with the police and in every city throughout the stay.  Hotels provide the service automatically.  It will be necessary to leave your passport with the hotel but this poses no concern; they are always returned.

 

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 Money

 

The Egyptian pound is divided into 100 piasters with denominations identified both in English and Arabic.  Currency can be exchanged at the airport.  Visitors must declare all money brought into the country.  The visitor receives a form which should be presented to the bank teller each time currency is exchanged at a bank and this form may be examined upon departure.  Major credit cards are accepted in most hotels but infrequently in shops.  Traveler’s checks are a good idea.  Egyptian currency may not be taken out of the country.  Bank notes are issued in the following denominations:

  • Pounds: 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1

  • Piasters: 25, 10 and 5

Recently the exchange rate has averaged:

 

 

NB: Local banks deal with foreign currency and travelers checks.

 

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 Business Hours

 

Banks are usually open from 8:30 AM to 2:00 PM every day except Friday and Saturday.  Stores are usually open from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM and 4:30 PM to 9:00 PM in summer; 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM in winter.  Businesses close on Fridays and many on Saturdays.  Shops close on Sundays.

 

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 Health Concerns

 

Only if coming from an area infected by either cholera or yellow fever does one need a health certificate for entry.  Eating uncooked fruits and vegetables or drinking local water can lead to “Ramses Revenge”…taking a supply of an anti-diarrheic medication is strongly recommended.  Pharmacies are usually open from 10 AM until 10 PM and all pharmacists speak some English.  Bottled mineral water is available everywhere and is very inexpensive.

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 What to Bring/Wear

 

Breathe ability is the key to successful travel clothing.  With casual, comfortable and loose-fitting garments that can be added or subtracted in layers you can easily move from sweltering day to chilly evenings.  Wash and wear clothing is a great benefit and while the large hotels all provide laundry service you may only wish to wash a single shirt or top…and may find it’s much easier to do it yourself in the bathroom sink.  Modest clothing, for both men and women, should always be worn:  keep shoulders and upper arms covered, skirts below the knee and shorts for both sexes are frown upon.  For women a one-piece bathing suit is a better choice than even a less-revealing two-piece style.  Comfortable walking shoes are essential, as is a hat, umbrella, sunscreen and lip balm as the Egyptian sun can be ferocious.  Travel as lightly as possible as you’ll be on the move a lot.  Besides camera and lots of film, lightweight binoculars are useful as well as a small flashlight for the less-well-lit tombs.

 

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 Electricity

 

220 volts 50 cycles AC in Cairo and most areas EXCEPT Alexandria, Heliopolis and Maadi where the electricity is 110 volts AC 50 cycles.  Wall plugs are the round, two pronged European style.

 

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 People

 

Egypt has a population of well over 95 million and its rapid increase is a primary governmental concern. Egyptians are warm, friendly, courteous and genuinely pleased to have visitors in their country.  Every effort will be made to satisfy the visitor, however, be forewarned, things may not always be “mumkin” (possible) and patience may be required.  It is considered rude to be abrupt and social congress is the norm during every interpersonal transaction.  Haggling or dickering over a price is considered social sport and not to engage in it is almost offensive to the merchant.  “Baksheesh” or tipping is the normal way of life.

Egypt is a Muslim country which, while progressive in many ways, holds religious traditions and tenets quite seriously.  Women, although occupying many professional positions, are still not equal by law to men.  Most public places are basically male bastions.  Many women, even in urban Cairo, do wear the veil but it is probably more a statement of modesty or piety, rather than of obligatory necessity.  While alcohol is permitted (and Stella, the locally brewed beer, is actually very refreshing) moderation is the key.  Some absolute don’ts include:

  • Don’t drink and drive (good advice anywhere)

  • Don’t bring illegal substances in the country (penalties are very severe)

  • Don’t touch or deface in any way any of the monuments

  • Don’t pick up rocks in the desert without checking first for either snakes or scorpions

  • Don’t go barefoot or touch the coral reefs…you could get a nasty scratch as well as kill what you’ve touched

  • Don’t touch anything living in the reefs…you could get bitten or shocked

  • Don’t even attempt a Pyramid climb…it is strictly forbidden now.

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 Safety

 

Cairo is safer than any large Western city, but as in any country (including your own) common sense and precautions should be used.  Wandering alone is not recommended and we strongly recommend against our women clients traveling alone or even in pairs in certain areas without an able-bodied male escort. Concern for protection of tourists prompted Egyptian law enforcement and security officials in November 1997 to instigate enhanced security at airports, international hotels and tourist sites throughout the country.

 

The U.S. Embassy and other national embassies periodically provide information related to travel and security issues. Americans may contact the consular section in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo or visit the U.S. State Department Website. Additional information is available through respective foreign ministries and embassies for the most up-to-date information concerning the travel situation within Egypt. The crime rate in Egypt is very low. As in any large city, visitors are urged to take commonsense precautions to secure their personal belongings while touring or shopping. The loss or theft of a passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and your nearest embassy or consulate. Visitors are encouraged to carry a copy of their passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and citizenship are readily available. Visitors to Egypt are advised there are restrictions on photographing military personnel and sites, bridges and canals, including the Suez Canal.

 

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 Airport Procedures

 

Cairo city has one major international Airport in the Heliopolis area with three terminals; one for most of European and International Carriers and the others for Egypt Air, the National Carrier. Also, Almaza airport located in the same area, services small jet planes. There are also two VIP halls, one in each terminal, dedicated to the meeting's VIPs and special guests.

 

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 Languages

 

The main language of Egypt is Arabic, but you will find multi-lingual services in hotels, tour leaders, and tour guides according to your request. English and French are widely understood.

 

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 Time Difference

 

Egypt operates on GMT plus two hours. For updated info about time in Egypt, please visit: 

http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/egypt/cairo

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 Transportation

 

Many tourists arriving in Egypt are concerned about transportation safety issues. Egypt is remarkably crime-free country, with security precautions being taken by the Egyptian government and hotels to safeguard your stay. Traffic in Cairo is hectic at best, so hotel or travel agent-arranged drivers are by far the best way to tour Cairo. Tourists should avoid carrying large quantities of cash in wallets or purses. Credit cards are welcome at a wide array of shopping sites and currency exchange booths are plentiful, which make carrying large amounts of cash unnecessary.

 

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 Tipping

 

Please do not offer tips to professionals, businessmen, or others who would consider themselves your equals. You may seriously offend them by your act. Tipping, however, is expected at restaurants, hotels, and for other services.

 

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 Food

 

There are over 2000 restaurants in Cairo, but travelers are advised to avoid eating uncooked, unpeeled, fruits and vegetables, undercooked meat, and ice cubes. As any part of the world, travelers should drink only bottled water which is available in all restaurants and stores. Like any crossroads culture, Egyptian cuisine has picked and chosen those ingredients and food that grow best as well as best meet the flavor and nutritional needs of their people. Bridging Africa and Asia as it does, Egypt has a lot from which to choose.

 

Tourist hotel meals will offer well prepared if unexciting meat/vegetable/starch entrees but that's not the real food of the real people. To eat "real," you have to eat "street." And Egypt is a culinary adventure. "Eating street" as we define it, doesn't confine itself to standup meals from cart vendors -- it's more the everyday cuisine of the everyday person in the street. These everyday Egyptians eat well. Meats are largely grilled or roasted, whole or minced, with lamb and chicken predominating. You see a lot of cows but they seem to serve more as farm equipment than beef. The shish kabob style is extremely popular and is served either with or without the skewers but always with traditional accompaniments: greens and tomato salad, tahini sauce and pita bread. So you can stuff your own sandwich if you want. Bread is always whole wheat pita, coated with coarse ground wheat, round, fragrant and sheer heaven when hot from the oven. Often pita plus a dipping sauce, tahini, hummus or babaganoush, makes a fast food meal and a healthy, delicious one at that.

 

Egyptians have embraced the tomato and we never had one that wasn't bursting with color and flavor. The traditional and ubiquitous salad is chopped tomato, coriander, mint, little hot green peppers (not jalapenos but close) and onions, coated with garlic oil. It's great for digestion but death on the breath. Bring mints. Other veggies that grow well and show up all the time include beans, mostly chick pea and fava, which are eaten stewed for breakfast, hearty stewed for lunch and dinner and ground and pasted for tahini and hummus with great amounts of garlic. Eggplant, mashed as the main ingredient in babaganoush, is also used in Egyptian moussaka with a mild white cheese. Okra, cabbage, cauliflower and potatoes show up frequently, stewed with tomatoes and garlic. Rice is a universal constant and was consistently wonderful, even for breakfast! The grains mix short basmati-like rice with longer brown, nutty tasting rice and we wish we could have found it to bring back.

 

Grilled pigeon is the acclaimed delicacy and like any small game bird is long on flavor but short on ease of eating. We only had fish on the Red Sea, perch and tuna, both fried, but flavorful without excess oil. We had various types of pasta from time to time but never did find out if it was wheat flour or rice flour based. Nevertheless it was uniformly delicious. Of course, when you think "Orient" you think spices. Egyptian bazaars display staggering amounts, sculptured into colorful spice pyramids, from yellows of saffron and ochres of curries to deep blues of powdered indigo dye. Food is usually spices but not spicy. Cumin and salt are found on restaurant tables.

 

Middle Eastern desserts are nothing special; they do bake but, to the Western taste, figs, date and nut fillings in largely unsweetened dough isn't a dessert. Better to eat the fresh figs, dates (of which there must be 200 different types and grades), oranges and pomegranates without baked modifications.  Speaking of fruit, juice bars abound in the streets and fresh squeezed oranges sweetened with cut sugar cane is heaven in a hot climate. Beverages? In a Moslem country alcohol is frowned on and is wildly expensive to tourists. But Stella, the local beer, is mild, not overly "beery" and comes in huge bottles which is handy to quench the permanent thirst in the desert climate.

 

 

For more info about Egyptian Food, please visit: http://www.food.com/topic/egyptian

 

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 National Holidays

 

For National Holidays in Egypt, please visit: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/egypt/

 

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 Communications

 

Mail is reliable and fast. If you purchase something you’d like shipped, allow the shopkeeper to do it for you and be sure to get a receipt.  Make your long distance calls from your hotel and reserve them in advance...direct dial facilities are limited.

 

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