Region: Middle East & North Africa
Islam is the official religion of Egypt, and about 94% of the population is Muslim, nearly all of whom are Sunni. Most of the Christian minority are Copts.
Arabic has been the written and spoken language of Egypt for the past 13 centuries. English is spoken in major cities and tourist sites.
Area (sq. km):
1,001,450 square meters
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from May to September).
Throughout Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, and nights are cool. Egypt has only two seasons: a mild winter from November to April and a hot summer from May to October. The only differences between the seasons are variations in daytime temperatures and changes in prevailing winds. In the coastal regions, temperatures range between an average minimum of 14°C in winter and an average maximum of 30°C in summer. Temperatures vary widely in the inland desert areas, especially in summer, when they may range from 7°C at night to 43°C during the day. During winter, temperatures in the desert fluctuate less dramatically, but they can be as low as 0°C at night and as high as 18°C during the day. Egypt receives fewer than eighty millimeters of precipitation annually in most areas. Most rain falls along the coast, but even the wettest area, around Alexandria, receives only about 200 millimetres of precipitation per year.
Temperatures in Egypt vary considerably from north to south. In January, for example, the daytime temperature might be 15°C in Alexandria, whereas in Aswan it is around 23°C. For people who do not like the heat, the best time to visit Egypt is in the winter months, from October through to the end of March. During this period it is cool in Cairo and warm in Upper Egypt. In April/May and September/October the weather is warmer - particularly in the south and in the desert where daytime temperatures can average around 35°C or more. The hottest season is June to August, popular among European holidaymakers, those who enjoy the heat or those planning to visit the Red Sea.
Cairo Airport is the main gateway to Egypt. Located 22km northeast of Cairo it consists of two terminals approximately 3km apart. There is also an international airport in Luxor and domestic airports throughout the country.
The international dialling code for Egypt is +20. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange 'global roaming' with your service provider, however charges are generally high so be sure to check this option thoroughly.
The electricity supply is standard throughout the Middle East, at 220 volts, and appliances requiring 240 volts will all work normally. Round two-pin plugs are the most common types in the region. A set of adaptor plugs is recommended.
In Egypt, food is simple, healthy and tasty. Popular dishes include lentil soup, grilled chicken or fish with rice. Koshary is also a local favourite, a savoury mix of noodles, rice, lentils and onions. Almost everywhere you go you will find 'mezze'. This consists of several plates, and is generally served as an appetizer with a pile of flat bread (but it's often enough for a whole meal). Dishes may include humus (chickpea dip), tahina (sesame dip), babaghanough (eggplant with tahina), falafels (deep-fried vegetable balls) and foul (pronounced 'fool'), a dish made from a red fava beans which is a staple diet throughout the country. Well-cooked food is generally safe, however be wary of eating unwashed fruit and vegetables.
Shopping or rather, bargaining is one traveller’s dream and another’s nightmare. In the bazaars you are expected to haggle. If you want some tips, try watching the movie, ‘Life Of Brian’, before heading to Egypt! The trick is to keep smiling. It’s all part of the game. A friendly bit of bargaining will generally get you what you want. If you are persistent you can probably get it for about half the original price. Be careful, though, not to offer an absurdly low figure as this will cause resentment and you are unlikely to get a good deal. Many shops have a ‘fixed price’ policy. Generally except in the more upmarket establishments this is nonsense and they will still be prepared to negotiate. Buying as a group can also achieve a better price for all of you. NOTE: If you arrive a day early and meet a friendly fellow who wants to be your friend and happens to know a great place to get papyrus, jewellery, or anything else, the best advice we can give it so say 'no thanks'. Odds are you'll get scammed. Wait until you meet your leader, get his advice, and then shop around and make your mind up. Too many people get ripped off in their first couple of days.
Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, British and Canadians require a visa for Egypt. All other nationalities should check with the Egyptian Embassy or Consulate in their country for up-to-date visa information. If you require a double entry visa for Egypt you will need to obtain this from an overseas embassy prior to arrival. Single entry visas for most nationalities can be obtained on arrival at Cairo Airport. The current cost for most nationalities is US$25. You must pay in cash in US dollars, UK pounds, euros, Japanese yen or any other convertible currency to a bank located next to immigration.
If you are arriving in Egypt by land from Israel you must obtain your visa beforehand.
If you are arriving in Egypt by ferry from Aqaba, Jordan, a single entry visa can be obtained upon arrival and costs approximately US$25.
All travellers departing Egypt at the Port of Nuweiba must pay a 50 Egyptian pound departure tax (subject to change). Your tour leader will collect this amount from you to pay at immigration control.
In an Antique Land-Amitav Ghosh Islands of the Blest-Cassandra Vivian Death on the Nile-Agatha Christie The English Patient-Michael Ondaatje