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EGYPT – GENERAL INFORMATION

                 Fig.1 – Egypt Flag
GEOGRAPHY

 

The country of Egypt is located in the north eastern region of Africa. It is bordered on the north by the Mediterranean Sea. In the south there is a mountain range which receives snow. The climate of Egypt is dry and arid because the Sahara Desert crosses it. One of the major geographical features of this area is the Nile River, which runs northward toward the Mediterranean Sea. One of the most important features of the Nile is that it makes a 200 mile bend in the Sahara Desert. This feature has long puzzled geographers because most rivers would go straight to the sea; instead it travels through one of the driest places on Earth bringing life-giving water. Recently, scientists have found evidence that supports the bend was caused by tectonic activity somewhere between 10,000 and a million years ago.

The Nile is fed by two rivers, the Blue Nile and the White Nile, which is the reason for it not drying during the dry seasons. At one time there were about six such tributaries feeding it, however these eventually dried out due to slow water with silt accumulation. Every year the Nile flooded because the snow in the mountains melted and brought nutrients in the form of silt. This silt was left once the river floods receded, leaving moist fertile soil for plants to grow.

 

HISTORY

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

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

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 infrastructure.

THE PEOPLE

The vast majority of Egypt’s inhabitants live in the Nile valley and delta, and the rest of the country (about 96% of Egypt’s total land area) is sparsely populated. Most modern Egyptians are of a complex ethnic mixture, being descended from the ancient Egyptians, Berbers, sub-Saharan Africans, Arabs, Greeks, and Turks. About 90% of the people are Sunni Muslims, and most of the rest are Coptic Christians.

 SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

Islam is the dominant influence and many traditional customs and beliefs are tied up with religion. The people are generally courteous and hospitable and expect similar respect from visitors. Handshaking will suffice as a greeting. Because Egypt is a Muslim country, dress should be conservative and women should not wear revealing clothes, particularly when in religious buildings and in towns. A good rule is to cover your back and shoulders outside of the hotel area. Women should cover their arms when visiting mosques.

The western style of dress is accepted in the modern nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars of Cairo, Alexandria and other tourist destinations. Official or social functions and smart restaurants usually require more formal wear. Smoking is very common. On a Nile cruise dress is strictly informal, jackets and ties are out of place.

 LANGUAGES

Arabic is the official language. English and French are widely spoken.

 GOVERNMENT

Based on English common law, Islamic law, and Napoleonic codes, Egypt has a Prime Minister and President.

TIME

Standard Time is 2 hours ahead Greenwich Mean Time (GMT 2). Egypt operates Daylight-Saving Time (Summer time).

ELECTRICITY

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

CLIMATE

Peak tourist season in Egypt runs from mid October to May, during winter and spring. From May until October, the temperatures are fairly high, especially in Luxor and the southern parts of the country. Egypt is one of the hottest and sunniest countries in the world. With the exception of a strip along the Mediterranean coast, Egypt has a desert climate, being entirely within the Sahara. The Mediterranean coastal strip has an average annual rainfall of 100–200 mm. In central and southern Egypt several years may pass without any significant rain.

Winters are generally warm in the south of Egypt, but temperatures fall rather abruptly at night so that desert evenings in winter can be quite chilly. The heat of southern Egypt in summer is fierce and there is almost no relief from one day to another. The very low humidity, however, makes the heat more bearable.

Clothes to Wear:

Loose, light cotton clothing is absolutely essential especially if you are traveling in the summer. Buy some clothes while you are there, it is always fun to shop for something practical in the bazaars. It is a good idea to bring sunglasses and eye drops for the dust when visiting the temples and pyramids.

LOGISTICAL
Entry & Exit Requirements:

A visa is required by all US and Canadian passport holders. Tourists can obtain a tourist visa on arrival at an Egyptian airport, payable in U.S. dollars. Check for current cost and have correct change along. Visitors arriving overland, any non-US or Canadian passport holders, and/or those who previously experienced difficulty with their visa status in Egypt should consult with the respective Egyptian consulate in their home country.

For additional entry information, travelers can contact the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt, 3521 International Court, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, Tel. 202-895-5400. Travelers can also contact the Egyptian consulates residing in several US cities.

Embassy & Consulate Locations:

Embassy of the United States of America

5 Tawfik Diab Street, Garden City

Cairo
Tel: (202) 2-2797-2301

http://cairo.usembassy.gov/

Canadian Embassy

26 Kamel El Shenawy

Garden City, Cairo

Tel: (202) 2-791-8700

Fax: (202) 2-791-8860

http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/egypt-egypte/contact-contactez.aspx/

Health:

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers arriving from infected areas. Those arriving in transit from such areas without a certificate will be detained at the airport until their onward flight departs. Beaches on the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts are generally unpolluted. Persons who swim in the Nile or its canals, walk barefoot in stagnant water, or drink untreated water are at risk of exposure to bacterial and other infections and the parasitic disease schistosomiasis (bilharzia). It is generally safe to eat properly-prepared, thoroughly-cooked meat and vegetables in tourist hotels, on Nile cruise boats, and in tourist restaurants. Eating uncooked vegetables should be avoided. Tap water is not potable. It is best to drink bottled water or water that has been boiled and filtered. Well-known brands of bottled beverages are generally considered to be safe.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) web site. The WHO web site also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Banks and Currency:

The local currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP) = 100 piastres.

Currency exchange is available at banks and official bureaux de change.

MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are accepted. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services that may be available.

Communications:

Internet facilities are obtainable in major hotels at a cost.

Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

Egyptian cuisine  is excellent, combining much of the best traditions of Middle Eastern cooking. Some of the larger hotels in Cairo and its environs have excellent kitchens serving the best cosmopolitan dishes. In the center of Cairo,  American-style snack bars are also spreading. Local specialties include foul (bean dishes), kebabs and humus (chickpeas). Restaurants have waiter service, with table service for bars. Although Egypt is a Muslim country, alcohol is available in café-style bars and good restaurants.

 Nightlife:

Sophisticated nightclubs and good restaurants can be found in Cairo and Alexandria. There is nightlife in Luxor and Aswan, including barbecues along the Nile.

Shopping:

Shopping in Egypt is a wonderful experience with a wide variety of shops and shopping malls in the different Egyptian cities. While shopping, tourists can find quality antique items as well as modern ones in the Egyptian shops and markets. There are many modern-day shopping malls, which can be found in the Tehrir Square area. The most famous area of shopping is the Khan el-Khalili in Cairo where one can find the best antique items. The area specializes in spices, jewelry, utensils and Coptic cloth items. It is also the ideal place to buy brassware and copper items. The bazaars of Luxor are some of the best places to buy perfumes, bed sheets, wall hangings, embroidered cushion covers, carpets and other exquisite items.

Aswan is the best place to buy gold jewelry and spices. The Souk al Fustat is the best place to buy handcrafted works of artisans of Egypt. The most important thing, which tourists should know while shopping in Egypt, is the art of bargaining. While some shops have fixed prices, some others require a great amount of bargaining skill to get the best item at the right price.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

We recommend $8 per person per day for your guide and $3 per person per day for the driver.  While on Nile Cruises $5 per person per day is standard for the cruise staff excluding your tour guide while on the cruise.  10-12% is automatically added (service charge) to hotel and restaurant bills but an extra tip of 5% is normal. Taxi drivers generally expect 10%.

LAUNDRY

Laundry service is available at most hotels in the main centers. Generally you should allow about 24-hours before the item is returned to you, however, some have an emergency service available at an extra charge.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches, mosques and temples and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES 

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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