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Egypt, Africa
Gumhūriyyat Misr al-Arabiyyah
Arab Republic of Egypt

 

Quick Facts About the Country
Capital - Cairo 
Government -Republic 
Currency - Egyptian pound (EGP) (LE / E) 
Area total: 1,001,450 km2
land: 995,450 km2
water: 6,000 km2
Population - 77,505,756 (2005)
Language - Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated people 
Religion - Muslim (mostly Sunni) 94%, Coptic Christian and other 6%
Calling Code 20
Internet TLD .eg 
Time Zone  UTC +2

Country Background
Egypt (in Egyptian Arabic Msr, Romanized Misr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a Middle Eastern country in North Africa. While the country is geographically situated in Africa, the Sinai Peninsula, east of the Suez Canal, is a land bridge to Asia.

Covering an area of about 1,001,450 square kilometres (386,560 square miles), Egypt borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and Israel and the Gaza Strip to the northeast; on the north and the east are the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, respectively.

Egypt is the sixteenth most populous country in the world. The vast majority of its 78.8 million population (2006) live near the banks of the Nile River (about 40,000 km or 15,450 sq. miles), where the only arable agricultural land is found. Large areas of land are part of the Sahara Desert and are sparsely inhabited. About half of the Egyptian people today are urban, living in the densely populated centres of greater Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the Middle East, and Alexandria.

Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most ancient and important monuments, including the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza; the southern city of Luxor contains a particularly large number of ancient artifacts such as the Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings. Today, Egypt is widely regarded as the main political and cultural centre of the Arab and Middle Eastern regions.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
 

Weather and Climate
The climate of Egypt is characterized by a hot season from May to September and a cool season from November to March. Extreme temperatures during both seasons are moderated by the prevailing northern winds.

In the coastal regions average annual temperatures range from a maximum of 37C (99F) to a minimum of 14C (57F). Wide variations of temperature occur in the deserts, ranging from a maximum of 46C (114F) during daylight hours to a minimum of 6C (42F) during the night. During the winter season desert nighttime temperatures often drop to 0C (32F). The most humid area is along the Mediterranean coast, where the average annual rainfall is about 200 mm (about 8 in).

Precipitation decreases rapidly to the south; Cairo receives on average only 25 mm (1 in) of rain a year, and in many desert locations it may rain only once in several years.

Egypt is largely desert, an extension of the great Sahara Desert that bands North Africa. Save for the thin strip of watered land along the river Nile, very little could survive here.

Generally, dry and very hot summers with moderate winters - November through to January are definitely the most comfortable months for travel in Egypt. There is almost no rain in the Nile valley, so you won't be needing wet weather gear! Do bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a sturdy hat however.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003 and Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
 

Major Travel and Tourism Info (Country Travel Guide)
Egypt 101 (Basics)
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 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 by 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.

Major Travel and Tourism Destinations
Egypt can be divided into a number of convenient regions for the traveler:
* Cairo - the capital of Egypt and its surroundings, including Giza, Memphis, Saqqara, Abusir and Dahshur.
* Alexandria, Egypt's city by the Mediterranean Sea
* Lower Egypt, containing the Delta region, where the Nile meets the Mediterranean, the extreme north of the country
* Middle Egypt
* Luxor - amazing temples and the Valley of the Kings
* Upper Egypt, a string of amazing temple towns located on the Nile between Luxor and Aswan
* Aswan - the relaxed alternative to Cairo and Luxor
* Lake Nasser and Abu Simbel - two great monuments, one modern, one ancient
* the Western Oases - five pockets of green in the midst of the Western Desert, each with their own unique attractions
* the Red Sea Coast - luxury beach resorts, diving and marine life
* the Sinai Peninsula - rugged and isolated, with fascinating relics of the past

Cities
Cairo - the capital of Egypt, home to the Giza Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum and fabulous Islamic architecture
Alexandria - Egypt's window on the Mediterranean
Aswan - a more relaxed option, full of amazing sights
Luxor - gateway to the Valley of the Kings, amongst other fabulous attractions
Siwa - an oasis town


Other destinations
Abu Simbel
Abydos
Amarna
Beni Hasan
Dahab
Damanhour
Dendera
Mansoura
Meidum
Rachid
Tanis
Tell Basta (Bubastis)

Holidays
Banks, shops and businesses will close for the following Egyptian National Holidays (civil, secular). Public transport may run only limited services:
7th January
25th April (Liberation Day)
1st May (Labour Day)
23rd July (Revolution Day)
6th October (Armed Forces Day)

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the most important month in the Islamic Calendar for Muslims, the majority religion in Egypt. (Because the lunar (Islamic) calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar used elsewhere, Islamic holidays move each year. In 2006 Ramadan will begin on Sept. 24). Commemorating the time when God revealed the Qur'an to Mohammed, during this holy month, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking or smoking until after sundown on each day.

Although strict adherence to Ramadan is for Muslims only, some Muslims would appreciate that non-Muslims do not take meals or smoke in public places. During Ramadan, many restaurants and cafes won't open until after sundown. Public transport is less frequent, shops close earlier before sunset and the pace of life (specially business) is generally slow.

As expected, exactly at sunset minute, the entire country queits down and busy itself with the main meal of the day (iftar or breaking-fast) that are almost always done as social events in large groups of friends. Many richer people offer meals (Tables of the Gracious God) in Cairo's streets that cater full-meals for free for the passers-by, the poorer ones or workers who couldn't leave their shifts at the time.

Prayers become popular 'social' events that some like to enrich with special food treats before and after. An hour or two later, an astonishing springing to life of the cities takes place. Streets sometimes richly decorated for the whole month have continuous rush hours till very early in the morning. Some Shops and Cafes make the biggest chunk of their annual profit at this time of year. Costs of advertising on TV and Radio soars for this period and entertainment performances are at their peak.

Terrain
Egypt consists of vast desert plateau interrupted by the Nile valley and delta.

Money
The local currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP), often written as LE. In Arabic it's called "gnieh".

Shopping
Egypt is a shopper's paradise - especially if you're interested in Egyptian-themed souvenirs and kitsch, of course. That said, a number of high quality goods are to be had, often at bargain prices. Some of the most popular purchases include:

Antiques (NB: Antiques not antiquities. Trade of antiquities is rightly illegal in Egypt)
Carpets and rugs
Cotton goods and clothing
Inlaid goods, such as backgammon boards
Jewellery
Leather goods
Music
Papyrus
Perfume
Sheeshas (water-pipes)
Spices - can be bought at colourful stalls in most Egyptian markets. Dried herbs and spices are generally of a higher quality than that available in Western supermarkets and are, of course, much, much cheaper (up to 4 or 5 times cheaper, though the final price will depend of bargaining and local conditions).

Egyptian Food
Egypt can be a fantastic place to sample a unique range of food: not too spicy and well-flavoured with herbs. For a convenient selection of Egyptian cuisine and staple foods try the Felfela chain of restaurants in Cairo. Some visitors complain, however, that these have become almost too tourist-friendly and have abandoned some elements of authenticity.

One contributor recalls: "The best meal I ever had in Egypt was in the backstreets of Hurghada, a fish shop near the port which also cooked the catch. I went with wife and kids and just said make us happy. We were, the freshest fish, old benches to sit on with a communal table and company who were more interested in us and the kids than their meals, but a meal we still remember!"

Be aware that hygiene may not be of the highest standards, even in five star hotels. The number of tourists that suffer from some kind of parasite or bacterial infection is very high. Despite assurances to the contrary, exercise common sense and bring appropriate medications to deal with problems.

Water, Fluids and Alcohol Basics
Water
Bottled water is available everywhere, the most common brand being Baraka - drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration in Egypt's dry climate.

Ensure that you drink plenty of water: Egypt has an extremely dry climate most of the year - a fact aggravated by high temperatures in the summer end of the year - and countless travellers each year experience the discomforts and dangers of dehydration. A sense of thirst is not enough to indicate danger - carry a water bottle and keep drinking! Not needing to urinate for a long period or passing very small amounts of dark yellow urine are signs of incipient dehydration.

Egyptian tap water is generally safe, although it does sometimes have an odd taste due to the high chlorine content added to make it so.... It is not recommended for regular drinking, especially to very local differences in quality. Bottled mineral waters are widely available - the local brands, such as Baraka and Siwa, are just as good as expensive imported options.

Beware of the old scam, however, whereby vendors re-sell bottled water bottles, having refilled with another (perhaps dubious) source.... Always check the seal is unbroken before parting with your money (or drinking from it) and inform the tourist police if you catch anyone doing this....

Juices
Juices can be widely found in Egypt - kasab(sugar cane); erk soos; sobiia; tamer and some fresh fruit juices.

Be a little wary with fruit juice, as some sellers may mix it with water. Milk should also be treated carefully as it may not be pasteurized.... Try only to buy milk from reputable shops. Hot beverages like tea and coffee should generally be OK, the water having been boiled in preparation.

Alcohol
Egypt is a predominately Muslim nation and alcoholic drinks are, of course, forbidden (haram) for strictly observant Muslims. That said, Egyptians tend to adopt a relaxed and pragmatic view towards alcohol for non-Muslims and foreigners it is tolerated by the vast majority of Egyptians and consumed by a sizable number of them (including less strict Muslims - you may even be asked to "procure" drink for someone!).

Alcoholic beverages and bottled drinks are readily available throughout the country (especially in larger towns and cities, as well as tourist centres). Please note, however, that public drunkeness (especially the loud and obnoxious variety) is definitely not appreciated - without caution, you may end up drying out in a police cell. Try to be a good ambassador: if you must get "tipsy", confine it to the hotel or very nearby! (It's actually quite rare to see drunken tourists, even in the most intense tourist areas...)

Stella is a common beer in Egypt. For wine their is Ptomely among others.

It should be noted that many hotels and bars in Egypt will stop serving alcohol during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan - phone ahead to make sure alcohol is still being served in order to avoid disappointment.

Studying
There are local universities and also some foreign universities like American University. There is also the German University , British University , French University and Canadian University, but they are new ones and not located at the center of Cairo..they are located far away..

The American University in Cairo(AUC), one of the best universities in the Middle East, offers degree, non-degree and summer-school study options. Popular courses include Arabic Language and Literature, Islamic Art and Architecture, Arab History and Culture, and (of course) Egyptology.

There exist a number of viable options for acquiring Arabic as a language in Egypt (other than picking it up from the locals):

the Arabic Language Institute, a branch of AUC, offers intensive courses at a variety of levels.
Unfortunately the British Council in Cairo no longer offers Arabic courses. The Arabic teachers who worked there have set up a school of their own called Kalimat in Mohandiseen. Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic are both offered at various levels.

You can also study at ILI/International House

Staying safe
Egypt is generally a safe and friendly country in which to travel. Egyptians on the whole are very friendly - if you are in need of assistance they will generally try to help you as much as they are able.

As in most Middle Eastern countries associated with large numbers of overseas travelers, recently there have been security concerns for Western and Israeli travelers. Tourists from these areas have been targeted sporadically by extremist and terrorist groups, sometimes with tragic results.

The usual warnings for prudent behaviour apply, precisely as they would in New York or London: Try to avoid travelling together with large groups of foreigners, be suspicious of and report unattended packages...

The security situation in Egypt (as in many Middle Eastern countries) is frequently exaggerated by Western media outlets, creating a negative impression that is somewhat amplified by the heavy-handed policies of Egyptian authorities in keeping tourists safe. The reality is that travelling in Egypt is probably no more hazardous, with regard to terrorism, than visiting most Western capitals (and probably a lot safer!) Egypt relies heavily on foreign tourism for its national income and both Egyptians and their government are extremely keen to prevent any occurrence that might create a bad impression and keep tourists away.

The Egyptian Sun
Wear sunscreen, wear a hat and bring good sunglasses - it's hot and bright out there!

Swimming
In order to avoid contracting the rightly dreaded schistosomiasis parasite (also known as bilharzia), DO NOT swim in the Nile or venture into any other Egyptian waterways (even if the locals are doing so.....) It is also a good idea not to walk in bare feet on freshly-watered lawns for the same reason. Seek medical attention immediately if you think you may have been exposed to the parasite - DO NOT wait until returning to your own country!

Respect
Keep in mind that most Egyptians workers expect tips after performing a service (baksheesh in Arabic).

If you're male, don't be surprised if another male holds your hand or forearm -- there's no taboo against men holding hands and unlike in the West, this behavior is NOT associated with being gay. In general, Egyptians are a lot more comfortable with less personal space than are most Westerners.

Another point is to note that, overall, Egyptians are a conservative people. Although they accommodate foreigners being dressed a lot more skimpily, it may be prudent, at least in the big cities, to not dress provocatively, if only to avoid being ogled at.

Telecommunications
Egypt has a reasonably modern telephone service including a two GSM mobile service providers. Principal centers at Alexandria, Cairo, Al Mansurah, Ismailia, Suez, and Tanta. Roaming services are provided, although you should check with your service provider. Also, it is possible to purchase tourist mobile phone lines for the duration of your stay. The two mobile phone providers are Mobinil and Vodafone.

There are a number of internet providers. Most tourist towns, such as Cairo and Luxor, boast a plethora of small internet cafs - you won't need to look far!

In addition, an increasing number of coffee shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies and other locations now provide wireless internet access. To date, this is free so you can just walk into them with your laptop and internet away. Any of the numerous restaurant or location guides will list venues with such services.

Embassies
American - 8 Kamal El Din Salah St., Garden City, Cairo, Egypt. Tel: [20] [2] 797-3300, E-mail: consularcairo@state.gov [6]
Australian - World Trade Centre (11th Floor), Corniche El Nil, Boulac (Code No. 11111), Cairo , Egypt Phone 20-2 575 0444, Fax 20-2 578 1638, E-mail: cairo.austremb@dfat.gov.au [7]
British - 7 Ahmed Ragheb Street, Garden City, Cairo (20) (2) 794 0852 [8]
Italian - 15, Abdel Rahman Fahmy Str., Garden City, Cairo Tel: +20 (0)2 7943194 - 7943195 - 7940658, Fax: +20 (0)2 7940657, E-mail: ambasciata.cairo@esteri.it [9]
Spain - 41, Ismail Mohamed.-Zamalek, Cairo. Phone: 735 58 13, 735 64 37, 735 36 52 and 735 64 62. E-mail: embespeg@mail.mae.es

Laundry
There are a number of options for washing clothes whilst travelling in Egypt:

By far the easiest, most practical - and not at all expensive - is to arrange for your hotel to have your washing done for you. By prior arrangement, clothes left on the bed or handed in at reception will be returned to you by evening freshly laundered and pressed.

Determined self-helpers can persist with hand-washing or finding one of the many "hole-in-the-wall" laundries where the staff will wash and press your clothes manually - a fascinating process in itself!

Cairo possesses a few basic Western-style laundromats in areas where foreigners and tourists reside - they are virtually nonexistent elsewhere in the country. Some hotels in tourist towns like Luxor and Dahab offer a washing machine service in a back room - the machines are usually primitive affairs and you'll be left with the task of wringing and ironing your clothes yourself.

The moral of the tale?: Do yourself a favour, maximise your quality time in Egypt, and get the hotel to do your laundry for you!!
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

History in Brief: Summary
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 was founded circa 3200 BC by King Narmer, and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty, known as the Thirtieth Dynasty, fell to the Persians in 343 BC who dug the predecessor of the Suez canal and connected the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Later, Egypt fell to the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Persians again.

It was the Muslim Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the seventh century to the Egyptians, who gradually adopted both. Muslim rulers nominated by the Islamic Caliphate remained in control of Egypt for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 and continued to govern even 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; however, the country also fell heavily into debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, the United Kingdom seized control of Egypt's government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914.

Almost fully independent from the UK since 1922, the Egyptian Parliament drafted and implemented a new constitution in 1923 under the leadership of the popular revolutionary Saad Zaghlul.

Between 1924-1936, there existed a short-lived but successful attempt to model Egypt's constitutional government after the European style of government; known as Egypt's Liberal Experiment. The British, however, retained a degree of control which led to continued instability in the government. In 1952, a military coup d'tat forced King Farouk I, a constitutional monarch, to abdicate in support of his son King Ahmed Fouad II.

 Egypt's capital Cairo is the largest city in Africa and the Middle EastFinally, the Egyptian Republic was declared on 18 June 1953 with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic.

After Naguib was also forced to resign in 1954 by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the real architect of the 1952 movement, the latter assumed power as President and nationalized the Suez Canal leading to the 1956 Suez Crisis. Nasser came out of the war an Arab hero, and Nasserism won widespread influence in the region though was met with mixed reactions amongst Egyptians, many of whom had previously been indifferent to Arab nationalism.

Between 1958 and 1961, Nasser undertook to form a union between Egypt and Syria known as the United Arab Republic. This attempt too was met with mixed reactions, and it was clear that many Egyptians resented finding that the name of their country, which had endured for thousands of years, was suddenly eliminated.

Three years after the 1967 Six Day War, in which Egypt lost the Sinai to Israel, Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who presented his takeover in terms of a Corrective Revolution. Sadat switched Egypt's Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972, and launched the Infitah economic reform, while violently clamping down on religious and secular opposition alike. Egypt's name was also restored.

In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched a surprise attack on Israel in the October War (known also as the Yom Kippur War), which, despite not being a complete military success, was by most accounts a political victory. Both the United States and the USSR intervened, and a cease-fire was reached between Egypt and Israel.

In 1979, Sadat made peace with Israel in exchange for the Sinai, a move that sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt's expulsion from the Arab League (it was readmitted in 1989). Sadat was murdered by a religious fundamentalist in 1981, and succeeded by Hosni Mubarak.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

References
Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc
 

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