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Factsheet - Egypt


Egypt

Capital city: Cairo (population 7 million)
Area: 1,001,450 sq km
Population: 81.7 million
Language: Arabic
Currency: Egyptian Pound (EGP)
Time zone: GMT +2
Dialing code: +20
Daylight savings begins: No DST
Daylight savings ends: No DST
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin),

Intrepid Information on Egypt
Times to go

If you are looking to escape the crowds, try travelling from March to May or September to November when the weather is mildler. September to Novemeber is not only a quiter time to travel, but you'll be able to immerse yourself in the experience of Ramadan, and the celebrations of Eid - the Festival of breaking the fast.

During the Summer months from June to August, daily temperatures can reach 40 degrees and will test your endurance if you are walking the streets of Cairo, but may be perfect if you're planning to soak up the heat on a Sinai beach. If you prefer to sunbathe with a little elbow room, then March to May or September to November would be the perfect time to travel.

Generally, the hottest months are June to August; the coldest month is January; rainfall is negligible except on the coast, with rainfall usually occuring during the winter months December to March.

Accommodation

We use a wide range of accommodation in Egypt, from basic guest houses and hostels, small family run properties to felucca, desert camp, beach hut, overnight train and large international standard multi-storey hotels.

Rooms and beds tend to be smaller than you would expect from similar standard hotels worldwidespace can be a premium in the ancient towns and cities

Bathrooms are not always private - some hotels have shared facilities. You may encounter squat toilets

Some of our accommodation in is old historic buildings which means there is a lot of charm and character, but also antiquated plumbing and sometimes things do not work like they used to. Hot water is not always available. Water pressure can be low

Our local friends in our accommodation sometimes do not speak English so this is your chance to practise your Arabic - particularly at starting hotels

Please take note of the luggage limit since some accommodation does not have lifts so you will be
hauling your luggage up several flights of stairs

Towels and linen are usually provided unless otherwise stated - there is rarely a need for sleeping bags

Bring your own toiletries and hair drier since these are rarely provided at our accommodation

Some accommodation has TVs, but there are no English channels

Rooms may not be serviced everyday, towels and sheets are only changed when a passenger vacates the room. Hot running water is sometimes not guaranteed throughout the day

Most hotels have a check in time of 14:00 and a check out time of 10:00

Make sure you get a hotel card on arrival, so that you can always find your way home

Safety deposit boxes are often, but not always available

We choose accommodation based on convenience of location, sometimes that means we stay very centrally - meaning all the bars and restaurants are at your doorstep and other times it means we stay near the train station so we can catch that early train

Luggage Storage at our accommodation:

Some hotels offer luggage storage but we do not advertise this as it is usually a very small space and can be inconvenient

Storing luggage can incur additional costs if luggage exceeds one piece per person and can normally be stored on departure day only and not for long periods of time

Luggage storage facilities are not generally secured. Please bring your own locks for your luggage

Passengers should pay attention to the luggage limit that we outline in our trip notes

Transport

We use a variety of transport from overnight train, coaches, local buses, private mini vans, metro, walking, bicycle, felucca, camel, donkeys, taxi, jeep, river boat and plane.

Trains:
Sometimes the train carriages are open with airplane style seating, other times they are closed cabins with 6-8 passengers

On some overnight trips sleeper cabins are not provided

Sometimes we have assigned seating and other times you can sit anywhere

Trains sit quite high off the platform which means you should stick to our luggage limits as you will be required to lift your luggage onto trains and into overhead luggage storage

Buses:
Some local buses we use are very crowded, and you may have to stand with your luggage

Luggage on buses is 'self help' so drivers in Egypt do not load your luggage for you - you are expected to lift your own luggage onto buses, ferries and trains

Luggage sometimes goes on the bus with you and not in luggage lockers under the bus

To give you an idea of travel times see the day to day itinerary of the trip notes for your specific trip.

Toilets are not usually available on buses

Public transport:
You always need to validate your ticket in a stamping machine when entering the public transport system

Keep the ticket on you until you exit the metro system

You will be fined if caught without a ticket and tourists are often targeted

The metro fares are minimal - approximately 1EGP

The first two carriages of the metro are reserved for women

Taxis:
No meters are used, so you need to agree on a price for your trip before you enter the taxi

Felucca:
Traditional Nile sailing boats are a fantastic way to travel

Accommodation is on the deck which comes with an awning for hot days or cold nights

Facilities are extremely basic, though we do provide occasional toilet stops

Camels:
Bad tempered, flatulent, haughty camels are a world unto themselves but everyone should take a ride
on one at some point during their visit to Egypt

Mules:
Travel the local way, by mule. Occasionally these rides are excluded in summer for the health of the
animal. we will provide alternative transport on these occasions
events

Public Holidays in 2010
7 Jan Coptic Christmas Day
26 Feb Birth of the Prophet
25 Apr Sinai Liberation Day
28 Apr Sham el-Nassim (Coptic Easter)
1 May Labour Day
23 Jul National Day
11 Sep Coptic New Year
10-13 Sep Bairam Feast (End of Ramadan)
6 Oct Armed Forces Day
16-17 Nov Grand Feast
7 Dec Islamic New Year
According to http://www.worldtravelguide.net/country/80/public_holidays/Africa/Egypt.html

Food & drink
Meals:
Eating out in Egypt is an adventure and a delight. You can not expect the same food and service as you would at home

Tipping is an integral part of life in Egypt, it is expected and appreciated. Expect to tip approximately 10% in restaurants.

Check your trip dossier for amounts needed to cover meals not included.

If you are on a budget, there are always fantastic cheap local eats available.

Sometimes a light simple breakfast is included at our hotels

Must try food in Egypt:
There are some fabulous food experiences to be had:

A great range of foods is available, well flavoured and not too spicy

Fish and seafood are a must try, particularly in the coastal regions and cities such as Alexandria

Exotic fruits are cheap and plentiful, why not try some guava, mango or melon from a marketplace or
street vendor

The classic dish of Ful Medames is common in Egypt - slow cooked fava beans, served with olive oil,
parsley, garlic and lemon juice. To add some spice, have it seasoned with chili paste, and eat with Egyptian bread or pita

Fried chick pea balls, known as Felafel are widely available from markets and street vendors, and
generally served as a snack

Food and culture:
You will be give terrific opportunities to eat traditional style, with our local friends

Most Egyptians start the day with a light breakfast. Lunch is eaten around 3:00pm. A light supper may be eatern around 8:00pm, and may include yogurt, fruit or cheese.

Breakfast often consists of beans (or bean cakes)

Coffee remains a tradition in Egypt and is drunk short and black and sweet, usually in cafes whilst enjoying a Sheesa or water pipe

Tea is normally served in a glass - black with lots of sugar

The main meal consists of rice, beans, vegetables and bread. Egyptians serve both freshwater and
seagoing fish under the general term of samak

Be aware that hygiene may not be of Western standards, use your common sense when purchasing
food and drinks

As a Muslim country, alcohol is disapproved in public places, however it is available in some bars and
hotels

The legal drinking age in Egypt is 18 for beer and 21 for everything else

Water:
Tap water in Egypt is not considered safe to drink. Be sure to avoid any stomach upsets by drinking
bottled water

Bottled water is inexpensive in Egypt and widely available

Communication:
E-mail:

There is internet in some locations

Internet varies in cost, but is generally inexpensive.

Hotels rarely have internet but you may find internet cafes that are open daily and into the evenings

Telephone:

There is good mobile coverage. Mobiles with global roaming work well - check with your provider in advance of departing your home country to ensure your mobile is able to access foreign networks

We are rarely more than two days away from mobile reception

Hotels do not usually have telephones available

Public phone cards are the most cost efficient form of telephone communication

Postage:

Receiving post is not recommended due to our busy travel schedule

Postage from Egypt is reliable, but can be expensive

What to buy
In the bustling bazaars of Egypt, you can find everything from exquisite jewellery to hand-woven carpets, papyrus paintings, pipes and perfumes.

Of course, you will also find that Western brands abound, and it might be possible to pick up a bargain or two.

Sometimes you will find fixed price stores, but most shopping happens in the souks and markets where
you are expected to bargain.

Bargaining is a way of life in Egypt and vendors expect you to reduce their initial price offers. Vendors may initially quote a price up to ten times the worth of the piece. It is important that you reply with a rock-bottom price, and bargain from there. It's a good idea to set a maximum price you are willing to pay. Quite often, if you walk away from the vendor because the price is too high, they will follow you and may agree to a sale.

Don't just bargain for the fun of it - once you have agreed on a price with the vendor, it is important to honour the contract and purchase the item.

Papyrus is a thick paper like material harvested from the pith of the papyrus plant, and was first used in Ancient Egypt for boats, mattresses and paper. Hand painted art on genuine papyrus comes in many designs, and in a variety of colors and sizes, providing you with a unique momento to be treasured for years to come. Beware that the product that some vendors offer may not be real papyrus. Real papyrus can be easily identified, as you can still see the individual strips that have been laid together and flattened to make a bigger sheet.

You are bound to stumble across multitudes of jewellery stores on your visit to Egypt. One of the most popular jewellery items for sale is an authentic Egyptian cartouche - a kind of nameplate consisting of different hieroglyphic symbols and hung as a pendant. You can often have the piece of your choice custom made from Egyptian gold or silver, ready to pick up the following day.

If you are looking to decorate your home and impress your friends, you will find that carpets and ornaments made from materials such as onyx and alabaster abound for the savvy bargainer in Egypt. Alabaster is a mineral, a stone almost as hard as marble, that was used by the ancient pharaohs for many purposes, including household items, ritual objects, and for a number of different funerary purposes. Today you will find many fabulous ornaments that you'll be able to show off to your friends for years to come.

Galabiyah, an authentic Egyptian dress jazzed up with glitter and sequins can also be found in the markets. Galabiyah only cost about a £1, what a great gift to take home and share with your friends. Check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to import some items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand for example have strict quarantine laws.

Culture
People:
Being sensitive and respectful of Egypt's different customs, traditions, religion and culture will be well appreciated by all Egyptians.

A relaxed open attitude and sense of humour will help you in all situations and enable you to get the most from your trip around Egypt.

Islam prescribes that men and women who are not from the same family may not touch each other, thus public displays of affection between the sexes are offensive and should be kept to the privacy of your room.

Public signs of friendship, such as men holding hands, should not be mistaken for homosexuality, they are just good friends.

The common greeting between Egyptians is a handshake. For good friends a kiss to either cheek is added to the handshake. As a westerner meeting local people of the opposite sex, just follow their lead.

Always use your RIGHT hand if you choose to eat with your hands, and for any exchanges. In Egypt the left hand is used for sanitary functions.

You may also find people asking you many personal questions; they are naturally curious about you, as you are of them. It's always best to be polite, and you can use this opportunity to learn about your different cultures.

Dress:
Egypt is a conservative, Muslim country - both men and women need to dress modestly and respectfully.

Shoulders to knees should be covered at all times.

Toilets:
You will have to adjust to different standards of hygiene and sanitation whilst in Egypt.

The standard toilet is of the squat variety and though this can take some getting used to it really is much cleaner for a pubic toilet.

Western style toilets can be found in some tourist centres

Religion:
The day of prayer is Friday and on this day in particular there are often mats out on the street outside Mosques. These are prayer mats and should not be walked over. Not all Mosques are that obvious, so if you see any mat it is best not to walk over it.

Ramadan is the fasting month for all Muslims and is one of the 5 Pillars of Islam. During this month no food, drink, smoking etc is permitted during daylight hours. While non-Muslims visiting Egypt during the period of Ramadan are not expected to fast, it is recommended that in public places, eating, drinking and smoking are avoided or done discreetly during daylight hours.

If you are planning to travel during Ramadan, it is important to consider the many restaurants will either be closed or operating on reduced hours. In addition, many shops and markets will operate on reduced hours, and nightlife may also be affected.

Alcohol is forbidden in the eyes of many Muslims. However it is tolerated by most and drunk by a few. Although getting totally inebriated in Egypt is frowned upon.

Ask permission before entering a place of worship, some places may not permit you to enter.

It is best to cover yourself fully, with long sleeves and trousers, and at times you may be required to cover your head.

You will always need to remove your shoes.

Smoking is prohibited and a respectful demeanour is most appropriate

Home Visits:
There are home visits on some trips. It is a privilege to be invited into people's homes and there are a number of things we need to remember

When you enter a person's home, please REMOVE your shoes (even if they say not to -they are also trying to be polite by not wanting to inconvenience you).

Do not wander around the house uninvited, especially men, as there could be Muslim women in some of the rooms who are not prepared to meet non family males.

Women should feel free to wander into the kitchen and talk to or assist the women - is a great place to get some interaction with the local women.

Always put toilet paper in the bin provided, not down the toilet.

If invited to someone's house for a drink or food it is customary to take a gift with you i.e. Fruit, sweets, cake etc.

Respect the family's property.

Camel safari - Aswan:
Do BRING out all rubbish (including cigarette butts).

Either burn toilet paper, or put it in a plastic bag, do not leave in desert.

Don't give out anything to village people along the way.

Do not touch the camel's head - they do not like it and it upsets them.

Carriage Horses, Aswan/Luxor:
Do not hire any horse carriage where the horse is malnourished, has obvious sores or lame or where the driver makes it go faster than a trot and uses the whip unnecessarily.

Do not hire any horse carriage to go to the West Bank as it is too far for the horse.

Do not overload the carriage - max 3 people plus 1 driver.

Try not to use carriages in the heat of the midday sun.

Felucca Sailing:
Do not throw ANYTHING overboard, including cigarette butts - use a film canister.

Toilet paper is collected in a plastic bag and burnt by the leader, is not left in the hole or on the banks.

Rubbish to be split into 3 bins - food, tins and burnables. Plastic bottles need to be separated for recycling.

Attire - swimwear is ok while sailing but a t-shirt should be worn while moored and/or swimming on the bank.

We take our own firewood for a camp fire. Please do not take any firewood from the banks as this is vital for the locals.

Small Community Visits:
(Daraw): Be aware of the impact tourism is having in small rural Egyptian villages so try to be as unobtrusive as possible and adhere to the following

Do not give ANYTHING to the people.

Do ask if it is OK to take a photo (especially of women),

DO NOT offer money.

If offered food or drink, either politely accept or refuse without making a grimace. DO NOT offer any money in return for food or drink.

Do make every effort to COMMUNICATE with the people - they are very curious about you, and even if you only know the local greeting (SALAAM ALYKUM), it is appreciated.

Do have an AWARENESS of the stricter segregation of the sexes in Egypt. Men do not touch women, and women do not touch men they do not know.

Do wear appropriate, conservative CLOTHING, and try to minimise expensive flashy jewellery and watches.

Do use common sense and ASK if uncertain.

SMILE and enjoy the amazing people of rural Egypt!

Donkey Riding, Luxor:
Do not ride any donkey that is malnourished, has obvious sores, is lame or obviously bloated (it could be pregnant or have colic).

Due to the steep climb up to the top of the mountain we advise those who are more than 100kg not to ride the donkeys. Alternatives are to walk or go with the guide in a local taxi.

Take all rubbish with you and do not leave any behind.

Do not feed your donkey as this ruins the routine and sets expectations from other riders.

St Katherines & Mt Sinai:
Shoulders and knees must be covered for both men and women to visit the monastery.

Mt Sinai is a pilgrimage site so we must retain some level of decorum

Take out ALL RUBBISH, including cigarette butts.

Snorkeling, Red Sea:
Do not touch the coral as this kills it.

Collect all rubbish lying around and do not leave any more behind.

Beach attire is ok but topless sunbathing is illegal in Egypt.

Handy links
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/worldguide/egypt
http://wikitravel.org/en/Egypt
http://www.tourism.egnet.net/
http://www.egypt.travel/sitemap.php?flashinstalled=2
http://interoz.com/egypt/tourism/

Reading
Egypt by Lonely Planet
How to read Egyptian Heiroglyphs by Mark Collier
The Oxford history of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw
Ancient Egypt by David Silverman
A thousand miles up the Nile Amelia Edwards
The Blue Nile and The White Nile Alan Moorhead
In an antique land Amitav Ghosh
The Pharaoh's Shadow Anthony Sattin


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