Capital: Cairo (the largest city in Africa)
Official Language: Arabic. Others: Nubian, English, Armenian
Religions: Muslim 85%, other 15 %( mainly Coptic Christians)
People: Egyptians, Berbers, Bedouin, Hamitic Arabs and Nubians
Area: 1 million sq km
Population: 80 million
Capital City: Cairo 20 Million
New Year: 1 January
Christmas: 7 January (celebrates the nativity of Jesus Christ, according to the Eastern Coptic Orthodox Church)
National Police Day: 25 January (celebrates the Egyptian National Police and commemorates the deaths of 50 Egyptian policemen defending the Ismailia police headquarters from British troops in 1952.)
Sinai Liberation Day: April 25 (celebrates the final withdrawal of all Israeli military forces from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982)
Labor Day: 1 May
Revolution Day: 23 July (celebrates the Egyptian Revolution of 1952)
Armed Forces Day: 6 October (celebrates the crossing of the Suez Canal by Egyptian forces during the October War)
The following Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar
Sham El Nessim (Spring festival) : the Monday following Orthodox Easter
Islamic New Year: the first day of the year based on the lunar Islamic calendar (1 Muharram)
Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (Sunni): the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad according to the Sunni account (12 Rabi al-Awwal)
Eid al-Fitr Breaking of the fast of Ramadan: for three days (1-3 Shawwal)
Eid al-Adha End of the Hajj and commemoration of the Sacrifice of Abraham: for four days (10-13 Dhu al-Hijjah)
The most widely spoken language in Egypt is Egyptian Arabic (Maṣri), an Arabic dialect of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. It is the national language of Egypt, spoken by more than 76 million people. It is also one of the most widely spoken and studied varieties of Arabic.
Coptic, a direct descendant of the ancient Egyptian language that was once written in Egyptian hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic scripts, is used by the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Coptic alphabet is a modified form of the Greek alphabet with some letters deriving from demotic.
The official language of Egypt is Standard Arabic and is used in most written media. English and French are also widely spoken and used in business circles.
Visa - Do I need a visa to travel to Egypt?
Depending on your nationality you can either obtain your entry visa at any of the major egyptian airports or ports of entry. All foreigners arriving in Egypt should have a valid passport (validity at least 6 months after visa expiry) to get an entry visa.
The visa can also be obtained from Egyptian Diplomatic and Consular Missions abroad. The cost of one entry visa for all nationalities is $15 US. (at time of writting)
For more information please check on the Egyptian Embassy home page : www.egypt.embassyhomepage.com
Currency / Exchange rate / Banking
The Egyptian Pound (LE) consists of 100 piasters (pt). Currency comes in the following denominations: 50pt and 1LE (coins and notes) + 5LE, 10LE, 20LE, 50LE, 100LE and 200LE notes. There is a severe shortage of small change. Egyptian pounds (EGP or LE). Pounds Sterling, US Dollars and Euros are easily exchanged. You can obtain Egyptian Pounds (LE) at any major bank or at your hotel.
Banks are open from Sunday to Thursday, from 9 – 14:00. Some banks in Cairo also open for a few hours in the evening. Bureau de change and moneychangers are generally open throughout the course of the day and evening.
Tipping is an accepted part of life in Egypt and will be expected by drivers, guides and other people who look after you or offer you some service during your trip. In up market restaurants a tip of 10% is normally expected, whilst in smaller and cheaper establishments anything from 1 – 5 LE is about right. Ultimately the above suggestions are nothing more than guidelines. Tipping is discretionary, but it is also is an accepted part of culture.
Egypt is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). There is no Daylight saving time.
Business hours 09:00 – 13:00 hrs and 17:00 – 22:00 in summer and 10:00 – 1800 in winter, often with a long break in the afternoon. Many shops are closed on Friday and Sunday. Opening hours change during Ramadan.
Mainly hot and dry. Temperatures exceed 38°C during summer (from May to September) with extremes of up to 50°C. Late November to February temperatures range from 15 – 25°C on the Mediterranean coast to 20 – 30°C in Aswan in the south. Winter temperatures can plummet to 10°C at night on the coast and in Cairo. In the desert and the mountains of Sinai, days are scorching hot, but bitterly cold at night.
We would advise you to bring a supply of any medication that you take regularly and bring your prescription too. Feel safe in the knowledge that in the unlikely event of serious trouble, your hotel or cruise boat staff will find and provide a doctor for you instantly.
Egypt hasn’t had a malaria case in the last 50 years. Some travelers may take tablets during their stay and don’t realize that one of the many side effects of the tablets is diarrhea!
Tourists are often advised not to eat the many fresh fruits or vegetables; but this means missing out on some of the best taste sensations you will ever have! In Egypt, it is safe to eat fruit and vegetables, as long as the food has been washed correctly! You can be sure that sanitary measures are strictly observed in the reputed hotels and restaurants, so don't worry! Avoid eating them in really cheap places or local outlets and if you wish to eat local food, stick with Falafel, or what Egyptians called Taa'mmia, preferably from a known place such as the restaurants on the streets of Downtown. Taa'mmia is very cheap, very safe and a very tasty food.
Water & Electricity
The electric current in Egypt is 220 volts AC, single phase, 50 Hertz. Most Egyptian sockets are of the three-pronged variety but many can accept some European two-pronged plugs as well.
Tap water in Egypt is heavily chlorinated although tests have confirmed the water to be safe and fit for consumption. However, if you are in Egypt for a relatively short-term stay, doctors recommend that you stick with bottled mineral water in order to avoid gastric upsets. Nestle or Hyatt branded bottled mineral water are reputable brands. Just ensure that the seal is not broken! Take care with fruit juice, as water may have been added. Milk should be treated with suspicion, as it is often unpasteurized, though boiled milk is fine. Tea and coffee are best as the water will have been boiled. Showering and brushing teeth with tap water does not pose a problem.
Dress conservatively and ensure that limbs are covered when entering any Mosque or when you are walking around public areas as in Cairo Downtown and other towns. Men must refrain from wearing shorts and all visitors, prior to entry to any Mosque must remove footwear.
Photography is banned inside the tombs on the West Bank of Luxor, though photography is allowed in many other ancient sites, mosques and temples, though ever increasingly, the government now charges for the privilege of doing so. Due to new policies put in place by the Ministry of Tourism cameras are not permitted at all in the Valley of the Kings
Please exercise caution and respect when taking photographs of anything other than touristic sites. It is forbidden to take photographs of police, anything of a military nature or indeed bridges, airports and public works. Respect should be given to Egyptian women, please use discretion. Ask permission before taking any photos of people and expect to be asked for a tip in return.
Egyptian cuisine consists of the local culinary traditions of Egypt. Egyptian cuisine makes heavy use of legumes and vegetables all produced in Egypt's rich Nile Valley and Delta. For the most part Egyptian cuisine is based on foods that grown at home. Meat has been very expensive for most Egyptians throughout history and a great deal of vegetarian dishes have developed to work around this economic reality. Bread is consumed with all Egyptian meals; a working-class or rural Egyptian meal might consist of little more than bread and beans. The local bread is a form of hearty, thick, glutinous pita bread called Eish Masri or as we call it in Egypt "Eish Baladi".
Egyptians use bread to scoop up food, sauces and dips and to wrap kebabs, falafel and the like in the manner of sandwiches.
Egyptian cuisine is characterized by dishes such as Ful Medames, Koshari, rice-stuffed pigeon, Molokheyya and Fetir Meshaltet. It also shares similarities with the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean region, such as rice-stuffed vegetables, grape leaves, Shawerma, Kebab, Falafel, Baba Ghannoug and Baklava.
Some Egyptians consider Koshari - a mixture of rice, lentils, and macaroni - to be the national dish. In addition, Ful Medames (mashed fava beans) is one of the most popular dishes. Fava bean is also used in the making of falafel (also known as "ta`meyya") which originated in Egypt and spread to other parts of the Middle East.
Ancient Egyptians are known to have used a lot of garlic and onion in their everyday dishes. Fresh mashed garlic with other herbs is used in spicy tomato salad and is also stuffed in boiled or baked aubergines (eggplant). Garlic fried with coriander is added to Mulukhiyya, a popular green soup made from finely chopped jute leaves, sometimes with chicken or rabbit. Fried onions can be also added to Koshari.