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Egypt

Visiting Egypt is necessary for all of you who are interested in the History of Civilizations. Since Herodotus who described Egypt as “the gift of the Nile”, this country has always caught the imagination of the visitors. From Nefertiti to Cleopatra, Tutankhamun to Ramses II, Isis and Osiris, Gizeh to Louxor, Abou Simbel, Sinai or Alexandria…..all those names make you dream about visiting the countries of pharaohs.

 

Key facts

  • Capital city: Cairo
  • Languages: Arabic (official language), French and English
  • Time difference: GMT/UTC +2h (+3h in summer)
  • Entry requirements: Visa purchase is required. Cost 15 USD for 1 month payable at the airport. Your passport must be valid 6 months from your arrival date. Bring also 2 photo id.
  • Electricity: 220 Volts 50 Hz, with European type plug.
  • Telephone: +20
  • Health: Be careful to prevent dehydration, digestive disorder, and sunburns. Do not drink tap water. Peel any fruit before eating it. Travelers are reminded to ensure that their routine immunizations (tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and measles) are up to date.

Money

Generalities: Currency exchange can be done in all banks, exchange offices, and some hotels. Exchange offices have in general better rates, but you won’t find that much difference in exchange rates. However, you should pay attention to commission charges. Credit cards are more and more accepted in many cities and ATM machines. The black market for foreign currency is almost non-existent. We recommend that you carry a small supply of cash in U.S. dollars for use in airports and at borders. High-end restaurants can charge up to 25% tax added to your restaurant bill. The tax is less in the hotels. This “service charge” never goes in the pocket of the waiter. Do not hesitate leaving a small tip for the waiter.

Currency: Egyptian pound (EGP) – (guinay in Arabic) – 1 USD = 7.60250 EGP

Budget: Egypt is an inexpensive country. If you are happy to stay in low category hotels, eat for breakfast “foul” and “ta’amiyya”, and visit just one touristic site, then 20 US daily would be enough. For a comfortable hotel and 2 daily visits in touristic sites, you will spend about 30-40USD daily. Transportation is pretty cheap. You will mostly spend your money in touristic sites visits (10 USD per visit in general)

Daily budget food

  • Economic budget: <15£E
  • Average budget: 15-75£E
  • High budget: >75£E

Daily budget accommodation

  • Economic budget: <120£E
  • Average budget: 120-600£E
  • High budget: >600£E

When to go and climate

When to go Egypt

It all depends on your destination. The period going from June to August is very hot in Upper Egypt, where temperatures can reach 40°C. The only solution is to adopt local lifestyle. Touristic sites are usually visited during daybreak and sunset because of lower temperature and beautiful light. In Cairo, the torrid heat, dust, pollution, noise and the movements of the crowd make this city an endurance contest. The winter season is the best season if you want to explore Upper Egypt (except for the hotels which are high since winter is a busy tourist season). Our recommendation: if you want to visit the whole county, you should go in May, October or November. The only inconvenient for March and April is the strong desert wind (“khamsin”) which makes impossible an excursion in the desert.

Feast and festivals

Aid -el-Kebir which marks the “hadj” period (pilgrimage to Mecca).

Sham el Nessim literally meaning sniffing the breeze marks the beginning of the spring. It falls immediately on the first Monday following the Coptic Easter and it was related to agriculture in ancient Egypt which contained fertility rites that were later attached to Christianity and the celebration of Easter. It is believed that the Egyptians were the first to celebrate this occasion.

Armed Forces Day (October 6th): the date on which the October War of 1973 began with the Egyptian Army’s successful crossing of the Suez Canal that culminated in the capture of the Bar Lev Line.

Moulid, meaning birthday in Arabic, is a celebration of a holy person. It is celebrated by Muslims and Christians in Egypt to honor their Saints. Although most Moulids are Muslim, some Coptic Saints are also honoured in similar celebrations. From May till October, Coptic Moulids take place from the Nile Delta to Assyut.

  • Festival of Arabic music (November)
  • The book Fair (January/February)
  • The Cairo International Film Festival (early December)
  • The Cairo Experimental Theatre Festival (September)

Climate

The Egyptian climate is hot and dry, except for January, February and March which are cold months in the North. Temperatures average 20°C on the Mediterranean coast (maximum temperatures reaching 31°C) and 28°C in Assouan (maximum temperatures reaching 50°C!!!). In the desert, temperatures reach extreme levels (burning heat during the day and freezing cold during the night). Alexandria is the city which has the highest rainfalls of the country (19cm per year); whereas Assouan has only 10mm every five years. Between March and April, the khamsin wind (dry, hot, and dusty) blows at 150km per hour from the western desert (Libyan Desert). The sky becomes orange and the air is dusty making the excursions very difficult.

Accommodation

Egypt has a large range of accommodation: hotels, “Flotels” (yacht on the Nile), beach resorts, rooms in private homes, youth hostels, camping grounds and many Eco lodges. In average and high-end hotels, rental prices are rising at about 10%. During high season, rental prices for average of high-end hotels are rising at about 10 percent (particularly during Muslim holidays, New Year, and summer from July 1st to September 15th). Hotels display their rates but you can still bargain the price. During low season, or mid-weeks you can get significant rebates (even for average hotels). Egyptian hotels usually propose half, full board, or all included (drinks and few activities). We recommend you make your room reservation few weeks before as you can benefit from the rebates.

Youth hostels

There are a dozens of youth hostels recognized by Hosteling International (www.hihostels.com), particularly in Cairo, Alexandria or Luxor. Non-members are welcome but if you have a card member you can get a rebate. Most of the time youth hostels are not gender-mixed. They are kind of noisy and not very clean. It is worth renting a room in small budget hotels (similar in price and budget). In general, you don’t need to make a reservation before.

Camping

Usually camping is only authorized in few places such as Harraniyya, Luxor, Assouan, Farafra, and Ras Muhammad National Park. There are also few hotels which authorize camping in their backyard (Abou Simbel, Al-Karga, Nuweiba, Basata, Keneh, and Abydos). Camping sites are generally poorly equipped, but not expensive. All of them have electricity and hot water (24h /24)

 Hotels

Low budget hotels: In Cairo and Luxor, competition is high between low category hotels. And that’s a good thing because these hotels do their best to improve comfort and cleanliness of the room and facilities. If you did not bring your own bed sheets, we recommend you ask for new bed sheets. Paper toilets are usually furnished, but you must bring your own soap and shampoo.

Average hotels: If there are few low-cost hotels and a multitude of 5 stars hotels, in the other hand, average hotels are not that many (that’s the case in Cairo and Alexandria where foreign investments are financing luxury hotels). In those cities, local hotels are considered Mid-range hotels but I do not reach the level of service of a 3 star hotel. Be careful to supplements: you might pay more money for a fridge, AC, or satellite TV in your room.  Before renting your room, check all the services which are included in the price.

High-end hotels: If you are looking for a luxury hotel, you will get plenty of choice. Services and rates are in line with international hotels. But the quality of the food provided is not that good. We advise you to check your room before paying for it.

Must see

The best of Egypt: Historical treasures, iconic sites, and also excursions off the tourists beaten tracks

Luxor: the Valley of the Kings

There are so many things to see in Egypt that you will have to come back for another visit. The huge size and the stunning beauty of this thousand-year-old country are omnipresent. From the heights of Mount Sinai to the depths of the Red Sea, from the royal tombs in the valleys of Kings and Queens of Egypt to the vast open spaces of the Siwa Oasis

Other pyramids

Everyone knows about the Great Pyramid of Giza visited by the majority of tourists. But, few tourists heard of the existence of the other pyramids in Saqqarah and Dahshur). The Step Pyramid of Djoser (considered as the world’s First Pyramid) and the Red Pyramid (being the largest of the three major pyramids located at the Dahshur necropolis) are worthwhile to visit.

Red sea

The red sea is the one of the best destination in the world for diving. The amazing underwater world of the Red Sea will seduce every diver (from the beginner to the expert). We can cite for example the most famous wreck of the Red Sea, the Thistlegorm, where you will arrive after a short ride across the straits of Gubal

Mount Sinai

If you are an early bird, you will have the chance to admire the sunrise from the top of Mount Sinai. You must climb the mount during night if you want to reach the top of the mount before the first rays of the sun. This mountain is sacred for Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The Ramesseum (Luxor)

Go visit temples which are not very known!! Many tourists’ sites between Cairo and Luxor are not very visited because transportation is not easy in this area. Most of tour operators do not propose a visit in these tourist sites, not because they are not relevant, but because there are too many sites to see in just one day or two. So do not hesitate to visit the most you can.

Watch the sunset in Assouan

Watch the sunset in Assouan will be an unforgettable experience. The river running though the rocks, the Desert nearby and the isolated Aga Khan Mausoleum will offer to your eyes the best moving spectacle along the Nile River.

The art of smoking shisha

The water pipe (narghile or hookah) is present everywhere in Egypt. If you want to experience an authentic shisha smoking, go smoke in a place called “ahwa” and opt for a mix of perfumed tobacco. We recommend also the Cairo Bar & Hookah Lounge which has a very pleasant atmosphere.

Coptic presence

Many Coptic churches and monasteries punctuate along the Nile River and a few monuments are at least 1600 Years old. They are attended during religious celebrations by thousands of faithful who come pray. The rest of the year, these Coptic monuments become quiet places impregnated in a serene beauty. This is particularly true in Deir el-Muharraq (one of the oldest monasteries in the world located on the Nile just south of El-Qusiya, in the Asyut Governorate of the Upper Egypt)

Dahab

If you are looking for a little piece of Thailand, then visit Dahab. That’s the place to enjoy a relax vacation, dive in the Red Sea, or hike in the back country. There are chances you stay a far longer period than was originally projected…

Al-Azhar mosque

Remove your shoes and visit this beautiful mosque dating from the medieval period. You can also visit the Mosque Amr ibn al-As (originally built in 641–642 AD) and Mosque of Amir Altinbugha al-Maridani (built during the era of the Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo, 1340 CE)

Pyramids of Giza

When you will see these pyramids and the Sphinx for the first time, you will be so impressed and fascinated that you won’t be able to take your eyes off these mythical monuments. Don’t forget to bring water and your camera to take a maximum of pictures.

Souks and markets

In the Egyptians souks, bargaining on prices is the norm. Do not hesitate to negotiate the price of a tawla game, a bicycle, T-shirt, sunglasses, etc…

Abu Simbel

If you planning on spending the night in Abu Simbel, you will be able to visit the Great temple of Ramesses II before or after the tourists flock. It could be a good idea to visit also the Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge which is the property of the musician Fikry Kachif which shows many aspects of Nubian culture.

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