One of the oldest and most sophisticated civilizations of all time, Egypt has been the subject of imagination. From Shakespeare to Hollywood, the country has the potential to both inspire and intrigue. From the famous pyramids to the street-side bazaars, Egypt is much more than the fairytales and stories make it out to be.
Egypt has a myriad of sights and activities for travelers to enjoy. From the remains of ancient Egypt, including the Pyramids of Giza and the Valley of Kings to the museums and galleries dedicated to preserving the country’s rich history and culture, there is more to see than meets the eye. Those looking for adventure will not be disappointed either. Whether it’s scuba diving in the Red Sea or camel riding in the desert, there is something for everyone.
Egypt’s geographical landscape is quite diverse, with both desert and tropical regions, which means that the climate tends to vary, as well. This does make for an interesting journey as different parts of the country feel like you’re in a completely different part of the world. Egypt is also surrounded by note-worthy neighbors in both Africa and the Middle East, which would make for a great stopover pre or post trip.
There’s a range of accommodations for all tastes and budgets. Whether it’s a family looking for a comfortable resort or independent travelers in search of a cozy guesthouse, there are plenty of options. The local cuisine is a mixture of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern flavors, well worth a taste and is relatively inexpensive.
Peak season in Egypt is in winter between November and February, which is reflected in both the crowds and the prices. Low season is in summer between June and August when temperatures become completely unbearable. The best time to visit would be on the fringe months, February to March and October to November. During these periods, the weather is more mild, the crowds have dissipated and the khamsin winds have not yet obscured everyone’s view.
Currency: Egyptian pound
Official language: Arabic
Egypt has a lengthy history starting with the creation of the Kingdom in 3180 BC. The Nile River and the semi-isolated position of the region helped to make Egypt one of the most fruitful civilizations the world has ever seen.
After the establishment of the Kingdom, multiple dynasties continued to rule, marked by the Pharoahs until the last fell to the Persian Empire in 341 BC. The Persians were replaced by the Greeks, who were then displaced by the Romans, and finally the Byzantines. The fourth century brought the arrival of the Fatamids who introduced the Islamic religion to the region and ruled until the 10th century.
1869 marked the opening of the Suez Canal which made Egypt a center of world transport – something many superpowers wanted to control. Britain occupied the region from 1882, but that ended in 1936 as a result of WWII.
In 1952, Colonel Nasser claimed the Suez Canal under public ownership, a move which would not sit well with international powers. An Anglo-French-Israeli military operation attempted to depose Nasser but failed. The Six-Day War in 1967 saw Egypt lose the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula to Israel and in 1973, both sides signed a
Hosni Mubarak, who held the position of president for almost 30 years, stepped down in 2011 after mass uprisings across the country called for extreme political and social change. Currently, the country is under military leadership.
Egypt has a rich culture which spans thousands of years and was one of the earliest and greatest civilizations the world has ever seen. The Pharaonic era was a defining period, and has influenced many around the world.
The Egyptians pioneered many things, including written language. Hieroglyphic inscriptions are a testament to the ancient Egyptians’ forward-thinking ways. Egypt was also one of the first civilizations to introduce design into its art. The carefully planned wall paintings and engravings on the pyramids and tombs were precursors to today’s drawings and paintings.
The religion of Islam, practiced by 90 percent of the country’s population, profoundly influences the culture of today. Not just followed on certain holy days, it is a part of everyday life. As such, women traveling to the region are advised to dress modestly, especially when entering places of worship.
Egypt’s weather is quite varied with temperatures and climates differing from north to south. The climate is also largely influenced by the nearby Sahara Desert, which means that travelers can generally expect hot and dry conditions. The Mediterranean Sea tends to bring cooler temperatures in the north, while the heat of the south can become debilitating.
Summer spans June to August and is not always pleasant, especially in the south. Hot and dry, temperatures on the Mediterranean coast peak at 88°F and get all the way up to 122°F in Aswan in the south. Tourists who are in Egypt at this time should be particularly careful to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Winters provide some respite and are not particularly chilly. November to February conditions are overcast and mild with little rain, except on the coast. Temperatures drop no lower than 40°F country-wide, with the exception of the desert regions which can become bitterly cold at night.
March and April bring with them the khamsin wind. This hot and dusty gale can be unpleasant at its mildest and makes seeing Egypt’s ancient sites rather difficult. Coming straight from the Sahara Desert, winds can reach speeds of up to 93 mph, turning the sky dark and the houses orange.
When visiting Egypt, one requires a visa to enter the country, and this applies to Indian citizens as well. Tourist Visa: This type of Egypt visa is useful to anyone visiting the country for leisure and sightseeing purposes. While a tourist visa is valid for 90 days, one's trip cannot extend beyond 30 days.
While taxis in the larger cities are not necessarily the safest mode of transportation in Egypt, they are certainly the cheapest and most efficient. All taxis have official markings and are different colors in different cities. Travelers should be wary of fake cabs which try to extort money from tourists. Some have meters, but most do not, so it is best to negotiate a price before departure to avoid conflict with the driver after the journey.
Most of the international rental car companies are represented in Egypt, including Avis, Hertz, Europcar and Budget. Vehicles can be picked up from the local airport or through travel agencies. While the quality of the roads is generally good, the same cannot be said for the standard of driving. Travelers choosing to drive themselves should be particularly careful when commuting through the busier cities.
Ferry journeys exist between Hurghada and Sinai on either a fast or a slow boat. Travelers always have the option to sail down the Nile River between Luxor and Aswan or Cairo and Aswan.
Egyptian National Railways operates most of the train services in the country. The most popular route is Cairo to Alexandria, which runs frequently every day. Other popular lines are Cairo to Luxor and Cairo to Aswan. Tickets can be either first class, which is quite comfortable, or second class. Another company, Abela Egypt, offers luxury train travel with clientele that is largely tourists. The train cars are generally air conditioned and meals are served. This company operates overnight trains on the same routes as Egyptian National Railways.
There are several government-owned bus companies which compromise an extensive network of routes. The long distance service is quite popular with both locals and tourists, and during peak season tends to get quite crowded with tickets selling out fast. Most buses are comfortable, with the exception of some which blast loud videos throughout the journey.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
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