Intro: Egypt, commonly known as The Motherland of the World, Land of Civilizations and The Greatest Power in Human History, is reputed worldwide for its distinct 7,000-year-old record of civilization and immense wealth of knowledge. This has made Egypt a master and pioneer of science, arts, culture, architecture as well as almost all fields of human knowledge.
Amongst all civilizations and nations, Egypt has always maintained a unique position. Historically, Egypt is universally acknowledged as the world most ancient state with a unified societal entity within its current geographical borders.
Egypt has been referred to as the Gift of the Nile due to the river that has nourished the desert land and sustained one of the most ancient and ever-lasting civilizations in the world.
The country has long captured the world imagination as the magic land of the Pharaohs and their awe-inspiring Pyramids of Giza, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to survive.
Islam arrived with the Arab conquests in the 7th century and the country subsequently went on to become a major cultural and spiritual heart of the Muslim world. Its most famous landmark, Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, founded in the 10th century, has long been a source of great pride for Muslims. In keeping with a country that is no stranger to longevity, Al-Azhar prestigious teaching institution, which attracts scholars from around the world, is considered to be the oldest university in existence.
Through this area there runs the River Nile starting from the Great Lakes in the heart of Africa, through northern Sudan where the Ethiopian tributaries collecting rain water flows into its main course.
Running past the cataract area south of Aswan, it calms down, flowing smoothly down to its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea.
Capital City: Cairo
Area: 1 million sq km
People: Egyptians, Berbers, Bedouin, Hamitic Arabs and Nubians
Language: Arabic is the official language although English and French are widely spoken, especially in the tourist areas.
Religion: 94% Muslim, 6% Christian
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan, and includes the Asian Sinai Peninsula
Geographic coordinates: 27 00 N, 30 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: Total: 1,001, 450 sq km
Land: 995, 450 sq km
Water: 6, 000 sq km
Area-comparatives: slightly more than three times the size of New Mexico
Land boundaries: Total: 2, 665 km
Border countries: Gaza Strip 11 km, Palestine 255 km, Libya 1,115 km, Sudan 1, 273 km.
Coastline: 2, 450 km
By air: Egypt is served by international airports in Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor, and Hurghada on the mainland, and at Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula. The largest and most active airport is in Cairo. Alexandria has 2 airports: Borg El Arab Airport and El Nozha Airport. El Nozha Airport is currently under renovation. There are non-stop flights from most major African, Asian, North American and European cities. Airline tickets must be confirmed before departure. Check with a travel agent in your hotel or contact the airlines office in Cairo. Most major airlines have offices at the Cairo International Airport and down town in and around Midan Tahrir.
By Land: With some restrictions all borders are now open.
From Israel: Private vehicles are not permitted to enter Egypt from Israel; most tourists travel to Egypt via the Eilat crossing in Sinai, which takes them to Taba. The border passengers disembark from the Israeli vehicle, go through customs, and take an Egyptian bus or taxi. In Eilat, Israeli buses are permitted to enter Egypt and travel as far as Sharm el Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
From Sudan: There is a twice-weekly steamer that ferries cars the length of Lake Nasser, from Wadi Halfa in Sudan to Aswan in Egypt (not very tourist friendly). Information is available from the Nile Navigation Company Limited, Ramses Square (in the train station), and Nile Maritime Agency, 8 Quasr el Nil, both in Cairo; and the Nile Company for River Transport, 7 Atlas Building, Aswan. All arrangements to enter Sudan, including visas, must be made in Cairo. You must have a valid passport and either a transit or tourist visa to Sudan. If you plan to pass through Sudan you must have a valid visa for your next destination.
Motoring to Egypt: All private vehicles entering Egypt must have a triptyque or carnet de passage en douane from an automobile club in the country of registration or pay customs duty which can be as high as 250 percent. Emergency triptyques are available at the port of entry via the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt. This permits a car to enter Egypt for three months with one extension. The extension is available from the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt, Qasr el Nil, Cairo. All persons traveling in the vehicle must have a valid passport and the driver must have an International Driver’s License. The latter is also available via an automobile club in the country or registration.
By sea: Alexandria and Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea, and Suez and Nuweiba on the Red Sea are ports of entry for visitors, but sailings have been reduced of late.
Currency: Egyptian Pound (EGP; symbol E£) = 100 pilasters. Notes are in denominations of E£200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 1, 50 piasters and 25 pilasters. Coins are in denominations of 25, 20, 10 and 5 pilasters.
British pounds sterling, Euros and the US Dollar are accepted everywhere although change may be given in Egyptian pounds.
Currency Exchange: Available at banks, official bureaux de change and most hotels. Banks often have better exchange rates than bureaux de change or hotels. All common international currencies are accepted.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATM s: American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in all but the smallest hotels and restaurants throughout the country, except in the Western oases.
Travellers Cheques: These are becoming less useful now that international ATMs are prevalent throughout the country. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in US Dollars, Euros or Pounds Sterling.
Currency Restrictions: Restrictions apply.
Banking Hours: Sun-Thurs 08:30-14:00
Electricity: Most areas 220 volts AC, 50Hz. certain rural parts still use 110 volts AC. Mostly British-style three-pin plugs
Local Customs: Egypt is a conservative society and visitors should respect local customs and sensitivities. Homosexuality is solemnly frowned upon and homosexual acts are illegal. Religious customs should be recognized, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours is forbidden in the Muslim culture. Travelers should be discreet or choose to partake in the custom themselves. Travelers to Egypt should dress modestly. Photography of military institutions is prohibited.
Business: Egyptians are friendly and approachable at work, and personal relationships are very important when conducting business. Business is usually conducted formally in Egypt; however meetings may not take place in private and it is normal for them to be interrupted with other matters. Punctuality is important, though don't be surprised if your contact is late or postpones the meeting. Be patient. Dress should be formal and conservative; suits and ties are standard and women should dress modestly. Women may encounter some sexism in the business world. Most Egyptians are Muslim and therefore one should be mindful of Islamic customs. English is widely spoken and understood, although attempting to speak some basic Arabic will be highly appreciated. The normal working week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Business hours vary, but in the private sector it is usually 9am to 5pm and in the public sector is it usually 8am to 3pm. Avoid scheduling business trips during the month of Ramadan as working hours are minimised and during the holiday period in August, as many key players will not be available.
Communications: The international access code for Egypt is +20. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). The city code for Cairo is (0)2. There are high surcharges on international calls from hotels; it is cheaper to phone long-distance from the 24-hour Post, Telephone and Telegraph (PTT) offices that are available in the major cities. For international directory phone enquiries dial 120. The local mobile phone operators use GSM 900 networks and have roaming agreements with all major operators. Internet cafes are available in the main tourist areas.
Tipping: 10 to 12% is added to hotel and restaurant bills but an extra tip of 5% is normal. Taxi drivers generally expect 10%.
Night-life: As the sun sets, people start spilling onto the streets, congregating in coffee shops and restaurants. Go to any water front - along the Nile in Cairo and Luxor, or the seafronts in Alexandria and Sharm el Sheikh - and you'll find the corniche humming with the chatter of friends cruising arm in arm to catch the breeze. Street vendors selling kebabs, chi-sellers shouldering giant urns and trinket merchants with the latest colorful imports vie for the attentions of passers-by. This is the place to meet the locals, gauge the national mood and share in the jubilations of a local football success.
The chief night-time attractions are undoubtedly the sound and light shows that are held in spectacular fashion in many of the country's archaeological sites. There is nothing quite like coming face-to-face with the spot-lit Sphinx at Giza or watching the entire Temple of Karnak unfolds to music at Luxor. The best of these shows is held at the Temple of Ramses II in Abu Simbel.
Sophisticated nightclubs, discos, casinos and restaurants can be found in Cairo, Alexandria and most large towns. The nightlife in Luxor and Aswan often includes barbecues along the Nile or dinner cruises.
Personal safety: Crime in Egypt nearly does not exist. Security is good and specially trained Tourist Police, who can speak English, is always nearby if needed.