Don't wear anything too revealing around most places in Egypt. Make it conservative unless you welcome the attention that skimpy clothing will garner. People in some cities and rural areas are not used to seeing a lot of skin (even with men), so please cover up unless you're on the beach in a coastal resort like Sharm El-Sheikh or Hurgada where this is more the norm. In areas like Islamic and Coptic Cairo you should respect local custom by wearing more conservative clothing.
Do have a guide with you when exploring archeological sites in the desert. You can get lost and that isn't funny.
Do stay with your guide at all times as some sites are in critical condition and have areas that are in danger of collapse.
Do wear a hat or scarf and sunscreen to protect you from the sun when visiting in summer.
Don't climb on or touch any of the monuments.
Don't take photographs where you're not supposed to - the flash from your camera may cause irreparable damage.
Ladies... do sit next to other women on public transportation.
Ladies... do enter the car assigned for women only (first two cars) on the metro, as other cars may be too crowded.
Do bargain the amount you will have to pay the taxi driver before getting in as some take advantage of tourists (but no fighting, please).
Do shout out the name of the location that you're going to when hailing a taxi.
Do look both ways before crossing the street even if the sign says, "walk".
Don't get on overcrowded buses. It's anything but comfortable.
Do be prepared for unwanted attention especially if you're traveling alone. You'll probably be hissed or whistled at in the streets on a fairly regular basis. If you just ignore, there shouldn't be any problems. Egyptians just like to have fun.
Do try not to walk by yourself, always have someone with you, especially if it's down a dark alley. Crime is extremely rare but, just as should always be the case, why take unnecessary chances.
Don't act too friendly toward men you barely know as it could be misunderstood.
Don't talk back to attempts by strangers to talk to you - simply ignore them.
Do feel free to walk arm-in-arm or, at most, holding holds. (Same sex couples should be even more discrete as homosexuality is far less accepted in Egypt as it is in Western countries).
Don't hug or kiss in public as it may cause problems. Again, holding hands should be as far as you go in public.
Don't be surprised if you see Egyptian men walking arm-in-arm or holding hands as a sign of friendship.
Ladies... do wear something to cover your hair when entering a mosque (most mosques provide a scarf for covering your hair at the entrance).
Do wear long decent clothes, covering legs and arms. (This includes men!).
Do take off your shoes before entering or wear shoe covers which can be obtained at the entrance of some mosques.
Do respect the mosques, they are sacred places, and any attempts of smoking, drinking, or sexual behavior in or around a mosque will not be tolerated.
Don't go where you're not supposed to for a couple of reasons:
1. Egypt is one of a just a few Islamic countries that allow non-Muslims into their mosques so staying in designated areas will help preserve this privilege for future visitors.
2. Some of the mosques are very old and some areas may be in need of repair.
Don't visit during prayer time.
Ladies... do wear swimming suits on beaches, but survey your surroundings a bit first. Some places are not used to seeing that many tourists and that quick glance around will let you know if others are wearing bathing suits.
Do wear sunscreen at all times - the Egyptian sun can be merciless at times.
Don't sunbathe topless - it is not common in Egypt and it may cause too much attention.
Don't swim wherever there's a black flag up as it means the water is too rough. In the north coast the sea can sometimes be quite dangerous.
Snorkeling and Diving
Do put sunscreen lotion.
Do stay with your guide, it's not fun getting lost underwater.
Do bring an underwater camera so you can share the amazing things you see with your friends when you get back home.
Don't touch the fish - not all are friendly or harmless.
Don't break, take, or remove any of the coral.
Don't drink and dive!
Don't feed the fish.
Don't go off the beaten track without a guide. There are still some landmines buried out there in some parts of the Sinai and the North Coast and not all are marked.
Don't go too far without a guide. The desert here is vast and you can too easily lose your bearings.
Do use common sense.
Do exchange your money in banks or exchange offices.
Do carry around a lot of change: it can be useful when tipping and bargaining. (Only tip when you feel that the person deserves it - just like back home.)
Do use traveler's checks and credit cards - they are accepted in most tourist areas.
Don't carry around a lot of money. That isn't common, but one can never be too sure.
Don't put your money or wallet in your back pocket when entering busy or crowded places.
Don't show that you have money.
Do take lots of films or extra memory cards - you'll want to take pictures of everything you see.
Don't take photographs of military areas, bridges, embassies, or airports.
Don't use flash photography when photographing ancient monuments.
Don't photograph crowded areas or packed buses or street litter, as some people can be offended.
Don't take your cameras where you won't be using it - entrance fees for cameras cost more than for people.
Do carry your international driver's license at all times when driving.
Do avoid coming close to buses and other forms of public transportation. If you want to pass them, make sure they know you're there by flashing your lights and honking your horn.
Do check for crossing cars and pedestrians at all times - even when you have a green light.
Do what the traffic policemen say - even if it goes against what you've been doing all your life.
Don't try to come close to diplomatic convoys - reduce your speed and keep away.
Don't exceed 100 km/hr on highways.
You may bring in modest amounts of anything for personal use, except, obviously, illicit drugs, weapons and items of an obscene or subversive nature. Up to one liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes and a reasonable quantity of perfume is permitted. In addition, you may purchase one liter of alcohol upon arrival at Cairo International Airport Duty free shop and another 3 liters along with 3 packs of cigarettes within 48 hours from any of the duty free shops around Cairo.
Duty Free Shops upon departure offer shoppers a reasonable range of spirits, cigarettes, perfumes and gifts. Alcohols and cigarettes are cheaper than all European Duty Free prices.
When is Ramadan?
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is a special to more than one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is the month were God (Allah) sent the holy book (the Koran) to the profit Mohamed, peace be upon him. It was done in the 30days of Ramadan.
The time of Ramadan is determined by the Islamic Lunar calendar, with the sighting of the new moon. As the Islamic Lunar calendar is 11-12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, thus the time of Ramadan changes every year until the Lunar cycle begins again.
Ramadan is due to begin in 2009 on 22nd of August-20th of September. These dates must be confirmed by the "Mufti" (State religious Advisor, appointed by the government) there is only somewhere between a 12-36 hour warning of the start and end of the period.
What is Ramadan?
Islam has five main pillars that every Muslim should follow. Fasting is the fourth pillar and Muslims can not fulfill their religion without doing it. All physically mature and healthy Muslims are obliged to abstain from all food, drink, gum chewing, smoking and any kind of sexual contact between sunrise and sunset.
The month is also a time for spiritual reelection, prayer, doing good deeds and spending time with family & friends. The fasting is intended to help teach Muslims self-discipline, self restraint and generosity. It also reminds them of the suffering of the poor, who may rarely get to eat well.
The spiritual aspects of the fast include refraining from gossiping, lying, slandering and all traits of bad character. Clearing your mind from all impure thoughts and all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of thought and action is paramount.
Most Egyptians usually become more holy during this month, visiting their mosque more regularly and reading as much of the Koran as possible. Often mosques will be over crowded and people will spill out onto the footpath and roads in prayer. The traffic simply goes around them. At the time of the sunset call to prayer most people first break their fast with a light snack of fresh juice and dates. They then got to pray and then start the first main meal of the day is called " El fetar" (literally break-fast).
At night you will find a very festive atmosphere especially in major Egyptian cities. People usually go out after breaking there fast to coffee shops, sporting clubs or big hotels. Often you will see oriental tents set up outside these places where shisha, food, drinks (no alcohol of course) are served all night with live music, Sufi dancing and traditional dancing. These parties go on all night till just before sunrise where people have their second big meal called "El Sohour" which will help them fast for the next day.
Tables are set up in the streets and near the mosques with huge amounts of food served for El Fetar and El Sohour. This is called "Maadet El Rahman" and it is provided for free by the mosques and wealthy Muslims that can not afford their meals.
The end of Ramadan is marked by a three days period known as "Eid ul-fitr", the festival of fast breaking. It is a joyous time beginning with a special prayer and accompanied by celebration, socializing, festive meals and sometimes very modest gift-giving, especially to children.
The appropriate pleasantry to Muslims is to say to them "Ramadan Karim" which is a blessing meaning "Give more to Ramadan". At the end of the month you may say "Eid Mubarak".
How will Ramadan affect you?
Non Muslims are not expected to adhere to the fasting, however you are expected to be extremely respectful to local religious customs and avoid offending local people.
It is unacceptable to:
Eat, drink or smoke in public. If you have to, find a quite corner, cafÃ© or hotel and be discreet in doing it.
Dress conservatively. Be sure to cove your legs, shoulders, chest and upper arms to elbow level.
Avoid any display of affection in public, including hugging, holding hands or kissing with the opposite sex.
How does Ramadan affect you tour?
Service will be slower everywhere - people are often tired or lacking energy due to the abstinence of food and water for a long period of the day.
Most historical sites and museums will close early so that their employees can go home to break their fast with their families. Your tour itinerary will be juggled a bit, to ensure you get the maximum time inside the sites, often starting your tour earlier in the day to by sure you visit the sites before closing time.
Traffic will be chaotic between the hours of 15:00 - 17:00 as most people will be traveling home to their families. Traveling a distance will often take double or triple the time to get to your destination.
Most offices will only open from 10:00-14:00. Shops, bazaars, and restaurants (if they are open at all) will open at 10:00-15:00 .Close to after the break and reopen around 19:30.
Restaurant choices will be limited, most local restaurants close for the entire day and only open for business in the evening. Your tour leader will need to take you to restaurants that predominantly cater for a tourist market as these maybe the only ones open during daylight hours.
Alcohol is in very short supply during the month, restaurants may or may not serve it. You may find that some restaurants (Dahab) will allow you to have it but barmen/waiters will get it, carry it or open it, you may need to do this yourself please do not insist if it is not available.
The Holy Koran says that fasting should not interfere with your everyday life. Your guides, tour leaders, representatives and service providers may or may not be fasting, they do not expect your sympathy - but your patience in relation to the above alterations.