Egypt

In the swirling sands of Egypt, every desert wind carries a whiff of mystery and adventure
Going to Egypt is like following the footsteps of countless curious travelers who have been coming to this ancient land since the time of the Greeks and Romans. Thanks in part to the pyramids at Giza, the mummies, and the Sphinx, Egypt evokes that particular blend of awe and romance that traveling at its heart is all about. Though modern Egypt is much more than its pyramids and the majestically flowing river Nile, history and culture continue to define Egypt and Egyptians in myriad ways. Take a cruise on the Nile to Luxor’s ancient temples and the Valley of Kings where pharaohs like Tutankhamun (King Tut) were buried. But Egypt is also the land of endless deserts, stunning medieval mosques, coral reefs, and fine beaches. There are many opportunities for snorkeling and diving on the Red Sea Coast and the Sinai Peninsula. And once you’ve had your fill of capital Cairo’s infectious energy and the donkey and jeep safaris deep into the sand dunes, head to Alexandria for some colonial-era nostalgia and Egypt’s best seafood by the Mediterranean.
CAiro Egypt
View of Cairo with its modern buildings and TV Tower, Egypt
 Cairo and the Nile from above, Egypt
Beautiful view of Cairo and the Nile from above, Egypt.

Egypt belongs to both North Africa and the Middle East but asks an Egyptian and chances are that he will tell you he is Arabic. Geopolitically, Egypt is in a sensitive region, bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to its northeast, Libya to the west, and Sudan to the south. The country is framed by two seas – the Red Sea to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. The Nile and the fertile lands that it runs through have been a lifeline for Egypt for many millennia. That is the case even today. Much of the remaining country is essentially large swathes of desert in the east and west.    

Climate in Cairo Egypt
View on modern Cairo from the Nile

The tourist season in Egypt peaks between the winter months of November and March, when the climate is moderate and the weather can be quite pleasant in many parts of the country. The hot and dry summers are uncomfortable, especially for the western tourist. In the northern coastal region, where Alexandria is located, rain and thunderstorms are not uncommon in winter. In the vastness of the desert, the temperatures can plunge at night. If you are traveling to the hilly parts of Sinai and the mountains near the Red Sea, expect more rain. The temperatures at the mountain tops can go below freezing point in the peak winter months.

Kushari
kushari, koshari, egyptian food isolated on white background

Egyptian dishes are a delicious mix of regional and continental cuisines and have been influenced by the cuisines of Lebanon, Turkey, France, and Greece among other nationalities. With its other Eastern Mediterranean neighbors, Egypt shares the love of kebabs, shawarma, and vegetables stuffed with rice, with legumes a key ingredient of many preparations. Besides the chicken, duck, sheep, rabbit, and pigeon meat are widely consumed. If Egypt has a ‘national dish, then the Kushari, in which rice is mixed with lentils, macaroni, and tomato sauce, may well get that honor. Also, try the Molokhiya, an Egyptian delicacy that has green vegetables in beef or chicken stew served with bread or rice; the Eggah, a frittata-like egg dish filled with either meat or spicy vegetables; and the bean-based Besarah. Alexandria has excellent seafood options, including the white fish fillet preparation called Sayadeya and the unique Fesikh, which uses fermented saltwater fish that has been dried and salted. 

Egypt Clothing
Sharm el Sheikh , Egypt, Old Market

Light linens and cotton are your best bet to beat the Egyptian heat. Do keep in mind that the dust from the desert can quickly overwhelm your best white clothes. Egypt is a socially conservative country and female travelers are well-advised to be fully covered from at least the shoulder to below the knee. Avoid tight-fitting clothes. For guys, the norms are more relaxed but it is best to avoid shorts. If you are a woman entering a mosque, try to show as little skin as possible, and wear a headscarf. Attitudes towards clothes are slightly more relaxed near the coast, and you can pack swimming wear for hotels that have their own pools. Sunglasses, hats, comfortable walking shoes, and a light jacket are must-carry items.

Egyptian pound
A pile of bills from around the globe. An Egyptian 100 pound note sits on top

The Egyptian pound, usually written as £E, is equal to 100 piastres (pt). One pound sterling is roughly equal to 22 £E while the exchange rate for the US dollar is about 16 £E. (You must check the latest rates before traveling.) Keep sufficient quantities of coins and small-value notes for everyday shopping and transactions. But for any major purchase, a debit or credit card usually works. Besides carrying cash, you can also keep some travelers’ cheques as backup. ATMs are easily accessible in the bigger cities but they have a daily withdrawal limit, which you should check after landing in Cairo. Exchanging cash is convenient at airport banks and through private moneylenders at all tourist areas.

Egyptian writings
Egyptian ancient papyrus with different pictures and hieroglyphics

Most people in Egypt speak Egyptian Arabic and its various dialects – so being familiar with some basic Arabic words and phrases will be helpful to navigate the country. If you are hiring a guide, tell the tour agency in advance that you need an English-speaking one. The tourism industry is pretty advanced in Egypt, and guides with a sophisticated knowledge of foreign languages are easily available. There are several regional variations of Arabic spoken in different parts of Egypt and a number of minority linguistic groups, such as the Beja in the eastern deserts. But Arabic, by and large, is your go-to language.

Exotic Market in Egypt
View of the enormous and exotic Khan Al-Khalili souk, located in the heart of Cairo, Egypt

The majority of Egypt’s population of 100 million is Sunni Muslim, with Coptic Christians forming the largest minority. On Friday, the holy day for Islam, most establishments are closed. When in Egypt, respect local sensibilities at all times. Public display of affection is to be avoided. If you’re not using cutlery, always use your right hand to eat in a communal setting. Bargaining is a must for all street-side shopping in Egypt, so you may want to brush up on your haggling skills. Overall, Egypt is safe for tourists but if you are a female traveler on your own, some men might interpret that as a license to follow you or catcall. A raised voice usually stops them in their tracks. Tipping (baksheesh) is important, and always hand over some coins or small notes to anyone carrying your luggage or helping with errands. 

Visa Application Egypt
Visa application form and flag of Egypt

If you’re travelling to Egypt on a British passport, you will typically require a visa. Tourist visas obtained through the e-visa system have a maximum validity of 3 months. Visa on arrival can be done at the airport at approved banking centres. Note that the on-arrival visas are valid for a month. For Dahab, Sharm el Sheikh, Taba and Nuweiba, a free entry permit is stamped on arrival. But if you want to stay in resorts in these places for more than 15 days, you’ll need a visa. The airport at Sharm el Sheikh has the facility to buy a visa in case there is a change in itinerary. If your visa is out of date, you may have to pay a fine. To extend your visa, apply at the Passport and Immigration offices. Your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry.

Egypt’s electricity supply is 220V and 50Hz, and the power plugs are of type C (two round pins) and type F (two round pins plus earth clips). If you’re from North America and have 110V appliances, you may want to carry a converter. A majority of sockets are the two-pin types common in Continental Europe. So if you’re using American appliances, pick up an adapter. As a thumb rule for international travel, buying a universal adapter with surge protection is a smart idea. If your appliance has a dual voltage rating of 110-240V, you will require only a travel adapter instead of a transformer or converter.  

Why Travel to Egypt?
CAiro Egypt
View of Cairo with its modern buildings and TV Tower, Egypt
Location and Geography
 Cairo and the Nile from above, Egypt
Beautiful view of Cairo and the Nile from above, Egypt.

Egypt belongs to both North Africa and the Middle East but asks an Egyptian and chances are that he will tell you he is Arabic. Geopolitically, Egypt is in a sensitive region, bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to its northeast, Libya to the west, and Sudan to the south. The country is framed by two seas – the Red Sea to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. The Nile and the fertile lands that it runs through have been a lifeline for Egypt for many millennia. That is the case even today. Much of the remaining country is essentially large swathes of desert in the east and west.    

Climate and weather
Climate in Cairo Egypt
View on modern Cairo from the Nile

The tourist season in Egypt peaks between the winter months of November and March, when the climate is moderate and the weather can be quite pleasant in many parts of the country. The hot and dry summers are uncomfortable, especially for the western tourist. In the northern coastal region, where Alexandria is located, rain and thunderstorms are not uncommon in winter. In the vastness of the desert, the temperatures can plunge at night. If you are traveling to the hilly parts of Sinai and the mountains near the Red Sea, expect more rain. The temperatures at the mountain tops can go below freezing point in the peak winter months.

Cuisine
Kushari
kushari, koshari, egyptian food isolated on white background

Egyptian dishes are a delicious mix of regional and continental cuisines and have been influenced by the cuisines of Lebanon, Turkey, France, and Greece among other nationalities. With its other Eastern Mediterranean neighbors, Egypt shares the love of kebabs, shawarma, and vegetables stuffed with rice, with legumes a key ingredient of many preparations. Besides the chicken, duck, sheep, rabbit, and pigeon meat are widely consumed. If Egypt has a ‘national dish, then the Kushari, in which rice is mixed with lentils, macaroni, and tomato sauce, may well get that honor. Also, try the Molokhiya, an Egyptian delicacy that has green vegetables in beef or chicken stew served with bread or rice; the Eggah, a frittata-like egg dish filled with either meat or spicy vegetables; and the bean-based Besarah. Alexandria has excellent seafood options, including the white fish fillet preparation called Sayadeya and the unique Fesikh, which uses fermented saltwater fish that has been dried and salted. 

Clothing and dress
Egypt Clothing
Sharm el Sheikh , Egypt, Old Market

Light linens and cotton are your best bet to beat the Egyptian heat. Do keep in mind that the dust from the desert can quickly overwhelm your best white clothes. Egypt is a socially conservative country and female travelers are well-advised to be fully covered from at least the shoulder to below the knee. Avoid tight-fitting clothes. For guys, the norms are more relaxed but it is best to avoid shorts. If you are a woman entering a mosque, try to show as little skin as possible, and wear a headscarf. Attitudes towards clothes are slightly more relaxed near the coast, and you can pack swimming wear for hotels that have their own pools. Sunglasses, hats, comfortable walking shoes, and a light jacket are must-carry items.

Currency
Egyptian pound
A pile of bills from around the globe. An Egyptian 100 pound note sits on top

The Egyptian pound, usually written as £E, is equal to 100 piastres (pt). One pound sterling is roughly equal to 22 £E while the exchange rate for the US dollar is about 16 £E. (You must check the latest rates before traveling.) Keep sufficient quantities of coins and small-value notes for everyday shopping and transactions. But for any major purchase, a debit or credit card usually works. Besides carrying cash, you can also keep some travelers’ cheques as backup. ATMs are easily accessible in the bigger cities but they have a daily withdrawal limit, which you should check after landing in Cairo. Exchanging cash is convenient at airport banks and through private moneylenders at all tourist areas.

Language
Egyptian writings
Egyptian ancient papyrus with different pictures and hieroglyphics

Most people in Egypt speak Egyptian Arabic and its various dialects – so being familiar with some basic Arabic words and phrases will be helpful to navigate the country. If you are hiring a guide, tell the tour agency in advance that you need an English-speaking one. The tourism industry is pretty advanced in Egypt, and guides with a sophisticated knowledge of foreign languages are easily available. There are several regional variations of Arabic spoken in different parts of Egypt and a number of minority linguistic groups, such as the Beja in the eastern deserts. But Arabic, by and large, is your go-to language.

Culture and Custom
Exotic Market in Egypt
View of the enormous and exotic Khan Al-Khalili souk, located in the heart of Cairo, Egypt

The majority of Egypt’s population of 100 million is Sunni Muslim, with Coptic Christians forming the largest minority. On Friday, the holy day for Islam, most establishments are closed. When in Egypt, respect local sensibilities at all times. Public display of affection is to be avoided. If you’re not using cutlery, always use your right hand to eat in a communal setting. Bargaining is a must for all street-side shopping in Egypt, so you may want to brush up on your haggling skills. Overall, Egypt is safe for tourists but if you are a female traveler on your own, some men might interpret that as a license to follow you or catcall. A raised voice usually stops them in their tracks. Tipping (baksheesh) is important, and always hand over some coins or small notes to anyone carrying your luggage or helping with errands. 

Passport & Visa
Visa Application Egypt
Visa application form and flag of Egypt

If you’re travelling to Egypt on a British passport, you will typically require a visa. Tourist visas obtained through the e-visa system have a maximum validity of 3 months. Visa on arrival can be done at the airport at approved banking centres. Note that the on-arrival visas are valid for a month. For Dahab, Sharm el Sheikh, Taba and Nuweiba, a free entry permit is stamped on arrival. But if you want to stay in resorts in these places for more than 15 days, you’ll need a visa. The airport at Sharm el Sheikh has the facility to buy a visa in case there is a change in itinerary. If your visa is out of date, you may have to pay a fine. To extend your visa, apply at the Passport and Immigration offices. Your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry.

Electricity & Plug

Egypt’s electricity supply is 220V and 50Hz, and the power plugs are of type C (two round pins) and type F (two round pins plus earth clips). If you’re from North America and have 110V appliances, you may want to carry a converter. A majority of sockets are the two-pin types common in Continental Europe. So if you’re using American appliances, pick up an adapter. As a thumb rule for international travel, buying a universal adapter with surge protection is a smart idea. If your appliance has a dual voltage rating of 110-240V, you will require only a travel adapter instead of a transformer or converter.  

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I and my family are going to Egypt next year. Other than making a visit to the pyramids and going on a cruise on the Nile, our family has decided to try sandboarding. However, we have two kids with us, a 10-years old and a 12-years old, and I just wanted to know whether it would be safe for them to sandboard?

1 1 month ago 1 answers 278 views

I want to do something truly unique, as an activity, for my next vacation. I have been thinking about visiting the Pyramids in Egypt and was wondering if it was the best place to ride camels. What is the best place to go camel trekking and what is involved?

1 5 months ago 1 answers 243 views

I have always wanted to visit an exotic locale, such as the Sahara Desert. But I want to know more about the place and the best times to go. When should I avoid visiting the desert?

1 5 months ago 1 answers 368 views

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