In the fifth century BC Herodotus wrote that nowhere are there so many marvellous things as in Egypt, nor in the world besides are to be seen so many things of unspeakable greatness - and not too much has changed. Since long before the birth of Christ, travellers have been drawn to this extraordinary country and its pyramids, Sphinx, ancient Luxor and River Nile. It's not just the Pharaonic monuments either - it s the legacy of the Greeks and Romans, the churches and monasteries of the early Christians, and the overwhelming profusion of art and architecture accumulated from centuries of successive Islamic dynasties.
There is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt. Attacks can be indiscriminate and against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
Since 2004 there have been three separate bomb attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. These attacks have killed and injured a number of foreign nationals. The most recent incident was on 24 April 2006 when there were explosions at three separate locations in the resort town of Dahab, in which 23 people were killed and more than 60 injured.
Developments in the region may trigger public unrest. Travelers should take care to avoid demonstrations, which can turn hostile, and be particularly vigilant in public places.
Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in Egypt have resulted in twelve human fatalities. As a precaution, travelers should avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where contact with domestic, caged or wild birds is possible; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
The crime rate in Egypt is low but visitors should safeguard valuables including passport and money.
Egyptian society is conservative and women should dress modestly.
Travelers should carry some form of photographic ID at all times. A copy of your passport is sufficient.
Full country name: arabe republic of egypt
Area: 1,001,449 sq km (622,272 sq mi)
Languages: Arabic is the official language although English and French are widely spoken, especially in the tourist areas
Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from last Friday in April to last Friday in August).
People: Berbers, Bedouins and Nubians
Religion: 94% Islam, 6% Christian
President: Mohammed Husni Mubarak
GDP: US$247 billion
GDP per head: US$3600
Annual growth: 5%
Major industries: Oil & gas, metals, tourism, agriculture (especially cotton) and Suez
Major trading partners: USA, EU, Middle East
Visas: All visitors to Egypt are required to have a visa and a passport valid for six months. Visas can be arranged through Egyptian embassies worldwide. Visitors from the US, Canada, EU and GCC countries may be able to purchase a visa stamp upon arrival at many large airports. One-month visitor s visas can be extended.
Health risks: Bilharzia (don t paddle in the Nile!)
Time: GMT/UTC plus two hours
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
When to go
The best time to visit Egypt depends on where you want to go. Generally speaking, winter (December to February) is the tourist high season and summer (June to August) is the low season in all parts of the country except on the coasts, and to a lesser degree in Cairo. Hotel prices reflect this.
When visiting somewhere such as Luxor, winter is easily the most comfortable time. Cairo isn’t quite as pleasant, with often overcast skies and chilly evenings, while up on the Mediterranean coast Alexandria is subject to frequent downpours resulting in flooded, muddy streets. Even Sinai’s beaches are a little too chilly for sunbathing in January.
The happiest compromise for an all-Egypt trip is to visit in spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November).
The Red Sea coast and the Gulf of Aqaba are deservedly popular among divers, owing to their rich marine life and shipwrecks. A large variety of coral, tiny florescent fish, giant turtles, Napoleon wrasse and nurse sharks are just some of the species inhabiting the area. The main dive centers are on the Sinai Peninsular at Sharm el-Sheikh and Ras Muhammad, a national park since 1983. Equipment may be hired and training is available for all levels of ability. Near Sharm el-Sheikh, there is a famous World War II wreck, the SS Thistlegorm.
Tennis, croquet and horse riding clubs are found in both Alexandria and Cairo. For details, ask at the hotel. There is a public golf club at the foot of the Giza pyramids and there is a Gary Player course at Soma Bay on the Red Sea. Most courses either adjoin or are part of hotels; for instance, the Mena House , which is 15 minutes from Cairo. Other courses include the Alexandria Sporting Club (30 minutes from Alexandria); Jolie Ville (five minutes from Sharm el-Sheikh); Royal Valley Golf Course (25 minutes from Luxor); The Steigenberger Golf Club (30 minutes from Hurghada). The Egyptian State Tourist Office can provide further information (see General Info section).
Attractions - Cairo
Buzzing with the activities of buying and selling, Khan al-Khalili is one of the largest markets in the world. It is situated within Islamic Cairo, a World Heritage Site that attracts travelers and locals alike. This is the best place to soak up the color of Cairo and to people-watch. Traders have been bargaining in these alleys since the 14th century and it is possible to buy almost anything, from exotic perfume bottles to everyday Arabic clothing. On the northern corner of the bazaar is the mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein, one of the holiest Islamic sites in Egypt.
Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
With over 100,000 artifacts in 107 halls, the Egyptian Museum provides days of exploration. Inside are treasures from ancient Egypt, including priceless finery taken from ancient royal tombs, and one of the museum's masterpieces, the statue of Khafre (Chephren). The most popular attraction is the Tutankhamun Gallery where exquisite treasures from the tomb of the Boy King are displayed, including the famous solid gold death mask. Another top attraction is the Royal Mummy Room containing mummies of some of the most powerful Pharaohs in Egypt dating from the 18th to the 20th Dynasties.
Pyramids of Giza
The pyramids are the earth's oldest tourist attraction and the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is the only remainder of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Throughout their history, they have fired human imagination, with much speculation as to their origin and purpose, but most evidence supports the theory that they were built by the ancient civilization as tombs or great monuments in which to bury their kings and nobles, a place to start their mystic journey to the afterlife. The oldest and largest pyramid, the Great Pyramid, is thought to have taken 20 years to build and is made of about two million blocks of limestone. No one knows how the two-ton blocks were moved into place, but it was known to be the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 40 centuries. The Sphinx, known as the Abu al-Hol (Father of Terror), stands in front of the Great Pyramid and is thought to be older than the pyramids themselves.