INTRODUCTION Herodotus once said “nowhere are there so many marvellous things”, and Egypt certainly fits this profile. From the Nile to ancient structures such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, the profusion of art and architecture continues to draw crowds to ancient monuments such as the Sphinx and ancient Luxor. This cradle of civilisation is a living museum which attributes its mysteries to its ancient and current culture. Walk through history, past the numerous temples throughout the country including Abu Simbel, the location of Ramses II four colossal statures. Wherever you turn in Egypt, you will be amazed by the history, the culture and the friendliness of the locals. Visit the stunning resorts of the Red Sea, admire the Temples at Karnak, Philae or many other towns throughout the country, glimpse the painted tombs in the Valley of the Kings and appreciate Luxor, the world’s largest open air museum. Enjoy the hospitality of one of the oldest civilisations in the world.
POPULATION Egypt’s population is estimated to be approx. 82 million in 2008.
TIME ZONE The time zone of Egypt is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, and therefore is approx. 7 hours ahead of EST.
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Arabic is the country’s official language, however English is understood in most hotels, restaurants and tourist areas.
CURRENCY The Egyptian Pound is the official currency; however USD and Euro are widely accepted. Most credit cards are accepted and ATMs are available.
CLIMATE Egypt has a climate varying dependant on the area from hot and dry to Mediterranean along the coastline. The country is hot and dry except during the winter months of December to February. During the summer months of July and August, temperatures can reach 41 degrees especially in the south, but temperatures generally stay around 35 degrees. The best months to travel, are between October and April, due to the slightly cooler temperatures making the country more suitable for sightseeing.
ELECTRICITY 220 volts, 50hz, as in Aust. A 2 pronged cylindrical plug adapter is required.
FOOD The Egyptians have always loved their food and still enjoy most foods eaten thousands of years ago. Today Egyptian cuisine is excellent combining aspects of many different cultures which have inhabited Egypt at one time or another. Some of the national specialties include Foul (beans), stuffed vine leaves, grilled aubergines (eggplant) and kebabs, while some other dishes include Fesieekh (salted and dried fish), aish baladi (a pita-like bread), and kofta (a spicy, minced lamb).
VISAS A Visa is required when travelling to Egypt and can be obtained through the Embassy or Consulate in Canada or upon arrival at Cairo Airport. Current cost is approx US$40 for a single entry.
GETTING THERE By Air: Major gateways include Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria. All major European carriers as well as Air Canada. By Sea: There are some cruises to Egypt, either to Port Said or Alexandria however disembarkation is usually not permitted. There are no ferries linking Egypt and Greece or Italy.
GETTING AROUND Getting around in Egypt independently and particularly Cairo can become quite difficult at times. Prearranged transfers and tickets are recommended in order to complete planned itineraries in the expected time frame. ROAD: Cairo is a large city with a huge population, concentrated in a relatively small area. Local transport, although existing, is not recommended, due to insufficient traveller information and poor standards. Similar situations exist in most other major cities. While there are taxis available, the quality is usually low, the cars are not air-conditioned and the prices need to be negotiated prior to entering the vehicle. Car rental is not recommended and while you can walk around the city, it can be difficult as there are limited number of sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. RAIL: There are several daily services between Alexandria and Cairo. The train line continues to Luxor and onto Aswan with an overnight train service offering 2 bedded sleeper compartments. This overnight train offer a simple style of accommodation. Although savings can be made on accommodation and airfare, the quality and possible delays should be considered. In most of our programs, we permit upgrades to flights (at an additional charge). BUS: There are comfortable and regular, air conditioned coaches connecting Cairo to Alexandria, Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh and a few other cities. However, be aware that most coaches do not offer a non-smoking option.
ACCOMMODATION The main cities all have hotels ranging from basic to deluxe international standard. Due to limited number of beds booking in advance is recommended, especially in peak season. Please be aware that the level of quality is different to that which is offered in Western countries. In general, Egyptian accommodation is of a lower standard, therefore to ensure peace of mind and a comfortable stay, please choose a higher category of accommodation to avoid disappointment.
NATIONAL HOLIDAYS 2010 7 Jan - Coptic Christmas* 26 Feb - Birth of the Muslim Prophet 5 Apr - Sham el-Nassim (Coptic Easter)* 25 Apr - Sinai Liberation Day 1 May - Labour Day 23 Jul - National Day 11 Aug -10 Sep - Ramadam 10-12 Sep - Bairam Feast (End of Ramadan) 6 Oct - Armed Forces Day 15-19 Nov - Second Bairam Feast (Grand Feast) 7 Dec - Islamic New Year Note: *these holidays are not official, they are observed by Coptic Christians. Ramadan: during the month of Ramadan Muslim abstain from eating and drinking during daytime. Tourists travelling during this time are generally not affected except that some historical sights close earlier, approximately at 3pm. Weekends: as Friday is the holiday for Muslims, some businesses and shops are closed on that day, while others operated by Christians may be closed on Sundays instead.
SHOPPING Try your bargaining skills at the famous Khan El Khalili Bazaar bursting with spices, copper materials, perfumes, clothes and trinkets such as gold and silver jewellery. Purchase alabaster in Luxor but don’t forget some Mother of Pearl products and delicate glass blown perfume bottles. If you like art, pick up fine Papyrus artwork depicting classical Egyptian scenes. Haggling and bargaining is expected and sometimes, it is even encouraged as it enables communication and contact. Shopping hours are general, usually between 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 9pm daily. However the Bazaar can be open much longer.
TIPPING Salaries are low and as such tipping, or baksheesh, is expected for almost every service provided. Recommended tips start from A$1 for porters, $2 for escorts, $5 for drivers and average $10 per day for guide or crew during cruises.
THINGS TO DO Cairo: “The triumphant city” will show you some of the best sights in Egypt, Visit the Sphinx and the Pyramids at Giza, gaze upon the treasures in the Egyptian Museum and wander through the Khan El Khalili Bazaar. Indulge in a cruise down the River Nile and wonder at some of the many mosques and temples that litter the city and citadel. Luxor: Located on the banks of the Nile approx. 720km south of Cairo, commonly known as the world’s greatest outdoor museum, filled with monuments and temples. See Luxor and Karnak Temples, the largest religious site in the world. Gaze upon Queen Hatshepsut’s temple and the Valley of Kings and Queens on the West Bank. Alexandria: This vibrant city is located on the Mediterranean Sea and named after one of the world’s most famous conquerors, Alexander The Great and combines aspects of the past which invokes a love of history. Set your sights upon the Roman Amphitheatre, Pompey’s Pillar, the Catacombs and the new Alexandria Library. Aswan: The country’s sunniest southern city with its High Dam and Philae Temple. Enjoy the Nubian Museum, Botanical and Elephantine Islands. The best place to watch the famous feluccas sailing boats. Oasis: There are several spectacular oases in Egypt worth a visit. Break your trip at Siwa, considered to be the most fascinating oasis on the edge of the Great Sandy Sea, discover the Old Townof Shali and the Temples of Amun, Mountain of the Dead and Cleopatra’s Baths and relax at the Springs of Siwa. Discover Fayoum, the pyramid of Hawara, also known as the Labyrinth. Other oases include Bahreya, El Dakhla, Farafara & El Kharga. Red Sea: Popular for its spectacular diving locations, the Red Sea region boasts magnificent vistas of surrounding beaches, coastline and deserts. With the combination of these aspects, the region encompasses the best of all worlds. Most popular cities are Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada.
For your convenience, we offer daily departures from all major Canadian cities with our preferred scheduled airlines.