Dating back to 1958, the current flag of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the country’s symbol of independence. The flag consists of three superposed rectangles, black white and red, each having a specific significance, and bears at its center a golden eagle, the country’s emblem and a symbol of power.
Red has been chosen to symbolize glory, white is for purity, whereas the black stripe evokes eras of underdevelopment and colonialism that were overcome.
Egypt is a Republic, the political system of which is democratic based on citizenship and relying on each of the legislative, executive and judicial branches, additionally to the press, political parties, local administrations and civil society institutions.
Islam is the official religion of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Most non-Muslims in Egypt are Christians, the majority of whom belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Egypt is divided into 28 independent administrative units (governorates) enjoying juridical personality each consisting of a number of towns, cities and villages, additionally to the city of Luxor that holds a distinct character.
Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Hurghada, and Sharm El-Sheikh.
Egypt is the 29th biggest country in the world, covering a total area of 1,002,450 sq. km. It is located in the northeast corner of the African continent, on the Mediterranean Sea, at a crossroad between Africa, Asia and Europe. It is bordered to the east by the Red Sea, Palestine and Israel to the north-east, Libya to the west, and Sudan to the south.
The country is divided into 4 main geological areas:
- Nile Valley and Delta: this region extends on both sides of the Nile from the southern limit of the river going through Aswan, Luxor, to reach Cairo, then ramifying to the north and encompassing the destinations of Damietta and Rosetta. These ramifications, north of Cairo form the Nile Delta, Egypt’s most fertile agricultural land.
- Western Desert: Extending from the Nile Valley in the east to the Egypt-Libyan border in the west and from the Mediterranean coast in the north to the southern Egyptian border, it is one of Egypt’s most arid regions. Sparsely inhabited yet charming oases – Siwa, Bahariya, Farafra, Kharga and Dakhla – dot this region that covers 2/3 of the country’s total land area.
- Eastern Desert: this region lies between the Nile Valley to the west, the Red Sea and Gulf of Suez to the east, Lake Manzala to the north and the Sudanese border to the south. This arid region embraces the Red Sea Mountains chain, reaching an altitude of over 900 meters above sea level at some points. The region is Egypt’s richest in natural resources. Its underground treasures include gems, coal and oil.
- Sinai Peninsula: a triangularly shaped plateau linked from its north-western corner to Egypt’s mainland, at the Gulf of Suez. The peninsula is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east. This area is divided into a southern section (encompassing Mount Catherine, the highest mountain in Egypt rising about 2640 m above sea level), the middle section and the northern section.
The estimated total population of Egypt is about 79 million, according to the 2007 population census. Most of the Egyptian population is concentrated near the River Nile, in cities and towns such as Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Port Said. Smaller settlements include the Western Desert oases, and main destinations of the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt’s official language is Arabic, but foreign languages, such as English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish are also widely spoken, especially in educated circles.
5000 years of civilization contributed to the cultural heritage of Egypt and to building the strength and independence of its citizens. The country’s history is a sequence of invasions, eras or glory, battles and victories, which can be split into the following main periods and milestones:
- Pharaonic Era (3100 BC – 332 BC)
- Greek Era (332 BC – 32 AD)
- Roman Era (32 AD – 638 AD)
- Coptic Era (starting from 65 AD)
- Islamic Era: starting with the Islamic conquest of Egypt (640 AD – 1517 AD)
- Ottoman Rule (1517 – 1882)
- French Invasion (1798)
- British Colonization of Egypt (1882 – 1952)
- The 23rd of July Revolution (1952) after which Egypt is declared a Republic. British troops leave Egypt in 1954.
- The 6th of October War (1973)
- Egypt signs a Peace Treaty with Israel (1979)
- Hosni Mubarak is elected president of the Arab Republic of Egypt (1981)
- The January popular Revolution begins against the Egyptian government (25 January 2011)
- Hosni Mubarak steps down as President of the Arab Republic of Egypt (11 February 2001)
Egyptian summers are hot and dry in most of the country and humid in the Delta and along the Mediterranean Coast. In recent years the humidity has spread to Cairo and the city swelters in August. Winters are mild with some rare rain, but usually bright, with sunny days and cooler nights. There is a short spring and autumn and between the end of March and mid-May, dust storms can occur sporadically in Upper Egypt.
What to Wear
Egypt is a conservative country and visitors should respect this local custom No topless or nude bathing is permitted. On the practical side, leave your synthetics at home as they will prove to be too hot in summer and not warm enough in winter - bring materials that breathe. It is advisable to wear cotton in summer as the heat can be severe. In winter wear layers that can be taken off during the heat of the day and put back on for cool evenings.
Wear loose and flowing garments, which are not only modest, but practical in a hot climate. Have you ever wondered why the Bedouin wear layers of flowing robes? Why they cover their heads and the back of their necks? Centuries of living in desert climates have taught them that loose garments keep one cooler and layered garments allow wind to circulate, creating a natural ventilation system. Protecting the head and neck from loss of moisture prevents heat stroke. Also bring comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking and temple floors are far from even. In summer, wear a hat to protect yourself from the heat of the Egyptian sun.
What to Bring
Above all travel light. Get wheels for your luggage and leave heavy items at home. You are allowed to bring one piece of suitcase of maximum 45 lbs and a carry on bag.
Remember to take your passport and tickets (keep copies in a separate place), your travelers checks and credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are widely accepted). Remember also any medication you are currently taking or you might need (along with aspirin, anti-diarrhea medicine, and motion-sickness pills.
If you don't bring a camera you will be sorry. You are allowed to bring in two used cameras, and one used camcorder, and unlimited amount of film (given that all are for personal use and not to be sold or given away as gifts). Sunglasses are a must as the sun is very strong in Egypt. Remember to label your cameras, purses, briefcases, and suitcases with your hotel and home addresses.
the Customs in Egypt
Upon arrival in Egypt you are required to register video cameras, cameras, and laptop computers. When departing from Egypt see a customs officer to cancel these items from your passport .
Power supply in Egypt is 220 volt. If you are bringing in electronics you will need a 110/220 adapter as well as a European style (two round) converter.
Banks and Government Offices: 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. daily, closed Friday, Saturday, and holidays.
Business: 8 a.m. to 4-5 p.m., closed Friday, some on Saturday, and most holidays. Many grocery stores and gas stations are open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
Shops: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in winter and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in summer. Many shops are closed on Sunday.
Crime in Egypt is nearly nonexistent, and violence is usually limited to family feuds. However, in tourism areas some pickpockets and petty thieves may exists, so be careful and remember that the ever helpful tourism police are usually nearby. Women must be cautious, especially in out-lying areas. Stay completely away from drugs as one is subject to prosecution, jail, or eviction from Egypt if caught possessing or using drugs.
Egypt's monuments have become increasingly damaged by the hordes of tourists who visit them every day. Allow your grandchildren to someday follow in your footsteps by avoiding adding to the problem. Never lean against or even touch in any way walls with decorations, for you can crumble the plaster or flake away the stone. Stay within the railings set up, and don't touch the carvings or paintings. Flash photography is categorically prohibited, for it fades the paintings, but you can photograph tomb interiors in available light (use fast film) with a special permit and at times with an extra fee.
Museums are generally open daily 9 am - 5 pm, Friday 9 am - 4 pm; other sites are usually open the same hours as the museums.
Visiting Mosques: Major tourism mosques are open to the public unless services are in progress (the main service is on Friday at noon). Keep in mind that a mosque differs from a western church in that Christian churches are considered houses of God, while mosques are more a gathering place for the faithful of Islam. Unless otherwise posted, tickets to some that have been restored are sold by the caretaker for about LE3-6. All visitors to mosques, mausoleums, and madrasas must remove their shoes. Most Muslims walk around in their stockings but those mosques that are major tourist attractions have canvas overshoes available; a tip of 50PT to LE1 is in order for the people who put them on for you. Women must cover bare arms and should wear a scarf. It's better not to wear shorts while you are in Cairo (applies to our guests who our booked on Platinum package) because this is when you will visit mosques.
In general, Egyptians are most accommodating and they will go out of their way to help you and respond to any questions you have. Most Egyptians require little personal space and will stand within inches of you to talk. You will find that whenever you start talking with an Egyptian, you will inevitably draw a crowd, and often the Egyptians will start discussing among themselves over the correct answer to a question. Please avoid sensitive local political debates with guides or any other locals.
Tipping (bakhsheesh) is a part of life in Egypt. Tips for the cruise and hotels is mandatory ($35 per person) and this is payable upon arrival in Egypt. Tips for other services are on voluntary basis. Please do not offer tips to professionals, businessmen, or others who would consider themselves your equals. You may seriously offend them by your act.
Most of the hotels included in our program serve open buffet breakfast and dinner. On the cruise boat there is open buffet breakfast, set-menu lunch, and combination of open buffet and set-menu dinners. We recommend that you do not eat food from street sellers. Always drink bottled water which is available everywhere you go in Egypt. Alcoholic beverages are only available in hotels and international restaurants.
100 Piastres equals 1 Egyptian Pound (or Lire). Piastres are in denominations of 25 and 50 PST bills. Pounds (EP) are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 EP bills. Sometimes tourists are cheated because of confusion around the 50 PST and EPS. Upon arrival your guide will give you an introduction to Egyptian money (or see enclosed sheets).
Due to restrictions please avoid bringing in and taking out local currency. Change your money or travelers checks at hotels or banks, when doing so please always keep the receipt; as you will need your receipts if you need to exchange remaining local currency back to dollars.
American Citizens are required to have a valid passport (effective for 6 months after the completion of the trip) and a visa (which is $20 and payable upon arrival) for Egypt.
Egyptian Consulates in the USA
General of Egypt - Chicago
500 N. Michigan Avenue
Suite 1900 Chicago, IL 60611
Tel. (312) 828-9162
Covers: Illinois - Indiana - Iowa - Kentucky - Michigan - Minnesota - Nebraska - N. Dakota - S. Dakota - Wisconsin
General of Egypt - Houston
1990 Post Oak Boulevard, Suite 2180
Houston, TX 77056
Tel. (713) 961-4915
Covers: Alabama - Arkansas - Colorado - Kansas - Louisiana - Mississippi - Missouri New Mexico - Oklahoma - Tennessee - Texas
General of Egypt - New York
1110 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Tel. (212) 759-7120 / 7121 / 7122
Covers: Connecticut - Maine - Massachusetts - New Hampshire - New Jersey - Ohio - Pennsylvania - Puerto Rico - Rhode Island - Vermont - New York
General of Egypt - San Francisco
3001 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94115
Tel. (415) 346-9700
Covers: Alaska - Arizona - California - Idaho - Hawaii - Montana - Nevada - Oregon - Washington - Wyoming - Utah
Egypt - Washington, DC
3521 International Court
NW Washington, DC 20008
Tel. (202) 895-5400 Covers: Delaware - Florida - Georgia - Maryland - N. & S. Carolina - Virginia - Washington, DC