Traveling to Egypt

Egypt is located in  north-eastern Africa with its capital located in its largest city, Cairo.   Egypt also extends into Asia by the Sinai Peninsula.    Egypt is bordered by Israel and the Gaza Strip to the north-east, by Sudan to the south and by Libya to the west.   The country is bounded by the Mediterranean and Red Seas, to the north and east and geographically dominated both by the Nile River and its fertile well-watered valley, and by the Eastern and Western deserts.   Egypt is best known for its’ ancient Egyptian civilization, with its’ temples, hieroglyphs, mummies, and its’ visible pyramids.

In AD 98 the Roman Emperor Trajan enlarged an existing fortress, called Babylon, likely a corruption of Per-hapi-en-on, Estate of the Nile God at On, a Pharaonic name for the area.  What remains are two round towers of Babylon’s western gate.   These were part of riverfront fortifications and the Nile would have lapped right up against them.  Emperor Trajan also reopened the canal that ran through this town connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. 

Visitors can peer down around the southern tower, where excavations have revealed part of the ancient quay, several meters below street level.  The Greek Orthodox Monastery and Church of St George sit on top of the northern tower.

Top things to do in Egypt

Great Sphinx of Giza

Great Pyramids of Giza

Museums & Galleries

Luxor Museum

Egyptian Museum

Coptic Museum

Nile Valley: Luxor

Dahab

Al-Qasr

Wadi Natrun

Nile River Dinner Cruise in Cairo

Pompey’s Pillar

Temple of the Oracle

Roman Towers

Catacombs of Kom ash-Suqqafa

Temple of Bubastis

Pyramid of Meidum

Ramesseum

Religious Sights

Deir Anba Bishoi

Al-Azhar Mosque

Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut

St Katherine’s Monastery

Temples of Abu Simbel

Greek Orthodox Monastery & Church of St George

Best places to stay in Egypt

Sofitel Legend Old Cataract

Jaz Almaza Bay

4 Seasons Hotel

Old Palace Resort Sahl Hasheesh

Sinai Old Spices

New Palace Hotel

Sheraton Luxor Resort

Pension Roma

Al Moudira

Eskaleh

Adrère Amellal

Under The Moon Camp

Paradise Inn Windsor Palace Hotel

Transportation in Egypt

You can drive a car, by renting one, or use all the public transportation, which are:  taxi, bus, camels in Cairo at the pyramide sites, boats, planes and trains just inform yourselves either at the Embassy or tourist offices.

Restaurants in Egypt

North African
Sofra Restaurant & Café at the Nile Valley, Luxor

Ice Cream & Gelateria
Wenkie’s German Ice Cream & Iced Coffee Parlour at the Nile Valley, Luxor

Mohammed Ahmed at Alexandria

International
Panorama Restaurant & Bar at Aswan

Abdu’s Restaurant at Siwa Oasis

Seafood
Kadoura at Alexandria

Greek
Greek Club at Alexandria

Italian
Lakhbatita at Dahab

Middle Eastern
Fairuz at Sharm el-Sheikh & Na’ama Bay

North African
Zööba at Cairo

These are just a few there are so many more you can always get a list from the tourist office.

When traveling to Egypt there are some concerns that one might have.  The odds of being affected by terrorism are statiscally low and most attacks have only succeeded in killing Egyptians.   The government takes the protection of tourists seriously.

If you take a taxi from Cairo to Alexandria, you will be stopped at a checkpoint before leaving Cairo.    They will ask where you are going, and communicate with the checkpoint at Alexandria to make sure you reach your destination within a certain time period.  The same goes for trips into the desert, particularly in Upper Egypt, which is probably best avoided due to rising religious tensions.  You may be escorted by local police, who will expect some sort of financial payment.

They will travel to your destination with you, wait around until you are finished, and usually stay behind at one of the next checkpoints.  The best example of this is when you travel from Aswan to Abu Simbel to visit the Temple of Ramses II.   An armed tourism police officer will board your tourist bus and escort you until you arrive at Abu Simbel, and after your tour, he will ride on the same bus with you back to Aswan.
There are also many tourism police officers armed with AK-47s riding on camels patrolling the Giza plateau.  They are there to ensure the safety of the tourists since the Pyramids are the crown jewels of all the Egyptian antiquities.   They are all on patrol duty, it is not uncommon for them to verbally warn you not to pose next to them in order to take a picture with them.

EMBASSIES

American

8 Kamal El Din Salah St., Garden City, Cairo, Egypt. Tel: +20 2 797-3300, consularcairo@state.gov

Australian

World Trade Centre (11th Floor), Corniche El Nil, Boulac (Code No. 11111), Cairo , Egypt Phone +20 2 575 0444, Fax +20 2 578 1638, cairo.austremb@dfat.gov.au

Bangladesh

18 Hayeet El Tadrees Street, P. O. Box 12311, Giza, Cairo,  +20 2 3748 1796/58 (bdoot.cairo@gmail.com, fax: +20 2 3748 1782)

British

7 Ahmed Ragheb Street, Garden City, Cairo +20 (2) 2791 6000 (24 hour service 365 days per year), Fax: +20 2 2791 6132,information.cairo@fco.gov.uk

Canadian

26 Kamel El Shenaway Street, Garden City, Cairo Tel: +20 (2) 791-8700, cairo@international.gc.ca

Chile

Nº1 Saleh Ayoub Suite 31, Zamalek, Cairo. Tel: +20 (2) 27358711 +20 (2) 27358446 Fax: +20 (2) 27355716

German

2, Sh. Berlin (off Sh. Hassan Sabri) Zamalek / Cairo, Tel: + 20 2 739-9600 Fax: +2 2 736-0530, germemb@tedata.net.eg

Greece

18, Aisha El Taymouria Garden City, Cairo, Tel: +20-2-7950443 Fax: +20-2-7963903 gremb.cai@mfa.gr

Indian

5 Aziz Abaza St., Zamalek, Cairo Tel: 2736-3051, 2735-6053, 2736-0052 (Intl. Dial Code is +20 2), Fax: +20 (0)2 2736-4038, embassy@indembcairo.com

Italian

15, Abdel Rahman Fahmy Str., Garden City, Cairo Tel: +20 (0)2 7943194 – 7943195 – 7940658, Fax: +20 (0)2 7940657, ambasciata.cairo@esteri.it

Netherlands

18, Hassan Sabri Street, Zamalek, Cairo, Opening hours Embassy Sunday – Thursday 08:00 – 16:00 – Consular section Sunday – Thursday 09:00 – 12:00 – Visa section appointments only. Tel (+20) 2 2739 5500, Fax (+20) 2 2736 5249 E-Mail kai@minbuza.nl

Norwegian

8 El Gezirah Street., Zamalek, Cairo, (Opening Hours Su-Th: 08:30 – 15:30) Tlf: +20 2 27358046 / 2735 3340 / 2736 3955, Fax: +2 02 2737 0709, emb.cairo@mfa.no

Spanish

41, Ismail Mohamed.-Zamalek, Cairo. Phone: 735 58 13, 735 64 37, 735 36 52 and 735 64 62. embespeg@mail.mae.es

Education

• The American University in Cairo (AUC), [3] is the the best school in the country and offers degree, non-degree and summer school study options. Popular courses include Arabic Language and Literature, Islamic Art and Architecture, Arab History and Culture, and, of course, Egyptology.


• There are a number of options for learning Arabic in Cairo, including the Arabic Language Institute,  Kalimat and International Language Institute.


Undergraduate Studies foreign universities based in Cairo are:
• German University in Cairo (GUC)
• French University in Egypt (Université française d’Égypte – UFE)
• Ahram Canadian University (ACU)
• British University in Egypt (BUE)
• Egyptian Russian University (ERU)


Public Egyptian Universities:
• Cairo University (one of the oldest universities in the Middle East and Africa)
• Ain Shams University
• Helwan University

SAFETY TIPS VERY IMPORTANT IN EGYPT

Crime
Pickpocketing is a problem in Egypt’s bigger cities, particularly Cairo.  Many locals opt not to carry wallets at all, instead keeping their money in a clip in their pocket, and tourists would be wise to adopt this as well.   Violent crime is rare, and you are highly unlikely to be physically mugged or robbed.  If, however, you do find yourself the victim of crime, you may get the support of local pedestrians by shouting “Harami”,Criminal, while chasing the person who robbed you.

Overall, scams are the main concern in Egypt.  Be aware that many Egyptians who starts a conversation with you in Cairo and Luxor want your money.  There is a tactic used where they will “befriend” you, take you around, show you things, even bring you back to their place for dinner, and then they will demand money for it.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Demand prices for absolutely everything, because if you say “I thought it was free!” after the fact you are in for a vicious argument.   Some scam at amusement park where they pretend to be your friend by treating you first,then they offer to hold your belongings when you go for a ride only to disappear afterwards.


Unfortunately you cannot trust strangers in Egypt, who are getting more and more desperate since tourism has dropped post-2011. Any of the “I want to practice English”, “I work in your hotel, remember me from this morning?”, “I am a teacher”, “I am getting married soon” cannot be trusted.   Even those who ask where you are walking to and claim to know the right direction you should not follow and stick to your map.  You’re best to ignore them and walk away.  If you find yourself caught in a scam, when the time comes that you’re asked for money, as a “donation”, for “guide services”, “holding” your luggage, etc.,  do not give them any money no matter how desperate they appear, and be sure to tell them directly that you will not give them money because it will otherwise encourage them to continue dishonest/criminal behavior.   Make sure they understand exactly this point.

Dress Code

Egyptians are generally a conservative people and most are religious and dress very conservatively. Although they accommodate foreigners being dressed a lot more skimpily, it is prudent not dress provocatively, if only to avoid having people stare at you. It is best to wear pants or jeans instead of shorts as only tourists wear these. In modern nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars in Cairo, Alexandria and other tourist destinations you’ll find the dress code to be much less restrictive. Official or social functions and smart restaurants usually require more formal wear.

At the Giza Pyramids and other such places during the hot summer months, short sleeve tops and even sleeveless tops are acceptable for women, especially when traveling with a tour group.  Though you should carry a scarf or something to cover up more while traveling to/from the tourist destination. Also, it’s perfectly acceptable for women to wear sandals during the summer, and you will even see some women with the hijab who have sandals on.

Women should cover their arms and legs if traveling alone, and covering your hair may help to keep away unwanted attention. Though as a foreigner, you may get plenty of attention no matter what you wear, mainly including people staring at you along with some verbal harassment which you can try to ignore. Egyptian women, even those who wear the full hijab, are often subjected to sexual harassment, including cat calls. You may find that completely covering up does not make a huge difference, with regards to harassment, versus wearing a top with shorter sleeves. In regards to harassment, it’s also important how you act. Going out with a group of people is also helpful, and the best thing to do is ignore men who give you unwanted attention. They want to get some reaction out of you. Also, one sign of respect is to use the Arabic greeting, “Asalamualaikum”, means “hello, peace be upon you”, and the other person should reply “Walaikumasalam”, “peace be upon you”.  That lets the person know you want respect, and nothing else.

Schistosomiasis

My friends when they traveled to Egypt they unfortunately contracted this parasite, please be careful, do not drink their water, always buy bottled water and make sure it’s in a clear  plastic bottle.  Bottled mineral waters are widely available.  Beware of the old scam, however, vendors re-sell bottled water bottles, having refilled with another (perhaps dubious) source.

Always check the seal is unbroken before parting with your money (or drinking from it) and inform the tourist police if you catch anyone doing this.

Be a little wary with fruit juice, as some sellers may mix it with water.  Milk should also be treated carefully as it may not be pasteurized.  Try only to buy milk from reputable shops.  Hot beverages like tea and coffee should generally be OK, the water having been boiled in preparation, though it pays to be wary of ice as well.

Bottled water is available everywhere.  The local brands (most common being Baraka, Siwa, Hayat) are just as good as expensive imported options which are also available: Nestle Pure Life, Evian, Dasani (bottled by Coca-Cola), and Aquafina (bottled by Pepsi). A note on the local brand Baraka: while it is perfectly safe to drink this brand of bottled water, some may notice a very slight baking soda aftertaste, due to the high mineral content of its deep well water source.

No matter where you buy bottled water from (even hotels are not entirely reliable), before accepting it check that there is a clear plastic seal on it and the neck ring is still attached to the cap by the breakable threads of plastic.  It is common to collect empty but ‘new’ bottles and refill them with tap water which drinking a bottle of will make you ill.   Not all brands have the clear plastic cover but all the good ones do.

Juices can be widely found in Egypt – kasab(sugar cane); erk soos (licorice); sobiia (white juice); tamr and some fresh fruit juices(almost found at same shop which offer all these kind of juices except erk soos may be which you can find another places).
Karkadae is also famous juice specially at Luxor and it is hibiscus tea which is drunk hot or cold but in Egypt it is preferred to drink it cold.  Should mention also that hibiscus tea is known to lower blood pressure so be careful.

Make sure that you drink plenty of water:   Egypt has an extremely dry climate most of the year – a fact aggravated by high temperatures in the summer end of the year – and countless travelers each year experience the discomforts and dangers of dehydration.  A sense of thirst is not enough to indicate danger – carry a water bottle and keep drinking!  Not needing to urinate for a long period or passing very small amounts of dark yellow urine are signs of incipient dehydration.

Egyptian tap water is generally considered safe by locals, but will often make travelers ill.  It is not recommended for regular drinking, especially that there are much local differences in quality.

In order to avoid contracting the rightly dreaded schistosomiasis parasite (also known as bilharzia), a flatworm that burrows through the skin, do not swim in the Nile or venture into any other Egyptian waterways, even if the locals are doing so. It is also a good idea not to walk in bare feet on freshly-watered lawns for the same reason.

Although the disease takes weeks to months to show its head, it’s wise to seek medical attention locally if you think you’ve been exposed, as they are used to diagnosing and treating it, and it will cost you pennies rather than dollars. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fatigue, making the disease easy to mistake for (say) the flu or food poisoning, but the flatworm eggs can be identified with a stool test and the disease can usually be cured with a single dose of Praziquantel.

Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in Egypt have led to 23 human fatalities since 2006. The last fatality was in December 2008.
Wear sunscreen, wear a sturdy hat and bring good sunglasses – it’s bright and hot out there!

Respect

Keep in mind that most Egyptian workers expect tips after performing a service, known as Baksheesh. This can be expected for something as little as pressing the button in the elevator. Many workers will even ask you to tip them before you get a chance. The typical tip for minor services is 50pt to 1 LE. Due to the general shortage of small change, you may be forced to give 5 LE to do simple things like use the bathroom. Just understand that this is part of the culture; the value of the baksheesh is very small to most westerners (USD$0.10 to $0.25) but makes up the a good portion of monthly income for many Egyptians.

Do not photograph people without their permission, and in areas frequented by tourists do not be surprised if a bit of baksheesh is requested. If you’re male, don’t be surprised if another male holds your hand or forearm or engages in some form of bodily contact – there’s no taboo against men holding hands and unlike in the West, this behavior is not associated with homosexuality. In general, Egyptians are a lot more comfortable with less personal space than are most Westerners; however, pairs of Westerners should be cautious in engaging in same-sex contact. Normal contact is quite acceptable (shaking hands, pats on the shoulder, etc.) but holding hands could be mistaken in Westerners as a sign of homosexuality, which is quite taboo in Egypt. Smoking is very common and cigarettes are very cheap in Egypt.

Gamal Abdul Nasser, the second President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and many others are considered national heroes in Egypt; you should say absolutely nothing that could be perceived as offensive or derogatory regarding him. Tread carefully around such topics and let others guide the openness of the discussion. Many Egyptians have a different interpretation concerning ambiguous expressions such as freedom of speech and democracy. Likewise, don’t bring up politics and other delicate issues impulsively. It is advisable not to discuss Israel even if tempted; do not speak loudly about it as it may attract unwanted attention, even if you are only talking about it as a travel destination.

Never discuss religion from an atheistic or similar point of view. Even highly educated Egyptians who studied abroad won’t appreciate it and doors will close for you. Also be aware that the Islamic “call to prayer” happens five times daily and can be heard loudly almost anywhere you go. Just understand that most Egyptians are used to it and enjoy it as part of the cultural experience.

Take great care if you choose to drink, especially if you’re from countries where heavy drinking is accepted.  Even if you are used to it, you can’t estimate the effects of the climate, even at night. The impact drunk people have on Egyptians is quite large and very negative. The best plan is just to abstain or limit yourself to one drink per meal while in Egypt; it will be cheaper too.

Do not elicit any conversations about politics, but don’t be afraid to partake if a local you are speaking with (typically a middle-class and well educated shopkeeper) begins a rant about his hatred for the current administration (for whom they blame, rightly or wrongly, for the drop in tourism and economic loss). This will be a common theme that you’ll find many of the friendly locals go into, but certainly you don’t want to be seen as a foreigner coming in to insult their government with knowledge of only what you hear in the media.

Doing Your Laundry

There are some ways to get your laundry done in the desert:   The easiest, most practical and not expensive is to arrange for your hotel to have your laundry done for you.  By prior arrangement, clothes left on the bed or handed in at reception will be returned to you by evening freshly laundered and pressed.

You will find that there are those self-helpers who will persist on doing your laundry by hand-washing or finding one of the many “hole-in-the-wall” laundries where the staff will wash and press your clothes manually.  But be aware your clothes will smell of cigarette smoke when returned.

Cairo possesses a few basic Western-style laundromats in areas where foreigners and tourists reside – they are virtually nonexistent elsewhere in the country. Some hotels in tourist towns like Luxor and Dahab offer a washing machine service in a back room – the machines are usually primitive affairs and you’ll be left with the task of wringing and ironing your clothes yourself.

Even in Cairo, dryers are extremely rare, but they aren’t exactly necessary:  The combination of the Egyptian climate and a clothesline will do the job. Don’t hang any white fabrics up outside, the dust will turn them yellow.

Stay safe
Scams and hassle
Travelers often complain about being hassled and attempts at scamming while in Egypt. While irritating, most of this is pretty harmless stuff, like attempting to lure you into a local papyrus or perfume shop.

you will be approached by a person speaking fluent English who will strike up a conversation under social pretenses.   He, and it will always be a he, will then attempt to get you to come along for a cup of tea or similar at his favorite, most expensive souvenir shop.  This could also happen outside museums etc., where the scammer will try to make you believe the “museum is closed”.

Hassling, while rarely dangerous, could be annoying, especially in the main tourist areas.  There is no way to avoid this, but a polite la shukran, no thanks, or halass, enough, helps a lot.   Try to take hassling with a smile.   If you let yourself be bugged by everyone trying to sell you something, your holiday won’t be a very happy one.

You’ll typically also get the “do you remember me?  I work in your hotel and saw you this morning” scam as well at which point the guy will try to lead you to a shop or restaurant where he can get a commission.  Best to reply that he is mistaken and you are not staying there or just arrive today then walk away.

A recent one that is popping up as touts are getting more creative is that they’ll ask you go give money into a donation box in a mosque claiming that it will help the neighborhood that recently had an earthquake.   He will even tell you not to give money to people but only the donation box – SCAM!

Potentially more annoying are taxi drivers or others getting a commission fee to lead you to their hotel of choice, of course paying commission fees for each guest they receive.  Firmly stand your ground on this.   If they insist, just ask to be dropped off at a street or landmark close to the place you are heading to.  This scam is especially common among taxi drivers from the airport.

Egypt is generally a safe and friendly country to travel.  Egyptians on the whole are very friendly, if you are in need of assistance they will generally try to help you as much as they are able.  Since the 2011 revolution, tourism has taken a major hit making touts even more aggressive and persistent than ever before.  Safety is not an issue, but do get ready for a lot of annoying drivers/salesmen.   If after 3 or 4 times of saying “No thank you / laa shukran“, just ignore them and eventually they will go away.
Egyptian men will make compliments to women; do not take offense if they do this to you.   Men shouldn’t be worried, either; if they do this to your partner/daughter, it will be nothing more than a compliment, and hopefully won’t go any further than that.   If it does, don’t be afraid to confront them sternly with the look of death at having insulted your wife/daughter.   Most will giggle and walk away rather than get into a fight, penalty for injuring a tourist is pretty astounding.
If you are a woman traveling alone or with another woman, be warned that some men will touch you or grab you anywhere on the body, whether you are negotiating with them or simply walking down the street.   Dressing modestly will not deter them.   Getting upset at them for touching you will be met with amusement by them and any onlookers, both male and female.   The best way to avoid this is wear a wedding band and don’t be too friendly.   If a man grabs you inappropriately, do not be afraid to slap him and yell at him for his indecency/lack of shame.   The penalty for harming a tourist is quite severe.

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction photo the Sphinx and Pyramid on top courtesy of diego ortega d. at freeimages.com

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