*“Egypt Alive” is the central theme and motto of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board (ETPB) in 2022 and the next three years, CEO of ETPB Amr Al-Kady told Daily News Egypt in an interview.
Egypt Facts & Tips (Courtesy Bunnik Tours)
Capital — Cairo
Population — 100.5 million Language — Arabic
Religion — Islam
Time Zone — 8 hours behind AEST
Currency — Egyptian Pound
Did you know?
The scars on the face of the Sphinx are not due solely to erosion – the monument was used for target practice by conquering Ottoman soldiers, French troops or both – depending on whose story you believe. Eclectic Stefan has it on good authority that the destruction of the Spinx's nose was caused by an Arab who said it was only a statue, not a god-figure and shot off the nose to prove it.
Egypt’s best-kept secret is janzabil, a hot, spicy ginger drink. It’s the perfect lung and food tract cleanser for murky urban air and unfamiliar food. All the sidewalk coffee and shisha (tobacco) shops have it and you will be surprised and delighted when you order it.
Expect to see security checks at government buildings and museums. You will often be asked to leave your camera at the security desk. Police are everywhere, checking bus manifests, on the streets, at the airports, and providing security checks as necessary. We e seen the occasional AK47 being carried casually by the handle. We hope the safety was on.
Bluish crosses tattooed on the hands or wrists of Egyptians indicate that they are Christians.
Friday is the day of worship, when most things are closed at least in the morning (shops in tourist areas may be open). Many stores are closed during prayer hours or all day on Friday, and most Coptic stores are closed on Sunday.
The cat was a symbol of fertility and sexuality, which is why Ancient Egyptians painted their eyes to mimic those of cats.
The Ancient Egyptians were the first to invent paper, using papyrus which once grew wild in the Nile Valley.
The official currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound. Notes are in denominations of £200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. The recommended currency to take to Egypt is the Egyptian Pound or US Dollars. As with many countries, when you get money from an ATM, you get large notes--values of 200 and 100--which are difficult to use in transactions at shops and for tips to toilet attendants and cafe services. And tips are expected but not compulsory.
The price of a cappuccino in Cairo is approximately £25 - £30
The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately £55
The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately £250
The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately £30 - £35
1000 Egyptian pounds cost us 83 Australian dollars at the currency conversion rate at this time
Arab food is quite tasty and most dishes are very well-seasoned. Egypt’s history includes occupations by the French, British and Turks, and its cuisine was influenced by all of them, as well as by regional neighbours such as Lebanon and Greece. Pita bread is common, but differs in taste from that in nearby countries. Shwarma, a sandwich similar to a yiros, is good fast food, but make sure the meat hasn’t been sitting out for too long. Also try fateer, an oven-baked pancake with either sweet or savoury combinations; mulokhaya, a soup with chard and lots of garlic; and koshari, a blend of rice, lentils, pasta and chickpeas, accompanied by a spicy tomato sauce and fried onions.
Eating at local restaurants is generally fine and it can be a great, fun experience. Choose restaurants that are busy as the turnover of food is likely to be higher. Take care with seafood and avoid undercooked meat. Only eat fruit you have peeled yourself and give salads a miss. Eating or feasting, a popular pastime in this part of the world remains at the centre of cultural celebrations, and the daily cycle of life. Water should be drunk from bottles only, however please ensure that bottle top seals are not broken. Soft drinks and alcohol are not a problem but ice should be avoided.
There are basically two seasons in Egypt: a relatively cool season that lasts November-April and a hot season of May-October. In the spring (especially late March to early April), sand and dust storms called khamsin blow in and can reduce visibility (sometimes even in Cairo) to less than 30 metres.
In Egypt, traffic is chaotic at best – taxis are definitely the best way to get around. They are usually white and black and are metered taxis. Cairo also has an efficient public transport system, including a bus network and a local train network that has Africa’s first underground railway called the Metro.
Among the interesting souvenirs that Egypt offers are mother-of-pearl inlaid wood, jewellery, brassware and leather. Other items include carpets, shisha water pipes, alabaster and soapstone carvings, paintings on papyrus, gold, silver and copper ware, perfumes and reproductions of antiquities. For the reproductions, the Egyptian Antiquities Museum is a good source. Elsewhere, if an item is presented to you as an antique, it’s probably a fake (and if it is genuine, it can’t be legally exported). In fact, be very careful when buying something that may appear to authorities to be of historical importance – the police have detained tourists for days while determining that well-made reproductions were not authentic.
The Khan el-Khalili Bazaar in Cairo is a good spot to shop for many of these items, and it’s fun just to walk through - even if you’re not very interested in shopping. Bargaining is acceptable almost everywhere, even fine shops will consider bids on big-ticket items. The bargaining process may seem to be a waste of time to people used to just taking items to a cash register, but try to enjoy the process – the key is to try to keep the price low without being arrogant or insulting. Learn to fake astonishment at a suggested price or walk slowly out of a shop if necessary. But don’t bargain if you’re not truly interested in buying.
In tourist areas, you may be offered tea or a soft drink in larger shops, which is customary, and doesn’t oblige you to buy anything. Above all, keep smiling and remember the aim of the game is to obtain a good deal for yourself as well as the shopkeeper.
Avoid public displays of affection.
Dress codes are not strict and most Egyptians wear contemporary clothing as well as traditional clothing for both men and women.
Be respectful if you're visiting a mosque or other religious sites.
Don't enter during prayers.
Learn the frequently used expression Insha'allah, which means ‘God willing’.
Do not interrupt or pass in front of a Muslim praying in a public place.
Being drunk or intoxicated in public is illegal
Don’t take photos indiscriminately. Many people object to having their pictures
At various places on tour you will come across street hawkers – people selling things such as trinkets, postcards, drinks etc. If you are not interested in purchasing anything simply keep walking. If you do show an interest, be prepared for a lengthy negotiation! At the end of the day these people are trying to make a living and it’s just another aspect of visiting a developing country. If you do find yourself surrounded by people trying to sell you things, remember to be aware of your bag and valuables.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Egypt has a wonderful variety of festivals and celebrations running throughout the year. The most important for Muslims (in fact, Muslims all over the world) is the holy month of Ramadan. Dates vary each year depending on the cycles of the moon. During this month, Muslims avoid food and drinking from sunrise to sunset, but after this time, the streets come alive with people celebrating with family and friends. Other festivals include the celebrations of Coptic Christmas; the Sun Festival, when the rays of the sun touch the inner sanctums of Abu Simbel in February and October; and Sham Al Naseem, or the ‘Sniffing of the Breeze’ festival to celebrate the arrival of spring.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
Coptic Christmas (January 7th)
Revolution Day (January 25th)
Coptic Easter Sunday & Monday
Revolution Day (June 30th)
Revolution Day (July 23rd)
Eid Al Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice – 3 days July 31 to August 2nd)
El Hijra (August 20th)
Al-Mouled Al-Nabawy (October 29th)