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About Egypt

Visit Egypt to see its history, and stay longer to sample its modern Arab culture and perhaps to enjoy time at an ocean-side resort. Most people will spend a week in Egypt, depending on the nature and extent of their travels to this interesting country.

Egypt is perhaps one of the very few countries that has a big haul of history amidst historical controversies. People like the Jewish hero Moses, Queen Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, King Tut and others have donned the land. Egypt showcases much of man's history, his achievements and the glorious monuments that stand to tell a tale for our future generations.

Egypt is located in the north eastern tip of Africa and is bounded by Israel to the East, the Mediterranean Sea to the North, Libya to the West and Sudan to the South. Officially, Egypt is known as the Arab Republic of Egypt. From the hotels in Tel Aviv to those in Cairo, the region is home to some of the finest hotels in the world.

Cairo, which happens to be the largest city in Africa and the Middle East, is Egypt's capital. Egyptian Pounds is the official national currency and is divided into 100 Piastres (currently - Sep 2012, one US Dollar gets you about 6.1 Egyptian Pounds).

The main religion in Egypt is Sunni Moslem (about 90%) with the rest of the population being predominantly of Christian (Coptic) faith. The main language is Arabic, with English and French also commonly spoken amongst the more educated classes.

If you are interested in choosing from a range of holidays to Egypt you can be assured that there are plenty of attractions to keep you busy and open your eyes to a wealth of history.

Egypt has been a favorite tourist destination for most Europeans and the flavor is spreading to other parts of the world. Egypt offers a wide variety of tourist attractions ranging from the Pyramids of ancient Egypt to cruises on the river Nile.

Some people are sensitive to security issues while vacationing in Egypt. There have been isolated and infrequent reports of problems in Egypt, and for this reason, you are probably better advised to take an integrated tour where the tour provider has made security arrangements and has carefully chosen the places you say, the tours your take, etc, rather than to travel on your own.

Geography

Egypt is a land of duality and cycles, both in topography and culture. The geography is almost entirely rugged, barren desert, except for an explosion of green that straddles either side of the Nile as it flows the length of the country. The river emerges from far to the south, deep in Africa, and empties into the Mediterranean sea in the north after spreading from a single channel into a fan-shaped system, known as a delta, at its northernmost section.

The influence of this river on Egyptian culture and development cannot be overstated—without its presence, the civilization would have been entirely different, and most likely entirely elsewhere. The Nile provided not only a constant source of life-giving water, but created the fertile lands that fed the growth of this unique (and uniquely resilient) culture.

Transportation

Pickup

Toyota and Chevrolet pick-up trucks cover some routes between smaller towns and villages off the main roads, especially where passengers might have cargo. A dozen or so people squeeze into the rear of the truck (covered or uncovered), often with goods squeezed in on the floor.

Covered pick-up trucks are also sometimes used within towns, similar to microbuses. This is especially so in some of the oases, on Luxor’s west bank and in smaller places along the Nile. There are a couple of ways you can indicate to the driver that you want to get out: if you are lucky enough to have a seat, pound on the floor with your foot. Alternatively, ask one of the front passengers to hammer on the window behind the driver; or, last, use the buzzer that you’ll occasionally find rigged up.

Tuk-tuk

These clever scooters-with-seats, ubiquitous in Thailand and India, have arrived in Egypt. Locals call them tok-tok (turns out the onomatopoeia of their tiny engines works in Arabic too), and they’re especially popular in small towns. They’re typically the same price or cheaper than taxis (LE15, say, for a 15-minute ride), with a pounding shaabi (music of the working class) soundtrack for free. (Tuk-tuks are popular with young – sometimes too young! – drivers who like to customise their wheels with mega-speakers and other bling.) It’s a good idea to negotiate a price before getting in.

Learn Your Numbers!

Your trip through Egypt will go a lot more smoothly if you learn the Arabic numerals, which are used on all buses, trains, timetables and other crucial transport details. It helps to write down the critical numbers so it’s easier to compare with signs.

Microbus

The microbus (pronounced ‘meekrobas’), often also called a micro or a minibus, is a (usually Toyota) van with seats for 14 passengers. Privately owned and usually unmarked, they run along most of the same routes as buses and are a bit cheaper. They also stop anywhere along the route on request, and will pick up riders along the way if there’s a free seat. There are certain parts of the country (the lower Nile valley, for instance) where foreigners are currently not allowed to use microbuses between towns.

How to Ride

Microbuses run on no set schedule – they just wait until they’re full, then take off. If you’re in a hurry or just want more room to yourself, you can buy an extra seat. The two prime seats are next to the driver; savvy solo travellers recommend buying both.

Microbuses can be quite cramped, so you typically don’t want to ride one for more than three hours or so. But their flexibility is a huge asset, as you can usually find one headed where you want to go, no matter the time of day.

Where to Find

Microbuses usually congregate outside bus and train stations, or at major highway intersections on the edges of cities. Increasingly, though, they operate from an established depot – ask for the maw’if meekrobas (as opposed to the mahattat bas, or bus station).

Microbus parking areas are usually a mob scene of drivers all shouting their destinations and trying to cajole you into their vehicles. Just shout your destination back, and eventually you’ll wind up in the right zone.

Tickets

You pay the microbus driver once you’re underway. This usually involves passing your money up hand-to-hand through the rows; your change will be scrupulously returned the same way.

Servees

The servees (service taxi) is the predecessor to the microbus (minivan) and runs on the same principle: buy a seat, wait for the car to fill and you’re off. These big Peugeot 504 station wagons, with seats for seven passengers, are now less common than the vans and are being phased out. As with microbuses, you might find them near bus and train stations, and you’re welcome to buy extra seats for more space or just to speed along the departure.

Languages

The official language of Egypt is Standard Arabic. Almost everybody in the country speaks it as it’s taught in schools, and used for television, official government speeches, newspapers, etc.

Standard Arabic is the only common language spoken and understood by all the different countries that make up the Arab world (with the exception of Mauritania, Chad, and Western Sahara), so learning a few words can help if you travel beyond Egypt.

Egyptian Arabic

Despite Standard Arabic being the official language, the language of Egyptians you’ll meet day-to-day is Egyptian Arabic, a local dialect. Every Arab country has its own dialect, but Egyptian Arabic is the most common variant, spoken as a second language in many parts of northern Africa. To the untrained ear they will sound the same, and as a visitor learning the differences is largely unnecessary. Stick to Standard Arabic within cities and tourist centres, and you should be fine.

English

Egypt was a British colony for 70 years, and as a result most educated Egyptians will learn English in school. If you stick to cities and tourist centres, you should comfortably be able to get by on English alone.

If you want to escape Egypt’s well-established tourist trail, you might need to brush up your language skills a little.

French

Before children were all taught English in school, they were taught French, so many old Egyptians speak it well. There is also an increasing number of French schools in the country, so knowing a few words might get you further than you think.

Other languages

If you head further south to the likes of Aswan or Luxor, you might hear Sa’idi Arabic, another Arabic dialect variant. Also spoken by some is a Nubian language completely different to Arabic, and those from the western deserts of Egypt speak Berber, an unwritten language only they speak. Still, you should get by on English without a problem.