Travel Destinations / Egypt
One of the oldest countries in the world, and also renown for being the “cradle of civilisation”, Egypt is a premier holiday destination, regardless of which way you look at it. For more than 3,000 years people have been visiting this intriguing country and for 3,000 visitors have been mesmerised by the diversity and incredible sights Egypt provides.
The biggest attractions are unquestionably the ancient Egyptian ruins, relics and other antiquities. From the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, to the Cairo Museum of Antiquities, modern Egyptian tourism is fuelled by the country’s rich history and heritage.
The Nile is another key aspect of a trip to Egypt as life in the country literally revolves around this magnificent river. The Nile provides irrigation to the majority of the population and a felucca (traditional boats) trip along the majestic Nile is an essential activity for anyone enjoying a holiday in Egypt.
The people are friendly, the culture fascinating and its capital, Cairo, is one of the greatest cities in the world, making it the perfect base for any Egyptian holiday. Alexandria is the second biggest city in the country and offers a more modern glimpse into Egyptian life, however, it does retain most of its Middle Eastern charm, and the result of this is a diverse, interesting and welcoming city.
The Red Sea is another very popular Egyptian destination, and with some of the best scuba diving in the world on offer at Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh, budding divers have an added incentive to visit Egypt.
As one of the oldest civilisations in the world, Egyptian culture is ancient and as a result fascinating. While walking through the streets you will be offered goods to purchase, in Arabic, whether you speak the language or not, so make some preparations by learning a few key phrases to help you accept or decline these offers.
Although their culture and traditions are ancient, most modern Egyptians are very forward thinking when it comes to technology and other modern pursuits. These include sports, politics and it’s also important to note that traditional music and customs are still alive and well, as Egyptians are understandably proud of their incredible heritage.
As is to be expected, tourists will be overwhelmed by souvenirs of pyramids, the sphinx, camels, pictures on papyrus, however, explore the souks, especially Khan el-Khalili in Cairo, and you’re sure to find some wonderful treasures.
The important thing to bear in mind while shopping in a souk is to bargain ruthlessly, and you should always be prepared to walk away from any deal. Remember that no store keeper will sell anything at a loss, so regardless of the stories you’re bound to hear, keep in mind that it’s a business transaction, so look out for your best interests. A golden rule of thumb is to never pay more than a third of any shop owner’s asking price.
One of the most notable shopping destinations in Egypt is Siwa Oasis. Visitors can find some gorgeously crafted artefacts, including jewellery and tapestries, easily, and the quality is as good as you’re likely to find anywhere in Egypt.
Egypt uses the Egyptian Pound as its currency, and 100 piastres (cents) makes up a single EGP. Notes are available in denominations of EGP1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 25, 50 piastres and remember that coins aren’t commonly used in Egypt anymore.
When it comes to your credit cards and ATMs, Egypt is on par with most of the world and major credit cards are widely accepted, however, because of the nature of Egyptian trade, it’s highly recommended to always have sufficient cash on you, just in case.
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Egypt has hot summers (June - October), mild winters, and negligible rainfall, with the most extreme temperatures experienced in the desert regions, where boiling temperatures during the day contrast with freezing temperatures at night.
Earthquakes, flash floods through mountainous regions, and sandstorms are common. The annual khamseen starts around April and is traditionally a period of sandstorms lasting 50 days.
Best time to visit
Visiting Egypt and deciding on the best time depends entirely on where in the country you are looking to go. The high season for tourism is during the Egyptian winter, from December to February. The quiet season is during the summer, from June to August, and is applicable to most destinations in Egypt that are not on the coast.
The height of summer is from June to August and is practically unbearable for visitors journeying anywhere south of Cairo. Temperatures can soar to 40°C, so if you’re after a very warm beach break, this would be the ideal time to visit, but take note that Cairo will be humid, hot, busy and very trying during this period.