Friday, March 27, 2009

Traveling Alone Across Egypt


Egypt (Misr / Másr; more fully, the Arab Republic of Egypt) is perhaps best known as the home of the ancient Egyptian civilization, with its temples, hieroglyphs, mummies, and - visible above all - its pyramids. Indeed, it is testament to their brilliance that today, in a time of such modernity, visitors still flock to Egypt to marvel at the pyramids and the Sphinx.

Less well-known is Egypt's medieval heritage, courtesy of Coptic Christianity and Islam - ancient churches, monasteries and mosques punctuate the Egyptian landscape.


Egypt is located in north-eastern Africa with its capital located in its largest city, Cairo. Egypt also extends into Asia by virtue of holding the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt stimulates the imagination of western tourists like few other countries and is probably one of the most popular tourist destinations world-wide.

Egyptian Food

The variety of Egyptian recipes is endless. They go back a very long way. Thousands of years ago, ancient Egyptians left evidence of their love for food. Well-preserved wall paintings and carvings have been discovered on tombs and temples, depicting large feasts and a variety of foods. Many of these ancient foods are still eaten in Egyptian households today. Peas, beans, cucumbers, dates, figs, and grapes were popular fruits and vegetables in ancient times.

Links to some popular recipes are give below;

Links to some popular Egyptian restaurants are give below;

Weather / Climate

Egypt is largely a desert, an extension of the great Sahara Desert that bands North Africa. Save for the thin strip of watered land along the Nile River, very little could survive here. Generally, dry and very hot summers with moderate winters - November through to March are definitely the most comfortable months for travel in Egypt. There is almost no rain in the Nile valley, so a traveller won't be needing wet weather gear!

Religion and Ethnicity

Approximately 90% of the population is Sunni Muslim, 10% Coptic Christian. The Egyptian people are an ethnic blend of many other cultures that include: Greek, Arab, Armenian, Turkish, African, Syrian, Palestinian, European, and those of Turkish heritage.


Home to one of the oldest known world civilisations, the state of Egypt was first founded around the start of the third millenium BC. It remained one of the strongest political powers of its time until its annexation by Rome in 30 BC. During this period many great cities were founded and monuments built. The wealth of ancient historical artifice, beautifully preserved by the desert, remains one of the main draws for the modern traveller.

The Roman annexation was the first of a series of occupations amongst them the Arabs, Ottomans, French and British, all of which have left their mark on the country. Egypt was finally restored to full independence under the Presidency of Abdel Nasser in 1936

Popular Tourist Destinations

Highlights of any visit to Egypt include famous archaeological sites from both Lower (North) and Upper (South) Egypt. The most famous are:

  • The Pyramids
  • The Egyptian Museum
  • The Pyramids and temple complexes at Saqqara and Dashur
  • The Temples of Luxor and the West Bank across the Nile
  • The Valley of the Kings
  • Alexandria, and the stunning new Bibliotheca Alexandrina
  • The Temples of Abu Simbel
When you're done with touring the historical sites above, don't miss:

  • The Red Sea resorts at Sinai peninsula, including Dahab, Hurghada, and Sharm el Sheikh. The Red Sea offers some of the best dive locations in the world.
    The sights of the Sinai peninsula, including Saint Catherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai
  • The western desert and the oases there, including Siwa,
    Memphis, with some relics of ancient Egypt - including a huge statue of Ramesses II, evoking the image which inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Ozymandias
Women Travelling Alone In Egypt

Article Courtesy - Johanna Sinclair is a dedicated traveller and travel writer and regular contributor to the Journeywoman network. What follows is her female-friendly advice based on a month-long stay, in Egypt, with her mother.

  • Dress conservatively - Though Egyptian cities are very modern and local women may appear in public with makeup, jewelry and flowing black hair, they always dress conservatively. They do not show their shoulders or wear tight shirts. Their skirts are always just past their knees, or they wear slacks. It is rare to see an Egyptian woman or man in shorts. In the smaller towns of Egypt, many females will wear the traditional galabiyya (loose gowns) and most will cover their hair. When travelling in Egypt, my philosophy is to dress as the local women do. Bring shirts that cover your shoulders; T-shirts are fine. I always cover my legs with long, cool, cotton Indian skirts. And, in the evening, I wear long culottes that look like a skirt. If you follow this formula, it indicates a respect for the culture and, you won’t be approached or stared at as often by the local men.
  • Find a safe hotel - If travelling alone, American hotels have security checks at all entrances and are generally very safe. But you can also find interesting smaller, family-owned three-star Egyptian hotels where, once they get to know you, they look out for you. These can become your home-away-from-home.
  • Book local female guides - No matter how much you learn from reading travel books, having a personal tour guide is wonderful. Inquire at the front desk of your hotel or ask your travel agent about how to go about finding one. For very little money you can book a local guide (and a driver) who go through rigorous training and years of classes on Egyptology (some are even Ph.D. Egyptologists). If possible, it’s really nice to have the intimacy of a female guide. This way you can talk to her about such issues as marriage and family life. From past experience, I’ve found that these females enjoy the opportunity to talk with a foreign woman. Most of them have never travelled outside of Egypt.
  • A transportation secret for women - Cairo and Alexandria both share a secret pertaining to women. Alexandria has its streetcars. Cairo has a wonderful ‘Metro’ which is safe, clean and very cheap. Because Egypt is, to a large extent, a Muslim country, the front car (or two) on each train or streetcar is reserved for women only. It’s a wonderful experience just mingling exclusively with the local women. Many will come up and talk to you, while laughing shyly. However, women can also ride in the “mixed” compartments and you will invariably be offered a seat. Very few tourists use these systems and, personally, I felt that the locals were impressed to see a foreigner on their transit system.
  • Inexpensive local travel - Flying from one destination to another in Egypt is safe, quick, cheap and reliable. You can also use their rail system, very inexpensive (but also very crowded). The train ride through the Delta from Cairo to Alexandria is beautiful and it’s only $10 return-- first class! Train stations are bustling with thousands of people, so do take the precaution not to leave your luggage unattended and watch your purse or daypack. Get a porter to take you to the right platform. He will even position you at approximately the area where your car will stop.
  • Evening escapades - It’s nice to go out in the evening. While in Cairo, take advantage of attending local concerts or the opera. For as little as $10 you can attend the Opera or, as I did, an international Arab Music Festival. Again, very few tourists attend and because Egyptians are so friendly, many will come up during intermission to talk and even introduce you to their family. As in the evening in any large city, remember to arrange for a taxi to take you there and pick you up after the event (unless you are with a group of people and you feel that there is safety in numbers).
  • Always ask for help - Never be afraid to ask for help. Egyptians are amongst the most friendly people I have every met. “Tourist police” are stationed near all the busier tourist areas and will not only help, but they will file a report if there is a problem. If you are feeling tired or uncomfortable in any situation, need directions or simply do not understand the language, do not hesitate to ask a passing female for her assistance. They will generally graciously help you out. In fact, I found that many empathetic women would step in even before I realized that I needed help. Egyptian women definitely heightened my belief in the international sisterhood of females
  • Please Note - Egyptians will always greet you with a smile and a gracious inquiry as to your health. Do the same, and for heaven sake, don't act superior. Egypt is an Islamic country. Respect the religion and don't try to convert anyone to yours. A man who expresses himself physically in public to a woman (it doesn't matter if she is his wife) incurs the belief that she is, to put it politely, "loose". Holding hands in public is becoming more socially acceptable, but beyond that, restrain yourself. While it is inappropriate to touch a woman in public, don't be surprised to see men holding hands, with arms wrapped around each other or kissing each other on the cheek in greeting. Friendships between men are an important part of the culture and, because the assumption is that homosexuality and bisexuality don't exist, men are physical with each other.

Egypt has a reasonably modern telephone service including three GSM mobile service providers. The three mobile phone providers are Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat. Principal centers are located at Alexandria, Cairo, Al Mansurah, Ismailia, Suez, and Tanta. Roaming services are provided, although you should check with your service provider. Also, it is possible to purchase tourist mobile phone lines for the duration of your stay, which usually costs around 30 LE.

The International Dialling Code is (+20)(2)for Cairo

Oher Helpful Links

More details about Egypt are found in the below links..


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