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Egypt | Open Travel Info


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Egypt is one of the most fascinating destinations on the world tourist map. This extra ordinary country is today the favorite vacation spot for many, just like it was in the days of the early Greeks and Romans. The thoroughly cultured Greeks, in particular, were fascinated by this civilization that predated theirs by at least 2000 years. The biggest draw continues to be the amazing abundance of historical treasures- temples, pyramids and museums –contained in this one country. But the destination offers more than just the wonders of antiquity. Your visit to Egypt can be rounded off by a cruise down the Nile and a beach vacation at the top notch Red Sea and Sinai resorts.

The unification of the Kingdoms of Lower and Upper Egypt around BC 3180 marks the point from when Egypt became a significant power. This event is credited with Menes, who thus became the first Pharaoh. Menes went on to establish a new capital at Memphis, just to the south of where Cairo stands today. For the next 3000 years and under 30 dynasties of the Pharaohs, a dynamic and culturally sophisticated civilization flourished. It was not however smooth sailing for the descendants of Menes and power was for short periods in the hands of foreigners. Historians, who as usual want to simplify things, have divided up the reign of the Pharaohs into three periods: the Old Kingdom (2575-2134 BC), Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC) and New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC).

It is a curious fact that most monuments of the Pharaohs relate to death. Though moderns may view this as an unhealthy preoccupation with death, some scholars see it as an indication of the ancient Egyptians great love for life and desire for continued existence. The pyramid was the highest evolution in the practice of preparing elaborate tombs for the departed. Pyramids were the final resting place, from where the Pharaohs enjoyed the afterlife. The most famous of these edifices are the Pyramids of Giza, built in the 4th Dynasty (2575-2465 BC), when the power of these ancient kings was at its peak.

and Sphinx

Religion was another reason for the great monuments of ancient Egypt. The deities found deserving of worship were truly diverse. And many, many temples were built in honour of these gods. Temples for the most esteemed gods were quite elaborate and were administered by high priests. Auxiliary buildings housed libraries, granaries, and what may today be considered as research laboratories for astronomers, biologists and other scientists. Most gods were linked with specific animals and to whom special powers were attributed. Some gods came and went, but the sun god was one of the most enduring. It has been suggested that the design of the pyramids had some association with practices of the sun cult. The Pharaoh was considered to be a living god.

The Greeks, in the name of Alexander the Great finally brought the Age of the Pharaohs to an end in 332 BC. He founded that city that bears his name, Alexandria. The Greeks ushered in a period of comparative prosperity and stability under descendants of Ptolemy. Ptolemy was the Macedonian general who was appointed by Alexander as governor. The Pharos Lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the Great Library of Alexandria were built in this era.

As the Greeks declined, so did the Romans rise, and they too cast a covetous eye upon Egypt. The last of the Ptolomies was the notorious Cleopatra, lover to both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The Roman Empire too declined Egypt and was torn apart by foreign armies. The most significant event at this time was the invasion of the Arabs in 462 AD. Though other foreigners including Ottoman Turks, French and the British, subsequently ruled the country, it is the Arabs who brought Islam whose legacy has been the most enduring.

Egypt is today a modern vibrant nation that carries the burden of its 5,000-year history graciously. Just like in ancient times, the Nile sustains the country and up to 95% of the population live in close proximity of the river. The rest of the country is desolate desert, mitigated only by a few isolated oases and the habitable narrow strips along the African Red Sea and the Mediterranean coastlines.

People in Egypt

According to the tourism ministry, Egypt for the visitor is best seen as six tourist super-sites. This covers the most popular destinations and excludes off-the-beaten-track locations. The six super-sites are anchored on: Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Hurghada on the Red Sea and Sharm El Sheikh in Sinai. Except for Luxor, none of these destinations relies entirely on ancient monuments to attract visitors. Egypt tours and vacations are very competitively priced relative to other destinations.

Cairo is a huge, sprawling and chaotic metropolis. It has all the amenities of a modern city and is the usual gateway for the visitor to Egypt. Cairo is a young city relative to nearby Heliopolis, Giza and Memphis that are associated with the Pharaohs. The city began as a Roman trading post called Babylon- in the area now referred to as Coptic Cairo. The area was a settlement of one of the world’s first Christian communities. This predominantly Christian locale houses a museum that is a repository of religious art, manuscripts, paintings and pottery.

But it is the Arab invaders who arrived in the 7th century who can be said to have founded the city. They settled just north of the area referred to as Old Cairo. The medieval district of Islamic Cairo is densely packed with people and lots of mosques and temples. This is where many still go during the month of Ramadan to eat and spend the night after a days’ fast. Giza on the Niles’ west bank is where you find the Great Pyramids. These truly magnificent monuments were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. You will appreciate the achievement of the builders of these edifices when you reflect on the fact that until the 19th century they were the world’s largest buildings.

The visitor to Cairo will easily tuck in trips to see museums, mosques and monuments such as Pyramids and the Sphinx. To commemorate your visit to this unforgettable city, visit the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. The wide array of souvenirs on sale here includes jewelry, brass, silver and copperware, carpets, perfumes, alabaster and soapstone carvings. You will also find reproductions of antiquities, which you are advised to buy as opposed to anything presented as original. Such “originals” are usually counterfeit, and it is in any case illegal to export the real article.

Alexandria, monument to Alexander the Great, is located 180 km to the northwest of Cairo. The city has a Mediterranean temper and compared to the hothouse of Cairo has a cooler and more pleasant climate. The Greco-Roman Museum is within central Alexandria and has on display artifacts from the period 300 BC to AD 300. You will see mummies, sarcophaguses, pottery, tapestries and the granite sculpture of the bull god Apis. Other sights in the area include the Roman Amphitheater, the Royal Jewelry Museum and the Roman era catacombs of Kom el-Shukafa.

The island of Pharos, near the harbour is the site of the Great Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, what remains on the site is a 15th century fortress. After immersing yourself in antiquity, you can take a dip at some beach resorts within 20 km to the west of the city. At the resort of Marsa Matruh, 230 km further on, you will find some excellent beaches and an opportunity for reef diving. This area right from Alexandria along the coast is part of Egypt's Med. It is still relatively undeveloped despite long stretches of white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

If your primary interest is ancient Egypt, bear in mind that about 80% of Egyptian antiquities are in the vicinity of Luxor. The city sits on the site of the ancient city of Thebes and together with the surrounding areas carries magnificent treasures of antiquity such as palaces, temples and royal tombs. The royals of those times whiled their afterlife at what is referred today as the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and Tombs of the Nobles. The tombs contained treasure that has been plundered over the centuries. Some of the more famous tombs are those of the boy king Tutankhamen and the queen Nefertari.

On the east bank of the Nile you find the Temple of Luxor and the Temple of Karnak, packed with obelisks, wall murals and statues with heads of gods. If you overnight here, enjoy the evening sound-and-light show at the Temple of Karnak. Temples on the west bank are Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple and The Ramesseum, a once massive edifice that is today mostly a ruin. You need to spend at least two days here for your trip to be worthwhile. You are also advised to hire a guide who can explain the historical context of each artifact or monuments. Start out early each day before the day-trippers, airlifted from Cairo arrive to crowd you out.

Aswan, a scenic town by the Nile lies 680 km to the south of Cairo, in the region that was so long ago known as Lower Egypt. Though not as numerous as elsewhere, you can find temples and tombs at those two islands in the Nile- Elephantine and Kitcheners islands. You can get to the islands by sailing in a felucca. The Nubian Museum celebrates the history and culture of the Nubian people. Aswan is also important in the history of Coptic Christians and the ruins of the 7th-century Coptic monastery of St. Simeon laze in this area. In today’s Egypt, Aswan is important as the location of the High Dam that finally put an end to the annual bursting of the banks of the Nile.

The Red Sea is well known to readers of the Bible as the sea that God parted with his own hand so that Moses and his people could cross over to Sinai. So named because of its red tint mountain ranges, it is home to a number of resorts, the biggest of which is Hurghada. The underwater world of the Red Sea is alive with over 800 fish species and the deep-sea fishing is excellent. Snorkellers can explore the coral reef that is reputed to be one of the finest in the world. Hurghada aside, there are other resorts in the area that have good beaches, coral reefs and some golfing too. The modern day traveler escaping the city will empathise with the early Christian hermits who built their monasteries here as they sought to get away from it all. Hurghada lies 380 km to the southeast of Cairo.

Sinai is where Africa meets Asia. Like the Red Sea coast, it has top resorts and is great for water sports. Sharm El Sheikh, towards the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula is the most developed resort town. Here you will find entertainment in the form of casinos and nightclubs and also some good shopping malls. The marine life is abundant and the coral reefs are great. Sinai is also where the three great monotheistic religions meet. You can make an excursion to Mt. Horeb, said to be Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments. For Roman Catholics, emulate Pope John Paul II who visited nearby St. Catherine's Monastery in 2000. The monastery is supposed to sit on the site of Moses' burning bush.

The people of Egypt from antiquity to the present day have always built their lives around the Nile. It is no coincidence therefore, that probably the best way to see the major sites is by taking a Nile Cruise. There are several luxury cruise ships offering Nile Cruises. The longer cruise goes all the way from Cairo to Aswan in two weeks. There is however not much to see between Cairo and Luxor and you will get better value if you take the shorter cruise between Luxor and Aswan. This cruise, which normally takes six days, goes in both directions and you can embark at either Aswan or Luxor. You can get to Luxor or Aswan from Cairo by taking a flight or the overnight sleeper train. The adventurous and thrifty can also sail along the Nile by using traditional boats, feluccas.

The summer in Egypt, which falls between April and October, is hot and dry. The winters are mild with cold nights. The best time to visit is between November and March, outside the intolerable summer season. Light clothing is generally recommended though you may need a sweater and jacket for winter evenings. Remember that this is a Muslim country and dress for women in particular is expected to be modest. All the same, immodest western style holiday dress is acceptable in nightclubs, beaches and hotels in Cairo and other locations frequented by tourists.

In the cities and locations popular with tourists, you will find a wide variety of accommodation ranging from 5-star luxury to budget lodging. This in particular covers: Cairo, Alexandria and the north coast, Luxor, Aswan and at the Red Sea and Sinai resorts towns. During the popular winter season, advance booking is advised. Egypt hotels and resorts are very good value and you will find accommodation cheaper here than the equivalent in most other destinations.


Andrew Muigai is editor of AfricaPoint Insider online newsletter. It is part of AfricaPoint.com- the Africa travel website that has helped thousands of travelers discover Africa. You can view more info on Egypt tours and vacations at http://www.africapoint.com.

Pictures courtesy of http://www.bigfoto.com

The Middle & The New Kingdom, Egypt

The Middle Kingdom (ca.2134-1781 B.C.):

Dynasties 11-12 come under this heading. The country was finally reunited under the Theban princes whose capital in the south became the religious center for all of Egypt. It was here at Thebes that King Mentuhotep II built his famous mortuary temple of Deir el-Bahari. In the Twelfth Dynasty| however, the capital shifted to the north, near El-Lisht, and the pharaohs were buried in mud-brick pyramids (Dahshur, Fayum, and Beni Suef). The older Pyramid Texts evolved into the Coffin Texts, now no longer restricted to use by the king alone. They adorned the inside and outside of coffins, and are later attested in the tombs of certain high officials.
Provincial "monarchs" and other Independent high officials were allowed to excavate or construct their tombs in their own districts. These were provided with beautiful mortu¬ary equipment and decorated with vivid scenes of both daily life and life in the next world (Beni Hassan, El Bersheh, Thebes, and Aswan).
Great irrigation projects were undertaken during the Twelfth Dynasty. Attempts were made to irrigate the Fayum, and reservoirs and canals were constructed under Sesostris (Senusret) II, Sesostris (Senusret) III and Amenemhat III.
The second Intermediate Period (ca. 1781-1550 B. C.) (Dynasties 13-17):
After a period of political and economic turmoil, most of the country was overrun for about a century by a Near Eastern people known as the Hyksos, or "rulers of foreign Lands" Dynasties 15-16). Composed of immigrant tribes of Syrians, Palestinians and Hurrians, the Hyksos found refuge in the fertile Nile valley. They introduced into Egypt the horse and horse-drawn chariot, as well as new types of daggers, swords and compos¬ite bows, all of which were to play a large role later on in Egyptian military history. In terms of artistic achievement or economic prosperity, the Hyksos domination was a rela¬tively decadent and impoverished era.
The Hyksos worshipped the deity Seth (Sutekh) god of strength and confusion. Avaris in the eastern Delta between Tanis and Qantir served as their capital. During the Seven¬th Dynasty, however, the Theban princes had been consolidating their own power in the south, and eventually moved to oust the foreigners from their homeland. Finally, under the leadership of Seqenenre, Kamose and Ahmose, the Thebans expelled the Hyksos, reunited the country and initiated a new dynasty.
The New kingdom (ca. 1550-1070 B.C.)
(The Empire period):
This period includes Dynasties 18—20, and is considered by many to be the golden age of Egyptian civilization. In the Eighteenth Dynasty, Thebes was both the political and religious center of the realm. Magnificent temples were erected there for the state god Amon-Re. The temple of Karnak functioned not only as the major religious center, but also the political, economic and diplomatic focus for everything, from the delivery of local taxes from across the river to foreign tribute from provinces such as Nubia, Syria-Palestine and Phoenicia, and from countries such as Punt (Somalia?), Libya, Crete, the Aegean islands and Mesopotamia. Famous rulers of Dynasty 18 include: Queen Hatshepsut (1488—1470 B.C.), the best-known queen-cum-pharaoh of Egypt. Her relatively peaceful reign, trade relations with Punt and building activities at Thebes (Deir el-Bahari and Karnak} are especially noteworthy.
Tuthmosis III (1490—1436 B.C.), whose military exploits in the north, northeast and south earned him the title of creator of the Egyptian empire. He also conducted an active building campaign, especially at Thebes (Karnak, Luxor).
Amenophis III (1403-1365) B.C.), with his prosperous and peaceful reign, and friendly diplomatic relations with many foreign countries in western Asia. Egyptian art and cul¬ture reached a zenith during his rule.
Amenophis IV (Akhenaten) (1365-1348 B.C.), the first to establish a form of monothe¬ism in Egypt. Akhenaten's great religious revolution involved the replacement of the state god Amon-Re with the solar deity Aten. Artistic conventions and political traditions were also totally restructured. The king moved the capital to a completely new city in Middle Egypt (Akhetaten, now Tell el-Amarna). Many of the Egyptian holdings in Syria-Palestine which Tuthmosis III had secured were nearly lost under Akhenaten's reign. Tutankhamen (1347—1337 B.C.), a successor of Akhenaten, restored the cult of Amon-Re, and abandoned Tell el-Amarna in order to return to tradition. The discovery of his nearly intact tomb in 1922 revealed the wealth and prosperity of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

Horemheb (1332-1305 B.C) who served as generalissimo and then king after the death of Tutankhamen, and protected the country from foreign intruders.
In Dynasty 19 (ca. 1305-1305 B.C., The capital was moved once again, this time to Pi-Ramesses in the eastern Delta, the origin of the Ramesside family and a more strategic location Vis a Vis Syro-Palestinian affairs. The Hittites in Asia Minor were Egypt's chief rival at this period; both sides struggled for control of the Syro-Palestinian region (Battle of kadesh).
In the reign of Ramesses III ca. 1196 B.C.), Aegean tribes known as the Sea Peoples threatened to infiltrate the Egyptian Delta region. Economic and cultural decline, coupled with the threat of foreign invasion, contributed to the weakening of central authority; strikes and cases of corruption are documented in the ancient sources. At Thebes, the priesthood of Amon achieved ever greater political influence.

Modern Egypt

Modern Egypt:
The modern history of Egypt is marked by Egyptian attempts to achieve political independence first from the Ottoman Empire and then from the British. In the first half of the nineteenth century Muhammad Ali an Albanian and the Ottoman viceroy in Egypt attempted to create an Egyptian empire that extended to Syria and to remove Egypt from Turkish control. Ultimately he was unsuccessful and true independence from foreign powers would not be achieved until midway through the next century.

Foreign including British investment in Egypt and Britain's need to maintain control over the Suez Canal resulted in the British occupation of Egypt in 1882. Although Egypt was granted independence in 1922, British troops were allowed to remain in the country to safeguard the Suez Canal. In 1952 the Free Officers led by Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser took control of the government and removed King Faruk from power. In 1956 Nasser as Egyptian president announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal an action that resulted in the tripartite invasion by Britain France and Israel. Ultimately however Egypt prevailed and the last British troops were withdrawn from the country by the end of the year.
No history of Egypt would be complete without mentioning the Arab-Israeli conflict which has cost Egypt so much in lives territory and property. Armed conflict between Egypt and Israel ended in 1979 when the two countries signed the Camp David Accords. The accords however constituted a separate peace between Egypt and Israel and did not lead to a comprehensive settlement that would have satisfied Palestinian demands for a homeland or brought about peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Thus Egypt remained embroiled in the conflict on the diplomatic level and continued to press for an international conference to achieve a comprehensive agreement.
Mubarak is the current president of Egypt. He served actively in the army. He was the chief-commander of the air force during the1973 war (also called Yom Kippur War). Actually, the successful performance of the air force in that war is accredited to him.
He was promoted as an Air Marshal in 1974. In 1975, President Sadat chose him as his vice-president and he remained as such until Sadats assassination in 1981. He was also made secretary-general of Sadat's National Democratic Party.

Mubarak was elected president on 13 October 1981. He soon declared his commitment to Sadat's peace path. He also released the political detainees who were imprisoned by Sadat.

In the early years of his rule, Mubarak worked hard to restore severed relations with Arab states and maintain good relations with the United States and the Soviet Union, later Russia.

Domestically, he introduced economic reforms and granted more political and press freedoms to the society. In recent years he also encouraged a privatization scheme planned by the government to reactivate the economy.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, Mubarak was challenged by terrorist attacks launched by fundamentalist groups.

In 1995, Mubarak escaped an assassination attempt in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, while he was attending an African meeting. In the aftermath of the attack, Mubarak adopted a hard-line position against extremists until he successfully uprooted terrorism.

He also supported and took part in the US-led Gulf war in 1990 against Iraq, which was reaped by the successful liberation of Kuwait.
Also under his rule, Egypt supported and sponsored peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.

Mubarak also showed moral support for the US anti-terrorism efforts following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001.

Mubarak was reelected 3 times by referenda in 1987, 1993 and 1999 with landslide votes supporting him.

The Egyptian Traveler's Survival Kit

The Egyptian Traveler's Survival Kit:
Egypt is a sophisticated and modern country, and most anything that you need may be purchased in Egypt. But providing that you do not wish to purchase such things as shoes in Egypt, and that other items may be difficult to find, or very expensive, we have compiled a checklist of some of the more important items you may wish to carry with you. This list may seem rudimentary for the seasoned traveler, but for many making a first time trip to Egypt, it may prevent problems.
Contending with Sun and Heat:

Hats and other covering: Large brimmed hats that provide not only a head covering but also a certain amount of shade will come in very handy in the hot Egyptian sun. In addition, women will be more acceptable when touring old churches and mosques if they are wearing some sort of head covering. In addition, scarves or other apparel should be taken along to cover shoulders and arms, and again, or not only important for visiting religious sites, but also to keep the sun off during treks. In very hot weather, a cloth hat or scarf that can be soaked will also help keep your head cool.www.egyptealacarte.com
“Squeeze Breathe” this is a water bottle with a sprayer and a battery-operated fan attached, which is available in such stores as Wal-Mart in the US. This item literally kept our Senior Editor, Mary Kay Radnich, from hitting the deck in the 104F heat on the West Bank, late one morning.
If you can find something like this among the beach toys this summer, pick it up.
Sun block: While sun blocks may be purchased in Egypt, you might prefer to bring your own favorite brand, but do bring it. We have often, and I wish to emphasis, very often, seen tourists with painful sunburns after a days worth of sightseeing.
Sunglasses: Another item that may be purchased in Egypt is sunglasses, but again, many people will prefer to bring their own. There will be many times that tourists find themselves in a blaring, sand and desert landscape and there is nothing better than a good pair of sunglasses, with the highest UV rating you can find.
Canteen or water holder: Staying hydrated will mean the difference between a comfortable tour and one that might end with trouble. Most people quickly learn to carry a water bottle with them, and bottled water is easily accessible. However, lugging around a water bottle in your hand can be tiresome. It is much better to bring along either a canteen, or some other Utensil that will allow you to carry the water bottle on your waist or around your shoulder. Fanny packs or backpacks with holders for water bottles, and for women, even a shoulder bag type of purse will make this more convenient.
Added by:www.egyptealacarte.com

Travel Information

Egypt Arabic مصر‎ Miṣr, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in western Asia. Egypt is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the red sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west.
Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East. Live near the banks of the Nile River where the only arable agricultural land is found. The large areas of the Sahara Desert are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with the majority spread across the densely populated centers of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most famous monuments; Egypt is widely regarded as an important political and cultural nation of the Middle East.
Egypt possesses one of the most developed economies in the Middle East, with sectors such as tourism, agriculture, industry the Egyptian economy is rapidly developing.

Egypt is a very large country - when it is chilly and wet in Alexandria, it can already be ravishingly hot in Aswan.

The best time to visit the majority of sights, including the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings, is from February to April and October to November, when it is hot enough to know it's the ‘Land of the Sun', but not too hot to be enjoyable. At this time, the skies and sea are a perfect blue. The downside is that the weather is a poorly kept secret and these are the most popular times of the year for visitors.

In April, the hot, dusty Khamsin wind blows from the Sahara, making the touring of sights troublesome: during an intense sand storm, vision may be reduced to a few meters.

The intensely hot, dry summers carry the threat of dehydration and heat exhaustion, confining the visitor indoors for much of the day. The winter, on the other hand, is mild and often overcast, leaving the desert and its ancient monuments looking lackluster. Rainfall is negligible except on the coast.