About Egypt

Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, the Red Sea to the east and south, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, and across from the Sinai Peninsula lies Saudi Arabia, although Jordan and Saudi Arabia do not share a land border with Egypt.

Egypt has one of the longest histories of any modern country, emerging as one of the world's first nation states in the tenth millennium BC. Considered a cradle of civilization, Ancient Egypt experienced some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanization, organized religion and central government. Iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnack, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy and remain a significant focus of archaeological study and popular interest worldwide. Egypt's rich cultural heritage is an integral part of its national identity, which has endured, and at times assimilated, various foreign influences, including Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and European. One of the earliest centers of Christianity, Egypt was Islamized in the seventh century and remains a predominantly Muslim country, albeit with a significant number of Christians.

With over 92 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa (after Nigeria and Ethiopia), and the fifteenth-most populous in the world. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found. The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of Egypt's territory, are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centers of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.

Capital Cairo
Largest city Cairo
Official language and national language Arabic
Area 1,010,407.87 km2 (390,120.66 sq mi)
Total Water (%) 0.632
Population 93,645,000
Currency Egyptian pound (E£) (EGP)
Time zone EET (UTC+2[c])

The Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling to Egypt

It would be useful to write a post about things you should and shouldn’t do in Egypt. This post is very beneficial for expats and those who want to visit the country.

The aim of this post is to help you understand what is socially acceptable from the locals’ point of view in order to make your life easier in this wonderful country.

DO’s

• Leave tips in cafés, restaurants, hair dressers, clothes shops almost everywhere! Sometimes people won’t take them, but usually they will, as they don’t have good salaries.

• Bargain (it sounds paradoxical after what I’ve just said!) in souvenir shops, markets, taxis. Within reasonable limits, bargaining in Egypt’s souvenir markets is a nice way to start a conversation, and is expected.

• Dress modestly and not too extravagant.

• Ask locals the fare for a taxi ride before taking the taxi, then agree on that fare with the taxi driver. In Cairo they have the metered taxis (“white taxi”), so you shouldn’t have to discuss the fare, but always make sure the meter is working. If not, leave the taxi and take another. You can leave a one-pound tip at the end of your ride.

• Ask directions from at least three different people (to be sure you have the right information). Sometimes people try to help even if they don’t know the place.

• Take taxis rather than public transportation, especially for women.

• Take off your shoes and cover your head (for women) when you enter a mosque.

• Ask permission before taking a photo (even of people). In some places it is forbidden to take photos.

• Spend time talking to the people. Egyptians are interesting, kind and have a great sense of humor. You will learn from them as they will learn from you—it is always a rich exchange. Don’t miss out on that!

• Enjoy the country as much as you can. Egypt is not just any country—Egypt is “Om el Donia” (the Mother of the World)!

DON’T

• Don’t wear shorts and sleeveless t-shirts. For men it’s ok, but try to avoid sleeveless t-shirts and wear the normal ones. This will not be the case if you are visiting Sharm-El-Sheikh, Dahab, Marsa Allam and Hurghada. In these coastal cities, wearing this type of clothing is acceptable.

• Don’t kiss your partner in the street. (Even a kiss on the cheek might be unacceptable in some areas in Egypt.

• Don’t kiss or hug persons of the opposite sex. Shaking hands is ok in general, but strict Muslims don’t shake hands with people of the opposite sex in order to avoid any physical contact.

• Don’t cross busy streets alone. Wait for someone to come and cross with you, or ask someone to help you. Egyptians usually will offer to help you in such situations. This doesn’t apply for all streets, of course, but in Cairo and Alex especially there is a lot of traffic and sometimes no traffic signs. Cars won’t stop to let you cross and you have to find a way between them.

• Don’t put your feet on a table. This behavior is not acceptable and might offend the people around you.

• Don’t talk to people who are approaching you in the street or in tourist areas to offer services like city tours, special visits to tombs, sites or shops…etc. It’s always preferable to go through registered tour operators and agents.

• Don’t pet street dogs and cats (unless you have all your vaccines and you’re not afraid to be bitten or scratched).

• Don’t get angry or frustrated when someone is late. People in Egypt are very laid back, so in some cases people will be late, and you will have to get used to it during your stay.

• Don’t expose yourself to the sun (in summer especially). This is dangerous unless you are wearing proper clothes.

• Don’t drink tap water.

• Don’t drink alcohol in the street (it’s not socially acceptable, and in some areas it’s forbidden by law).

• Don’t smoke in the street (for women).

• Don’t eat, drink or smoke in public places during daytime during Ramadan.

• Don’t take a taxi if you are alone late at night. Try to use the yellow cab instead.

Demographics

Egypt is the most populated country in the Middle East, and the third most populous on the African continent, with about 88 million inhabitants as of 2015. Its population grew rapidly from 1970 to 2010 due to medical advances and increases in agricultural productivity enabled by the Green Revolution. Egypt's population was estimated at 3 million when Napoleon invaded the country in 1798.

Egypt's people are highly urbanized, being concentrated along the Nile (notably Cairo and Alexandria), in the Delta and near the Suez Canal. Egyptians are divided demographically into those who live in the major urban centers and the fellahin, or farmers that reside in rural villages.

While emigration was restricted under Nasser, thousands of Egyptian professionals were dispatched abroad in the context of the Arab Cold War. Egyptian emigration was liberalized in 1971, under President Sadat, reaching record numbers after the 1973 oil crisis. An estimated 2.7 million Egyptians live abroad. Approximately 70% of Egyptian migrants live in Arab countries (923,600 in Saudi Arabia, 332,600 in Libya, 226,850 in Jordan, 190,550 in Kuwait with the rest elsewhere in the region) and the remaining 30% reside mostly in Europe and North America (318,000 in the United States, 110,000 in Canada and 90,000 in Italy). The process of emigrating to non-Arab states has been ongoing since the 1950s.

Largest cities or towns

1. Cairo 2. Alexandria
3. Giza 4. Shubra El Kheima
5. Port Said 6. Suez
7. El Mahalla El Kubra 8. Luxor
9. Mansoura 10. Tanta

Languages

The official language of the Republic is Modern Standard Arabic. Arabic was adopted by the Egyptians after the Arab invasion of Egypt. The spoken languages are: Egyptian Arabic (68%), Sa'idi Arabic (29%), Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic (1.6%), Sudanese Arabic (0.6%), Domari (0.3%), Nobiin (0.3%), Beja (0.1%), Siwi and others. Additionally, Greek, Armenian and Italian are the main languages of immigrants. In Alexandria in the 19th century there was a large community of Italian Egyptians and Italian was the "lingua franca" of the city.

The main foreign languages taught in schools, by order of popularity, are English, French, German and Italian.
Historical Egyptian languages, also known as Copto-Egyptian, consist of ancient Egyptian and Coptic, and form a separate branch among the family of Afro-asiatic languages. The "Koine" dialect of the Greek language, though not native to Egypt, was important in Hellenistic Alexandria. It was used extensively in the philosophy and science of that culture. Later translations from Greek to Arabic became the subject of study by Arab scholars

Religion

• Muslim 90%

• Orthodox Christian 9%

• Other Christian 1%

Culture

Egypt is a recognized cultural trend-setter of the Arabic-speaking world. Contemporary Arabic and Middle-Eastern culture is heavily influenced by Egyptian literature, music, film and television. Egypt gained a regional leadership role during the 1950s and 1960s, giving a further enduring boost to the standing of Egyptian culture in the Arabic-speaking world.

Egyptian identity evolved in the span of a long period of occupation to accommodate Islam, Christianity and Judaism; and a new language, Arabic, and its spoken descendant, Egyptian Arabic which is also based on many Ancient Egyptian words.

The work of early 19th-century scholar Rifa'a al-Tahtawi renewed interest in Egyptian antiquity and exposed Egyptian society to Enlightenment principles. Tahtawi co-founded with education reformer Ali Mubarak a native Egyptology school that looked for inspiration to medieval Egyptian scholars, such as Suyuti and Maqrizi, who themselves studied the history, language and antiquities of Egypt.

Egypt's renaissance peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the work of people like Muhammad Abduh, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, Muhammad Loutfi Goumah, Tawfiq el-Hakim, Louis Awad, Qasim Amin, Salama Moussa, Taha Hussein and Mahmoud Mokhtar. They forged a liberal path for Egypt expressed as a commitment to personal freedom, secularism and faith in science to bring progress.

Festivals

Egypt celebrates many festivals and religious carnivals, also known as mulid. They are usually associated with a particular Coptic or Sufi saint, but are often celebrated by Egyptians irrespective of creed or religion. Ramadan has a special flavor in Egypt, celebrated with sounds, lights (local lanterns known as fewness) and much flare that many Muslim tourists from the region flock to Egypt to witness during Ramadan.

The ancient spring festival of Sham en Nisim has been celebrated by Egyptians for thousands of years, typically between the Egyptian months of Paremoude (April) and Pashons (May), following Easter Sunday.

Climate

Most of Egypt's rain falls in the winter months. South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 2 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 in) per year and at intervals of many years. On a very thin strip of the northern coast the rainfall can be as high as 410 mm (16.1 in), mostly between October and March. Snow falls on Sinai's mountains and some of the north coastal cities such as Damietta, Baltim and Sidi Barrani, and rarely in Alexandria. A very small amount of snow fell on Cairo on 13 December 2013, the first time in many decades. Frost is also known in mid-Sinai and mid-Egypt. Egypt is the driest and the sunniest country in the world, and most of its land surface is desert.

Egypt has an unusually hot, sunny and dry climate. Average high temperatures are high in the north but very to extremely high in the rest of the country during summer. The cooler Mediterranean winds consistently blow over the northern sea coast, which helps to get more moderated temperatures, especially at the height of the summertime. The Kham seen is a hot, dry wind that originates from the vast deserts in the south and blows in the spring or in the early summer.

It bringing scorching sand and dust particles, and usually brings daytime temperatures over 40 °C (104 °F) and sometimes over 50 °C (122 °F) more in the interior, while the relative humidity can drop to 5% or even less. The absolute highest temperatures in Egypt occur when the Khamaseen blows. The weather is always sunny and clear in Egypt, especially in cities such as Aswan, Luxor and Asyut. It is one of the least cloudy and least rainy regions on Earth. Prior to the construction of the Aswan Dam, the Nile flooded annually (colloquially The Gift of the Nile) replenishing Egypt's soil. This gave Egypt a consistent harvest throughout the years.

The potential rise in sea levels due to global warming could threaten Egypt's densely populated coastal strip and have grave consequences for the country's economy, agriculture and industry. Combined with growing demographic pressures, a significant rise in sea levels could turn millions of Egyptians into environmental refugees by the end of the 21st century, according to some climate experts.

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