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About Egypt
Name: Arab Republic of Egypt

Area: 1 million square km (391,191 sq miles).

Population: 80 million

Capital: Cairo.

Language: Arabic and English

Time: GMT +03 (in summer), GMT +02 (in winter).

Electricity: 220 Volts / 50 Hz.

Currency: Egyptian Pound.
Entry Visas and Passports Validity
All visitors to Egypt must hold a current passport with at least 6 months validation. Visas for a stay of one month may be obtained from all Egyptian Consulates or upon entry to Egypt. This is cost 15.00 USD (for most nationalities).
Services & Government Offices
Government offices, including post offices, are open from 08:00AM - 03:00PM, Sunday through Thursday, are closed Fridays & Saturdays and on national holidays. Shops are open daily from 09:00AM - 01:00PM, and from 04:00PM - 09:00PM, with some shops closed on Sundays.
Over population is Egypt's most immense problem, with 80 million people, it is the most populous nation in the Arab World, and next to Nigeria, it has the second highest population in Africa. From 6 millions in the year 1880. The annual growth rate is 2.2% while, thanks to the Family Organization Program (FOP), it dropped 6% from the 1985 rate. Nevertheless, this amounts to over one million people each year.
Egypt is a highly centralized country, 96% of the population lives on only 4% of the land, and due to the rapid urbanization of the past two decades, 18 millions of the 80 live in the Greater Cairo area, and 6 millions live in Alexandria, while the rest are scattered along the Nile Valley. Despite the improvement of Egypt's Economy, the increase in GNP is immediately consumed by the increase in population, in other words, if the population growth rate does not decrease significantly, there is no way the economy will improve.
The government is trying, in vain, to cope with exploding population, in terms of schools, health facilities, accommodation etc. The past five years have also witnessed effective attempts of decentralization, residential areas have been constructed outside Cairo, as well as highways to take you to and from Cairo.

The four pillars of the Egyptian economy are oil and gas, Suez Canal revenues, remittances from Egyptians working abroad and tourism. The resources are vast, but the ever-increasing population eats them all up. Egypt had been a feudalist economy for a very long time and prior to the revolution of 1952, its economy was based primarily on farming, with very little industry.
The 1960's saw an increase in industrialization with the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Under Gamal Abd-El Nasser's socialist regime, the majority of large industries were nationalized. In the 1970's President Anwar El-Sadat introduce his "Open Door Policy" which encouraged a free market as well as trade with Europe and the United States. This gradual economic reform has been continued by President Hosni Mubarak and the 1990's have witnessed a high degree of privatization, in an effort to diminish Nasser's public-sector and introduce a new flourishing private-sector with its own new stock exchange in down town.
The Egyptian currency is the pound. It comes in half-pound notes & coins, one-pound notes & coins, five-pound notes, ten-pound notes, twenty-pound notes, fifty-pound notes, one hundred-pound notes and two hundred-pound notes.
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Mainly hot & dry. Temperatures exceed 38C during summer (from May to September) with extremes of up to 50C. From the late November to February temperatures range from 15-25C on the Mediterranean coast to 20-30C in Aswan in the South.
During winter nights, temperatures can plummet to 10C on the coast in Cairo. In the desert and the mountains of Sinai, days are scorching hot, but bitterly cold at night. Alexandria in the north receives the most rain (200mm per year), whilst Aswan in the south has received an average of 10mm in the last 5 years.
Don't wear anything too revealing around most places in Egypt. Make it conservative unless you welcome the attention that skimpy clothing will garner. People in some cities and rural areas are not used to seeing a lot of skin (even with men), so please cover up unless you're on the beach in a coastal resort like Sharm El-Sheikh or Hurgada where this is more the norm. In areas like Islamic and Coptic Cairo you should respect local custom by wearing more conservative clothing.
Archeological Sites
Do have a guide with you when exploring archeological sites in the desert. You can get lost and that isn't funny.
Do stay with your guide at all times as some sites are in critical condition and have areas that are in danger of collapse.
Do wear a hat or scarf and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun when visiting in summer.
Don't climb on or touch any of the monuments.
Don't take photographs where you're not supposed to - the flash from your camera may cause irreparable damage.
Public Transportation
Ladies... do sit next to other women on public transportation.
Ladies... do enter the car assigned for women only (first two cars) on the metro, as other cars may be too crowded.
Do bargain the amount you will have to pay the taxi driver before getting in as some take advantage of tourists (but no fighting, please).
Do shout out the name of the location that you're going to when hailing a taxi.
Do look both ways before crossing the street even if the sign says, "walk".
Don't get on overcrowded buses. It's anything but comfortable.
Do be prepared for unwanted attention especially if you're traveling alone. You'll probably be hissed or whistled at in the streets on a fairly regular basis. If you just ignore, there shouldn't be any problems. Egyptians just like to have fun.
Do try not to walk by yourself, always have someone with you, especially if it's down a dark alley. Crime is extremely rare but, just as should always be the case, why take unnecessary chances.
Don't act too friendly toward men you barely know as it could be misunderstood.
Don't talk back to attempts by strangers to talk to you - simply ignore them.
Do feel free to walk arm-in-arm or, at most, holding holds. (Same sex couples should be even more discrete as homosexuality is far less accepted in Egypt as it is in Western countries).
Don't hug or kiss in public as it may cause problems. Again, holding hands should be as far as you go in public.
Don't be surprised if you see Egyptian men walking arm-in-arm or holding hands as a sign of friendship.
Entering Mosques
Ladies... do wear something to cover your hair when entering a mosque (most mosques provide a scarf for covering your hair at the entrance).
Do wear long decent clothes, covering legs and arms. (This includes men!).
Do take off your shoes before entering or wear shoe covers which can be obtained at the entrance of some mosques.
Do respect the mosques, they are sacred places, and any attempts of smoking, drinking, or sexual behavior in or around a mosque will not be tolerated.
Don't go where you're not supposed to for a couple of reasons:
1. Egypt is one of a just a few Islamic countries that allow non-Muslims into their mosques so staying in designated areas will help preserve this privilege for future visitors.
2. Some of the mosques are very old and some areas may be in need of repair.
Don't visit during prayer time.
Ladies... do wear swimming suits on beaches, but survey your surroundings a bit first. Some places are not used to seeing that many tourists and that quick glance around will let you know if others are wearing bathing suits.
Do wear sunscreen at all times - the Egyptian sun can be merciless at times.
Don't sunbathe topless - it is not common in Egypt and it may cause too much attention.
Don't swim wherever there's a black flag up as it means the water is too rough. In the north coast the sea can sometimes be quite dangerous.
Snorkeling and Diving
Do put sunscreen lotion.
Do stay with your guide, it's not fun getting lost underwater.
Do bring an underwater camera so you can share the amazing things you see with your friends when you get back home.
Don't touch the fish - not all are friendly or harmless.
Don't break, take, or remove any of the coral.
Don't drink and dive!
Don't feed the fish.
Don't fish.
Don't go off the beaten track without a guide. There are still some landmines buried out there in some parts of the Sinai and the North Coast and not all are marked.
Don't go too far without a guide. The desert here is vast and you can too easily lose your bearings.
Do use common sense.
Do exchange your money in banks or exchange offices.
Do carry around a lot of change: it can be useful when tipping and bargaining. (Only tip when you feel that the person deserves it - just like back home.)
Do use traveler's checks and credit cards - they are accepted in most tourist areas.
Don't carry around a lot of money. That isn't common, but one can never be too sure.
Don't put your money or wallet in your back pocket when entering busy or crowded places.
Don't show that you have money.
Do take lots of films or extra memory cards - you'll want to take pictures of everything you see.
Don't take photographs of military areas, bridges, embassies, or airports.
Don't use flash photography when photographing ancient monuments.
Don't photograph crowded areas or packed buses or street litter, as some people can be offended.
Don't take your cameras where you won't be using it - entrance fees for cameras cost more than for people.
Do carry your international driver's license at all times when driving.
Do avoid coming close to buses and other forms of public transportation. If you want to pass them, make sure they know you're there by flashing your lights and honking your horn.
Do check for crossing cars and pedestrians at all times - even when you have a green light.
Do what the traffic policemen say - even if it goes against what you've been doing all your life.
Don't try to come close to diplomatic convoys - reduce your speed and keep away.
Don't exceed 100 km/hr on highways.
You may bring in modest amounts of anything for personal use, except, obviously, illicit drugs, weapons and items of an obscene or subversive nature. Up to one liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes and a reasonable quantity of perfume is permitted. In addition, you may purchase one liter of alcohol upon arrival at Cairo International Airport Duty free shop and another 3 liters along with 3 packs of cigarettes within 48 hours from any of the duty free shops around Cairo.
Duty Free Shops upon departure offer shoppers a reasonable range of spirits, cigarettes, perfumes and gifts. Alcohols and cigarettes are cheaper than all European Duty Free prices.
When is Ramadan?
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is a special to more than one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is the month were God (Allah) sent the holy book (the Koran) to the profit Mohamed, peace be upon him. It was done in the 30days of Ramadan.

The time of Ramadan is determined by the Islamic Lunar calendar, with the sighting of the new moon. As the Islamic Lunar calendar is 11-12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, thus the time of Ramadan changes every year until the Lunar cycle begins again.

Ramadan is due to begin in 2009 on 22nd of August-20th of September. These dates must be confirmed by the "Mufti" (State religious Advisor, appointed by the government) there is only somewhere between a 12-36 hour warning of the start and end of the period.
What is Ramadan?
Islam has five main pillars that every Muslim should follow. Fasting is the fourth pillar and Muslims can not fulfill their religion without doing it. All physically mature and healthy Muslims are obliged to abstain from all food, drink, gum chewing, smoking and any kind of sexual contact between sunrise and sunset.

The month is also a time for spiritual reelection, prayer, doing good deeds and spending time with family & friends. The fasting is intended to help teach Muslims self-discipline, self restraint and generosity. It also reminds them of the suffering of the poor, who may rarely get to eat well.

The spiritual aspects of the fast include refraining from gossiping, lying, slandering and all traits of bad character. Clearing your mind from all impure thoughts and all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of thought and action is paramount.

Most Egyptians usually become more holy during this month, visiting their mosque more regularly and reading as much of the Koran as possible. Often mosques will be over crowded and people will spill out onto the footpath and roads in prayer. The traffic simply goes around them. At the time of the sunset call to prayer most people first break their fast with a light snack of fresh juice and dates. They then got to pray and then start the first main meal of the day is called " El fetar" (literally break-fast).

At night you will find a very festive atmosphere especially in major Egyptian cities. People usually go out after breaking there fast to coffee shops, sporting clubs or big hotels. Often you will see oriental tents set up outside these places where shisha, food, drinks (no alcohol of course) are served all night with live music, Sufi dancing and traditional dancing. These parties go on all night till just before sunrise where people have their second big meal called "El Sohour" which will help them fast for the next day.

Tables are set up in the streets and near the mosques with huge amounts of food served for El Fetar and El Sohour. This is called "Maadet El Rahman" and it is provided for free by the mosques and wealthy Muslims that can not afford their meals.

The end of Ramadan is marked by a three days period known as "Eid ul-fitr", the festival of fast breaking. It is a joyous time beginning with a special prayer and accompanied by celebration, socializing, festive meals and sometimes very modest gift-giving, especially to children.
The appropriate pleasantry to Muslims is to say to them "Ramadan Karim" which is a blessing meaning "Give more to Ramadan". At the end of the month you may say "Eid Mubarak".
How will Ramadan affect you?
Non Muslims are not expected to adhere to the fasting, however you are expected to be extremely respectful to local religious customs and avoid offending local people.
How does Ramadan affect your tour?

Service will be slower everywhere - people are often tired or lacking energy due to the abstinence of food and water for a long period of the day.

Most historical sites and museums will close early so that their employees can go home to break their fast with their families. Your tour itinerary will be juggled a bit, to ensure you get the maximum time inside the sites, often starting your tour earlier in the day to by sure you visit the sites before closing time.

Traffic will be chaotic between the hours of 15:00 - 17:00 as most people will be traveling home to their families. Traveling a distance will often take double or triple the time to get to your destination.

Most offices will only open from 10:00-14:00. Shops, bazaars, and restaurants (if they are open at all) will open at 10:00-15:00 .Close to after the break and reopen around 19:30.

Restaurant choices will be limited, most local restaurants close for the entire day and only open for business in the evening. Your tour leader will need to take you to restaurants that predominantly cater for a tourist market as these maybe the only ones open during daylight hours.

Alcohol is in very short supply during the month, restaurants may or may not serve it. You may find that some restaurants (Dahab) will allow you to have it but barmen/waiters will get it, carry it or open it, you may need to do this yourself please do not insist if it is not available.

The Holy Koran says that fasting should not interfere with your everyday life. Your guides, tour leaders, representatives and service providers may or may not be fasting, they do not expect your sympathy - but your patience in relation to the above alterations.

Ramadan is a wonderful time of year and a wonderful experience for everyone visiting the country throughout the month..!!
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