Egypt is the land that gave birth to the first great civilisations; Cairo, Luxor, and the path of the Nile are like open-air museums waiting for you to take a tour. In Cairo, picture the past as you stand between the giant paws of the Sphinx of Giza, the last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Nowhere else on Earth can compete with Egypt's evocative history, palaces, temples, and tombs.
Egypt's temples, tombs, pyramids, and scenery will stay with you forever. Come face-to-face with mummies in Cairo and Luxor's magnificent museums. Walk through 5,000 years of human history in Luxor's Temple of Karnak and Valley of the Kings. Feel dwarfed by the Aswan Dam or the colossal statues at Abu Simbel's Great Temple. For a change of scenery, head to Mount Sinai. Here you will find the Coloured Canyon, where the rocks are a striking fusion of golds, yellows, and reds.
Egypt holidays promise all kinds of adventures. Start the day with a hot air balloon ride and float above the Nile, Theban mountains and monuments of Luxor. Trek around the pyramids aboard a camel's hump or explore the desert landscape in a 4x4 jeep. Egypt is a growing golf destination too, with world class courses in Soma Bay and El Gouna.
Journeys don't come more relaxing or romantic than cruising down the River Nile. Blending old world grandeur with modern on-board facilities, Nile cruises are the most laid back way to explore. See Egypt by day, with stops like Luxor, Aswan, and Cairo; travel past traditional felucca boats and watch the sun rise and set over this legendary river.
Swap Egypt's blue skies for its blue sea and you'll find some of the best dive sites on Earth, whether you want to snorkel, scuba dive, or both. Novice or connoisseur, everyone can, and should, enjoy this peaceful, almost surreal underwater world. Explore eerie wrecks and follow clown, parrot, and angel fish as they dart about the coral at diving meccas like Ras Mohammed National Park.
Wandering through bustling souks and bazaars is a classic Egyptian experience. And remember, haggling is part of everyday life here, so don't be shy. Follow your nose to find perfume and spices, and take home authentic souvenirs like handmade jewellery, Bedouin embroidery, jewel coloured lanterns, and traditional papyrus scrolls. Egypt's most famous shopping area is the atmospheric Khan el-Kalili in Cairo.
For lively evenings, try the bars and clubs of Sharm el Sheikh, particularly in Na'ama Bay. Take a trip into the desert and dine under the stars in a candlelit Bedouin tent, watch a belly dancing show, or join the crowds at a sound and light show at Karnak, Abu Simbel, or Giza and see these monuments in a whole new light, with music, illuminations, and projected images telling ancient stories.
There are a number of carriers offering services to Egypt.
Direct Carriers: BMI, British Airways and Egyptair all offer direct services from London Heathrow to Cairo and Luxor. Regional departures are available in conjunction with these carriers. Sharm El Sheikh can be reached on Egyptair or on charter or low costcarriers.
Indirect Carriers: KLM offer indirect services via Amsterdam.
Departure Taxes: There is no departure tax when leaving Egypt.
Hepatitus A, Polio and Typhoid are recommended
We wouldn't want to insult your intelligence by informing you that holidays in Egypt are hot, but they really are. When it comes to packing clothes, the cooler and lighter they are, the better. Although it is important to dress modestly away from the beach or pool (cover your knees and shoulders at least). In the winter, throw in some more layers to stay warm on cooler evenings. If you are planning to scuba dive, don't forget your PADI credentials and a medical certificate if required.
A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face;
Long sleeved cover-ups for evening;
Cool, lightweight clothing in natural fabrics like cotton or linen;
Comfortable walking sandals for exploring;
High factor sunscreen;
An underwater camera for snorkelling;
Electrical plug adaptor (the power supply in Egypt is 220 volts at 50 hertz);
PADI and medical certificates if required.
The official currency is the Egyptian Pound. You can buy them in the UK before you go. But if you need cash in Egypt, you can change your UK Pounds at banks, official currency exchanges, and most hotels quickly and easily. The import and export of local currency is limited to 5,000 Egyptian Pounds.
UK Pounds, Euros, and US Dollars are accepted in most places, although change may be given in Egyptian Pounds. Cash machines are available throughout Egypt. Major UK credit cards are widely accepted, but you may need cash to pay smaller businesses. There is a real shortage of small change in Egypt, so it is a good idea to save it for when you really need it. Traveller's cheques are not always accepted and may incur a fee.
The tipping culture in Egypt works quite differently to most other countries. Here it forms part of a widespread practice known as baksheesh, which includes charitable giving, tipping for service, and tipping for favours. In Egypt, you are expected to tip waiters, taxi drivers, and porters, but also bathroom attendants, locals who offer directions, workers who point out great photo opportunities, and so on. While it may seem annoying at first, baksheesh is deeply ingrained in Egyptian culture and a survival tactic for underpaid people trying to make a living.
Flavourful and seasoned lightly with herbs, Egyptian cuisine blends lighter Mediterranean flavours from near the coast and heartier bean and meat flavours further inland. As this is a Muslim country, local dishes do not include pork. Egypt holidays offer a mouth-watering array of international restaurants. But make sure you sample some local dishes too, from snacking on pitta-wrapped kebabs and falafel, to sipping sweet, black Arabic coffee and sharing plates of mezze.
This unassuming but delicious dish is made from fava beans slow-cooked with garlic, cumin, parsley, and lemon juice to produce a full, rich flavour. Fuul is often served with pitta or baladi, a type of Egyptian bread.
So popular it is considered Egypt’s national dish, fill up on this carb-heavy dish of rice, noodles, lentils, chickpeas, onions, and garlic, in a spicy tomato sauce.
To satisfy a sweet tooth, try omm ali, an Egyptian bread pudding, with crunchy pastry soaked in cream and milk, topped with nuts and raisins and baked in the oven. Nibble on pastries like baklava, stuffed with honey and nuts, or kunafa, filled with clotted cream. Sometimes though, a simple plate of juicy, fresh fruit makes the perfect ending to your meal.
Simple, cheap and quick to cook, traditional Egyptian cuisine is more about street food than fine dining. So when you’re out and about, you’ll find plenty of fresh, filling fast food to keep your energy levels up for sightseeing. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
Otherwise known as falafel, this Egyptian dish is popular with the rest of the world too. Stop at the roadside for these moreish fried balls of mashed fava beans or chickpeas, herbs and spices.
Kofta, Kebab, and Shawarma
Far better than the greasy doner kebab you might scoff after a night out at home, these include spicy lamb or chicken served on skewers or in pitta bread to eat on the go.
Prices in Egypt vary just as they do at home, but on average, a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant might set you back 150 Egyptian Pounds, with a bottled beer around 17 Egyptian Pounds. If you need a drink (and you will) in the baking Egyptian heat, a 1.5 litre bottle of water should cost around three Egyptian Pounds.
These days men have abandoned the traditional galabiyya, a long cotton robe, in favour of long trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Western clothing became common for women in the 1950s, although a return to Islamic dress and veil became popular in the 1970s. Regardless, women dress modestly in ankle-length skirts and dresses or long trousers and long-sleeved shirts.
The country's extensive history offsets its multicultural society, where modern and western cultures flirt with traditional ones that have, in some cases, been around since the time of the Pharaohs. Ninety percent of Egypt's people are Muslim, and many social conventions stem from the teachings of the Koran. Most Muslims don't drink alcohol, but it is widely accepted in tourist areas. Hospitality is embedded in Egyptian culture, which makes it a wonderful place to visit.
When it comes to etiquette, it is important to remember the following:
• Greet people with a handshake, although men should wait for a woman to offer her hand before doing so.
• For men, speaking to an unknown Egyptian woman is a breach of etiquette.
• Dress modestly when visiting conservative towns and religious buildings, when hair should also be covered.
• You will have to pay a fee to take photographs inside pyramids, tombs and museums.
• Ask permission before taking pictures of people, especially women. Some traditionally dressed locals will ask for money to pose outside historic sites.
• Muslims fast during daylight hours for the holy month of Ramadan, and although most hotels and tourist restaurants will still serve food at this time, it’s polite to refrain from eating and drinking in public away from these areas.
The clear waters and coral reefs of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula are home to some of the most diverse underwater wildlife on the planet, with over 1,300 species of fishes. Snorkellers will tell tales of turtles, puffer fish, and rays, while scuba divers can get close to dolphins, sharks, and barracudas. Travel inland and the dry desert hosts the likes of camels, sand boas, and sand cats. Finally, a cruise down the Nile will treat you to drinking gazelle, wading flamingos and, if you keep your eyes peeled, the Nile crocodile.
Walking for miles a day on very little water, camels have been invaluable to humans for thousands of years. See the sights and the desert from the back of one of these noble beasts of burden. Perhaps the most popular camel trek is to ride between the Pyramids of Giza.