Egypt

Understand

While media insist that Egypt is not safe for tourists, it may seem like the media can't understand the difference between a country and a plaza. (All manifestations of the 2011 revolution against Mubarak were in a restricted number of public places; many tourists visited Egypt during the darkest days of that revolution but never experienced any problems, because they didn't go to Tahrir square and Itahadia palace.

Ever since the 2011 revolution, tourism which provides about about 15% of employment in Egypt, so one-sixth of the population are reliant upon it has taken a major hit. Because of the downturn in tourism, expect more persistent and aggressive touts, but prices are lower and you can avoid the gigantic crowds that, at other periods, were typically overflowing the marvellous sites.

The more recent counter-revolution and Military putsch, like many events of its sort, has brought repression, death sentences and imprisonment for many Egyptians and foreign journalists but has resulted in lower crime impacts and reduced disruption for well-heeled foreign tourists.

However it's still dangerous to travel to northern Sinai because the government have a battle there trying to "clean the north from the terrorism and the weapons merchants who smuggle weapons to Hamas through the tunnels".

Climate

Egypt is largely a desert, an extension of the great Sahara that bands North Africa. Save for the thin strip of watered land along the Nile River broadening into the Nile delta, very little could survive here. As the ancient Greek historian Herodotus stated: "Egypt is the gift of the Nile".

Generally, the summers are hot and dry and the winters, moderate. November through March are definitely the most comfortable months for travel in Egypt. There is almost no rain in the Nile valley, so you won't need wet weather gear!

The climate, however, does vary a little bit depending on where you are in the country. On the north coast along the Mediterranean Sea, a thin strip of land stretching from the sea to 50km southwards receives some of the most heavy rain in the country during winter months. Thunderstorms along with heavy rain showers that often last several hours are not uncommon here such as in Alexandria, Marsa Matruh and all other coastal areas, and even the Delta. In some years the rainstorms can last for a whole day or so, though the rain tends to be less heavy. Hail is also not uncommon, especially out in the desert where the weather is usually colder and allows for ice to fall and even frost to form on non-rainy days.

In the Sinai Mountains and also the Red Sea mountains, which stretch along the east side of the country along the shore of the Red Sea, there is generally more rain as rain clouds tend to develop when warm air evaporates and rises as it moves across higher terrain. Floods in these areas are a common weather phenomenon as so much rain can fall in a very short amount of time often a day or two, with thunder and lightning as well. Because of the desert and lack of abundant vegetation, the water from the rain quickly falls down across the hills and mountains and floods local areas. In fact, every year there are stories in the local newspapers about flash floods in areas of the Sinai and also in Upper Egypt southern Egypt such as in Assiut, Luxor, Aswan, Sohag, etc. These floods, however, only generally happen two or three times a year, and often do not happen at all in some years, depending on the weather. When they happen though, it is often in early times of the season such as in September, October or late winter such as February or March often the rainiest season in Egypt. Thus, one should be careful when venturing out into the desert or camping in certain areas as water can suddenly rush down from the nearby mountains and hills. It can sometimes carry a quite strong current that has been known to break down homes of rural people who build their homes from mud, bricks, and other weak materials. It is not surprising to hear that some people drown in the floods, which is strange for a desert country that doesn't receive much precipitation.

Also, in higher elevations such as on top of the Sinai mountains, temperatures can drop much more than the surrounding areas, allowing for snowfall in winter months, since temperatures can drop down to below freezing, as well as formation of frost even in the low lying desert areas where the temperatures are generally several degrees colder than in the cities.

December and January are usually the coldest months of the year, although it is normally warmer the further south you go and within the bigger cities.

Visitors should be aware that most houses and apartments in Cairo and Egypt do not have central heating like countries with colder climates as the main weather concern in Egypt is the heat. Therefore, even though the weather might not be so cold for the Western traveller, inside the apartment it might be even colder as the temperature inside homes is generally a few or several degrees colder than out in the street.

History

The regularity and richness of the annual Nile River flood, coupled with semi-isolation provided by deserts to the east and west, allowed for the development of one of the world's great civilizations. A unified kingdom arose around 3200 BC and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 BC, who in turn were replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. It was the Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the 7th century and who ruled for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the Mamluks, took control about 1250 and continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. Following the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub, but also fell heavily into debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, Britain seized control of Egypt's government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914. Partially independent from the UK in 1922, Egypt acquired full sovereignty following World War II. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have altered the time-honoured place of the Nile River in agriculture and the ecology of Egypt. A rapidly growing population the largest in the Arab world, limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress society. The government has struggled to prepare the economy for the new millennium through economic reform and massive investment in communications and physical infrastructure.

Terrain

Egypt consists of a vast desert plateau interrupted by the Nile valley and delta, along with the Sinai peninsula.

Portions of the Nile River valley are bounded by steep rocky cliffs, while the banks are relatively flat in other areas, allowing for agricultural production.

Holidays

Holidays
 

Banks, shops and businesses close for the following Egyptian National Holidays civil, secular, and public transport may run only limited services:

7 January Orthodox Christmas

25 January Egyptian Revolution day

25 April Sinai liberation Day

1 May Labour Day

23 July Revolution Day

6 October Armed Forces Day

1st Shawwal,the 10th Hijri month Eid Elfitr

10th Tho-Elhejjah, the 12th Hijri month Eid Al-adha

29 OR 30 days of Ramadan

Holidays
 

Ramadan dates

28 Jun–27 Jul 2014 1435 AH

18 Jun–16 Jul 2015 1436 AH

6 Jun–5 July 2016 1437 AH

Exact dates depend on local astronomical observations and vary from one country to another.Ramadan ends with the Eid ul-Fitr festival extendign over several days.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the most important month in the Islamic Calendar for Muslims, the majority religion in Egypt. Commemorating the time when God revealed the Qur'an to Mohammed, during this holy month, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking or smoking until after sundown on each day. Although strict adherence to Ramadan is for Muslims only, some Muslims appreciate that non-Muslims do not take meals or smoke in public places. During Ramadan, many restaurants and cafés won't open until after sundown. Public transport is less frequent, shops close earlier before sunset and the pace of life especially business is generally slow.

As expected, exactly at sunset minute, the entire country quiets down and busy itself with the main meal of the day iftar or breaking-fast that are almost always done as social events in large groups of friends. Many richer people offer Tables of the Gracious God موائد الرحمن in Cairo's streets that cater full-meals for free for the passers-by, the poorer ones or workers who couldn't leave their shifts at the time. Prayers become popular 'social' events that some like to enrich with special food treats before and after. An hour or two later, an astonishing springing to life of the cities takes place. Streets sometimes richly decorated for the whole month have continuous rush hours till very early in the morning. Some shops and cafés make the biggest chunk of their annual profit at this time of year. Costs of advertising on television and radio soars for this period and entertainment performances are at their peak.