The thoughts of both young and old is reflected only in a few geographical locations, as in Egypt having dry desert lands separated by a timeless river – The Nile. Past Egypt’s southern perimeter, this river flows about 1500km through high precipices and prairies prior to splitting into various offshoots of the Estuary.
The ‘Red Land’ or ‘deshret’ as was called by olden Egyptians, refers to the extensive desert lands on both sides of the river which served for centuries as a natural fence against an assault. The river basin, ‘Black Land’ or ‘Kemet’, is a stretch of developed land bound within a few kilometers from the river. It was enriched by the annual blizzard up until the 1960s with the erection of the Aswan High Dam.
In olden times, the Nile Valley was the most inhabited region and as such the majority of residual Egyptian memorials are situated there. It is also the location with the highest tourist activities.
With an upgrade to the airports in its major cities (Cairo, Luxor and Aswan), air travel has been a prevalent method of entry to Egypt. A diver’s heaven, the Red Sea coast with its coral reefs and wide sandy beaches is gaining widespread popularity with resorts like Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada.
Scheduled tour bundles are available to meet every desire and expense. It should be noted that the Nile Valley is not the only epic location, and ‘expert trips’ to the Oases of the Western Desert as well as the Eastern Desert and Sinaiare now being put together.
Visitors who desire a cruise are provided with flat-based riverboats commonly called ‘floating palaces’. These simply deluxe or obviously flashy riverboats move from Luxor to Aswan and back through the Nile weekly. After being delayed due to security reasons, the long cruise from Cairo to Aswan has resumed. A range of 9 to 15 day scheduled trips are available to visitors.
These cruises are typically escorted by Egyptologists to provide guidance around the sites in a rapid tour of knowledge and humor. On shorter cruises, visitors have the chance of combining about three weeks’ worth of holiday into one week.
You can observe the Nile river banks, unchanged since olden times, silently float by while in-between visiting memorials and enjoying large meals. There are now also cruises available on Lake Nasser which takes in the Nubian memorials.
For solo travelers or a holiday with friends, inter-city travel is made easy by air, train or air-conditioned coaches. There are also many lesser pocket-friendly local hotels and larger five-star tourist hotels.
Egypt is a hot and dry country with varying temperatures from North to South. Its ‘high season’, October to March, holds the highest number of tourist visitations. Extremely high temperatures are prevalent in the summers, especially in Upper Egypt having up to 50oC (122oF) in June and July.
Right after the sunset in the winter, the contrast in temperature presents a very cold feeling. During this period in Aswan, temperature averages about 25oC (77oF) and in Cairo, 10oC (50oF). The winter period might present a little rain in Cairo and the Delta, despite the rarity of rainfall in Upper Egypt.
Khamsin (literally ‘fifty’) is a heavy dry wind which blows from the Western desert for about 50 days in March or April, scattering fine sand particles everywhere.
Time Zone and DST
Egypt is ahead of Greenwich Mean Time by two hours (GMT +2).
The major populace in Egypt is Muslims by religion with Arabic as its lingua franca. Standard Arabic is used in writing for newspapers and other literature. However, Egyptian Arabic is quite different from that of other Arab nations.
Though typically understood in most regions, there is an informal language known as ‘street Arabic’ which is different all over Egypt. For instance, the variance in speech between Cairo and Luxor is very obvious and as such, knowledge of some fundamental Arabic words would be very useful while on tour in Egypt.
However, Egyptians are quite proficient in languages and most of the locals you will meet will speak English and/or several other European languages. Also, your nationality will be precisely predicted from your attire even before you utter a word.
The government is recently encouraging the inclusion of foreign languages in school curriculum, and older kids love to practice their skills. In the heavily inhabited tourist regions kids from 2 years old and above will already know how to say ‘welcome to Egypt’, ‘what’s your name’, ‘baksheesh’, ‘pen’, and ‘give me money/sweets/cigarette’ in various languages!