Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

17-25 October EGYPT

Practical Information

Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Red Sea to the east, Libya to the West and Sudan to the south, Egypt is located in the northeast corner of the African continent. The Sinai Peninsula, also part of Egypt, bridges the gap between Africa and Asia. Egypt is home to one of the oldest civilizations on earth and its rich history has created a tapestry of cultural and archaeological treasures – so much so that the country is home to one third of the world’s antiquities. Everyone recognizes the iconic Pyramids of Giza and the river Nile, but Egypt’s capital, Cairo, is a destination in itself and the Red Sea coast offers superb opportunities for diving, snorkelling or simply relaxing. The country’s ancient past is still alive in its majestic monuments and relics, while the complexity of modern Egypt entices any visitor.  In ancient times, the country was known as Kemet, or the black land, due to the alluvial soil which was deposited during the annual inundation of the River Nile. This yearly event gave Egypt its fertile land that enabled it to expand along the length of the river, especially in the Delta where many various crops were, and still are, harvested. Egypt covers an area of approximately 1,001,450 kilometres ² (386,662 miles²). It is the third most populous country in Africa and the most populous in the Middle-East with the majority of its estimated 80 million people living on, or near, the banks of the River Nile. Only 5.5% of the total land area is actually used by the population, the area that borders the River Nile as well as a few oases, the other 94.5% being uninhabitable desert.

Getting into Egypt

All visitors are required to carry a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. There should be sufficient blank pages for entry stamps upon arrival. Visas are normally obtainable at the airport upon arrival, but some nationalities may need a pre-arrival visa. Please note that passport holders are responsible for obtaining the required documentation applicable for entry.  

Staying Healthy

No vaccinations are currently needed for visitors to Egypt, unless arriving from countries where yellow fever is endemic. Drink plenty of water when staying outside during the day. Take care from the sun, which can often feel cooler than it really is due to the cool coastal breezes and lack of humidity. Short-term dehydration can cause various unpleasant symptoms including fever, headache and nausea. Fortunately, these disappear rather quickly after a long drink. We recommend that you drink as much water as possible while on tour. You should not drink tap water and avoid ice in your drink unless it is made from mineral water.  Please advise your tour operator of any special dietary requirements/allergies at least six weeks prior to the beginning of your journey. Every effort will be made to comply with your request. Travellers with physical disabilities and those who require frequent or on-going medical attention should advise us of their health situation at the time of booking (or at the time such a situation occurs should this be after the reservation is made). We recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover you in the event of a medical emergency.  

Money

Banks: Banking hours are normally 09:00 until 14:00, Sunday through Thursday, closed on Fridays and Saturdays. Currency exchange houses can be found in most major cities. Most major hotels will exchange major foreign currencies at the same rate as banks.  Currency: Currency is the Egyptian Pound (L.E.) but US dollars are often accepted at tourist sites.  Credit Cards: Major credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted at major restaurants, almost all hotels, and many shops. American Express is less common but is still normally accepted at major hotels. Diners Club Cards are hardly known in Egypt.  

Talk the Talk

The national language in Egypt is Arabic. However, tourists will rarely find a problem communicating as English is widely spoken in hotels and shops, with French a close second, and most staff members in tourist areas also speak German and/or Italian. Useful Phrases
English Arabic
Hello Ahlan
How are you? Ezayak
I am fine Ana Kowayes
I am not fine Ana msh kowayes
Thank you Shok-ran
Beautiful Gameel
Goodbye Maa salaama
 

Weather

Throughout Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, and nights are cool. Egypt has only two seasons: a mild winter from November to April and a hot summer from May to October. The only differences between the seasons are variations in daytime temperatures and changes in prevailing winds. In the coastal regions, temperatures range between an average minimum of 57°F in winter and an average maximum of 86°F in summer. Temperatures vary widely in the inland desert areas, especially in summer, when they may range from 45°F at night to 110°F during the day. During winter, temperatures in the desert fluctuate less dramatically, but they can be as low as 32°F at night and as high as 64°C during the day. Throughout the Delta and the northern Nile Valley, there are occasional winter cold spells accompanied by light frost and even snow. Egypt receives fewer than eighty millimetres of precipitation annually in most areas. Most rain falls along the coast. A phenomenon of Egypt’s climate is the hot spring wind that blows across the country. The winds, known as the khamsin, usually arrive in April but occasionally occur in March and May. The winds reach high velocities and carry great quantities of sand and dust. These sandstorms, often accompanied by winds of up to 140 kilometres an hour, can cause temperatures to rise as much as 68°F in two hours.  

Shopping

Shopping in Egypt can be relaxed and leisurely, at high-class souvenir stores and hotel outlets, or part of an authentic and bargain wielding experience at local bazaars and souks. For the latter, the world-famous Khan El Khalili bazaar is not to be missed, where gold and silver cartouches, carved alabaster, exquisite wooden pieces and intricately embroidered ‘galabeyas’ can be brought for fabulous prices. A healthy amount of bargaining is expected and contributes to the fun of shopping in Egypt. For those preferring a more laid-back experience, some smaller galleries in the affluent residential area of Zamalek offer some beautiful handicrafts and jewellery. Highlights are Alef Gallery for tapestries and handicrafts, and Dima Jewelry as well as Mounaya Gallery for truly exquisite handmade jewellery pieces.  

Religion & Etiquette

Egypt is a Middle Eastern country where both the Muslim majority and the Christian minority are fairly conservative. It’s a country most accustomed to tourists, and for sightseeing in popular areas such as the Pyramids or the main sights of Upper Egypt, shorts and T-shirts are fine. However, you should allow for a more conservative dress code when walking in central Cairo and other cities, and especially in rural areas. When visiting mosques, churches or synagogues, casual, comfortable clothing covering knees and elbows is best, in order to respect the local culture. Around the pool at your hotel or on a cruise, low necklines, sleeveless shirts, or shorts can be comfortably worn; and at the beach in the Red Sea resorts, feel free to dress in your usual beachwear.  

Local Food & Drink

An important part of the traveling experience is to savour the many local culinary delights. All over Egypt, and especially in Cairo, you will find an enormous range of high-class restaurants serving international cuisine.  For those who adore hearty fare, then look no further than Egyptian cuisine. With a plethora of spices and herbs, Egyptian food is a feast not just for the palette, but also for the eyes. From sauce laden stews, to succulent grills, to delicate salads, Egyptian food is a combination of Middle Eastern, Turkish and Mediterranean influences that feature much of the local ingredients on offer in the country. For meat lovers, try tagjin lahma (meat casserole/tajin) or the wonderful sharkasia chicken (Circassian chicken on a bed of rice, covered in a rich and creamy walnut sauce).  Egyptians also have a sweet tooth, so be sure to indulge in national favourites, like Om Ali (bread and butter pudding with nuts and cream), or Konafa (shredded filo dough cooked in butter and syrup).  No Egyptian meal is complete without a fragrant glass of mint tea – and drink it like an Egyptian, very hot and very sweet! Egyptian beverages are varied and cater to many different tastes. The fruit juices are rich and indulgent, with mango, lemon, sugarcane and guava being firm favourites. Traditional drinks have been around for hundreds of years and have become an art form. Amongst the most popular is Karkade, a rich, sweet infusion of the dark red hibiscus flower, usually enjoyed cold but can also be served hot. In addition to juices and traditional drinks, Egypt’s wines have also improved dramatically over the past few years and visitors should try the locally produced wines and beers during their stay.  

What to Pack

Egypt is generally a hot country, so light cotton clothing is advisable for the warmer months (April to September) and a light jacket for the evenings during the cooler months (October to March).
  • Blouses/shirts with long sleeves to protect you from the sun. Short sleeves are also fine. 
  • Cotton t-shirts and tops 
  • Personal toiletries, sun screen, lip balm and insect repellent 
  • Hat, sunglasses and prescription glasses 
  • Comfortable walking shoes 
  • Camera 

Photography

When taking a photograph of locals, it is customary to ask for permission. If you plan to travel with digital photographic and/or video equipment, make certain to pack the specific charging apparatus for each piece of equipment (as well as the appropriate socket plug adaptor and voltage converter if required).  

Time Zone

Egypt is 10 hours ahead of San Francisco.