Top events in Egypt

February
22

One of the most spectacular events in Egypt, the Abu Simbel Festival celebrates the precision with which Ramses II designed the largest temple so...

April
25

Special events are organised throughout the Sinai Peninsula in celebration of the day when Israeli forces withdrew from the region in 1982.

September
11

Bringing together 150 international women tennis players from 25 countries, including Japan, Italy, Russia and the Ukraine, this tournament...

Pyramids, Egypt
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Pyramids, Egypt

© 123rf.com / Fatih Kocyildir

Egypt Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,001,450 sq km (386,662 sq miles).

Population

85.3 million (2013).

Population density

85.2 per sq km.

Capital

Cairo (El Qahira).

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi since 2014.

Head of government

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab since 2014.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Sockets take the continental European-style two-pin plugs.

From iconic pyramids that rise from ancient sands and bustling medieval bazaars full of colour, to the endless desert dotted with oases of palm trees, busy cities and modern coastal holiday resorts offering some of the best diving in the world, Egypt is a living museum and a land packed with amazing attractions.

Egypt is famously the land of the pharaohs. There’s Tutankhamun, the young boy who became a pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and whose solid gold death mask is one of the most famous ancient artefacts ever found. Or Nefertiti, the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton, who is believed to have ruled in her own right and whose beauty is the stuff of legend. Both have given unparalleled romance to the country’s history.

Most of the country’s astonishing monuments that can be visited today were built during the time of the pharaohs. The Pyramids of Giza (the sole survivors of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World), the mighty Sphinx with its body of a lion and a human head, the lotus-columned temples of Luxor and Karnak, the nearby Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, and Hatshepsut’s temple, the Deir el Bahri, have thrilled visitors to Egypt for centuries.

Further south along the Nile, past Aswan, are the temples of Abu Simbel. Built to honour the pharaoh Ramses II and his wife Nefertari, the temples are adorned with statues some 20m (66ft) high carved with unbelievable detail into the sheer rock face and gaze out over a huge stretch of water, the Nasser Lake. The temples are an incredible sight. Here, visitors can enjoy one of the spectacular sound-and-light shows that are staged at many of Egypt’s treasures nightly.

Egypt’s natural assets are equally as potent. The Nile Delta, with its intricate network of rivers that fan out just north of Cairo to reach its rocky Mediterranean coastline around Alexandria, is lush and green. In stark contrast is the sparsely populated desert with wind-polished rock formations and oases. Splitting the desert in two from the Nile Delta to Egypt’s southernmost border is the spine-like Nile River, which has provided water for the country’s population and its agriculture for millennia. The iron-clad mountains of the Sinai and the gleaming underwater landscapes of the Red Sea, complete the country’s diverse landscape.

Egypt is a land of contrasts, ancient and modern, green and barren. Beneath the surface throbs a pulsing Arab state that celebrates its heritage while embracing contemporary life, but recent turmoils, namely the Arab Spring, and another military coup have galvanised a spirit of revolution throughout the nation. Whether the country will ultimately flourish or fade under this ongoing struggle for power remains to be seen. The country is best understood not so much for its great monuments, splendid though they are, but through its people. Observing the call to prayer at sunset or bartering for a bargain in Cairo’s ancient Khan al-Khalili bazaar, taking tea and talking with one of its garrulous residents in a random coffeehouse or simply stopping awhile in a rural village, silent but for the chatter of hooves on tarmac, will give a glimpse of a country full of character, colour and fortitude.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 21 November 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

There is a high threat from terrorism. Three South Korean tourists and their driver were killed at Taba (Sinai) on 16 February, and the group responsible has threatened further attacks. See below for more detail.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

  • the Governorate of North Sinai due to the significant increase in criminal activity and recent terrorist attacks on police and security forces that have resulted in deaths

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

  • the Governorates of Beni Suef, Minya, Asyut and Sohag
  • the Governorate of South Sinai, with the exception of the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier, which includes the airport and the areas of Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq
  • within 50km of the border with Libya
  • the area west of the Nile Valley and Delta Regions, excluding Siwa, Fayoum and the coastal areas (as shown on the map)

The area to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel does not include the tourist areas along the Nile river (eg Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings).

Terrorism

We believe that terrorists continue to plan attacks. Attacks could be indiscriminate and could occur without prior warning. Terrorists could target protestors and the Egyptian authorities. Attacks have mainly been aimed at the security forces, their facilities and other government buildings. You should take great care near these buildings. Attacks targeting foreigners in tourist resorts and elsewhere can’t be ruled out.

A recent anonymous posting on a jihadist website encouraged attacks against British and other western teachers and schools in the Middle East, and specifically referred to the Maadi suburb of Cairo. The FCO is unaware of any specific threat against any school or individual in Egypt. Nonetheless, the FCO is encouraging British schools and schools with large numbers of British teachers to review and enhance their security posture. You should remain vigilant and alert to local security developments.

On 21 September, an IED attack killed two police officers and injured several others in a street close to Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Cairo.

On 19 July, an armed group attacked a security checkpoint along the Farafra-Bawati road in the New Valley governorate, killing 22 border guards. And on 5 August, 5 people were killed in an attack on a security checkpoint vehicle along the coastal road east of Dabaa, in the Matruh Governate.

There were a number of explosions in Cairo on 25 June, including at some Metro stations. There are reports of injuries. Metro services were suspended temporarily but have now resumed.

On 2 May 2014, there were bomb blasts in El Tor (Al Tur) in South Sinai targeting a police check point and a bus. On the same day there was an explosion outside a court building in Heliopolis in Cairo. There were a number of deaths and injuries.

On 16 February, 3 South Korean tourists and their driver were killed in an attack on a bus in Taba (Sinai).

Sharm el Sheikh

Enhanced security measures are in place to protect the Sharm el Sheikh resort areas. Egyptian military are situated in Sharm el Sheikh international airport, at check points around the perimeter of Sharm el Sheikh and throughout the South Sinai Governorate. Routine security checks are being performed on entry into the airport and the police are carrying out vehicle checks in Sharm el Sheikh. There were no violent protests in the South Sinai resorts during recent disturbances in Egypt.

Hurghada

Enhanced security measures are in place to protect the resort areas in Hurghada. Egyptian military are situated in and around Hurghada international airport. There are checkpoints around Hurghada and throughout the Red Sea Governorate. There are roadblocks in place in the town and monitoring of areas often frequented by tourists. In Hurghada on 14 August 2013 there were some violent clashes, in an area away from tourist resorts. One man was killed.

Protests and demonstrations

Protests, marches and demonstrations are common across Egypt. Demonstrations often happen on Fridays, but can occur at any time and with little prior notice.

The atmosphere at demonstrations can change quickly and without warning. Police may use water cannon, tear gas, birdshot or live ammunition for crowd control.

There have been several violent clashes since July 2013 resulting in a large number of deaths. Most of the clashes have taken place in Cairo and Alexandria. At protests in Cairo, Alexandria and Fayoum on 24 and 25 January 2014 there were reports of around 80 deaths. There are ongoing protests and clashes within university campuses across the country.

If you become aware of any nearby protests, leave the area immediately. Don’t attempt to cross road blocks erected by the security forces or protesters. Make sure you keep valid photographic identification with you at all times. Take particular care in areas with a history of regular protests. At protests on 24 and 25 January westerners, including British Nationals, were singled out and attacked by some protestors.

There is a serious risk of violence and sexual assault at demonstrations. NGOs report more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults against women in demonstrations since 30 June 2013. Foreign and Egyptian women have been attacked.

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