Awesome ancient wonders, endless golden sands and atmospheric local souqs make Egypt the ultimate travel destination. From the enigmatic aura of the Sphinx to the imposing glory of the Pyramids, step into the Land of the Pharaohs and discover the exotic charms of evocative Egypt.
Egypt Tours & Travel
All our Egypt trips
Articles on Egypt
Egypt is still ACE
Posted on Thu, 23 Jan 2014 by Jane Crouch
Egypt’s exotic charms and its extraordinary ancient wonders have enchanted intrepid adventurers for centuries. Though of course we know Egypt’s recent political history has been troubled, the news of late [...]Read more
Sam wins Silver at World Guide Awards
Posted on Mon, 14 Oct 2013 by Sue Elliot
We are thrilled to announce that Hossam Moussa, Intrepid Group Leader in Egypt, has received the Silver Award in the prestigious Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2013. This is well-deserved recognition [...]Read more
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Egypt, you may find yourself travelling by:
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
Depending on your choice of trip, when in Egypt you may find yourself staying in a:
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- Cairo (population 7 million)
- 82 million
- Time zone:
- (GMT+02:00) Cairo
- Type C (European 2-pin)
- Dialing code:
Best time to visit Egypt
Egypt is blessed with lots of sunshine and very little rain. Generally, the hottest months are June to August, and the coolest month is January. Rainfall is negligible, except on the coast, with rain usually occurring during the winter months (December to March).
During the summer months (from June to August), daily temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius - perfect for snorkelling and soaking up the sun on the beaches of Sinai, but can prove challenging for some in the crowded streets and souqs of Cairo.
Choose to escape the crowds by travelling from March to May or September to November when the weather is milder, and there's the opportunity to experience Egypt during Ramadan and the celebrations of Eid (which marks the breaking of the fast). If you are planning to travel during Ramadan, it's important to consider that many restaurants and shops will either be closed or operating on reduced hours.
Culture and customs
Just as in ancient times, religion plays a large part in daily life with most Egyptians being either Sunni Muslim or Coptic Christian. Much of life revolves around daily prayer and religious holidays, with Ramadan and Eid being the most important events in the calendar for Muslims. Ornate mosques and historic churches can be found almost everywhere in Egypt, and serve as important places of worship as well as social meeting points.
The influence of modern Western culture is particularly evident in large cities likes Cairo and Alexandria, with television, radio and internet all bringing pop culture, fashion and literature to Egypt. Despite this, Egypt clings strongly to tradition with family still being at the top of most Egyptians' priorities. Loyalty to ones family, respect for elders and honouring ancestors are hallmarks of Egyptian life.
Food is another important part of Egyptian culture with traditional Middle Eastern fare being prepared and served in most family homes, restaurants and markets. Food is also the focal point of most celebrations, as is music - with modern Egyptians keeping folk music traditions alive by playing Arabic instruments like the oud at weddings and other celebrations.
To get the true picture of Egyptian culture and customs, be sure to sample local delicacies, listen to traditional music often played in cafes and restaurants, and chat with locals who wish to share their stories and lives with you. Some Intrepid trips offer the rare chance to stay with a local family - what better way to experience local life?
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
Egyptian food is no exception, and with fragrant spices, fresh fruit and vegetables and delicious sweets on offer, culinary adventures are guaranteed. On many Intrepid trips you'll be given the opportunity to dine with a local family - this offers a great chance to see how meals are prepared and learn more about the ingredients.
Things to try in Egypt
Take the opportunity to tuck into fresh seafood, especially when in coastal regions and cities such as the Red Sea and Alexandria.
Exotic fruits are cheap and plentiful throughout Egypt - why not try guava, mango or melon from a market or street vendor.
3. Ful Medames
Don't leave Egypt without trying the classic dish of ful medames, which can be traced back to pharaonic times. Consisting of slow-cooked fava beans, served with olive oil, parsley, garlic and lemon juice - add some spice by seasoning with chilli paste and eat with bread.
A favourite with vegetarians, falafel (fried chickpea balls) are available at markets and from street vendors, and are generally served as a snack.
5. Tea (also known as shai)
An important part of daily life in Egypt, tea is sipped throughout the day and with meals.
Turkish or Arabic coffee can be found in Egypt, so sit back in a cafe and drink your coffee short, black and sweet like the locals do.
Delicious, sweet pastries are found in restaurants, markets and cafes in Egypt. Never was there a better time to live by the adage "Life is short, eat dessert first".
Geography and environment
The Nile is not the only source of water in Egypt - with coastlines on the Mediterranean and Red Seas, Egypt has enough beaches and ports to provide trade routes, support commercial fishing and satisfy locals and tourists with diving, snorkelling and swimming.
Despite the oppressive heat and lack of farmable land, the deserts of Egypt are home to relatively small numbers of traditional Bedouin people, who typically live a nomadic lifestyle and earn an income through the sale of animals such as camels and goats.
The urban areas of Egypt are typically built-up, crowded and smoggy. Cairo, being the most populated city in Africa, is hot, crowded and often clogged with traffic. Yet the unmistakable buzz and vibrant vibe of this city makes it such an enthralling place to visit.
As Egypt becomes more modernised, a collision of the old and the new becomes more apparent. Ancient souqs, historic mosques and heritage buildings share the city with internet cafes, modern skyscrapers and 5 star hotels. In comparison, smaller towns and rural villages in agricultural areas tend to be slower paced, featuring modest, rustic housing, with locals living a more traditional lifestyle.
History and government
Napoleon Bonaparte, the infamous pint-sized French leader, invaded Egypt in 1798, seeking to set up a French colony. However, not long after, the French were repelled, and Egypt became a part of the Ottoman Empire once again.
From 1882, the British Army occupied Egypt to protect the Suez Canal. Muhammad Ali officially ruled from the early 1800s, and his family and successors continued to rule for decades (alongside and during British occupation) until overthrown by a military coup in 1952.
During World War II, Egypt became a crucial element in Britain's defence. The Italian Army tried to advance into Egypt in 1940 but was stopped by the British Army at Mersa Matruh. Egypt continued to serve as a vital base for British troops during World War II and despite the disruption, Egypt's shopkeepers and retail trade benefitted from the thousands of Allied troops staying in Egypt.
In 1953, Egypt was officially declared a republic and a year later, Colonel Nasser was declared Prime Minister, then President. In 1979, after decades of confrontation with neighbouring Israel, the historic Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed. This agreement made Egypt the first Arab country to officially recognise Israel as a country - a significant step in the peace process. More recently, in February 2011, large scale protests and mass demonstrations resulted in the removal of President Mubarak after decades of autocratic rule.
Ancient Egypt has been the focus of much fascination, investigation, speculation and intrigue. It's hard to escape the education system without having studied Ancient Egypt in some way. Drawn in by the mighty pyramids, mysterious hieroglyphics, distinct burial rituals and animal-headed gods - scholars, students, historians and travellers are all amazed by this civilisation which has endured cycles of dynastic rule, invasion and natural disasters.
Through key archaeological finds, historians have been able to unravel some of the mysteries of this great land. What is known is that the daily life of the average Egyptian usually involved working in agriculture with the waters of the Nile providing fertile ground for planting of crops. Egyptians usually lived in modest homes with children and domestic pets. Professions were usually inherited - so if your father was a farmer, then so were you.
While most Egyptians led simple lives, dynasties of Pharaohs led lavish lifestyles, with the most well-known being Ramses II, Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Cleopatra. Huge monuments, imposing pyramids, golden artefacts and detailed paintings all hold details about pharaonic rule and succession, as well as commonly held beliefs about religion and the afterlife.
Spanning centuries and full of drama worthy of a soap opera, the epic history of Ancient Egypt is complex and we suggest you read about it before visiting.
Top 10 Ancient Wonders of Egypt
1. Grand Designs
The original grand design - monumental and magnificent - the Pyramids of Giza are an impressive achievement in ancient engineering. Towering above the desert sands and standing proudly for centuries, the first glimpse of these stunning structures will render visitors breathless.
2. Stony Enigma
Be captivated by the mysterious aura of the Great Sphinx of Giza. This monolithic mythical beast possesses a lion’s body and a human head - and has sat quietly in the desert sands for eons. Gaze at the Sphinx and try to work out the riddle of its existence.
3. Mighty Nile River
No trip to Egypt is complete without visiting the Nile River - the life force of Egypt that has flowed for centuries. A provider of irrigation, an essential travel route, home to hippos and crocodiles, and now a source of leisure for locals and travellers alike, the Nile is an aquatic link to Egypt’s ancient heritage.
4. Terrific Temples
Discover an enormous open-air museum like no other. The awe-inspiring Temples of Karnak are filled with stately statues, immense columns and gigantic gateways. Explore this intriguing site and be left in no doubt about the brilliance of the ancient Egyptian civilisation.
5. Holy Mountain
Embark on a trek to the top of Mt Sinai and witness an incredible golden sunrise to remember. A place of worship for many faiths, a pilgrimage to Mt Sinai reveals stunning scenery, an ancient monastery and historic chapels. An iconic highlight of Egypt for believers and non-believers alike, Mt Sinai is not to be missed.
6. Double Happiness
Located in the Nile Valley, the unique Temple of Kom Ombo is a ‘double temple’ and a rare archaeological find. Dedicated to two gods, a visit here is a true highlight of an Egyptian escapade. Marvel at the well-preserved wall reliefs, try to decipher the hieroglyphics and honour the craftsmen who created this wonder.
7. Museum Magic
Step into a dazzling world of antiquity at the Egyptian Museum. Be amazed by the glittering treasures recovered from King Tutankhamun’s tomb – with jewellery, furniture, chariots and that famous gold funerary mask, this pharaoh was certainly prepared for the afterlife.
8. Roman Ruins
The Roman ruins of Kom el-Dikka in Alexandria may not be the biggest, but they are certainly among the best-preserved in Egypt, if not the world. Soak up the atmosphere of the Roman amphitheatre and imagine it in all its glory - packed with 800 spectators ready for action.
9. Colossal Characters
Near the modern city of Luxor stand the imposing Colossi of Memnon. These massive stone statues of Amenhotep III, while badly damaged, still maintain an unmistakable air of authority. Stand below them and be dwarfed by the scale of these tremendous figures.
10. The Ancient Heart of Cairo
Wander the cobbled streets of Islamic Cairo and uncover the ancient heart of this chaotic city. Admire mosques, palaces and houses, and peruse the goods on offer at one of the world’s oldest bazaars. Dating back to medieval times, the Khan al-Khalili bazaar is where people have traded goods for centuries.
Exploring the labyrinthine markets of Egypt is a must-do for travellers. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells! Look beyond the shops selling cheap, mass-produced tourist trinkets, and delve deeper to discover quality wares.
Most importantly, have fun and don’t forget to haggle for a good price. It's also a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in Egypt
1. Chunky silver jewellery
2. Hand made leather bags, boots and belts
3. Cotton scarves in a kaleidoscope of colours
4. Authentic papyrus (watch out for fakes made from banana leaves)
5. Boho-style embroidered bedding & cushion covers
6. Handcrafted backgammon boards and jewellery boxes
7. Exquisite perfume bottles made from hand-blown glass (pack carefully)
8. Artisan-made alabaster pots and homewares
Festivals and Events in Egypt
Ramadan and Eid
During the ninth and holiest month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is observed by most in Egypt and is thought to be a time of spiritual rejuvenation. For this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset - refraining from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Eid marks the end of fasting with three days of feasting and celebration.
Abu Simbel Festival
During the Abu Simbel Festival, eager crowds gather at Abu Simbel's Temples of Ramses II to watch the sun's rays reach the innermost chambers of the temple. Only twice a year do the four stone gods that reside within the temple receive sunlight! Food, music and dance follow, yet it's the moment of witnessing the early morning illumination of the temple that's the true highlight.
FAQs on Egypt
Pastry = 5 EGP
Cup of coffee = 5 EGP
Beer = 10 EGP
Short taxi ride = 10 EGP
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Feb 4 Birth of the Prophet
Apr 15 Sham el-Nassim (Coptic Easter)
Apr 25 Sinai Liberation Day (Sinai Only)
May 1 Labour Day
Jul 23 National Day
Aug 19 Bairam Feast (End of Ramadan)
Sep 11 Coptic New Year
Oct 6 Armed Forces Day
Oct 26 Feast of the Sacrifice
Nov 15 Islamic New Year
Please note these dates are for 2012. For a current list of public holidays in Egypt go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/country/80/public_holidays/Africa/Egypt.html
Most nationalities require a visa to enter Egypt as a tourist. Visas are easily attainable on arrival at Cairo airport for most nationalities for US$15 paid in cash, but please check with your travel agent or embassy before departure. On arrival at Cairo airport you buy your visa at any of the banks before proceeding to immigration. You'll be given a stamp that you then need to put into your passport yourself. A single entry visa is valid for three months from date of issue and entitles the bearer to one month in Egypt. Multiple entry visas are not available at the airport or any border crossings. EGYPT overland from Sudan:
You'll need to obtain your visa before you travel. Please contact your nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate for more information. Alternatively you may choose to get your Egyptian visa in Nairobi. This is relatively straight forward but will involve getting a letter from your country's embassy or representative in Nairobi. There may be a fee for this service. You can then apply for your Egyptian visa. PLEASE NOTE - you MUST have an Egyptian visa in your passport before leaving Nairobi in order to obtain a Sudanese visa while we are in Addis Ababa. Most nationalities require a visa to enter as a tourist into Egypt. Visas are available from Egyptian embassy's or consulate's. It is best to arrive with a full Egypt Visa before the trip begins so please consult your travel agent or embassy before departure. Some nationalities are able to obtain this visa on arrival at Nuweiba ferry port when crossing from Jordan. If you are eligible to obtain a visa on arrival at Nuweiba, we recommend you carry approx $20USD cash to pay for this visa.
You will be given a stamp/sticker that you need to put in your passport yourself. This stamp takes up a whole page in your passport so ensure you have a full spare page in your passport.
A single entry tourist visa is valid for three months from date of issue and entitles the bearer to one month in Egypt.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months AFTER your entry date into the country or you may be denied entry at the border.
Entry point into Egypt is Nuweiba on Day 5. PASSPORT PHOTOCOPIES:
Please bring two (2) copies of your passport. These may be used to assist with hotel check-in, and sometimes at road security points. EGYPT:
Australia: Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Yes - on arrival
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany: Yes - on arrival
Ireland: Yes - required in advance
Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - required in advance
Switzerland: Yes - on arrival
United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
USA: Yes - on arrival
Visas are easily attainable on arrival at Cairo airport or Aqaba ferry port for most nationalities for US$20 to be paid in cash, but please check with your travel agent or embassy before departure. On arrival to Cairo airport you buy your visa at any of the banks before proceeding to immigration. You will be given a stamp that you then need to put into your passport yourself. A single entry visa is valid for three months from date of issue and entitles the bearer to one month in Egypt. Multiple entry visas are not available at the airport or any border crossings. EGYPT overland from Sudan:
You'll need to obtain your visa before you travel. Please contact your nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate for more information.
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Egypt Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Egypt
1. Be considerate of Egypt's customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.
3. Ask permission and remove your shoes before entering a place of worship.
4. Ramadan is the fasting month for all Muslims. During this month, no food, drink or smoking is permitted during daylight hours. While non-Muslims visiting Egypt aren't expected to fast, it's recommended to try to avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours.
5. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
6. If riding an animal, please check that it is healthy, well-fed and cared for.
7. Beachwear is fine for when swimming at beaches, in rivers or when sailing - topless sunbathing is not. Ensure to cover up when leaving the beach and before entering towns or villages.
8. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
9. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
10. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
11. Try to avoid using plastic bags and packaging.
12. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
The Intrepid Foundation
The Intrepid Foundation provides travellers with an opportunity to give something back to the many wonderful communities we travel to. By donating to The Intrepid Foundation you can make a difference in local communities - in health care, education, human rights, child welfare and the protection of wildlife and the environment.
In Egypt, the Intrepid Foundation proudly supports:
Animal Care in Egypt (ACE)
This animal hospital on the outskirts of Luxor treats, rehabilitates and feeds thousands of mistreated donkeys, mules, dogs, camels and other animals. Made up of a team of dedicated vets and volunteers, ACE also educates local people on appropriate animal care and welfare.
Image supplied by Julie Hunter.
To learn more or donate, go to: www.theintrepidfoundation.org
|The Cairo Trilogy||Naguib Mahfouz|
|A Thousand Miles Up the Nile||Amelia Edwards|
|In an Antique Land||Amitav Ghosh|
|The Pharaoh's Shadow: Travels in Ancient and Modern Egypt||Anthony Sattin|
|Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt||Joyce Tyldesley|