Egypt does not only have one of the most stable climates in the Middle East and Mediterranean region. But the real treasure of Egypt is its rich variety of locations and its exceptional ability to “clone” or provide replicas of other parts of the globe. All this in addition to its close proximity to European, African, and Middle Eastern capitals qualifies Egypt to be the perfect destination for filmmakers and producers.
Egypt has five thousand years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest Civilizations and for millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that influenced later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
After the Pharaonic era, Egypt itself came under the influence of Hellenism, Christianity, and Islamic culture.
Today, many aspects of Egypt’s ancient culture exist in interaction with newer elements, including the influence of modern Western culture, itself with roots in ancient Egypt.
Egypt’s capital city, Cairo, is Africa’s largest city and has been renowned for centuries as a center of learning, culture and commerce. Egypt has the highest number of Nobel Laureates in Africa and the Arab World.
Egypt stretches over more than a million square kilometers (386102 sq mi). More than 94% of the land area is barren desert, which has induced 90% of the population to squish into just 3% of the total land area, the fertile Nile Valley and Delta.
Egypt borders Libya in the west, Sudan in the south, the Mediterranean Sea in the north, and the Red Sea and Westbank in the east. The eastern region, across the Suez Canal, is Sinai. This region slopes up to the high mountains of Mt. Katherine (Gebel Katarina at 2642m/8666ft is Egypt’s highest point) and Mt. Sinai.
Along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, there are countless white-sand beaches, some developed as tourist resorts, but many still pristine and isolated. North of Cairo, the Nile splits into a series of tributaries that flow into the Mediterranean.
The Islamic (or Hejri) calendar is a full 11 days shorter than the Gregorian (Western) calendar, so public holidays and festivals fall 11 days earlier each year. Ras as-Sana is the celebration of the new Islamic year, and Moulid an-Nabi celebrates the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday around May.
These celebrations include parades in the city streets, with lights, feasts, drummers and special sweets. Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It was during this month that the Quran was revealed to Mohammed, and out of deference the faithful take neither food nor water until after sunset each day. At the end of Ramadan, (Eid al-Fitr) the fasting breaks with much celebration and gaiety.
Eid al-Adha is the time of the pilgrimage to Mecca, and each Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage (haji) at least once in a lifetime. Streets are decorated with colored lights and children play in their best clothes. The ritual of Mahmal is performed in each village as passing pilgrims are given carpets and shrouds to take on their journey.
Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from last Friday in April to last Friday in September).
Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
Money: The unit of currency is the Egyptian Pound (E£), which is divided into 100 piasters. Notes are in denominations of E£100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Most credit cards are accepted. Banks are usually closed on Friday and Saturday, but private exchange bureaus are open on daily basis. Most ATMs now accept Visa, Mastercard and Cirrus. American Express cards are also available.
Language: Arabic is the official language although English and French are widely spoken, especially in the tourist areas.
Getting Around: Egypt has a very good system of public and private transport. Domestic air travel is clearly the quickest way to get around. Otherwise the transport options include buses, trains and boats. Traveling inside Egypt is a great way to meet local people and get a feel for the culture. Buses service virtually every town in Egypt and the 5000km (3100mi) of rail also connects just about every town in the country from Aswan to Alexandria.
Out & About Cairo: The most efficient and reliable public transport in Cairo is the Metro, which has the added advantage of being very cheap. The route connects Helwan in the south of the city to Heliopolis in the north with various branches to Shubra, Ataba and Abdin. There is also a subway line between Giza and Shubra. Trains run from 5.30am to midnight, the first carriage of each reserved for women only. The streets of Cairo are well supplied with taxis and walking is a fairly good option for taking in the atmosphere of Cairo, as well.
Tipping: Tipping is known as ‘baksheesh’ and some small change is expected for most services. A service charge is added to most restaurant and hotel bills, but a 5% tip is normally given directly to the waiter. Taxi drivers are tipped about 10%.
Communications: The international access code for Egypt is +20. The outgoing code is 00 followed, but the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). Telephone and Telegraph (PTT) offices that are available in the major cities. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with all major European operators; US cell phones won’t work. Mobile phones work in the major towns and cities and most of the country is covered. Internet cafes are available in the main streets on most districts.
Cairo International Airport (CAI): Egypt ‘s national air carrier is EgyptAir, and Air Sinai also has good connections in Egypt. Most travelers come into Egypt through Cairo, although people are increasingly disembarking at Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Hurghada (Al-Ghardaka) and Sharm el-Sheikh. These airports are serviced by a number of smaller carriers and charter companies with direct connections to Europe. The airport is situated 15 miles (24km) from Cairo. Contacts: Tel: +20 (2) 291 4255/66/75. Transfer between terminals: The two terminals are two miles (3km) apart and are linked by a free shuttle, which departs about every half an hour. Transfer to the city: There are taxis outside the main arrivals hall, the journey to central Cairo takes around 45 minutes.
Car rental: Car hire companies at the airport include Avis, Budget, Europcar and Hertz. However, driving in Cairo is best avoided; otherwise visitors can hire a driver with their car for a small additional charge. Facilities: Left luggage, a 24-hour bureau de change, postal services and tourist information desks. Departure tax: None.