Egypt, new dimensions, new frontiers

Introduction - Facts for the travellers - Where to go, what to see? - History: Pharaonic history -
Coptic history
- Islamic history - Modern history - Holy Family - Useful Arabic

Facts for the travellers

Aswan and the Nile

When to go

When to go to Egypt will depend a lot on where you want to go. You'll find wandering around Upper Egypt and Luxor uncomfortably hot in the summer months (June to August) and winter is definitely the best time to be in these areas. Summer is also the time when the Mediterranean coast is at its most crowded. However, winter in Cairo can get pretty cool, so spring and autumn are the best times to be there. Ideally, mid-May to mid-April would be the best time to come to enjoy the warm days without the crush of bodies on the beaches and the midday heat of high summer.


The unit of the currency is Egyptian pound (LE) divided into 100 Piastres (PT). Banknotes come in 25 PT, 50 PT, 1 LE, 5LE, 10 LE, 20 LE, 50 LE, 100 LE.
Most currencies can be easily exchanged at banks, hotels and authorized foreign exchange dealers.

Payment & Taxes

Well-known brands of travellers' cheques will be honoured everywhere, although having travellers' cheques in US dollars, UK pounds or in Deutschmarks will prove the most hassle-free.
American Express, Visa, MasterCard, JCB and Eurocards are accepted at various stores and hotels displaying the appropriate signage. Visa and MasterCard can be used to obtain cash advances at Banque Misr and Bank of Egypt branches.

A service charge of 12% applies in restaurants and hotels, and a sales tax of 5- 7% is also levied. Additionally, you might find yourself paying a further 1-4% tax on upper-end accommodation, so it is possible to find that a 23% tax has been added to the price you've been quoted for a mid-range or top-end hotel room.


Banking hours are 8:30 am to 2:00 pm sunday to thursday.
Here are the contacts for some of them in Cairo.

Al-Watany Bank of Egypt 13 Samer St. Mohandessin, P.O. BOX 63 (202) 336 80 55
Arab African Bank 5 El Saray El Kobra Sq., Cairo (202) 794 50 94/5/6
Bank Misr 151 Mohamed Farid St.,Cairo (202) 391 21 72
Bank of Alexandria 49 Kasr El Nil St.,Cairo (202) 395 45 46
Banque du Caire 22, Adly Street, Cairo (202) 390 89 88
Cairo Barclays 12 El Sheikh Yousef Sq.,Garden City, Cairo (202) 366 26 00 - (202) 366 27 69
Cairo for East Bank 104 El Nil St., Cairo (202) 336 51 17/18/19
Central Bank of Egypt 31 Kasr El Nil St.,Cairo (202) 392 62 11
CIB Nile Tower Building 21/23 Giza St. P.O. Box 2430, Cairo (202) 570 30 43
Citibank 4 Ahmed Pasha St., Garden City, Cairo (202) 356 35 98
Delta International Bank 1113, Corniche El Nil St., Cairo (202) 575 34 92
Egyptian American Bank 4/6 Hassan Sabry St., Zamalek, Cairo (202) 341 73 30 - (202) 339 15 09

Egyptian Gulf Bank EGB

El Orman Plaza Building.
8,Ahmed Nessim St. Giza, Cairo
PO BOX 56 El Orman

(202) 760 65 94 - (202) 360 34 61
Housing and Development Bank 12, Syria St., Mohandeseen, Giza, Cairo, Egypt (202) 349 20 13/14/15
Lloyds Bank 44 Mohamed Mazhar St., Cairo (202) 340 53 65
Misr America International Bank 12 Nady El Saeed St., Dokki, Giza (202) 361 66 13
Misr Exterior Bank Cairo Plaza Building, Cornish El Nil, Boulaque, Cairo (202) 578 07 12
Misr International Bank 54 El Batal Ahmed Abel Aziz St., Mohandesseen, Cairo (202) 349 80 61
Mohandes Bank 30 Ramses St., Cairo (202) 335 57 90
National Bank of Egypt 24, Sherif St.,Cairo (202) 574 60 00 - (202) 574 69 99
National Société Générale Bank Head Office 10 Talaat Harb St., Evergreen Building, Cairo, Egypt (202) 574 93 76
Nile Bank 35 Ramses St., Cairo (202) 574 14 17
Suez Canal Bank 11 Sabry Abu Alam St., Zamalek, Cairo (202) 393 11 33

Business hours

Normal office hours private and government, are approximately 8:30 am to 4:00 pm with great variations, throughout the week from Saturday to Thursday. All normaly close on Fridays.
Many shops are closed on sunday, most do not open until at least 10:00am, but stay open until late at night.
Some private companies are open in the afternoon from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Some of them close on Saturdays, including foreign ambassies and consulates.


There's a very good system of public and private transport in Egypt. Domestic air travel is clearly the quickest way to get around, although it's probably only worth considering if you have lots of money and little time. Otherwise the transport options include buses, trains and boats, and even camels, donkeys and horses.
Taxi are plentiful and are inexpensive, although they are often in disrepair. Taxi fares should by law be metered, however in practice this is not often adhered to, the usual reason being that the meter is broken (for more details see "Taxi" in SPECIAL FOCUS ON CAIRO ).
However, it is also possible to use rental car offices, which have offices at the hotels front desk with fixed tariffs pending on the fare.
If you're claustrophobic or have a weak stomach you might be uncomfortable travelling on the buses and trains, but they are a great way to meet local people and get a feel for the culture. Buses service virtually every town in Egypt and the 5000 km of rail also connects just about every town in the country from Aswan to Alexandria.
You can also hire service taxis which shunt car loads of passengers between towns and cities. These vehicles are traditionally Peugeot 504s, however Toyota minibuses are becoming popular as service taxis, and they usually congregate at the train and bus stations. The drivers wait until they're full (very full!) before they budge.

From Town to Town
Distances between Cairo and main cities

Cities Kilometers Miles
Abu Simbel 1 235 768
Abydos 489 304
Al-Alamein 293 182
Alexandria 217 135
Assiut 386 231
Aswan 926 556
Damietta 295 114
Edfu 818 490
Esna 755 453
Fayoun 100 62
Heliopolis 24 15
Helwan 26 16
Hurghada 510 317


Egypt's national air carrier is EgyptAir, and Air Sinai also has good connections in Egypt. Most travellers come into Egypt through Cairo, although people are increasingly disembarking at Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh. These airports are serviced by a number of smaller carriers and charter companies with direct connections to Europe.
Here is the listing of the international airlines' offices in Cairo

Aeroflot 18 El Bustan St., Cairo (202) 390 04 29
Air Algerie 13 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 575 06 88
Air Canada 26 Mohmoud Bassiouny St., Cairo (202) 575 89 39
Air Djibouti (GSA) 16 Adly St., Cairo (202) 390 70 32
Air France 2 Talaat Harb Sq., Cairo (202) 574 35 16
Air India 1 Tallat Harb St., Cairo (202) 393 48 64
Air Malta 2 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 574 74 20
Air China 18 Youssef El Gandy St., Cairo (202) 390 82 09
Air Ukrenia 9 Degla St., Mohandessin, Giza (202) 348 12 01
Alia 8 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 575 06 14
Alitalia Nile Hilton Hotel, Cairo (202) 574 09 84
A. M. C El- Nozha El Gadeda, Cairo (202) 291 58 18
American Airlines 22 Gihad St., Mohandessin, Giza (202) 345 57 07
Austrian Airlines 22 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 392 15 22
Balkan 17 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 393 12 11
British Airways 1 Abdel Salam Aref St., Cairo (202) 578 07 43/6
Brazilian Airlines 37 Abdel Khalem Sarwat St., Cairo (202) 391 13 97
Cathay Pacific 20 El Gehad St., Mohandessin , Giza (202) 302 96 27/8
Czechoslovak 9 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 393 04 16
Cyprus Airways 16 Adly St., Cairo (Bon Voyage Co. ) (202) 390 76 69
Delta 17 Ismail Mohaamed St., Zamalek, Cairo (202) 341 94 09
Egypt Air 6 Adly St. 12, Kasr El Nil St. (202) 392 09 99/5750600
El Al 5 El Makrizi St., Zamalek, Cairo (202) 341 16 20
Emirates Airlines Marriot Hotel, Zamalek, Cairo (202) 340 10 87
Ethiopian Airlines Nile Hilton Hotel, Cairo (202) 574 09 11
Finnair 15 Tahrir Square, Cairo (202) 776 89 5
Gulf Air 64 Gamet El Dowal El Arabia St., Giza (202) 574 33 36
Iberia 15 Tahrir Square, Cairo (202) 578 99 55
Interflug 1 Adly St., Cairo (202) 391 08 28
Iraq Airways 22 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 575 42 00
Jal (Japan) Nile Hilton Hotel, Cairo (202) 574 06 95
Jat (Yougoslav) Nile Hilton Hotel , Cairo (202) 574 21 85
Kenya Airways Nile Hilton Hotel, Cairo (202) 576 24 94
KLM 11 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 574 80 04/6
Korean Airlines 2 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 574 93 60
Kuwait Airways 4 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 574 24 47
Libyan Airlines 37 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 574 46 83
Lot (Polish) 1 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 575 74 03
Lufthansa 9 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 339 83 39
Malev (Hungary) 12 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 574 49 59
MEA (Middle East) 12 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 575 08 25
Olympic 23 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 393 12 79
Pan American 2 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (EMECO) (202) 574 73 39
Philippine Airlines 17 Ismail Mohamed St., Cairo,Zamalek (202) 342 04 53
PIA (Pakistan) 22 Kasr El Ni St., Cairo (202) 392 41 34
Qantas 1 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 749 90 0
Romanian Airline 97 El Montazah St., Nozha, Cairo (202) 245 69 93
Royal Air Maroc 9 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 393 05 61
Sabena Mariette St., Tahrir Sq., Cairo (202) 751 19 4
SAS 2 Champolion St., Cairo (202) 575 39 55
Saudia 10 Talaat Harab St., Cairo (202) 574 75 75/8
Singapore Nile Hilton Hotel, Cairo (202) 575 02 76
Somali Airways 14 Chaopolion St., Cairo (202) 574 35 37
Sudan Airways 1 Boustn St., Cairo (Abdel Salam Aref St. ) (202) 574 71 45
Swissair 22 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 392 15 22
Syrian Airlines 25 Talaat Harab St., Cairo (202) 392 82 58
Transamerica Airlines 3 Behler Passage, Cairo(Perfect Tours ) (202) 575 42 77
Tunis Air 14 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 575 34 20
Turkish Airlines 3 Mostafa Kamel Sq., Cairo (202) 758 93 9
TWA 1 Kasr El Nil St., Cairo (202) 574 99 04
Uganda Airlines 1 Abdel Hamid Badawi, Heliopolis, Cairo (202) 245 65 35
United Airlines 16 Adly St., Cairo (202) 391 19 50
Yemen Airways 10 Talaat Harb St., Cairo (202) 574 07 11

Communication & Medias

Telephones and faxes: The telephone system in Egypt has been upgraded throughout the nineties and the use of faxes is quite widespread. Mobile phones and car phones are seen as a luxury commodity.
Newspapers and Publications: The major daily newspapers Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar, published in Arabic, are leading newspapers throughout the Middle East.

Foreign press available in Egypt:

Daily News

-The Egyptian Gazette, purports to offer international and local news (English).
-Le Progrès Egyptien, same as The Egyptian Gazette in French

Weekly papers

-Middle East Time, better upcoming events coverage (in English).
-Al-Ahram Weekly, better international coverage (in English)
-Al-Ahram Hebdo, in French.
Biweekly issues

-Cairo Times, high standard and appealing full-color format have given it a preeminent position in the local news market (in English).
-Middle East Observer, "Economic covering the Middle East, Arab Gulf and African Markets" (in English).

Monthly publications

-Egypt Today, for the cosmopolitan Cairene (in English)
-Business Today, for anyone doing business in Egypt (in English).


The Egyptian radio features several Arabic channels some of which are transmitted to several countries in the Middle East. FM channels also include English-speaking programs.


Egypt's television features eight state operated channels that are mainly in Arabic. Channel two features programs in English and French. The use of satellite channel receivers is quite widespread in Egypt's major cities.


Egypt -


Light clothing is recommended in summer time where business meeting usually call for a dark suit. In wintertime, a warm suit fot business meeting and a jumper for casual outings are recommended. On formal occasions, a dinner jacket and tie may be worn (the tie is compulsory inside the Opera House).


Specific restrictions apply during Ramadan, the holy month of Islam. During this period the religious Egyptian fasts. Observance of this abstinence is universal. The Egyptian is allowed to eat, drink, or smoke during the hours of darkness only. The visitor should take note, and not suggest a working lunch during this period. During Ramadan, the foreigner should refrain from smokin, eating and drinking in front of the Egyptian during the day time. These activities should be strictly limited to the hotels during this period.

Egyptian Food

The Egyptian Kitchen is renowned for its tasty disheswhich appeal to million, , af visitors to Egypt. Elegant arestaurants like " felfela " down town and others in major hotels, offer delicious oriental selection such as Kofta, Kebab, Mulukheyya, Foul, Tameyya and Kushary.

Health risks

The more common problems are gastroenteritis upsets when drinking tap water. Hence, it is advisable to always drink bottled water and to wash fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating them.
The Nile is polluted and carries both giardia and schistosomiasis, both nasty things you do not want to get. Don't eat fish from the Nile and don't swim in it. And because of the variation in storage and cooling, don't eat any seafood from anywhere that has even a faint off-taste.

Cairo by night


Felucca rides

The hourly price for Feluccas now ranges from LE15 to LE20 depending of the sizeof the boat. It is worth it. The places near Felfela in maadi allow for more varied and longer rides as no bridges obstruct the Feluccas cruising. But the once in town near the Helnan Shepheard and Le Méridien are fine, even though after your tenth trip the basin feels like a bathtub. Feluccas are perfect for catching the breeze on a hot summer night, And for brisker sails the rest of the year. They are ideal for and impromptu party after work, or romantic evening and for soothing the tots on the weekends. Mosquito repellent is vital in the marshy waters near Maadi.

Café and shisha

It is man's world when it comes to cafés, and it is rare to see none-Egyptian men let alone women in any ot them. The exceptions are to be found in Khan Al-Khalili, on the terraceof the Nile Hilton, on the top deck of Le Pacha 1901, at the Odeon bar, and at the Hurrya in Bab Al-Luq under the footbridge. Order apple tobacco (tofah) in your shisha (water pipe). It is cool, delicious, heady in the harmless way and smells divine.

Belly Dancing

What you will see on the Nile Cruise boats, which is all most tourists see, ranges from the sublime to the silly, mostly folling closer to the later. It is definitely worth the loss of a night's sleep while in Cairo to see both the Las Vegas-like production of the big hotels with Fifi Abdu at the Cairo Sheraton and Dina at the Nile Hilton, or the more authentic, heartfelt affairs at the night clubs along the Pyramids and King Faysal roads, off 26th July street down town, or at the Cave du Rois in Zamalek. Salma at the Casino El-Nahr is also a must-see.

Shopping, nightlife etc.

Cairo offers an incredible selection of shopping leisure and night life. Shopping ranges from the famous Khan El-Khalili souk, a bazaar largely unchanged since the 14th century, to modern air-conditioned centres displaying the latest fashions. All the bounty of the East is here : particular good buys are spices, perfumes, gold and silver, carpets, brass and copperware, leatherwork, glass, and ceramics.
Try some of the famous street market, like wekalat Al-Balah, for fabrics, including Egyptian cotton, Mohammed Ali Street for musical instrument. Although you probably won't want to buy , the Camel Market (Souk al Gamal) also makes a fascination trip.


Bargaining is a part of life in Egypt and virtually everything is open to negotiation. This includes your room for the night, your lunchtime roadside snack and the felucca you ride down the Nile in. The few rules to observe in the bazars are these: never offer a price that you're not prepared to pay, get a feel for the real price before you begin haggling, take your time and enjoy the friendly sport of it (which might include a cup of tea from the vendor), and remember that you're never obliged to buy anything - you won't offend anyone.

Recommended Reading

Charlie Pye-Smith's The Other Nile is a highly readable account of the author's journey through Egypt up the Nile into Sudan. He contrasts this trip with another he made in the 1970s through Ethiopia and Sudan.
An Egyptian Journal is William Golding's version of events on the Nile River journey that so many other scribes undertaken.
A Thousand Miles up the Nile is a famous work by Englishwoman Amelia Edwards who travelled the famous river in 1873-4. This book is a little long-winded but is very interesting and presents an unusual perspective on this classic river journey.
EM Forster's Alexandria: A History & A Guide was written during WWI, but it is still regarded as the best historical guide to the city. Forster recreates 2000 years of Alexandria's history and then takes the traveller through the city's attractions. A recent edition has included annotations and updates.
There's a plethora of books about ancient Egyptian history, but among the best are The Penguin Guide to Ancient Egypt by William J Marnane; The British Museum Book of Ancient Egypt edited by Stephen Quirks and Jeffery Spencer; The Ancient Egyptians: Religious Beliefs & Practices by Rosalie David; and Great Cairo: Mother of the World by Desmond Stewart.
For an account of Egypt's modern history look for In Search of Identity which is Anwar Sadat's autobiography. Sadat explains the events leading up to the 1952 revolution and the birth of the modern nation.
Nasser - The Final Years, by Abdel Magid Farid, looks at the period between the 1967 war with Israel and Nasser's death in 1970.
Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot is one of Egypt's most notable historians, and his A Short History of Modern Egypt is fine book that examines Egypt's
development since 639 AD.

Egyptian Tourism Authority Offices in Egypt

Cairo Tel. Code
Tourist information Adly St. 3913454 02
Tourist information Pyramids 3838823
Tourist information Airport 4157475 Ext : 3640

International Airport 2914255 Ext : 2223
New Airport 2914277
Tourist information Railway Station 5790767
Tourist information Manial Palace 3633006

Raml Station Saad Zaghlul St. 4843380 03
Nuzha Nuzha Airport 4202021
Marine Passenger Station Alex.. Port 803494
Misr Station 4925985

Port Said
Main Office Palestine St. 235289 066
Reswah Custom Area 221687

Main Office Canal St. 331141 062
Port Tawfeeq (town) Port Tawfeeq 235289
Port Tawfeeq (port) Port Tawfeeq 22204

Tourist information Governorate Bldg 343044 064

Red Sea
Hurghada information Bank Misr St. 44420/1 065

Tourist information Nile St. 373294 095
Luxor Airport 3732215

Tourist information Tourist Souk 323297 097
Tourist information Raylway Station 312811

The New Valley
Tourist information Kharga 901611 092
Governorate Bldg 901206

Marsa Matruh
Matrouh information Governorate Bldg 931841 03

North Sinai
Al Arish Fouad Zikry St. 340569 068

South Sinai
Sharm El-Sheikh 600170 062


Cairo, capital of Egypt

Although it might be a grey, polluted and chaotic city, Cairo is inundated with history and culture. Its beautiful mosques and high rise buildings punctuate the skyline, winding along the Nile and its many bridges and islands.

In the street, traffic has no rules; cars are racing around like bumper cars, honking endlessly to warn pedestrians and cars that they are passing through. Street lights are just for decoration; no one pays attention to them. Older men wear long white robes, and women are sometimes completely covered in traditional black robes.

In the streets small cafés are everywhere - they are a place to sit and watch the traffic, smoke honey-flavoured tobacco (called Maassel) with water pipes, commonly known as shishas, and have an mint tea or Arabic coffee. You will notice that the air is punctuated by the rythm of cars honking and melodic Arabic music.

There is a certain excitement to be in the middle of such a chaotic, unrehearsed symphony. At night the city transforms itself into a more quiet, picturesque version of Cairo by day. It's almost romantic - you will usually find lovers gathering on the bridges of the Nile river to look at the river glistening in the moonlight.

Five times a day chants calling for prayer bellow out of loud speakers, producing a constantly changing, peaceful hum in the air. This is most impressive at sunrise, when the call for prayer breaks the serenity of dawn.

As in most developing countries, poverty is everywhere. A large family might live in a small shack, while right next door an affluent family will live in a huge villa with their Mercedes and guards outside. It is really in countries like these when you realize how large the economic disparities are, because here you can see them side by side.

However, Egyptians are generally happy and friendly people. They are devout Muslims, and one is constantly reminded of the importance of God, or Allah, in their lives. When asking someone how they are doing, the answer is always: Kwayyes, El-Hamdulillah! (Good, thanks be to God!).

Cairo is certainly a living celebration of life, improvised and disorderly yet charming and deeply rooted in Arabic and African culture.

Getting around
WALKING is preferred, of possible. It is the most fun, and for short distances, the fastest. This way you will get the opportunity to blend into the city and its small streets. Of course, keep an eye out for the chaotic traffic and run down sidewalks. Crossing the streets encircling Midan al-Tahrir is the best way to practice the art of pedestrian survival; it doesn't get any worse, and once you have mastered it, you are a pro.

Cairo's METRO is efficient and trains run every few minutes from 6am to midnight. Stations are signposted with a large "M", and tickets can be purchased at the station; 30 piastres (US 10 cents)for up to two stops, 60 piastres (US 17 cents) from the centre to anywhere, 80 piastres (US 23 cents) from one end of the line to the other). A useful tip: hang on to your ticket to get through the automatic barriers at the other end. Travelling without a ticket will result in a small fine (5 EGP).

TAXIS are everywhere; they are all painted black and white and many of them are old, banged up Peugeot cars. They are a relatively quick, cheap and secure way of transport. However, beware of the taxis in front of hotels which offer a "special price for special service". Basically, they will over-charge at any possible opportunity if you are a tourist. Do not let them bully you; usually a cab ride should be between 3 and 5 Egyptian pounds for a trip within the downtown area. The trick is to give the taxi driver your cash while you are getting out the door, or better yet, once you have already walked out of the car. For directions, try to have the address of where you are going written on a piece of paper, in Arabic if possible.
Anyway, you need a professional private driver with a Mercedes air-conditioned car ? Call Mr. Tarek Lahza at 012 270 52 29 (mobile) or (202) 507 13 24. This man knows everything in town and furthermore speaks a very good English!

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© World INvestment NEws, 2000.
This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Egypt published in Forbes Global Magazine.
August 7th 2000 Issue.
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