Egypt – General information
Location: Northeast Africa
Area: 1,001,450 sq km
Population: 71,236,000 (2006)
Population density: 71 per sq. Km
Capital: Cairo (El Kahira) – Population: 7.836.000 (2006)
Form of government: presidential republic since 1953. Constitution of 1971, since 1981 emergency laws apply. Bicameral parliament (People’s Assembly and Shura Council). Independent since 1922 (former British protectorate)
Geography: Egypt is bordered to the north by the Mediterranean and to the south by Sudan, to the west by Libya and to the east by the Red Sea and Israel. The Nile Delta is located in Lower Egypt and the Nile Valley in Upper Egypt. East of the Suez Canal lies the Sinai Peninsula. About 99% of the population live in the agricultural delta of the Nile Valley. Oases are the only remnants of formerly fertile lowlands. The narrow coastal regions on the Mediterranean and on the African side of the Red Sea are inhabited. By the Aswan Dam, the flood is bled in, which used to flood the Nile Valley.
Language: The official language is Arabic. French and English are spoken frequently.
94% of the inhabitants are Muslims (almost exclusively Sunnis). 6% are Christian minorities.
MEZ + 1. The last Friday of April to the last Friday of September: CET + 2 (summer time in Egypt = standard time CET (winter time in Central Europe) + 2 hours). Difference to Central Europe is + 1 hour in winter and summer respectively
220 V, 50 Hz. In some rural areas 110-380 V. Bipolar sockets are standard.
Egypt – Climate
Egypt is mostly located in the subtropical dry belt with small amounts of precipitation. An exception is the Nile Delta and the approximately 700 km long coast of the Mediterranean, where there are often winter precipitation.
Egypt is divided into five climatically distinct weather zones:
Mediterranean area and Nile Delta
The climate is characterized by mild winters and very warm summers. The average daily temperatures are 17-20 degrees. In the after, it cools down to 8-11 degrees.
The northern regions around Alexandria have about 30 rainy days a year (mostly in winter). The highest temperatures are in the spring. Summer and autumn are also very hot. The daily values vary from 28-32 degrees with maximum values around 45 degrees. At night, the temperature drops to 19-24 degrees. The humidity is 60-75% annual average, which makes the temperature feel even higher. The water has a temperature of about 28 degrees in summer and 17 degrees in winter.
In the lower Nile valley (from Cairo to Asyut) you will find rather mild winters. In summer, however, it is considerably hotter with low rainfall at a humidity of 40-60%. The average temperature is 18-22 degrees during the day and 4-9 degrees at night. The maximum temperatures are 48 degrees.
In the upper Nile Valley, the winter months are rather mild. Spring and autumn are usually warm. The summer months, however, are very hot and dry. In Luxor it rains an average of 2 days a year. It has already measured maximum temperatures of 50 degrees.
Coast of the Red Sea
Here usually mild to warm winter prevails with temperatures over 20 degrees, even at night. The summer is long, hot and very dry. The bathing temperatures in the sea are from 20-29 degrees.
The Sinai occupies a special position due to its geographical location. Here, the weather is different than on the Egyptian mainland with very cool winter temperatures, which do not exceed 15 degrees Celsius at higher altitudes during the day. At night it is quite cool with 5 degrees. In summer, however, temperatures rise to 32 degrees with a humidity of 20-40%. It rains for 1-3 days in the year.
Best travel time for a holiday in Egypt
In the area around Luxor is the best time from November to March.
The area around Cairo is best traveled between October and April.
By the Red Sea is the best time to travel from April to October.
Egypt – Fauna
Except for the Nile bank and the delta, Egypt is a very dry country. In the delta area and on the Nile, there are many waterfowl such as herons, cranes and Nile groves.
In the winter months, many European migratory birds join. Also native to it are robbery and carrion birds such as the Milan, the lammergeier and the hawk.
In addition to domesticated camels, the largest mammals in the country are donkeys, sheep and goats, as well as jackals, hyacinths, feneks, wild cats and, in the mountains of the country, the ibex. There are no more wild camels. You can also meet jackals and wild boar. In addition, the mongooses live here, which are the only ones with cobras.
In the desert you can find rabbits, spring trees, many lizards and scorpions. The Fenek is an elegant desert fox with huge ears. He is shy but also curious.
At the Nile the Egyptian cobra is at home. At Nassersee still live crocodiles. In the Nile and in the lakes on the delta coast you will find more than 160 different species of fish.
Egypt – Flora
Approximately 70 different plant species are endemic in Egypt.
Due to the dry conditions and due to the intensive agricultural use the flora of Egypt is composed for the most part of cultivated plants.
A more pronounced vegetation can be found in Egypt, especially in the Nile Delta, in the Nile Valley and in the oases. The most common tree species is the date palm.
Native trees are also the mulberry trees, tamarisk, acacia and carob trees.
Introduced tree species are the cypress, elm, eucalyptus, mimosa and various fruit trees.
Especially on the alluvial soils of the delta area thrives a diverse plant life with grape vines, various vegetables and especially flowers such as lotus, jasmine and roses.
In the arid areas you will find half-grass and various types of thorn shrubs. The papyrus, which once grew on large parts of the Nile River, today only grows in the extreme south of the country.
Egypt – History
from 10,000 to 3,000 BC Chr.
The settlement of the Nile region takes place. Again and again the Nile overflows its banks and leaves fertile soil behind. People live together in tribes. They organize agriculture together. Favorable climatic conditions and the ability for an organized common life make a high culture grow in Egypt.
Early – about 3,000 to 2,700 BC
In the so-called early or ancient times, the rival tribes of Lower and Upper Egypt meet and unite. Memphis will be the capital of the newly created empire. During this time, the Pharaonic dynasties arise. In the 1st and 2nd dynasties papyrus, hieroglyphs (invention of writing) and calendars (with 365 days) are developed.
The Old Kingdom – approx. 2,700 to 2,200 BC Chr.
In the 3rd to 6th Dynasty, there is a heyday. It is also referred to as the “pyramid age”. In this era, among other things, the three pyramids of Giza are built.
The First Intermediate Period – about 2,200 to 2,000 BC Chr.
The 7th to 11th dynasties are characterized by the decline of the influence of the pharaohs. Riots break up the empire. Thebes becomes the capital of a part of the empire and gains considerably in importance.
about 2,000 to 1,600 BC Chr.
Through Mentuhotep II. The country is reunited. Egypt is experiencing a second heyday (Middle Kingdom, 11th to 14th dynasties). Thebes is no longer a capital, but remains the cultural center. A variety of temples are built but the pharaohs lose their power position.
about 1,600 to 1,500 BC Chr.
The empire breaks down again. Due to internal insecurity, the Hyksos (Asian people) conquer the country. Now begins the Second Intermediate Period (14th to 17th Dynasty).
New Reich – about 1,500 to 1,100 BC Chr.
The country is united. The 18th Dynasty begins. In the New Kingdom (18th to 20th dynasties) Egypt becomes a great power and a cultural heyday begins. During this time, famous pharaohs such as Ramses II, Akhenaten with his wife Nefertiti or Queen Hatshepsut ruled the country. Many temples are built in the Valley of the Kings.
Third intermediate time – approx. 1 100 to 700 BC Chr.
Egypt is split into a northern and a southern empire. The third interim period (21st to 24th dynasties) begins. The land is now ruled by Libyan princes.
Late period – 700 to 332 BC Chr.
From the 25th to the 30th Dynasty there is another heyday. In the meantime, the Persians rule the country, but are expelled again.
332 BC Chr.
The land is conquered by Alexander the Great, he founds Alexandria.
332 to 30 BC Chr.
The Greeks gain a supremacy in Egypt. Cleopatra is trying to found a new empire. She joins Julius Caesar. After Caesar’s murder she lives with his successor Marcus Antonius. These are declared enemies by the Romans. The Romans defeat the Egyptians. Cleopatra commits suicide.
30 v. Chr. To 700 AD
Egypt becomes the Roman province and the granary of Rome. Christianity is becoming more important. Copticism is formed. New monasteries are being built. Monasticism arises.
7th to 16th century
The Arabs conquer Egypt and bring with them the Islamic faith. Islamic tribes fight against the crusades of Christians.
16th to 17th century
The Turks conquer Egypt and it is incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.
1798 – 1805
Napoleon Bonaparte conquers Egypt. A few years later he retires.
1805 to 1849
Under Mohammed Ali Egypt is industrialized.
The Suez Canal is opened.
The British make Egypt the British protectorate.
Egypt is a parliamentary monarchy. In a coup d’état, the king is expelled in 1952.
Egypt becomes a republic.
Egypt blocks the Suez Canal for Israeli shipping traffic. This leads to the six-day war between Israel and Egypt. Israel occupies the Sinai.
Second Aswan Dam is being built. The Nasser reservoir originates from this.
Peace negotiations are being held with Israel, with the result that an agreement is being reached on the return of the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt is expelled from the Arab League because of the peace treaty with Israel. Islamic fundamentalists criticize the policies of Egypt.
President Sadat is being murdered. The successor Mubarak keeps the agreements from the peace treaty with Israel and improves relations with the Arab states.
1992 – 1997
Islamic fundamentalists are attacking civilians with the aim of establishing an Islamic state.
Egypt becomes the main mediator in the Middle East conflict.
Egypt – wining and dining
There is no Egyptian cuisine in the traditional sense. Most popular dishes are originally from the Arabic (Lebanese and Syrian) cuisine. Hence the recipes for Baba Ghanouj or Salata Tahina. A regional feature is the Tameya, the Egyptian variant of the falafel.
The Egyptian cuisine is inspired by the Mediterranean cuisine. Bechamel sauce, moussaka and stuffed grape leaves are often found on the Egyptian diet.
In the Egyptian kitchen, the food is usually spicy. The desserts are almost always pretty sweet. The dinner is very rich. You sit together for a long time in a big round.
For breakfast tea or thin coffee is drunk. As a side dish, there are sweet pastries or white bread with tomatoes, cucumbers, sheep’s cheese or yoghurt. At lunchtime, only small meals of fresh vegetables or a few meats of meat are eaten together with flatbread (kebap).
The dinner often consists of an appetizer (mezze) with a variety of smaller appetizers. These consist of salads or stuffed vegetables. As a main course are different fish or meat dishes (lamb, chicken, beef served – but no pork in Islam). The rule is much and fast. The dessert consists of sweet cake or pudding or fresh fruit. There are fruit juices or local beer to drink. The traditional drink is tea. Tea is drunk on every occasion.
It is still common to eat with your hand (the left hand should not touch the food). Away, however, is always eaten with European cutlery. At family meals you eat with cutlery or by hand.
To credibly signal to the host that you are full, you leave the dining table and sit down in the living room next door. In the eyes of the Europeans this is certainly rude, but in Egypt it is completely normal.
Vegetables from the Nile Valley: Bamya, also known as okra, beans (ful) and falafel, tomatoes and flatbread and rice. Meat and poultry are expensive and only on festive days on the table. As drinks juices, Karkade (red Malventee), strong black tea with peppermint and of course water are available. The Nile Delta produces excellent wines. Highly recommended is the tasty Stella Lager beer, produced in the country’s only brewery.
Food, drink, health
You can eat safely in the better restaurants. One should avoid salads, which are often washed with impure tap water. If you have an insensitive stomach, you should try a serving of kusheri (lentils with rice and pasta, roasted onions in a spicy tomato sauce with lots of garlic). Meat should always be well fried.
On hot days, you should always drink a lot, up to 3 liters a day. Mineral water only from bottles with original closure.