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Language: Arabic | Currency: Eygptian pound (E£) | Local time: UTC | Avg. Flight time: 5 hrs
Ancient Egypt was one of the earliest and most enduring civilisations in history, spanning more than 5,000 years. It’s considered to have provided the building blocks for Greek and Roman culture, and thus influenced all of Western tradition.
Those interested in Egyptology can visit the Great Pyramid of Giza complex and the Great Sphinx, and view the vast amount of treasures in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, before embarking down the Nile and stopping at Luxor Temple – often called the world’s greatest open-air museum – and the Valley of the Kings.
Those who’d prefer an all-inclusive beach holiday should head to the soft white sands and swaying palms of the Red Sea resorts such as Hurghada and Dahab.
There’s more to these resorts than lazing on the beach with a cocktail in hand, though. Coral reefs and abundant underwater wildlife offer superlative snorkelling and scuba diving year-round, while back on land, horse and camel riding trips can also be arranged. The most famous resort in this area is Sharm el-Sheikh, although flights from Britain have been suspended after a terror attack in 2015, so it’s a bit trickier to get to these days.
Political upheaval and security fears have sadly had a major effect on the Egyptian tourist industry: everywhere is less crowded, and some sites are almost deserted. However, this means cheap deals on hotels – and particularly all-inclusive holiday package deals – are easier to find than ever before. However, you should always consult official safety advice before booking a holiday.
When you should go depends largely on which part of the country you’re visiting: sightseeing trips are best taken between November and March (the high season in Egypt) although prices will not be at their cheapest. Come summer, it’s too hot to do too much, so if you must visit from July to August, Alexandria is your best bet as the city is cooler than the rest of the country during this period.
The months of March, April and September are traditionally the best time to visit, as crowds will be smaller and your chances of getting a cheap flight or hotel stay will be far higher. This is also the best time, temperature-wise, to visit the vast Western Desert region, although spring can bring sandstorms.
Egypt’s population is predominantly Muslim, and the holy month of Ramadan –when fasting is obligatory between sunrise and sundown – is strictly observed. This ends with three to four days of celebration called Eid al-Fitr, an official holiday where there is much feasting and merriment. The minority Christian Coptic population celebrates Coptic Christmas on January 7 and the whole country tends to participate in festivities.
Some ancient festivals are still acknowledged in Egypt, such as Sham al-Nessim at the start of spring and Leylet en Nuktah (June 17) celebrating the yearly rise of the Nile River until it floods, feeding the rich soils of the Delta, an occurrence vital to the country for millennia.