|Languages :||Arabic (official), English and French|
|Currency :||Egyptian Pound (EGP)|
|Time Zone :||EST +7hrs|
|Capital City :||Cairo|
|Population :||80 Million|
|Total Area :||386,662 mi²|
|Climate :||Desert; hot, dry summers with moderate winters|
|National Holidays:||Revolution Day, 23 July|
|Additional Info:||Land of the Pharaohs. With its pyramids and Monuments, Temples and Museums to its Wildlife, Nile Cruses and Egypt’s best kept sandy beach secrets.|
Cultural Information - Cruising the Nile
A fantastic and truly memorable way to see Egypt is by taking a cruise down the Nile. I did this over 10 years ago and still tell amazing stories of my time there. One night I sat on the deck of the boat as most passengers were (sensibly) resting in their cabins. The night was dark and the sky a myriad of twinkling stars. Some of the crew sat with me smoking on the hookah (these pipes have been used for centuries in the Middle East to smoke away the stresses of the day) as we enjoyed the mild climate. Then in the distance we heard drums beating. It was truly enchanting. I spent some of the best days of my life observing and experiencing a mixture of ancient Egyptian lifestyles combined with present.
There are many cruise companies out there - and most offer a classical experience of the pharaonic antiquities. Just make sure to save some extra time to check out the most impressive pyramids at Giza. Around the middle of April, locks on the Nile River are closed due to water levels. The best time for a Nile cruise is between October and mid April, when the weather is fairly cool, but the locks are all open.
Most cruises start at Luxor where you then cross to the West Bank of the Nile into the Valley of the Kings. Next onto Edfu (see the Temple of Horus - one of the best preserved temples), and on to Aswan. Visit the High Dam and the Philae Temple as well as the Mausoleum and Botanical Gardens here. Also from Aswan take a tour to the Temple of Abu Simbel. Most tours return back to Luxor giving you time to visit the Temple of Karnak, the papyrus museum and Temple of Luxor.
Some of the best diving in the world is found in Egypt's Red Sea - an inlet of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Asia. It is a rich and diverse ecosystem. More than 1100 species of fish have been recorded here, and around 10% of these are found nowhere else. The rich diversity is in part due to the 2,000 km (1,240 mi) of coral reef extending along its coastline; these fringing reefs are 5000-7000 years old. The reefs form platforms and sometimes lagoons along the coast and occasional other features such as cylinders (such as the blue hole at Dahab). These coastal reefs are also visited by pelagic species of red sea fish, including some of the 44 species of shark. The special biodiversity of the area is recognized by the Egyptian government, who set up the Ras Mohammed National Park in 1983. The rules and regulations governing this area protect local wildlife, which has become a major draw for tourists, in particular for diving enthusiasts. Water temperatures in the Red Sea remain unusually constant year round, averaging 71-72 deg F in the summer. Diving conditions typically offer clear visibility, little wave action, and warm temperatures all year long.
Most of the diving in the Red Sea area is done with a shore-based, day boat dive operation or a live aboard dive boat. The sea is known for its spectacular dive sites such as Ras Mohammed, SS Thistlegorm (shipwreck), Elphinstone, The Brothers and Rocky Island in Egypt. Popular tourist resorts include Sharm-El-Sheikh and Hurghada (and recently Marsa Alam) and Dahab.
SS Thistlegorm: 32ft to 101ft; boat from Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada; 80-100ft visibility. This British armed Merchant Navy ship built in 1940 by Joseph Thompson & Son in Sunderland, England was sunk in 1941 by two German bombers. In the early fifties Jacques-Yves Cousteau discovered her by using information from local fishermen. Exploring the wreck is usually done in two stages after your dive boat has moored to the external structure of the wreck.
Elphinstone Reef: 65ft to 230ft+; live aboard access, 65ft visibility. A massive number of reef species lends still more color to the already dazzling walls, with a ready supply of big solitary and schooling pelagics to observe. One great hammerhead seems to be a permanent resident.
Blue hole at Dahab: 65ft to 164ft; access by swimming; 65ft visibility. Enter the site through a large lagoon in the reef top, about 164ft across. This lagoon is the 'blue hole" - it is in fact the top of a vertical shaft which is reported to extend over 984ft straight down. A shallow lip at about 20ft leads from the lagoon to the outer reef; deep within the hole, an arched passage also links the reef face to the hole itself.
Ras Muhammad, on the southern extreme of the Sinai Peninsula, overlooks the Gulf of Suez at west and the Gulf of Aqaba at east. Two islands, Tiran and Sanafir are part of the site. It is so named because in side view it shows an outline like a bearded man's face. The National Park is one of Egypt's most spectacular and is situated in the tourist region of the Red Sea Riviera with Sharm-el-Sheikh being the nearest city. More than 200 species of corals are found in the Ras Mohammed area. Out of them, 125 species are soft corals, in addition to more than 1000 species of fish, 40 species of star fish, 25 species of sea urchins, more than a 100 species of mollusk and 150 species of crustaceans. Among others, the Sea Turtles (Green Turtle - Chelonia mydas, and the Hawksbill Turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata) are seen in Ras Mohammed regularly.
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