Egypt is located in NE Africa on the Mediterranean and Red Seas, with a small portion of the country located in Asia. Egypt is most often associated with its rich cultural heritage of ancient architecture and art. With dynasties dating back as far as 45 BC, life in Egypt has always revolved around the Nile River and its life-giving floods, although this is less true today, because of the Aswan Dam.
Egypt is one of the oldest civilizations and for this reason; it is widely studied and is a favorite tourist destination for visiting its antiquities and museums. There is a unique fascination with the study of ancient Egypt that involves mystery, mummies, curses and gold – lots and lots of gold.
Around 3000 B.C., early settlers on the Egyptian Nile survived by hunting and fishing. A few crops were grown and as villages began to form, animals were also domesticated and raised. Egyptians became skilled in building boats and trading with other villages. A new civilization was born.
In approximately 3100 B.C., the first powerful ruler, a Pharaoh named Menes emerged. Best known for uniting the regions of Upper and Lower Egypt, he also convinced the people of Egypt that he was a deity to be worshiped. This period in Egyptian history is known as the Old Kingdom.
Pharaohs built huge pyramids as a burial places and monuments for themselves. They also built large temples to their gods in their own honor so they would be remembered in history.
The Egyptians have always had a close relationship with nature, with animals, plants and astrology being important parts of their art work and religion. The sun god (Ra) was their main deity, but their mythology of various gods is extensive.
Pharaohs constantly waged war with their neighbors for the purpose of conquering other lands, but Egypt began to split up into smaller factions around 1000 BC, which led to a decline of the empire. Shortly after this period of decline, Egypt was conquered by the Roman Empire, but in 640 AD, Muslim armies re-conquered Egypt and founded the city of Cairo as its capitol, and Islam has been the primary religion in Egypt since the invasion of the Turks during the 9th century.
The British took possession of Egypt in 1882, in order to assure themselves of control of the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. This canal is an important passageway for the distribution of world goods, particularly oil.
Modern day Egypt is still evolving. Half of the population of roughly 80 million live in the capitol, Cairo, and in Alexandria, while the other half reside in rural areas. The people of Cairo live in apartment buildings and low-income tenement housing. Many Egyptians are college educated, but the unemployment rate is around 30% and a large portion of the population subsists on approximately $3.00 a day. As a result, many have been forced to find work outside of the country in places such as Dubai or on Mediterranean cruise ships.
Thousands of tourists visit Egypt each year to view the many antiquities, such as the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx that guards them. Since most of the monuments and tombs are located along the Nile, a Felucca cruise is also a popular excursion.
Although there are a few oases scattered throughout Egypt where small communities still exist, Egypt would be a desolate region without the Nile River. The entire country only receives about one inch of rainfall each year, but when it does rain in the summer, the majestic Nile River would rise and flood the land along its banks leaving a rich and fertile delta. Naturally, all of the cities of Egypt are located along this delta, as well as the nation’s lush farm land. Today, thanks to the Aswan Dam, only southern Egypt floods.
Egypt has always been divided into two sections, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, because of the Nile’s flow from south to north, finally empting into the Mediterranean Sea. Southern Egypt has small mountains and desert, while northern Egypt has wide strips of land, comprising some of the richest farm land in the world.
- Egyptian physicians used honey as medicine to treat patients.
- King Tut had four miniature coffinettes to hold his internal organs. He would need them in the afterlife.
- A half a mile of bandages were used for wrapping up a mummy.
- Egyptians played a sport called tipcat. It is like baseball.
- Pharaohs wore fake beards made of goat hair.
- The Great Pyramid at Giza weighs as much as 16 Empire State Buildings.
- Cleopatra, who ruled Egypt for about 22 years, was actually Greek.
- The Egyptian alphabet (picture writing) contained more than 700 hieroglyphs.
- Tombs were stocked with everything from food to chariots for use in the afterlife.
- One Egyptian Pharaoh had hippos as pets
- Egyptian people worshipped more than 2,000 gods and goddesses.
- Egyptians shaved their heads and wore wigs for sanitary purposes.
- The cobra on the Pharaoh’s crown represented the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.
- Sometimes at parties, Egyptians would wear a cone of spiced wax on their heads. As the warm evening progressed, the wax would melt and serve as a pleasant deodorant.
- The Pyramids of Giza – Widely recognized as one of man’s greatest architectural masterpieces and the last survivor of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, are the Great Pyramids of Giza. Comprised of three main pyramids, those of Cheops, Kafhre and Menkaura, with the oldest (Cheops) dating to 2560 BC)
- The Sphinx – Actually part of the Pyramids of Giza, this 260 ft long, 65 ft high statue is carved from a single stone. It depicts the body of a lion and the head of a human.
- Medieval Cairo – For a step back in time, Medieval Cairo is a good start. One can nearly close his eyes and be convinced he is in ancient Egypt.
- Abu Simbel – Two huge stone temples built for the Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC as a monument to Ramesses II and his queen Nefertari.
- Temples of Karnak – Once the most important place of worship in all of Egypt, this huge, 1500 meter x 800 meter site represents every god and goddess of a 2000 year period.
- Felucca on the Nile – Feluccas, the ancient sailboats used on the Nile for centuries, provide a comfortable view of the Nile on trips ranging up to 11 days.
- Valley of the Kings – This is located on the ancient site of Thebes, where Pharaohs were buried. In the 1920s, Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered here, nearly intact and laden with treasures.
- Siwa Oasis – Surrounded by barren desert for many miles around, this remote oasis is so remote that it formed its own culture and language. Alexander the Great visited the Oracle of Amun at Siwa.
- Hurghada – Divers and snorkelers can find some of the most spectacular coral reefs in some of the world’s clearest waters at this Red Sea resort area, boasting 10 miles of pristine beach.
- Luxor Temple – Built by Amenhotep III and Ramesses II around 1400 BC, the Luxor Temple was the ancient home of the festival of Opet.
How to Get Cash
ATMS are now easily found in the tourist friendly cities like Luxor, Cairo, Alexandria and Hurghada and can also be found in Aswan, Dahab and Nuweiba. The vast majority will accept Visa, MasterCard or any Plus or Cirrus card. Those located in Banque Misr, CIB, Egyptian American Bank (EAB) National Bank of Egypt and HSBC are particularly reliable. In other areas, ATMS are rare or non-existent.
You can get cash advances readily at Banque Misr and the National Bank of Egypt, as well as at Thomas Cook offices, with your Visa and MasterCard, as well.
You can also have money transferred to you via Western Union, as they operated jointly with MIsr America International Bank and IBA business centers.