Language:

Arabic

Passport and Visas:

UK passport holders require a visa. Visas are available online and are valid for a maximum of 30 days.

Events & Festivals:

January
Egyptian Marathon, Luxor
Nearly 2,000 runners from 36 nationalities race around Luxor, starting at Hatshepsut Temple and passing landmarks including Luxor Temple and the Valley of Queens.

February
International Fishing Competition, Hurghada
Anglers from across the globe spend three days fishing for the best catch.

July-August
Cairo International Fashion Show
Head to the International Conference Centre and peruse the creations of fashion designers, manufacturers, and fashion houses.

August
Arab Music Festival
Discover Arabic music as you watch instrumentalists, singers and ensembles perform.

November-December
Cairo International Film Festival
Celebrate world cinema in the ‘Hollywood of the Middle East’, with films, seminars and competitions.

Eating / Drinking:

Food
Starters
•   Molokhia is a soup of leafy green vegetables, garlic, pepper and coriander, usually eaten with rice.
•   Fool is a thick, spicy stew of beans flavoured with tomatoes, finished off with a dollop of olive oil and lime juice and some piquant taamia vegetable paste.
•   Turshi (spicy pickled vegetables) and araq inab (stuffed vine leaves) are also popular starters.
•   Flat bread is good for scooping up mouthfuls of leben zabadi (yoghurt), tahina (sesame seed puree, sometimes flavoured with mint) or tangy baba ganoug (smooth puree of baked aubergine, lemon and garlic).

Main courses
•   Tuck into fresh fish from the Mediterranean, often seasoned with a pinch of cumin.
•   Large Alexandrian prawns are grilled over charcoa, as are kebabs (succulent chunks of lamb or mutton coated in spices and threaded on a skewer) and kofta (balls of spiced, minced lamb).
•   Shwarma is the Egyptian equivalent of the Turkish doner kebab: layers of meat stacked on a vertical spit and shaved off as cooked.
•   Other meat specialities are quail or pigeon, grilled or stuffed and roasted.

Desserts
•   The cheeses may be too salty for your taste, but fruit such as fresh dates (red, yellow, black or brown) is delicious.
•   Try some baklava, a many-layered, super-sweet pastry stuffed with nuts and honey; or its variant atayeef, which is filled with cheese.
•   Another tasty dessert is ommu-'ali, a dessert of rice, milk, almonds, raisins and coconut.

Drink
•   Vineyards in the delta have been cultivated for centuries. Red wines include Omar Khayyam and Chateau (or Kasr) Gianaclis and the slightly drier Pharaons.
•   White wines vary in quality but are generally better than the reds: Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Gianaclis Villages and Cru des Ptolemees.
•   Rubis d'Egypte is a popular rose.
•   Local beer, Stella or Stella Export, is quite satisfactory.

•   Zibib is the Egyptian equivalent of the Mediterranean aniseed-flavoured brandy (ouzo or pastis), made here from a distillation of grapes, or dates.
•   A tasty soft drink is karkadeh, often served cold at breakfast.
•   Both tea and Turkish coffee are good. Most foreigners prefer the latter when it is brewed mazbut (with a middling amount of sugar). 'Saadeh' is with no sugar.
•   Don't drink the tap water and avoid salads.

Shopping:

•   Practise your bargaining skills  at Khan el-Khalili, Cairo's celebrated bazaar.
•   Shops selling handicrafts right are scattered through touristy areas, especially Giza.
•   You'll find alabaster for cigarette boxes and other decorative items from the Nile valley.
•   Watch as brass and copper are hammered into trays, coffee sets and samovars at Khan-el-Khalili.
•   Egyptian cotton, among the finest in the world with its long fibres and smooth finish, is used in gallabiyas, those long, flowing robes sold for men and women.
•   Shirt- and dressmakers are ready to provide you with custom-made cotton clothing in next to no time.
•   Jewellery can be extremely beautiful and good value if you choose wisely. Exquisite workmanship goes into gold and silver pieces set with precious or semi-precious stones. Take your pick from pharaonic styles inspired by King Tutankhamun's treasure.
•   Leather goods such as handbags, satchels and wallets make interesting buys, but examine each article carefully for flaws.
•   The excellent woodwork includes mashrabiya, the delicate lattices through which Muslim women used to look at the world.
•   Marquetry objects are finely designed and executed - choose perhaps a chess board or cedar or sandalwood box skilfully inlaid with bits of ivory, mother-of-pearl and ebony.

Tipping:

Tipping or ‘baksheesh’ is a way of life in Egypt. It’s customary to tip about LE£1 for every little service, so keep a pocketful of small change!