Here are some tips to make your journey more enjoyable…
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the laws, behaviors and cultural
norms of Egypt. Although we are organizing a gathering in this beautiful country we
still must be mindful and respectful of their culture and their laws.
Egypt is a conservative society; dress modestly, especially in rural areas, mosques
and souqs (markets). Women’s clothes should cover their legs and upper arms. Men
should cover their chests. Public displays of affection are frowned upon. What may
be acceptable in the tourist resort areas may not be in other areas.
Drinking in the street and anywhere other than a licensed restaurant or bar is not
allowed and can lead to arrest.
Possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs is a serious offence and can, even
for possession of small amounts, lead to lengthy prison sentences (25 years), life
imprisonment or the death penalty. Those convicted to life imprisonment on drugs
charges will normally spend the rest of their life in prison with no possibility of
parole or pardon.
Please also be aware that if you get into legal trouble in a foreign country it can be
a very bad thing which is why its important to know and understand the laws of
the country you are traveling to. The US Embassy is there to help you if you are in
trouble but if it is trouble that you brought on yourself they tend to side with the
country and their laws. Be mindful!
Photography of or near military official installations is strictly prohibited. This
includes the Suez Canal. Don’t photograph officials without their consent.
Although homosexuality is not in itself illegal under Egyptian law, homosexual acts
in public are illegal and homosexuals have been convicted for breaching laws on
Women are advised to take extra caution when traveling alone as there have been
cases of harassment and sexual assault.
Remember that Egypt has many poor people who think that all tourists are rich,
no matter where they come from in the world! Learn the phrase “La Shukran” (No
thank you!) and don’t be afraid to say it to anyone who tries to sell you anything.
All participants are required to have a passport that is valid for 6 months beyond the return date, to be carried on your person or stored safely at all times. It is a good idea to photocopy the picture page to carry in a separate place in case of loss and to also keep a copy at home. A visa is required for entry into Egypt. If you are a US, Canadian or British citizen or a member of the EU, you can bring $20 in cash and pick it up upon your arrival at the airport in Cairo (no picture is necessary). You can get one from your nearest Egyptian embassy, however it is much more of a hassle, costs more, and requires relinquishing your passport for some time. Other countries qualify for visas at the Cairo airport, so check with us or your embassy to be sure.
A journey of this nature is a financial investment. Therefore, we strongly recommend that all participants obtain short-term travelers insurance covering lost baggage, accident/life and trip cancellation. Trip cancellation insurance covers your losses on non refundable air and land costs for trips canceled due to personal or family illnesses and unforeseen documented emergencies. It also covers the cost of emergency evacuation from remote areas. The more expensive “Cancel for Any Reason” policies will also cover cancellation in certain cases of political unrest or civil emergencies. Check with your personal travel agent or with Travel Insured International (1-800-243-3174). This insurance only covers US citizens departing from the US. We suggest non-US citizens look for a local agent.
PREPARATIONS & PRECAUTIONS
There are no inoculation requirements for persons with flights originating in the US or Europe. However, it is advisable to consult your physician regarding your personal needs. The alternative suggestions we offer are found effective by prior travelers and local herbalists. Doctors and medical facilities are available to us in most places, however we recommend each participant bring their own personal supplies plus any medication needed. Your good health and good physical condition will enhance the experience for you as well as the group. The most common health issue is diarrhea. It is recommended to take megadophilus or acidophilus daily for at least one month prior to travel as well as for the duration of the trip. You may also want to bring an herbal immune-support formula. Do not drink the tap water in Egypt! Drink only bottled water, and use bottled water to brush your teeth. Bottled water is readily available everywhere.
SUGGESTED HEALTHCARE SUPPLY LIST:
- Grapefruit seed extract (helpful for the stomach bug)
- Topical antiseptic and salve
- Charcoal tablets (dysentery)
- Vitamin C (Alacer-Emergen-C for easy travel)
- Band-Aids, ace bandage, moleskin for blisters
- Insect repellent
- Aloe Vera gel or other skin cream
- Sunscreen, Chapstick and hat for the sun and heat
- Golden Seal powder
- Lomatil, Pepto Bismal (some swear by this as a preventative) or other diarrhea medication of personal preference – local medications are available.
- Remember to keep medications handy in carry-on, not packed away in luggage, if they meet TSA standards. Check online for current TSA restrictions.
- We strongly stress the use of only bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. This can be purchased readily along the way, and at hotels.
CLIMATE & CLOTHING SUGGESTIONS
Egypt’s climate is easy to summarize: hot and dry, with the exception of the winter months of December, January and February, which can be quite cold in the north. Average temperatures range from 20°C (68°F) on the Mediterranean coast to 26°C (80°F) in Aswan. Maximum temperatures for the same places can get up to 31°C (88°F) and 50°C (122°F), respectively. At night in winter the temperature sometimes plummets to as low as 8°C in Cairo and along the Mediterranean coast. In the desert it’s even more extreme – often scorching during the day and bitterly cold at night. The evenings can get quite cool, especially on the river, and you will need a wrap at night. Occasionally it is cool in Cairo as well, yet it can be quite warm in the south.
Whatever the activity, women should remember that Egypt remains a conservative country and we wish to be respectful. Shoulders should always be covered outside the hotels and boat (there are beautiful shawls available in Egypt). Keeping this in mind, comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for layers in the daytime. A light jacket or sweater for early morning and evening and also for the air conditioning in the hotels are advised. Wear comfortable walking shoes—sneakers or sandals with a supporting back strap, and cotton socks. Pants are certainly acceptable for the women and are definitely recommended for camel or horseback riding. In the evenings, as everyone will be dining in very pleasant surroundings at our hotels or local restaurants, somewhat nicer attire would be appropriate. Casual is acceptable, though you might plan for one or two evenings. We certainly have opportunities here to be festive, and we will have a chance to shop where wonderful, fun clothing can be purchased. Hairdryers are provided in some of the rooms.
Both the Mercure and Mena House hotels have a business center and internet access in the rooms. The cruise ships also have internet access. There are some Internet cafes available in Luxor and Aswan. International telephone calls from Egypt are easy to make, and can be dialed directly from our hotel rooms. They are much more expensive from Egypt than from the States, depending upon your international plan. You can also call the US, let the phone ring twice, then have your party call you back at a fraction of the cost (or pre-arrange your own “code”). We recommend that you get an international calling card from a reputable phone company that has an access number in Cairo, such as ATT or MCI.
FILM & POWER:
If you are not using a digital camera, be sure to bring all the film and extra batteries that you will need as these are very expensive there. Likewise, film should be brought back to the states for developing. The film expiration date should be carefully checked and be good for at least one year from the date of purchase as it seems to deteriorate rapidly in Egypt’s arid climate. Bring along a flash attachment with replaceable batteries if possible. This, along with your wide-angle lens, will produce the best results when photographing inside temples, pyramids and tombs. Since electric current in Egypt is 220 volts, special adapters and plugs will be needed for rechargeable units. And of course if you are using digital technology, you should bring extra memory cards. There is very limited access to download your images while you are there unless you bring your own computer.
MONEY AND CURRENCY EXCHANGE:
The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound, which is equal to 100 piasters. As of May 6th, 2012- 1 Egyptian pound (E£ or EGP) = $0.165 USD ; $1.00 USD = E£6.04. You will have no difficulty exchanging U.S. dollars into Egyptian pounds. Many banks in Egyptian hotels are open around the clock. We recommend waiting until you are in Egypt to exchange money. Traveler’s checks are more of a hassle because you are required to show your passport in order to cash them, and many shops will not accept them. Hotels and some larger shops will take VISA (not as many take MasterCard). ATM’s are not always convenient, although they can be found. It is recommended that you carry your traveler’s checks and cash in large denominations, although some smaller denominations can be convenient, as well. A money belt or other safe, secure means of carrying money and documents is advisable. Once currency is exchanged, it helps to carry many one and five pound notes for gifting and tipping.
THINGS TO BRING: PLEASE DO NOT OVERPACK!
There is nothing less fun than carting around extra baggage. Keep in mind there is a wide range of things to buy at the markets.
- Daypack for daily outings— helps to keep hands free
- Notebook for journal writing and pens
- Sunglasses and hat
- Swimsuit for pools in hotels
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- Toiletries (must be compliant with TSA rules or placed in checked luggage)
- Earplugs (these can be very helpful)
- Washcloth (sometimes not available at hotels)
- Tissues — many public toilets lack paper
- Wash n’ Dry towelettes are refreshing
- Small flashlight
- Camera and film
- Clothes that are comfortable and loose-fitting, keeping in mind Egypt’s conservative culture
- Good walking shoes, cotton socks, and good sandals with back support
- Adaptor plugs are the standard European type with two round pins. An adaptor is adequate for most appliances. A converter is optional but required for certain appliances.
- Personal reading material as space allows
- Intention, focus, and especially your sense of humor
“Lift your heads, throw down your hands and weep no more. The eye of creation looks upon you. Look back. You are a crystal reflecting fire. In your own becoming there is light-enough to lead you home.”
-Awakening Osiris: Normandy Ellis