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EGYPT

April 2014 travel dates
to be announced

 
 

 

 

CULTURE                

Egypt is a Muslim country, but can be considered relatively moderate in the stringency of dress and conduct norms usually covered by the media. Our journey takes us in to a wide variety of settings, and you will find a change between the relative urbanity of the cities to the more conservative settings of the oases.

  • Most Egyptians smoke. A lot. Be ready to smell cigarettes everywhere. Local brand cigarettes are cheap in price and quality, and people start smoking at a very young age. There isn't much you can do by protesting as we move through our trip, and the best measure to avoid a smoky situation is to remove yourself politely. The very social cafe custom of shisha (Water pipes with flavored tobacco - we generally call it "hookah" in the US) is ubiquitous, and depending on where we are you may see both groups of men and women sharing pipes as they sit and talk.
  • While Muslim countries are usually dry (no alcohol), Egypt has a both a national brewery and a few wineries. Stella is a light lager that becomes more refreshing the further we go into the dessert, and the wines are a mixed bag - maybe not great, but comparable to bargain wines here. With such a lively tourism industry, most hotels have a minimal bar with basic brands of hard liquor, and some restaurants in larger cities also serve beer, primarily in response to visitor demand. 

For the most part, the people we will encounter are warm, overwhelmingly generous, and simply joyful about life. Acting with respect to the environment, the people, and the cultural practices will help you to have a remarkable journey. Just go with the flow.

 

CLOTHING                                                      

Simplicity is the key in packing for this trip, and the following pages should help in assessing whether you're packing too much, too little, or just enough to make this a comfortable journey.  Here's a brief overview of the cultural climate to help guide your decisions on preparation and packing:

  • The general mode of dress is conservative, for both men and women. This is not purely a cultural theme: covering the arms, legs, and head with breathable, sun-prohibitive materials actually helps keep your body temperature stable.
  • We are going to a desert! Expect most places to be relatively hot and dry, even along the water of the Nile and in the Oases. North along the Mediterranean, in Alexandria, it may be a little cooler, while in Aswan and Abu Simbel (the furthest south we'll venture), spring temperatures can venture up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. While we are in the Western Desert, evening and overnight temperatures can dip into the mid 40's. During our March journey, expect the temperature to range from 48-88 degrees. Click here for more detail.
  • Pack light, both in the quantity of items, as well as the quality of clothing. Try to pick items that are easily washed and quickly dried, and perhaps are versatile enough to go from day to night. Good old cotton is a great choice. Most of the major outdoor outfitters in the US (Ex Officio, Columbia, REI) offer lines that feature high-tech materials with built in sun protection, wind resistance, and even bug repellent. Just a few pieces of these are excellent choices, and most of them can actually be worn in the shower - multi-tasking cleaning!
  • You can also count on the opportunity to "go native:" The Egyptians have perfected the art of staying cool, and we'll come across opportunities to buy loose fitting cotton items that are designed to work in the environment, including shirts, tunics, loose pants, and scarves.
  • While some of our journey will take us to places where no formal laundry is possible, we have stays at hotels where you can send out your accumulated laundry for cleaning and pressing at extremely reasonable prices. The key is to have enough clothes to get you between the hotels.

For fun, customizable list, check out the Universal Packing List

In general:

Clothing:

2 pair Lightweight or convertible pants

1 pair Long shorts

2 Lightweight long-sleeve shirt for layering

2-3 Cotton shirts

2-3 T-shirts

1 Modest bathing suit

1 Light jacket or sweatshirt

4 pair absorbent socks

Sun hat with a strap or cord

Footwear:

Easy-on sandals or slippers

Comfortable, sturdy walking shoes - you'll want to break in new shoes before traveling, and be prepared to walk a mile at a time.

Please see the "Gear" section for other recommended items

 

FOOD                                                           

Our journey includes a complete immersion into traditional Egyptian food (figuratively, not literally), most of it similar to the cuisines centered around the Mediterranean.

Overall, expect to have:

 

Food

Pronunciation

Flat breads (various)

fah-teer,

Falafel (fried fava bean patties)

fall-ah-fell

Stewed chicken

sha-war-mah

Cheese

 

Hummus and other bean dips

hum-muss

Olives

zay-toon

Fresh tomatoes

 

Rice

 

Figs

 

Dates

 

 

 

 

Beverages

Pronunciation

Hibiscus punch

Kar-keh-deh

Black tea, sweetened

Chy ("Ch" as in chair, rhymes with "sky")

Sweetened black tea with mint

Chy-bin-anah

Turkish coffee, sweetened

Kah-wah

Beer - Stella, of course!

 

 

As you prepare for the trip, check out local area restaurants and delis for merchants that specialize in Egyptian style foods. At the very least, you'll get a sense of the style and flavors.

(In the Seattle area, try Zaina near Pioneer Square on Cherry St)

 

GADGETS                                                                                                                     

  • Electrical items in general:  Egypt has 220 volt electricity on a 50 Hz/sec cycle, which means you'll need a converter or transformer, in addition to a European plug adaptor. There are great deals on combination units, and you may want to coordinate with your travel companion on sharing.
  • Camera: by all means, bring your camera, and be sure to have a plastic baggie or other completely sealed bag that will protect it from the inevitable sand. Analog and digital cameras are equally useful, depending on your preferences, but remember that sand finds its way in to every crevice, and you may want to keep it simple and not bring too many lenses or accessories. A compact digital with extra memory and extra batteries is a great way to go.
  • iPod: from the airplane to the buses, to simply finding some solitude in your room, there are plenty of opportunities to bring your iPod, compact earphones, and charger. You may consider bringing a splitter for your earphones as well, giving you the opportunity to share music with travel mates and new friends.
  • Laptop: This is generally a bad idea, so leave it at home. There are Internet cafes in almost every city and town we visit, and sending email or getting on-line is possible most days. A laptop will likely end up being a burden and a cause for concern as we journey into the desert (all that sand!), and connectivity from a private source can be extremely expensive as well as slow.
  • Personal appliances: Take this opportunity to go natural, and skip any personal grooming appliances with cords. Electric shavers, hair dryers, curling irons, etc will work with an adapter, but this is an excellent opportunity to escape that routine.

 

VISAS AND VACCINATIONS                            

  • Visas: Entry visa is required for all US and CAN citizens. We will get our visas upon arrival in Cairo's airport.  It is a quick, easy process, and you'll have guidance.
  • Vaccinations:  Nothing compulsory, but it is recommended for malaria, cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, and polio. Consult your doctor, and check the MD Travel Health website for more details:

http://www.mdtravelhealth.com/destinations/africa/egypt.php


GEAR                                                                

  • Luggage/Baggage:  You are expected to carry your own luggage on the trip, so don't overload. One suitcase (or duffel bag) and one day bag (or backpack) is recommended. To address rising fuel costs, our carrier British Airways allows each adult traveler 2 pieces of checked baggage, with additional fees for oversize, overweight, and over quantity baggage.  Check their website for more information.

http://www.britishairways.com/travel/bagchk/public/en_gb#

Two bags

Maximum dimensions per bag: 75 in. X 29 in. X 25 in.

Maximum weight per bag: 23kg (51lbs)*

In addition to your clothing, here are items that are either required or highly recommended:

Required:

    • Personal Expenses: You will need some extra money to cover meals not included in the price, optional activities, souvenirs, and items of personal nature (laundry, etc). In the larger cities, ATM's are abundant, and most expenses are very reasonable.
    • Sleeping bag: you'll use this camping in the Western Desert, and possibly as needed for extra cushion or comfort.
    • Toiletries: Most hotels do not offer the US selection of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, etc. Bring your own in small sizes.

Recommended:

  • Personal medications: Don't forget a full supply of any prescriptions, as well as any remedies you favor, like aspirin, Airborne, etc.
  • Sunglasses: of course.
  • Flashlight: a small, LED flashlight comes in handy in the dark of the desert; a really useful item is a head-lamp style.
  • Extra baggies: In addition to packing your clothing items, extra sandwich, quart, and gallon size baggies will ensure you have dry, safe, and sand-free possessions.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30 or higher
  • Towel: Just like Douglas Adams recommends, bringing a small, multipurpose towel is a great idea
  • Bug spray: near the water of the oases and the Nile, mosquitoes can be trusted to find yummy flesh, so be prepared to protect yours.
  • First aid kit: just a small collection helpful for blisters, scrapes, and minor irritations.
  • Hand sanitizer: a little squirt bottle goes a long way for your safety as we visit some very questionable facilities with minimal plumbing.
  • Toilet paper: While there are attendants in nearly every city facility, and you are expected to give baksheesh (see "Gifts"), it is wise to have your own stash of toilet paper for remote and unexpected locations.   Check retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond for handy, compact toilet paper without the cardboard roll.
  • Wet-ones: or some other brand of refreshing, all-purpose cosmetic or hygiene wipes that can work wonders when there is not time or place for a shower.
  • Matches: Great for keeping your personal body functions at a low impact level on both the planet and your fellow travelers.
  • Sewing kit: In case of buttons, seams, and other minor alterations
  • Coffee/Tea: The culture of coffee and tea began in these ancient lands, and it is considered an important part of daily life. If your personal coffee or tea culture involves a cup first thing in the morning (you know who you are), a travel-safe French press and your own ground coffee can save the day. Most places we'll stay will be able to get hot water for you.
  • Cup: something compact and handy for tea, coffee, water, and whatever.

 

 

 

We shall not cease
from exploration
And the end of all
our exploring
Will be to arrive
where we started
And know the place
for the first time.

T.S. Eliot

Copyright © 2009-2012, Farouk Y. Seif, Ph.D., AIA. All rights reserved