CULTURE RICH DESTINATIONS - EGYPT

Heritage & Culture Travel Themes

Heritage and culture plays an important role in Africa. Each country have a unique culture that is rich and diverse and varies not only from one country to another, but within each country itself. The culture of each ethnic group centers on family and can be found in each group’s art, music and oral literature. From storytelling through oral literature to traditions, dialects, arts and music, indigenous culture persist. And we couldn't agree more when Victoria falls guide describe the unification of communities. "In African culture, the “self” is not separate from the world, it is united and intermingled with the natural and social environment. It is through relations with one’s community and surroundings that an individual becomes a person of volition, whose actions and decisions affect the entire group rather than just oneself. There is a Xhosa proverb that is common to all African cultures and languages, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” (“A person is a person through persons”)." Or as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. We hope to take you on this journey to understand and appreciate African culture by highlighting cultural nuances, heritage and traditions of  each country that seem to have tremendous influence in the world.

ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS OF THE NILE - NUBIAN MONUMENTS (EGYPT)

The Nubian monuments are located on the shores of (the man-made) Lake Nasser in the far south of Egypt, and include temples from 11 separate sites between the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae (below the Aswan dam site) and the great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, 280 km to the south.  They are remarkable in two respects: firstly, in their own right as magnificent Pharaonic monuments dating back 2,000 to 3,000 years, and secondly, because they were completely dismantled, moved and rebuilt in new locations to save them from the rising waters of Lake Nasser.  The preservation of the temples of Abu Simbel gives an idea of the scale of this operation: at a cost of US$40 million, the temples were cut into more than 2,000 blocks of stone each weighing 10-40 tonnes, moved and re-assembled in a specially built (artificial,  hollow) mountain on the lake shore, 65m above their original location. Nine other temples were moved in a similar way.

Apart from the Temples at Abu Simbel and Philae, the world heritage property includes nine other monuments, now occupying four separate locations. Only two of the Nubian Monuments are located at their original sites - the astonishing granite quarries at Aswan; and the fortress of Qasr Ibrim which was originally built on a 70m-high cliff, 60km north of Abu Simbel – but now has water lapping around its foundations.  Just south of the Aswan High Dam is the new site of the Temples of Kalabsha, Beit al-Wali and Kertassi.  About 180 km further south, there are two other groups of temples:  the first at Wadi As-Subua, the new site for the Temples of Wadi as-Subua, Dakka and Maharraqa, and the second at Amada, where the Temples of Amada and Derr have been re-located.

ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS OF THE NILE - ANCIENT THEBES (EGYPT)

The magnificent monuments of Ancient Thebes stand proudly near the banks of the Nile around the modern city of Luxor in Upper Egypt, about 500 km south of Cairo.  They include the Temples of Luxor and Karnak within the city, and the Colossi of Memnon, the temples of Deir al-Bahri and Medinat Habu and the concealed tombs of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens on the west bank. Today Thebes has some of the finest monuments, and most precious relics of ancient Egypt, including the extraordinary collections of art and artefacts in the tombs of the kings and queens, notably that of the young pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Compared with Memphis and the pyramid fields of Lower Egypt, Thebes rose to prominence relatively recently, and most of its monuments are 1,000 years younger than the pyramids.  Power first shifted from the northern capital at Memphis during the period of Montuhotep’s rule (around 2,000 BC) after which Thebes became established as Egypt’s ceremonial capital. But its heyday came later when the capital shifted more decisively to the south and most of the great monuments of Thebes were built during a period of 500 years from 1550 to 1069 BC.

ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS OF THE NILE - MEMPHIS AND THE PYRAMIDS (EGYPT)

The Egyptian pyramids hardly need an introduction – they are the only surviving member of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World, and the most widely-recognised monuments in Africa.  The antiquity of these massive structures – the tombs of pharaohs - is simply mind-boggling:  the first of the great pyramids – the world’s earliest stone monument – was built at Saqqara in 2650 BC – more than 4,650 years ago!  Nearby the ancient capital Memphis was built around 3,100 BC, symbolically located at the spot where the Nile Delta meets the river valley, thus serving as a bridge, unifying the lands of Upper and Lower Egypt.  Today, it is a tiny village 24 km south of Cairo, and about 3 km from the most ancient of the pyramids at Saqqara. 

 

Four groups of pyramids are included in the world heritage property spread out in the desert along the west bank of the Nile over a total distance of about 30 km.  Each group is different, relating to a specific period and including a unique assemblage of temples, tombs, mastabas and other monuments.  The pyramids of Giza, with the distinctive Sphinx, are at the northern end of the field disturbingly close to Cairo, and at risk of being engulfed by the great modern metropolis.  Further south, there are further complexes at Abu Sir, Saqqara and Dahshur, with a total of about 35 pyramids between them.

EGYPT AFTER THE PHAROAHS - SAINT CATHERINE AREA (EGYPT)

The Saint Catherine Area is centred on the Orthodox Christian monastery of Saint Catherine, and includes Mount Sinai. It is situated at the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula, less than 100 km (in a direct line) from Sharm el-Sheikh.  The area is sacred to three world religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism, being the place where, according to the Old Testament, God handed down the Tablets of the Law (i.e. Ten Commandments) to Moses. The monastery, founded in the 6th century, is the oldest Christian monastery still in use as a monastery.

EGYPT AFTER THE PHAROAHS - ABU MENA (EGYPT)

Abu Mena is located about 50 km south-west of Alexandria.  It is an archaeological site preserving the remains of an early Christian holy city, including a church, baptistery, basilicas, public buildings, streets, monasteries, houses and workshops.  The site has suffered severe subsidence in recent years, as a result of an ill-conceived agricultural irrigation project nearby.  The property is on the List of World Heritage In Danger, and is closed to the public while remedial restoration work is carried out.

EGYPT AFTER THE PHAROAHS HISTORIC CAIRO (EGYPT)

The world heritage property of Historic Cairo comprises five separate areas of the old city, tucked away in the heart of the sprawling modern metropolis. Established in the 10th century, Historic Cairo is one of the world’s oldest Islamic cities and became the centre of the Islamic world. The old city is packed with classified monuments – about 800 in all - spanning a period of 1300 years from the 7th century.  These include ancient mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains, the city’s huge enclosure walls and the mighty Citadel with its collection of mosques and palaces.

 

The centre-piece of the world heritage property is a component (extending to 312 hectares) that covers the bustling heart of the old city from the Citadel and Mosque of Ibn Tulun in the south, through to the northern suburb of Al-Azhar, dominated by the huge Al-Azhar mosque and the conglomerate of markets, shops and alleyways that make up the Khan Al-Khalili.  To the east and south are three separate necropolis, where the sultans built some splendid mausolea – the As-Sayyidah Nafisah necropolis south of the citadel is the most extensive (84 ha), the Al-Imam ash-Shaf’I Necropolis, a little further south is the smallest (13 ha), while the Qayitbay Necropolis (60 ha) is located to the east of Al-Azhar. 

The fifth component of the world heritage property is the area of Al Fustat (54 ha) which is on the east bank of the Nile to the south of the city centre and includes the remains of the first mosque ever built in Egypt, the Mosque of Ibn Al-As, as well as the Roman Towers and Coptic Christian monuments of an area popularly known at Coptic Cairo.

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EARTH'S CRUST- WADI AL HITAN - WHALE VALLEY EGYPT

Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, in the Western Desert of Egypt, contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, Archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal, about 37 million years ago. This is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition. The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time.

MOUNTAINS - MOUNT SINAI

Mount Sinai, also called Mountain of Moses or Mount Hareh, Hebrew Har Sinai, Arabic Jabal Mūsā, granitic peak of the south-central Sinai Peninsula, Janūb Sīnāʾ (South Sinai) muḥāfaẓah(governorate), Egypt. Mount Sinai is renowned as the principal site of divine revelation in Jewish history, where God is purported to have appeared to Moses and given him the Ten Commandments(Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5).

 

In the Judeo-Christian region of the Middle East there are four primary sacred mountains: Mt Ararat in eastern Turkey, the traditional landing place of Noah's ark; Mt. Sinai in the Sinai peninsula, the peak where Moses received the Ten Commandments; Mt. Moriah or Mt. Zion in Israel, where lies the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon; and Mt. Tabor in Israel, the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. Mt. Sinai, also called Mt. Horeb and Jebel Musa (the 'Mountain of Moses') is the center of a greatly venerated pilgrimage destination that includes the Monastery of St. Catherine and the Burning Bush, Elijah's Plateau, and the Plain of ar-Raaha.

DESERT - WHITE DESERT, FARAFRA (EGYPT)

Most visitors to Farafra Oasis go there to see the White Desert, el-Sahara el-Beida, the area to the north-east of Qasr el-Farafra which is renowned for its spectacular scenery. The chalk-white landscape is strewn with alien shapes, boulders of brilliant white which thrust up from the surface of the desert, intensified by the clear light of noon, shimmering gold at sunset or blackened and shrunken in a cloud-filled sky.

Many of the formations are given descriptive names – sculpted by the harsh desert winds into weird shapes which constantly change over time. There are ‘monoliths’ and ‘mushrooms’, ‘ice cream cones’, ‘tents’ and ‘crickets’, as well as the majestic conical flat-topped ‘inselbergs’, to name but a few of the formations.

DAHAB

Dahab is a small town on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, approximately 80 km northeast of Sharm el-Sheikh. Formerly a Bedouin fishing village, Dahab is now considered to be one of Sinai's most treasured diving destinations After a revolution, a military coup and an airliner bombing After a revolution, a military coup and an airliner bombing.

THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM

The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum or Museum of Cairo, in Cairo, Egypt, is home to an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. It has 120,000 items, with a representative amount on display, the remainder in storerooms. The edifice is one of the largest museums in the region. As of July 2017, the museum is open to the public.

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Egypt Arts and Culture

Ancient Egypt have fascinated people for thousands of years mainly because of its rich art, culture, religion and burial practices. 

Art

Egyptian arts and techniques still remains  highly symbolic and fascinating - this art form revolves round the past and was intended to keep history alive. Because of the highly religious nature of Ancient Egyptian civilization, many of the great works of Ancient Egypt depict gods, goddesses, and Pharaohs, who were also considered divine. Ancient Egyptian art is characterized by the idea of order. Clear and simple lines combined with simple shapes and flat areas of color helped to create a sense of order and balance in the art of ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian artists used vertical and horizontal reference lines in order to maintain the correct proportions in their work. Political and religious, as well as artistic order, was also maintained in Egyptian art. In order to clearly define the social hierarchy of a situation, figures were drawn to sizes based not on their distance from the painter's point of view but on relative importance. For instance, the Pharaoh would be drawn as the largest figure in a painting no matter where he was situated, and a greater God would be drawn larger than a lesser god.

Culture

Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that is is still as strong as it was centuries ago. Today, many aspects of Egyptian ancient culture exist in interaction with newer elements, together with the influence of modern Western culture. The first written ancient Egyptian language which formed a separate branch among the family of the Afro-Asiatic tribe is known from hieroglyphic inscriptions preserved on monuments and sheets of papyrus. The "Koiné" dialect of the Greek language which was later studied by Arabic scholars, was central in Hellenistic Alexandria, and was used in the philosophy and science of that culture. The Arabic language came in the 7th century and Egyptian Arabic has since become the modern speech of the country.

The Egyptian populous is divided into four cultural groups consisting of Copts (An Egyptian belonging to or descended from the people of ancient or pre-Islamic Egypt), Bedouins (An Arab of any of the nomadic tribes of the Arabian, Syrian, Nubian, or Sahara deserts), Nubians (Any of a group of closely related Nilo-Saharan languages spoken in the Sudan) and Egyptian peasants or fellahin (A peasant or agricultural laborer in an Arab country, such as Syria or Egypt).

Dance

Ancient Egyptian dance varied from each instance to the next, with different movements and steps depending on the kind of engagement the dancers were performing at. For instance, a military meeting would be different from a more ritualistic time. There are scenes  found in tombs dating as far back as the New Kingdom involving dancers at ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations.

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Egyptian Tribes & other Cultural Significance 

Cultural Influence on Daily Life

Political Opinion

Talking politics here is probably a poor choice, and can be sensitive. 

Your Egyptian counterpart may have strong or sensitive feelings regarding certain subjects, such as Israeli-Palestinian relations and opinions of Islam in general. These topics should be treated diplomatically should they arise in conversation.

Communal Eating

Avoid eating communal food with your left hand, as this hand is generally reserved for personal hygiene. Only the right hand is used when eating food with one’s hands.

Alcohol is generally not offered nor is it consumed with food. Only offer alcohol to your Egyptian counterpart if you know that they consume it.

It is considered offensive to offer pork to Muslims as pigs and products relating to pigs (such as pork and pig leather) are prohibited in the Islamic religion.

Greeting Etiquette

A person entering into any group scenario should greet those already present. Greetings between men and women: A handshake may be acceptable in certain circumstances and the woman must extend her hand first. If she does not, a man should bow his head as a sign of acknowledgement. Kissing on the cheek is acceptable if they are very closely related.

Dress Code

Egypt  is predominantly Muslim therefore, modest dress and presentation is highly valued in Egyptian culture. Avoid carelessly expressing opinions and criticism, particularly towards religion.

 

Popular  Festivals

Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr

Ramadan is the holy month of intense fasting and prayer in which Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from sunup to sunset. The mood during the day can be somber, with reduced business hours to allow time for spiritual contemplation. The first day after Ramadan begins a three- or four-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr. After the final fast-breaking (iftar), people often celebrate all night. The next day everyone puts on new clothes to join street festivities with small fairs and open markets while families and friends get together to exchange gifts and sweets. Muslim holidays are not on fixed dates because they are on the lunar calendar, so they move back by about 11 days each year.

Accomodations

Premier Le Reve Hotel & Spa (Adults Only) Hurghada, Egypt

Children under the age of 16 years are not permitted to stay at the Premier Le Reve Hotel & Spa. 

There’s a choice of seven places to eat, as well as a good range of bars. 
Turquoise Main Restaurant 
Enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and late dinner buffets in Turquoise. 
Delicious International cuisine served in magnificent ambience with a view of the sea and the pool guarantees satisfaction for all tastes. 

WHAT IS THE VISA REQUIREMENT TO TRAVEL TO EGYPT?

Yes, Tourist Visa is required and must have six months validity. U.S. citizens can obtain a renewable single-entry 30-day tourist visa on arrival at Egyptian airports for a 25 USD fee. A multiple entry visa is also obtainable for 35 USD.

IS IT SAFE TO DRINK THE WATER IN EGYPT?

 It is advisable to drink bottled water during your entire holiday. That is why I would advise strongly that you don't drink the tap water, and use it only for washing and brushing your teeth. 

CAN I GET INTERNET ACCESS IN EGYPT?

Egyptian internet connections can be frustratingly slow at times, but USB modems are a popular, fast and flexible alternative to traditional wired or wireless connections. There are internet cafes in major cities such as Cairo and Alexandria. These generally offer about an hour of internet access for LE10 (about USD2).

ARE CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED IN EGYPT?

Most mid- and high-end tourist hotels will accept major credit cards, with Visa and MasterCard having the widest acceptance in Egypt. American Express is less commonly accepted but still useful in higher-end facilities. Diner's Club is rarely accepted in Egypt. The majority of restaurants and shops remain cash-only.

ARE THERE ANY ATMS IN EGYPT AND I USE THEM?

Automated teller machines (ATMs) are common throughout Cairo and Alexandria, less so in smaller cities and nearly impossible to find in rural Egypt. If you are drawing on funds from a foreign bank during your stay in Egypt, you will find ATMs a convenient and relatively economical means of obtaining the cash you need.

The exchange rate you get may vary from machine to machine. All of them will charge a slight fee for the conversion (based on the amount you are going to withdraw), but unless you are able to open an Egyptian bank account they are essentially your only way to withdraw cash.

 

Egyptian ATMs will accept credit and debit cards from many foreign banks without a problem, though if the bank you use in your home country is more locally or regionally oriented you may run into compatibility issues. 

WHAT IS THE CURRENCY OF EGYPT AND TIPS FOR FOREIGN EXCHANGE?

Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian pound (EGP, LE). Its most common denominations are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200-pound notes.

DO I NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE BEFORE TRAVELING TO SOUTH AFRICA?

All passengers traveling with Trailblazer Travelz are highly recommended to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

IS TIPPING CUSTOMARY IN EGYPT?

Tipping in restaurants in Egypt. Generally tipping around 10% is good etiquette at a restaurant in Egypt. However, you will more than likely see a “service charge” on your bill. This service charge goes to the restaurant, not the waiter so be sure to tip the waiter or waitress in addition.

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