Travel to Aswan
Aswan, the most southerly city and a popular holiday destination, has more of an African ambiance with its numerous Nubian inhabitants providing a difference in culture and custom. Although every bit as touristy as Luxor, Aswan and its inhabitants are far more laid-back and pleasant.
A picturesque city, its attraction as a holiday destination lies not so much in its historical sites, but in the peacefulness of a felucca cruise at sunset, a visit to the colorful market (Sharia el-Souq), or dinner at one of the floating restaurants on the Nile. Aswan is a perfect base to visit to the magnificent Sun Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel.
Egypt is synonymous with Pharaohs, the pyramids, temples and antiquities from ancient civilizations. And at the center of these great civilizations lies the Nile River that has influenced their economics, social life, politics and religion. It is the oldest travel destination on earth: Greek and Roman travelers came in 430 BC to wonder at some of the very sights that make it a modern travel destination today. The magnificence of the painted Valley of the Kings, exquisite temples and the pyramids were all sought-after subjects of admiration, and many were already 2,500 years old!
With 72,000,000 inhabitants, Egypt represents one quarter of the population of the Arab world. The city of Cairo itself counts about 16,000,000 people. The Egyptian population is composed of people from various origins. Most Egyptians originate from Ancient Egypt and the Nile Valley. Others come from the Arabic and Levantine descents and the Nubians of Upper Egypt.
Arabic is the official language spoken by all Egyptians. When Arabic is spoken in the streets, it’s like a dialect and differs a great deal from classical Arabic. Although English is very widespread, people will appreciate you taking time to learn a few words and phrases. In holiday resorts like Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, many other European languages are spoken such as French, German, and Italian.
Egyptian history dates back to about 4000 B.C. , when the kingdoms of upper and lower Egypt, already highly sophisticated, were united. Egypt’s golden age coincided with the 18th and 19th dynasties (16th to 13th century B.C. ), during which the empire was established. Persia conquered Egypt in 525 B.C. , Alexander the Great subdued it in 332 B.C. , and then the dynasty of the Ptolemies ruled the land until 30 B.C. , when Cleopatra, last of the line, committed suicide and Egypt became a Roman, then Byzantine, province. Arab caliphs ruled Egypt from 641 until 1517, when the Turks took it for their Ottoman Empire.
Napoléon’s armies occupied the country from 1798 to 1801. In 1805, Mohammed Ali, leader of a band of Albanian soldiers, became pasha of Egypt. After completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, the French and British took increasing interest in Egypt. British troops occupied Egypt in 1882, and British resident agents became its actual administrators, though it remained under nominal Turkish sovereignty. In 1914, this fiction was ended, and Egypt became a protectorate of Britain.
Egyptian nationalism, led by Zaghlul Pasha and the Wafd Party, forced Britain to relinquish its claims on the country. Egypt became an independent sovereign state on Feb. 28, 1922, with Fu’ad I as its king. In 1936, by an Anglo-Egyptian treaty of alliance, all British troops and officials were to be withdrawn, except from the Suez Canal Zone. When World War II started, Egypt remained neutral.
Tensions grew between the Wafd Party and the monarchy following independence, and in 1952, the army, led by Gen. Mohammed Naguib, seized power. Three days later, King Farouk abdicated in favor of his infant son. The monarchy was abolished and a republic proclaimed on June 18, 1953, with Naguib becoming president and prime minister. He relinquished the prime ministership in 1954 to Gamal Abdel Nasser, leader of the ruling military junta. Nasser also assumed the presidency in 1956.
Nasser’s policies embroiled his country in continual conflict. In 1956, the U.S. and Britain withdrew their pledges of financial aid for the building of the Aswan High Dam. In response, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and expelled British oil and embassy officials. The Soviet Union then agreed to finance the dam and would come to exert increasing influence over Egypt in the coming decade. Israel, barred from the canal and exasperated by terrorist raids, invaded the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Britain and France, after demanding Egyptian evacuation of the canal zone, attacked Egypt on Oct. 31, 1956. Worldwide pressure forced Britain, France, and Israel to halt the hostilities. A UN emergency force occupied the canal zone, and all troops were evacuated in the spring of 1957.
From 1956 to 1961, Egypt and Syria united to form a single country called the United Arab Republic (UAR). Syria ended this relationship in 1961 after a military coup, but Egypt continued to call itself the UAR until 1971.
In 1967, border tensions between Egypt and Israel led to the Six-Day War. On June 5, Israel launched an air assault, and within days had annexed the Sinai Peninsula, the East Bank of the Jordan River, and the Golan Heights. A UN cease-fire on June 10 saved the Arabs from a complete rout. Nasser declared the 1967 cease-fire void along the canal in April 1969 and began a war of attrition. On Sept. 28, 1970, Nasser died of a heart attack. Anwar el-Sadat, an associate of Nasser and a former newspaper editor, became the next president.
The fourth Arab-Israeli War broke out on Oct. 6, 1973, during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Egypt swept deep into the Sinai, while Syria strove to throw Israel off the Golan Heights. A UN-sponsored truce was accepted on Oct. 22. In Jan. 1974, both sides agreed to a settlement negotiated by the U.S. that gave Egypt a narrow strip along the entire Sinai bank of the Suez Canal. In June, President Nixon made the first visit by a U.S. president to Egypt and full diplomatic relations were established. The Suez Canal was reopened on June 5, 1975.
In the most audacious act of his career, Sadat flew to Jerusalem at the invitation of Prime Minister Menachem Begin on Nov. 20, 1977, to discuss a permanent peace settlement. The Arab world reacted with fury. Egypt and Israel signed a formal peace treaty on March 26, 1979. The pact ended 30 years of war and established diplomatic and commercial relations.
By mid-1980, two-thirds of the Sinai had been transferred back to Egypt, but Sadat halted further talks with Israel in Aug. 1980 because of continued Israeli settlement of the West Bank. On Oct. 6, 1981, Sadat was assassinated by extremist Muslim soldiers at a parade in Cairo. Vice President Hosni Mubarak, a former air force chief of staff, succeeded him. Israel completed the return of the Sinai to Egyptian control on April 25, 1982. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June brought a marked cooling in Egyptian-Israeli relations, but not a disavowal of the peace treaty.
In July 2005, President Mubarak announced he would seek a fifth six-year term. Earlier in the year Mubarak had amended the constitution to allow for multiparty elections, the first in Egyptian history, and on Sept. 6, Mubarak was reelected with 88.6% of the vote.
The national currency is the Egyptian pound (EGP), known as the guineh in Arabic. It is divided into 100 piasters (irsh in Arabic).
During the summer, from March to November, the climate is hot and dry in most of the country. December to February can be quite cold in the north. The sky is usually blue and cloudless. The temperature varies considerably in Egypt. It can be extremely hot during the day and very cold at night, especially in the desert.
Proof of yellow fever immunization is required if arriving from an infected area.
A passport and visa are required. Tourists can obtain a renewable 30-day tourist visa on arrival at an Egyptian airport for a $15 fee, payable in U.S. dollars. Visitors arriving overland, holders of official or diplomatic passports, and/or those who previously experienced difficulty with their visa status in Egypt should obtain a visa prior to arrival. Travelers arriving from Israel at the Taba border crossing are advised to obtain a visa prior to their arrival.
Credit cards and travelers’ checks are accepted in the main hotels and large stores. Most tourist shops also accept foreign currencies.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
It is advisable to drink bottled water only.
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