Holidays, climate and national customs in Egypt
|January 7||Coptic Christmas|
|February March||Awil sanaa hijreya (Islamic New Year Festival)|
|February March||Ashura (fasting festival)|
|April 25||Liberation of Sinai|
|April May||Coptic Easter|
|April May||Sham el Nessim (Egyptian Spring Festival)|
|1st of May||Labor Day|
|18th of June||Anniversary of the withdrawal of British troops|
|July 23||Anniversary of the 1952 Revolution|
|April May||Mulid el Nabi (Prophet’s Birthday)|
|September 11||Coptic New Year|
|October 6||Anniversary of crossing the Suez Canal|
|November December||Eid el Fitr (end of Ramadan)|
Source: Countryaah – Egypt Holidays
The dates for the Islamic holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and therefore shift every year.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, which precedes the festival day Eid el Fitr, Muslims do not eat during the day, but only after sunset. Many restaurants are therefore closed during the day. The festival of Eid el Fitr lasts 3-4 days in Egypt.
|January||Coptic Christmas in Cairo|
|February||Abu Simbel Festival in Abu Simbel|
|May||Shem al Nessim in different places|
|August||Sharm el-Sheikh Festival in Sharm el-SheikhInternational Folklore Arts Festival in Ismailia|
|October||Moulid by Sayyida Zeinab in Cairo|
|October||Aida at Giz in Cairo|
|November||Arabian Horse Festival in CairoFestival of the Exploration of Tutankhamun’s Tomb in Luxor|
In principle, Egypt can be divided into three different climatic areas:
The Nile Delta and the Mediterranean coast have a predominantly Mediterranean climate, that is, the summers are hot and dry (the average daily temperature is 28-32 °C, while it cools down to 19-24 °C at night) and winters are usually relatively rainy and mild (around 17-20 °C during the day and 8-11 °C at night).
The temperatures around the Red Sea are significantly higher. From May to September they fluctuate between 30-35 °C, sometimes even up to 40 °C; and even at night they don’t drop well below 25 °C. The mild wind that blows there often makes the heat more bearable. Winter brings more moderate temperatures, mostly over 20 °C during the day and often 10-13 °C at night.
In the desert areas, which make up around 95% of the area of Egypt, the temperature is 19-22 °C during the day and only 5-10 °C at night. But in the long summer, which lasts from the end of April to the end of October, it gets 38-42 °C during the day and only cools down to 22-26 °C at night. There are only about 0-2 rainy days a year, the humidity here is about 15-50%.
A specialty is the Chamsin, a hot and dry desert wind that blows from the southeast to the east from March to June.
In the Arab world, trading plays a major role when it comes to buying. A guideline for a real price is about one third to one half of the originally asked price. Therefore one should undercut the usually excessively inflated first price demand of the seller accordingly. However, haggling without the intention to buy is considered an insult to the trading partner.
For guests in an Islamic country, consideration for the local customs is required. Women in particular should pay attention to decent clothing. Beach clothing outside the bathing zone is taboo, and long pants are also recommended for men outside the hotel zones. Photographing locals without their permission must be avoided at all costs, as the image of people is traditionally a taboo in Islamic countries.
During the fasting month of Ramadan it is better to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public.
The sale and serving of alcohol is prohibited on Fridays and during Ramadan except in tourist hotels and restaurants. Drinking in public is strictly frowned upon in all Islamic countries; alcohol should only be consumed in public where it is served. It would also be grossly impolite to encourage a local to drink.
In addition, non-Muslims are generally prohibited from entering mosques and madrasas in which the Friday sermon is still being held.
In Egypt, pre-Islamic beliefs such as the fear of the evil eye (from the camera lens or dark glasses) and the belief in symbols that bring good luck such as the “hand of Fatima” are widespread.
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Presents the way that EG stands for the nation of Egypt as a two-letter acronym.
So far, a total of 101 pyramids have been discovered in Egypt.
Pyramids of Giza
The world-famous buildings date from the time between 2700 and 2560 BC. And served as tombs for the mummified pharaohs. The pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos come from the builder Imhotep and were among the seven wonders of the world. The 137 m high pyramid of Cheops with a base width of 227 m was composed of around 2.5 million stone blocks, one of which weighs between 2 and 20 tons. The Chephren pyramid is 136 m high and the smallest at 62 m is the Mykerinos pyramid, at the foot of which the Sphinx watches.
Memphis and its necropolis with the pyramids of Gizeh, Abusir, Sakkara and Dahshur.
The buildings have all been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Pyramid of Medum (3rd or 4th Dynasty) Pyramids at Lischt, Illahun and Haware (Faiyum)
These buildings date from the Middle Kingdom, which lasted from around 2137 to 1781 BC. Existed
Ancient Egyptian culture
Valley of the Kings in Thebes
A total of 64 richly decorated tombs have been found here in the rock. The most famous, Tutankhamun’s tomb, opened in 1922. It contains coffins made of gold and immense grave goods. The most recent discovery in 1995 revealed the tomb of the sons of Ramses II.
Valley of the Queens in Thebes
The tomb of Queen Nefertari with its particularly beautiful paintings in bright colors is best preserved. The mortuary temple of Pharaoh Hatshepsut shows murals in the middle terrace from the ruler’s journey to Punt (Somalia).
Ramesseum in Thebes
The mortuary temple of Ramses II contains interior reliefs at the entrance depicting war scenes with chariots, attacks by the Hittites and the Pharaoh himself with his general staff.
Colossi of Memnon in Thebes
The seated figures of King Amenophis III weigh 800 t each.
Karnak Temple in Luxor
From the empire temple of Amun during the 12th dynasty, an extensive complex of temples, gates and colonnades with the holy lake was created over the course of two millennia.
Originally under Amenhotep III. Amun Temple is decorated with richly decorated walls, columns and images of gods.
The museum, built by Italian architects, contains pharaonic statues and obelisks at
Philae Temple near Aswan
The Ptolemaic-Roman temple complex with the Isis temple dates from around 380 BC. It was moved from its original island to its present location in a UNESCO rescue operation in 1979 because of its endangerment from the Aswan Dam.
Osiris obelisk in Aswan
In the former quarry of the pharaohs, this obelisk, which was only half carved out of the rock by an ancient stonemason, is 42 m high and weighs almost 1,200 t.
Temple complex of Abu Simbel near Aswan
Four colossal figures are enthroned in front of the huge entrance facade of the Great Rock Temple of Ramses II. Next to it is the small Hathor temple of the king’s wife Nefertari.
Nubian monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Early Christian ruins of Abu Mena (Monastery of St. Menas)
The 332 BC. The port city founded by Alexander the Great today extends in many small bays over a total of 25 km of Mediterranean coast. The now dilapidated town houses with their richly decorated stucco facades are reminiscent of past splendor.
Old villa suburb of Maadi in Cairo
King Djoser’s tomb in Saqqara
The monumental step pyramid with the surrounding sacred area and the surrounding wall dates from around 2650 BC.
Tomb area of Mentu-hotep (11th dynasty) near Thebes
The type of rock chamber tomb, which was pre-formed in the Old Kingdom, was combined here with the tomb shape of the pyramid.
Rock tombs of Beni Hasan
They belong to the main monuments of the architecture of the Middle Kingdom.
Temple of Hathor at Dendera
This is a significant example of late Egyptian architecture.
Temple on Philae
The building was built in the late period of the Egyptian Empire.
Gizeh is the third largest city in Egypt with approx. 3.2 million residents and is only 20 km away from the inner city of Cairo. Particularly worth seeing are the ancient Egyptian royal tombs and sacred buildings, such as the Sphinx.
Cairo is not only Egypt’s capital, but also Egypt’s largest city with around 8 million residents. The city is located on the Nile. In Cairo there are important museums (Egyptian Museum, Islamic Museum, Coptic Museum).
In the former capital of the middle and later the new empire there are impressive pharaonic buildings.
Alexandria is Egypt’s second largest city with approximately 4.3 million residents. The city is located on the Mediterranean Sea. In Greco-Roman times, Alexandria was the capital of “Egypt”.
monument in Hurghada In the well-known diving and bathing resort on the Red Sea there is an unusual monument in the sea. It is an approx. 3 m long “knife” – with the point upwards – that is anchored to the sea bed. The knife “pierces” an artificial shark attached to it. The monument is intended to commemorate these animals that are worth protecting.
Old Town of Cairo/Coptic Cairo
The district in the south of Cairo, which is characterized by old residential buildings and narrow streets, is also called Masr el-Qadima and can be easily reached by underground (Mar Girgis stop). Today the Christians of Kairos, the Copts, live where the biblical Babylon is supposed to have been. Here you can find the most important churches, the oldest synagogue in Egypt and the Amr Mosque. Incidentally, the interesting Islamic old town was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.
Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan
Agatha Christie wrote her thriller “Death on the Nile” in the famous orushotel. Below the facility, the river invites to evening felucca rides.
Construction was completed in 1970. The connected power plant has a capacity of 2.1 million kW.
With an area of around 5,500 km², it is one of the largest artificially created lakes in the world.
Egyptian National Museum in Cairo
The collection of pharaonic grave goods, figures of the dead, steles, columns, coins, tools, clothing and jewelry, founded in 1858, consists of a total of 150,000 objects, most of which are stored in magazines. The treasure of Tut-anch-Amun with the gold mask, the 225 kg gold coffin and the war chariot as well as the mummy room, in which the mummies of Ramses II and ten other great pharaohs and queens are kept in glass showcases, are worth highlighting.
El-Khalīli-Bazaar in Cairo
Originally built under the Mamluk prince el-Khalīli in 1382, the marketplace is now a colorful bazaar with a huge range of goods.
Islamic Museum in Cairo
The collection of works of art from the entire Islamic world from the 7th to the 19th century is considered the most important of its kind.
Shark Observatory in the Ras Mohammed National Park on Sinai
The Shark Observatory Bay belongs to the property.
Mosque of Sultan Hassan in Cairo
This mosque – located on Midan Mohammed Ali – dates from the 14th century. It is considered a masterpiece of Arabic architecture and has the tallest minaret in the city and the second tallest in North Africa. The Koran stand inside is the oldest in Egypt.
St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai
Surrounded by a 15-meter-high granite wall labyrinthine monastery is currently the smallest diocese in the world on the Mount St. Catherine.
Located in the library of the monastery more than 4,000 richly illustrated folios from the early days of Christianity, and the second largest collection of writings ancient Rome. The monastery museum also houses the world’s largest collection of icons.
The mosque called in its translation The Blooming dominates the Shari Gohar el-Chalil. Dating from 972, it is the third oldest mosque in the country. Today the mosque is also a Sunni university. After an earthquake, however, it had to be completely renewed and subsequently redesigned and expanded again and again.
Die Blühende – as it is called in its translation – is one of the most renowned educational institutions in the Islamic world and is the second oldest university in the world after the University of Al-Qarawiyyin (Fez). Named after Fatima, the youngest daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, the university dates back to the 10th century and is currently attended by around 375,000 students
Around 95% of Egypt consists of desert – it is the Egyptian Sahara and the deserts of Sinai.
According to scientists, the formation of the Sahara desert began around 70 million years ago, when the water level in the Mediterranean Sea sank and huge “beaches” – today’s desert – were left behind. It is estimated that at that time the edge of the sea up to the present-day Bahariyya oasis, which is about 300 km from the present-day Mediterranean coast.
The desert in Egypt is characterized by great diversity and is said to unite all types of desert in the world. So you can find dunes with steep edges, scree and rock formations or gorges, endless expanses that are only interrupted by conical limestone formations.
Also worth mentioning is the so-called White Desert, which is about 500 km southwest of Cairo. This desert area and its surroundings were declared a national park in 2002, with a total area of around 3,010 km².
One finds here, for example, white limestone monoliths, which are sedimented and calcified remains of plankton that date from around 80 million years ago. They got their current shape after the sea receded through wind and weather as well as the extreme temperature differences between day and night. Some of the monoliths are reminiscent of mushrooms, a sphinx or human heads.
Although the desert looks almost lifeless at first glance, numerous animals still live here, such as the desert fox, gerbils, lizards, beetles, scorpions and snakes as well as birds such as falcons.
Wild sheep (Weddan) live in the area around Uweinat and Gilf Kebir and in the eastern part of the desert there are even ibexes.
But humans have also left numerous traces in the desert, such as 5,000 year old rock paintings, markings of old caravan routes or ceramics from the Romans. And even prehistoric remains of sharks have been discovered in the desert sands.
It is also interesting that the desert sand is considered to be almost sterile and therefore the Bedouins rub desert sand into their wounds when they are injured.
Since time immemorial, the desert has also been considered a place of contemplation and reflection. Not least some of the monasteries that are still inhabited today are an example of this.
If you are a little enthusiastic about the mysticism of the desert, you should read the book “Wind, Sand und Sterne” by the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) from 1939. De Saint-Exupéry in 1935 had to make an emergency landing about 200 km west of Cairo in the Sahara on the occasion of a flight from Paris to Saigon in which he had lost his orientation. He remained unharmed and was rescued by the Bedu when he was looking for a human habitation – shortly before he died of thirst.
The approximately 61,000 km² Sinai Peninsula is bordered in the west by the Gulf of Suez, in the east by the Gulf of Aqaba and Israel and in the south by the Red Sea. The peninsula forms a transition between Asia and Africa.
The Katharinenberg (Jabal Katrina) – is with a height of 2,637 m the highest mountain of the peninsula and also of the whole of Egypt.
In the north of the Sinai, annual rainfall of 20 mm to 50 mm is expected, while in the south it is between 150 mm and 200 mm. That is enough for nomads in South Sinai to be able to keep their animals in wadis and on mountain slopes.
Oases in the desert
The oases are all in a depression in the flat regions of the desert. Therefore, they are closer to the groundwater than the rest of the desert. Without the oases, desert crossings would be virtually impossible in the past. Here you could rest and find food and drink for people and animals. In addition, the visitor will find ancient sights, such as temples or fortifications. The Bedouins who live here are still considered to be original and not yet as business-minded as many in the country’s tourist centers.
A bath in one of the local medicinal springs is also recommended.
This oasis is the only one of the Egyptian oases to receive its water not from the groundwater, but from a canal from the Nile – the Bahr Yusuf (Joseph Canal) – which goes back to biblical times. It stretches from the Nile to the 230 km² large Birket-Karun-See (Qarum-See), which has no runoff and is therefore increasingly saline. The lake is around 45 m below sea level. In the past, even celebrities like Winston Churchill or the Egyptian King Faruk went duck hunting here. But now the main focus is more on bird watching.
The oasis is quite large and even has a capital with numerous palm plantations in its vicinity. Numerous ruins from the time of the Romans and ancient Egypt can also be found here. The many local antique water wheels are certainly particularly impressive. The oasis includes the nutur sanctuary “Wadi Rayyan”. This desert area surrounds two lakes that are connected by a small waterfall. He is the only one in the Egyptian part of the Sahara. There is also a monastery here, in which Christian monks still live. A visit to the valley of the whales (Wadi Hitan) to the west should be a special experience. Here you can marvel at the skeletons of long-extinct whale species that lived here tens of millions of years ago, when the Mediterranean Sea reached here.
From Cairo, this oasis can be reached on a well-developed road after a four to five hour drive. The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) crashed near this desert road in 1935 on his flight from Paris to Saigon and was rescued by Bedouins. In the oasis there are some villages with the main town of the oasis – Bawiti. The “golden mummies” found here a few years ago are a major attraction. Some of the mummies and sarcophagi can be found in a small museum in Bawiti. Of course, the visitor will find shops selling groceries and souvenirs here.
The remains of dinosaurs were found in Gebel Dest over 100 years ago. Health enthusiasts can take a bath in one of the numerous mineral or sulfur springs. On the road to the Siwa oasis you can find the only surviving temple in Egypt, which was dedicated to Alexander the Great. It should be mentioned that the oasis has been inhabited for around 8,000 years and was used as a military outpost at the time of the pharaohs.
This oasis is the closest to the White Desert at a distance of approx. 30 km. Around 15,000 people currently live here, around 5,000 of them in the main town of the Qasr Farafra oasis. In 1892, a census only counted just over 540 residents. The local old Roman clay fortress has unfortunately been in a rather poor condition since the 1950s, but it is still partially inhabited.
Friends of camel and sheep’s wool will find what they are looking for here, and surprisingly this work is mainly carried out by men. A bath in one of the many hot springs is particularly recommended, which often contain traces of sulfur and should therefore have a beneficial effect on muscle or joint problems.
It should be mentioned that the oasis has been inhabited for around 8,000 years and was primarily used as a military outpost at the time of the pharaohs.
Dakhla is one of the most remote oases in Egypt – far removed from both Cairo and Luxor, the former Thebes. Nevertheless, this quite large oasis covers a large area with a number of villages with the main town of Mut (= mother). The people in the oasis can be recognized by their straw hats, which are not common in other oases. The oasis has been inhabited for around 13,000 years. The steep slope above the depression in which the oasis is located is extremely striking. Under the guidance of Dutch scientists, almost the entire building was rebuilt with its mud houses. In the oasis you can still find hot springs and the old Roman ruin Deir el-Haggar, which was buried in the sand for a long time. Even if it sounds a bit surprising, the streets of Mut are great for riding around on a rental bike.
It should be interesting to know that in the 19th century the oasis was the target of desert robbers from Chad.
Unfortunately, today’s camel caravans mostly end in the slaughterhouses in Cairo. The oasis in Bagawat is home to one of the best-preserved old Christian cemeteries in the world – with its 263 ornate tombs and numerous chapels. The spectacular fortress Ain Um Dabadib is located about 40 km north of the capital of the oasis, which was used for defense purposes even before the Roman times.
Siwa Oasis Siwa
, with its approx. 300,000 date trees and 70,000 olive trees, corresponds to the idea of an oasis as it is imagined by western visitors. The history of the oasis with its current population of around 23,000 – mostly Berbers – goes back to the time of the 18th Dynasia of the New Kingdom. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that Alexander the Great was born in 331 BC. Had visited the main temple dedicated to the god Amun with his oracle in order to be prophesied of the future.
The ruins of the clay town of Old Shali, which have not been habitable since the 1980s, are worth seeing. The local Shiatta lake is unfortunately very salty.
Friends of handicrafts will find handmade and burned Sahara saucepans (tagine) here. The richly decorated wedding dresses here are also known and loved far beyond the oasis region.
The accommodations at the oasis consist of individually designed eco-lodges, one of which Prince Charles from Great Britain even stayed in on the occasion of a visit in 2006.
More natural beauties
Mosesberg (Mount Sinai)
According to the Old Testament, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on the 2,285 m high summit plateau.
In 1995 a tourist discovered previously unknown papyrus rolls in a crevice.
Ras Mohammed National Park on Sinai
The 400 km ² park is home to extremely rich underwater flora and fauna.
There are around 150 species of coral that are between 75,000 and 20 million years old.
Barracudas, trumpet fish, napoleon fish and even small sharks and dolphins frolic in the sea.
The Suez Canal
The Suez Canal connects the port cities of Port Said and Port Taufiq over a length of 193.3 km. This enables ships to pass from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. It was opened on November 17, 1869 in the presence of numerous high dignitaries. Contrary to the frequent publications, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigilette was not performed but Aida. Aida was not premiered until 1871 in Cairo. A 37 km long canal, completed in 2015 east of the old canal, runs parallel to the existing canal and straightened the previous course. The new canal enables ships to pass through in both directions at the same time.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Thebes and its necropolis
The royal city of Thebes is located on the eastern bank of the Nile. It was the center of Egypt for four centuries, but only the stone temples remain, while the structures made of dried Nile mud bricks have disappeared.
One can still find the Amun temple of Karnak, the Luxor temple, which is connected to the temple city of Karnak by an avenue lined with mythical creatures. Thebes and its necropolis was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979
In the Islamic quarter of Cairo there are numerous mosques that can also be visited by non-Muslims. These mosques are true gems that should not be missed to visit. The restored mosques stand out like foreign objects between the dilapidated houses in the area. On the one hand there is Cairo’s poorest area and on the other hand the most beautiful architectural monuments can be found here.
The old town of Cairo exemplarily shows the Islamic architecture and yet one fights for the preservation of the old town of Cairo. Narrow streets, dilapidated houses and numerous mosques determine life in this lively district.
A beautiful park is located near the district, it was donated to the city by Karim Aga Khan IV.
In the Egyptian Museum – not located in the old town – you can find a large number of testimonies from ancient Egypt.
Islamic Cairo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979
Memphis and its Necropolis
Memphis and its necropolis with the pyramids of Gizeh, Abusir, Saqqara and Dahshur. Nine pyramids rise
near Cairo, including the Cheops, Chefren and Mykerionos pyramids, tombs that were named after the pharaohs buried there. The pyramids culminated in the great pyramids of Giza, the city of the dead. Today Giza is a suburb of Cairo.
The world-famous buildings date from between 2700 and 2560 BC. And served as tombs for the mummified pharaohs. The pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos come from the builder Imhotep and were among the seven wonders of the world. The 137 m high pyramid of Cheops with a base width of 227 m was composed of around 2.5 million stone blocks, one of which weighs between 2 and 20 tons. The Chephren pyramid is 136 m high and the smallest at 62 m is the Mykerinos pyramid, at the foot of which the Sphinx watches. More here >>>
The pyramids are praised as one of the seven wonders of the world.
All other wonders of the world, which the writer Antipater of Sidon 2nd century BC. Chr., There is no more. Memphis and its necropolis with the pyramids of Giza, Abusir, Saqqara and Dahshur was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979
The Nubian monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
On the western bank of the Nile, south of Aswan, workers under the pharaoh Ramses II (1303 BC to 1213) hammered temples to a depth of 60 m directly into the limestone. Pillars were knocked out of the rock with great effort, while the workers suffered considerably from the lack of oxygen inside the limestone. Several 100 m² of the columns were also colored under these conditions.
Ramses II. The builder of this complex dedicated it to the gods Ammun-Re, Harmachis and Ptah. On March 21st and September 21st, the sunlight falls through the 60 meter long corridor and illuminates two of the gods, while the light does not reach the god of darkness Ptah. There are also four pharaoh statues that are 20 m high. Grave goods included statues and wall decorations.
The wife of Ramses “Nefertari” was built her own temple, it is the temple of Philae and a very well preserved Ptolemaic place of worship. When the Aswan High Dam was built, the temple was rebuilt further north on the island of Agilkia. The Nubians living there were expelled. The Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979
Early Christian ruins at Abu Mena
Abu Mena is an important Christian pilgrimage site. The complex was founded in the 5th century AD. A Roman legionary named Mena died here as a Christian martyr. In the 11th century – when Islam spread – the city was forgotten. In 1905 the excavation began in the desert.
But it is feared that Abu Mena will be flooded, because the underground structures that were uncovered have already been filled in again. The UNESCO monument Abu Mena is therefore on the red list.
The early Christian ruins of Abu Mena (Monastery of St. Menas) were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979
The Katharinenkloster was founded between 548 and 565 in Sinai at the foot of the Gebel Musa in Egypt. It is now Greek Orthodox. Here, according to the Bible, God is said to have revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. The bones of St. Catherine of Alexandria, after whom the monastery was named, are said to rest here, hence the name of the monastery.
The monastery complex – built like a fortress – has an area of about 100 hectares. The Catherine’s Monastery was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002
The Wadi al-Hitan – The Valley of the Whales – is a dry valley in western Egypt. The Tethys Ocean was located in this valley 40 million years ago.
The ocean was pushed back by tectonic forces and marine animals became trapped in sediments. The skeletons of the animals are petrified. Even today you can find numerous fossil marine remains, such as whale skeletons, shark teeth and corals.
Wadi al-Hitan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.