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Egypt

A truly magical land, Egypt is an extraordinary country that continues to fuel the imagination, yet still holds many of its deepest mysteries close to its heart. Home to the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Valley of the Kings and majestic temples, it’s easy to think of Egypt as an ancient world of wonders. However, today’s Egypt is also one of the most modern countries in the Middle East with magnificent holiday resorts purpose-built for the needs of the millions of tourists who visit the country every year.

Hotels in the resorts are spacious, well designed and close to the beautiful beaches. Access is generally good and pavement walkways are popular where you’ll find a myriad of open-air cafes, bars and restaurants. Most places serve a good range of international cuisine as well as delicious local specialities.

The climate is hot, but not oppressive, and outdoor pursuits such as golf, fishing and birding expeditions are very popular. The country’s Red Sea coast with its fabulous coral reefs, offers excellent scuba diving. And, of course, a cruise down the Nile is the stuff of legends.

Aside from the many incredible sightseeing opportunities, a desert trek offers an unforgettable experience, with the chance to see Bedouin camps and take a rest beside a palm-shaded oasis. Before you leave for home, bartering in the markets is great fun, with the chance to haggle over antiques, beautiful Papyrus paintings and finely decorated alabaster vases.

RESORT INFORMATION

Currency Egyptian Pound

Time Difference (from UK) +2 hours

Flight Time (from UK) 5 hours

Voltage 240V, 50Hz

Shop Opening Times 0900-1900 Tue-Wed & Fri-Sat, 0900-2000 Mon & Thur (winter), 0900- 1230 & 1600-2000 (except Mon & Thur) (summer)

Bank Opening Times 0830-1400 Sun-Thur.

Cairo

General Description:

Africa's largest city as well as Egypt's capital and spiritual heart, Cairo sprawls for miles along the banks of the River Nile and is home to around 7.8 million inhabitants. An interesting juxtaposition of ancient and modern; shisha cafes now have wireless access. Traditions such as small fishing boats on the Nile and camels and goats in the heart of the city still survive alongside modern skyscrapers and mobile phones. It is polluted and overcrowded with traffic fumes, smog, dust, noise and general chaos. Given the sprawl and chaos, it is often difficult to get your bearings and practically impossible to get to know the city in only a few days; the best one can hope for is to get a feel for its different districts and rich history. The hub of the city centres on Tahrir Square, on the E bank of the Nile, where many of the big hotels and foreign embassies are located. To the east of this central point is the medieval Islamic quarter with an array of mosques, the Citadel and the twisting streets of the Khan el Khalili bazaar. To the south lies Old Cairo, site of a Roman tower as well as the city's oldest mosque, church and synagogue. Gezira Island in the middle of the Nile offers a little respite from the city traffic, with a more residential, less frenetic atmosphere. The outlying district of Heliopolis, near the airport, is quieter still, even relaxing by Cairo standards, having been designed originally as a garden suburb for wealthier Egyptians and expatriates, where many still live. If you do not mind the long journey to and from the centre, the quietest and most pleasant place to stay is near the Pyramids at Giza, on the west side of the river. Please note: when visiting mosques, women must wear a head scarf or other covering and be "decently" attired, shorts and miniskirts will offend Islamic sensibilities.

Location:
In northern Egypt. 140 miles SE of Alexandria and the Mediterranean. 14 miles SW of its international airport near Heliopolis.

Shopping:
The main shopping streets are near the Egyptian Museum, although most of the available goods are pretty shoddy; a visit to the giant Khan el Khalili bazaar is of more interest as far as souvenir and "atmosphere" shopping are concerned. A few modern shopping centres including Arkadia on the Corniche and an elegant mall in the Four Seasons hotel complex. Other street markets worth visiting: Wekala al Balaq for fabrics including Egyptian cotton, the tentmakers' bazaar for applique work and the camel market - for local colour rather than serious shopping!

Eating Out:
Range of restaurants, but you have to hunt for the quality establishments if you dine outside the hotels. Varied cuisine including Lebanese, Moroccan, French, Italian, Indian, Japanese and Chinese along with traditional Egyptian. Dinner cruises along the Nile are very popular. Levels of hygiene are often poor, however, even in hotels, and it is not unusual for tourists to get stomach upsets; be wary about what and where you eat and use bottled water, even for brushing teeth.

For the less mobile traveller:
Cairo is a very busy city and pavements are congested with hardly any drop down kerbs. In certain places, such as along the Nile or around the pyramids, it is quieter but the ground can be very uneven. Adapted transport is recommended in this city, where experienced guides can take you to accessible areas.

El Gouna

General Description:

Completely man-made resort of approximately 5½ miles by 3 miles, springing from flat marshy sand spits and lagoons, with a lush 18-hole golf course at its centre. It is all privately owned land and has security gates with a checkpoint. Tourists are free to come and go, but everyone else has identity cards. Properties are well spaced and in a variety of low-rise styles, creating an attractive "village" with downtown shops and bars, charming stone bridges, mature landscaping and a good, well-signposted road network. Central roads are cobbled, forcing what little traffic there is to maintain a very low speed. The outer roads are more like dirt tracks. Each property is more or less self-contained, but there remains a communal responsibility with regards to facilities and communications.

Location:
On the east coast, between the desert and the Red Sea. 19 miles north of Hurghada. 300 miles SE of Cairo. 170 miles NE of Luxor. Small local airport 2 miles from resort centre; Hurghada international airport 22 miles.

Shopping:
Shopping is not a high priority here and there are only a few shops and bazaars downtown so the hassle factor is not high as a result. More choice available in nearby Hurghada.

Eating Out:
All the resort hotels offer meals in their own restaurants, and guests can also take advantage of a "dine-around" system, allowing them to eat at other hotels (pre-booking required). A number of restaurants, bars and cafes downtown. The growing area of the marina offers a number of dining choices overlooking expensive yachts.

For the less mobile traveller:
The resort is flat and made up of hotels which are resorts in themselves and these tend to be accessible as they have been purpose built. Downtown has uneven ground and assistance maybe required.

Luxor

General Description:

Luxor is probably one of the oldest tourist destinations in the world, the ancient Greeks and Romans came to see its wonders long before modern-day travellers. What we generally think of as Luxor is made up of 3 different areas. The City of Luxor on the east bank of the Nile has Luxor Temple as its focal point, with the old town immediately behind, stretching back 500 yards or so east to the railway station. The main hotels, better shops, banks, civic offices and travel bureaus are all situated along the attractive main street, called the Corniche or promenade, and its quite sensitively developed, modern extension running 2 miles to the south. 2 miles north, abutting Luxor with no perceptible break between them, is Karnak, site of Karnak Temple and the evening sound-and-light show. Luxor and Karnak together stretch for around 5 miles along the Nile bank. Finally, a boat ride away on the west side of the river is ancient Thebes, stretching 4¾ miles from east to west and 3 miles from north to south, where most of the antiquities, tombs and ancient temples are found. In all, the Luxor experience is a typically Egyptian combination of awe-inspiring sights, genteel, old-world hospitality and bustling, colourful, often run-down commercial areas. The constant hard-sell techniques of vendors and the indefatigable offers of tourist services, taxi, caleche (horse-drawn carriage), felucca trips and general guiding services can be wearing but the general feeling is one of welcome and street crime is not evident.

Location:
East-central ("Upper") Egypt. 310 miles as the crow flies, but 416 miles by road south of Cairo. 125 miles north of Aswan. 170 miles SW of Hurghada. 4 miles NW of Luxor airport.

Shopping:
Scruffy souk and bazaar-type shopping streets open till late at night in the old town. Near the promenade is a "tourist bazaar" where the shopping experience is less intimidating and bartering is not as severe as in the souk. Many larger hotels also have small shopping arcades either on site or attached, where shopping is civilised but prices are by no means fixed. The well-established A A Gaddis shop near the entrance to the Old Winter Palace Hotel offers most of the usual souvenirs - like inlaid wooden boxes, alabaster, ceramics, leather goods etc - at fixed prices (which are the same as you eventually arrive at after hard bartering elsewhere). The "Egyptian" or camel market (on the other side of the railway tracks) - to which caleche drivers will try to entice you for ridiculously cheap fares - is an experience for only the hardiest of travellers. What would you do with a camel, ox or live chicken anyway?

Eating Out:
Mainly hotel based with a good range of table d'hote, A La Carte, light meals, pizzerias, Chinese, Italian, themed meals, buffets etc. A few good-quality local restaurants; the brave can go ethnic in the cheap restaurants around the railway station.

For the less mobile traveller:
Luxor is relatively flat, especially adjacent to the Nile. The roads can be uneven in places, but there are always helpful Egyptians to lend a hand when they can.

Sharm El Sheikh

General Description: 
As with so many holiday destinations, Sharm el Sheikh was originally nothing more than an ordinary fishing village until it took off as a diving location in the early 1980s. Growth has been rapid: when the Israelis returned the Sinai to Egypt in 1989, there were only 2 hotels in the area; since then the resort has spread to cover albeit sporadically a strip of coast 30 miles long. Downtown Sharm is still a typically scruffy little village with dusty streets; the few luxury hotels here seem out of place. The flat residential hilltop of Ras Um Sid to the east is a developing area. 5 miles northeast is Naama Bay, the main area of touristic development, comprising 1 mile or so of well-spaced hotels with only an attractive promenade separating them from the beach. Behind them passes the Peace Road, a busy main dual carriageway lined with a row of less well-situated hotels and various commercial outlets. In the southwest corner of the bay is the commercial centre of the resort, made up of a compact grid of shops, restaurants, small hotels and dive centres. The hilltop to the southwest is another rapidly developing area of hotels and shopping centres. Having exhausted the best sites in the immediate area, development has now moved to the remote areas of Shark Bay, Ras Nosrani and Nabq, 6, 11 and 18 miles farther north east.

Location:
On the eastern side of the southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula, on the Gulf of Aqaba coast. 315 miles southeast of Cairo. Hurghada is a 20-minute flight southwest across the Gulf of Suez. Downtown Sharm is 12½ miles southwest of the airport; Naama Bay is 8 miles southwest of the airport.
The old town of Sharm el Sheikh itself (known as downtown Sharm) is set on the northwest side of the almost completely enclosed Sharm el Maya Bay, which is flanked by low, flat-topped cliffs. Naama Bay, 5 miles northeast, lies all round the edge of the semicircular bay of the same name, again with flat cliffs on both edges. Both are backed by inhospitable, arid desert with rugged, saw-toothed mountains in the distance.

Shopping:
Downtown Sharm has some touristy shopping centres along with lots of genuine Arab bazaars and local shops in the large market area, which may be too "ethnic" for some Western tastes. Naama Bay's shops are more tourist orientated and correspondingly more expensive. The main shopping street is the pedestrianised El Sharm Mall which runs from opposite the Camel Hotel to the beach next to the Cataract Hotel. Similar bazaars are found all over the central area at the southern end of the beach, selling all manner of gold, leather, carpets, glass, inlaid wood, brass, spices and souvenirs. Some glitzy enclosed malls on the main road and duty-free shops.

Eating Out:
Plenty of restaurants of all international persuasions, including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, French, Egyptian and more. Mostly hotel based, but also in both centres, along the beaches and the main roads. No shortage of snacks and light meals, including several chain eateries and a McDonald's at Naama Bay.

For the less mobile traveller:
The area is flat and made up of many resorts which are very spread out. To get into town or between each hotel complex, a vehicle will be required. The main town Naama Bay is totally flat and access is good as all shops, bars and restaurants are on the same level with hardly any steps.

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