Service taxis are usually
Peugeot 504 vehicles which hold about six or seven
people and which tend to congregate near bus and
This is a relatively fast way to travel between
cities, but the driver will not begin the journey
until his vehicle is full, which can be inconvenient.
The whole vehicle can be hired for an increased
A larger version of the service taxi is the microbus,
which is built to hold about 12 people and often
holds twenty or more. Needless to say, it is not
particularly comfortable and passengers are often
charged extra for luggage. Microbus fares are
roughly the same as service taxis, but there are
Regular taxis operate in most Egyptian cities.
In Cairo these are black and white, and in Alexandria
black and orange. Although most are fitted with
a meter, many are non-functional and arguments
between passenger and driver over the correct
fare are quite common. As in all Middle Eastern
countries, it is probably best to avoid this by
negotiating the fare before beginning your trip.
Bus services are to be found everywhere in Egypt.
Deluxe buses, which run between most of the main
towns and cities, are air-conditioned and fairly
comfortable. The basic intercity bus service is
less luxurious and is often crowded.
Tickets can be bought at a bus station window,
or, sometimes, on the bus. Regular ticket inspections
are the norm. On longer runs, seats can be booked
in advance, but for short distances those who
board first will get the best seats.
Visitors should be a little wary of 'video buses'
which, despite their superior speed and cleanliness,
show non-stop movies at high volume, and are not
for those with delicate eardrums.
Egypt's railway system has over 5,000km of track,
connecting almost every major city and town. Timetables
are generally reliable, although the system itself
is in need of some modernisation.
First-class rail travel is either by wagon-lit,
which has air-conditioning, hot and cold running
water in each sleeper compartment and a full meal
service; or by first-class seated accommodation.
Second-class travel is divided into two sub-sections:
with or without air-conditioning. Third-class
travel is extremely basic, very cheap and can
Cairo and Alexandria have their own tram networks.
In Alexandria, the trams are often fairly crowded,
but the network is extensive and the system is
reliable. In Cairo, the system is smaller, consisting
of only three lines.
Roads are hazardous and local driving skills leave
a great deal to be desired, roadside heaps of
post-accident scrap metal constantly bear witness
Visitors are strongly advised against hiring a
car themselves, although there are plenty of rental
agencies in all major cities. Driving at night
is particularly dangerous, as many drivers do
not use headlights.
Camels and donkeys can be hired on an hourly-basis
to enable visitors to wander around many of Egypt's
ancient sites. A guide will usually accompany
The heart of Egypt for more than 1000 years, Cairo
demonstrates the dichotomy of all things Egyptian.
It's in Cairo where the medieval world and the
contemporary western world come together in a
confusion of earthen houses and towering modern
office buildings, of flashy cars and donkey-drawn
carts. Nobody really knows how many people live
in Cairo, but estimates put it at about 16 million,
and the city's many squatter camps and slums alone
accommodate around 5 million people. Housing shortages
are terrible and the traffic is appalling, but
the government has begun a campaign to ease these
pressures, opening an underground metro system
and constructing satellite suburbs.
Islamic Cairo (which is no more Islamic than
the rest of the city) is the old medieval quarter,
and stepping into its neighbourhoods is like moving
back six or seven centuries. This is the most
densely populated area of Egypt, and probably
the whole Middle East. Districts like Darb al-Ahmar
are full of tiny alleyways, mud-brick houses,
food hawkers, and goats, camels and donkeys. The
streets are lined with mosques and temples, and
the air is filled with the pungent smells of turmeric
and cumin, animals and squalor. Some of Islamic
Cairo's highlights include the Mosque of Ibn Tulun,
dating from the 9th century and the city's oldest
intact and fully functioning Islamic monument;
the 15th-century Mosque of Qaitbey, considered
the jewel of Mamluk architecture; Al-Azhar Mosque,
the keystone of Islam in Egypt; and the Citadel,
an awesome medieval fortress that was the seat
of Egyptian power for 700 years. The Citadel has
three major mosques and several museums.
Coptic Cairo was originally built as a Roman
fortress town. Pre-dating the founding of Islamic
Cairo by several hundred years, it was home to
one of the world's first Christian communities
and is also a holy place for Jews and Muslims.
The sole remaining section of the Fortress of
Babylon includes two towers which were built in
AD 98 and originally overlooked an important port
on the Nile before the river changed course. The
Coptic Museum at the foot of the towers explores
Egypt's Christian era from the years 300 to 1000.
The stunning collection includes religious and
secular art, stonework, manuscripts, woodwork,
glass and ceramics.
Giza is on the west bank of the Nile and takes
in an 18km (11mi) swathe that includes the Great
Pyramids. The pyramids were one of the seven wonders
of the ancient world, and despite the crowds that
visit every year, they are still a truly overwhelming
sight. They have survived the rise and fall of
great dynasties and conquerors, and share the
flat desert surrounds with the Sphinx and a number
of smaller pyramids and temples.
Cairo has various precincts with cheap tourist
accommodation and places to eat, but central Cairo
is popular with budget travellers, particularly
Midan Orabi and Midan Talaat Harb.
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The mighty Macedonian Alexander the Great came
to Egypt in 331 BC after conquering Greece and
selected a small fishing village on the Mediterranean
coast to establish his new capital, Alexandria.
The city is oriented around Midan Ramla and Midan
Saad Zaghoul, the large square that runs down
to the waterfront. Alexandria once had a great
library that contained more than 500,000 volumes,
and at its peak the city was a great repository
of science, philosophy and intellectual thought
The Graeco-Roman Museum contains relics that
date back to the 3rd century BC. There's a magnificent
black granite sculpture of Apis, the sacred bull
worshipped by Egyptians, as well as an assortment
of mummies, sarcophagi, pottery, jewellery and
ancient tapestries. Another highlight is one of
the few historical depictions of the Pharos of
Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The only Roman Amphitheatre in Egypt was rediscovered
in 1964. Its 13 white marble terraces are in excellent
condition and excavation work is still under way,
although the dig has shifted a little to the north
of the theatre.
Pompey's Pillar is a massive 25m (82ft) pink
granite monument measuring 9m (30ft) around its
girth. The pillar should rightfully called Diocletian's
Pillar, as it was built for the emperor in AD
297, and was the only monument left standing following
the violent arrival of the Crusaders around 1000
years later. The Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa
are the largest known Roman burial site in Egypt,
and consist of three tiers of burial tombs, chambers
and hallways. The catacombs were begun in the
2nd century AD and were later expanded to hold
more than 300 corpses. There's a banquet hall
where the grieving would pay their respects with
a funeral feast. Experts are hoping to discover
Cleopatra's Palace under the sea bed off Alexandria;
columns were found in 1998, and recently archaeologists
raised a beautiful statue of Isis from the depths.
Cleopatra's Library was destroyed by the Crusaders.
Built on the site of the ancient city of Thebes,
Luxor is one of Egypt's prime tourist destinations.
People have been visiting the magnificent monuments
of Luxor, Karnak, Hatshepsut and Ramses III for
thousands of years. Feluccas and old barges shuffle
along the Nile between the luxury hotel ships
of the Hilton and Sheraton cruising to and fro
Cairo and Aswan.
Luxor Temple was built by Pharaoh Amenhotep III
(1390-1352 BC) on the site of an older temple
built by Hatshepsut and added to by Tutankhamun,
Ramses II, Nectanebo, Alexander the Great and
various Romans. Excavation work has been under
way since 1885. The Temples of Karnak are a spectacular
series of monuments that were the main place of
worship in Theban times. They can be divided into
the Amun Temple Enclosure, which is the largest;
the Mut Temple Enclosure on the south side; and
the Montu Temple Enclosure. The lonely statues
of the Colossi of Memnon are the first things
most people see when they arrive on the West bank,
though the Valley of the Kings, including the
spectactular tombs of Nefertari and Tutankhamun,
are the big attraction. Luxor is accessible from
Cairo by buses or trains which run every day.
Institution Accommodation Facilities Most of the institutes have segregated,
conveniently located and cost-effective accommodation
facilities. The accommodation fees vary from institute
Private Rental Market Many furnished and unfurnished apartments
are available throughout the Egypt. When you rent
a unit in a private building you will have to
sign a rental agreement or lease that specifies
your rights and responsibilities and those of
the property owner and his agent.