Fascinating history of Egypt
The regularity and richness of the annual Nile River flood, coupled with semi-isolation provided by deserts to the east and west, allowed for the development of one of the world’s great civilizations. A unified kingdom arose around 3200 B.C. and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 B.C., who in turn were replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. It was the Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the 7th century and who ruled for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the Mamluks, took control about 1250 and continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. Following the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub, but also fell heavily into debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, Britain seized control of Egypt’s government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914. Partially independent from the UK in 1922. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have altered the time-honored place of the Nile River in agriculture and the ecology of Egypt. A rapidly growing population (the largest in the Arab world), limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress society. The government has struggled to prepare the economy for the new millennium through economic reform and massive investment in communications and physical infrastructure.
Egypt’s climate is generally classified as desert. It is an extension of the great Sahara that bands North Africa, and except for the thin strip of watered land along the Nile River, very little could survive there. As the ancient Greek historian Herodotus stated: “Egypt is the gift of the Nile.”
Beware that from March till May, sand storms may occur, particularly during daytime. These storms not only make the air sandy, but also temporarily raise the temperature.
Generally, the summers are hot, rainless and extremely sunny, but the air can be humid at the coasts and very dry at the south, away of the coasts and away of the Nile Delta. The winters are moderate. November through March are definitely the most comfortable months for travel in Egypt. Only thenorth coast (stretching from the sea to 50 km southwards) receives a little rain in winter; the rest of Egypt receives negligible or no rain. So, you won’t need wet weather gear!
Thunderstorms along with heavy rain showers that often last several hours are not uncommon in Alexandria, Marsa Matruh and all other northern coastal areas, and even the Delta. In some years the rainstorms can last for a whole day or so, though the rain tends to be lighter. Hail is also not uncommon, especially out in the desert where the weather is usually colder and allows for soft hail to fall and even frost to form on non-rainy days.
In the Sinai Mountainsand also the Red Sea mountains, which stretch along the east side of the country along the shore of the Red Sea, there is generally more rain than the surrounding desert, as rain clouds tend to develop when warm air evaporates and rises as it moves across higher terrain. Floods in these areas are a common weather phenomenon as so much rain can fall in a very short amount of time (often a day or two), with thunder and lightning as well. Because of the desert and lack of abundant vegetation, the water from the rain quickly falls down across the hills and mountains and floods local areas. In fact, every year there are stories in the local newspapers about flash floods in areas of the Sinai and also in Upper Egypt (southern Egypt) such as in Assiut, Luxor, Aswan, Sohag, etc. These floods, however, only generally happen two or three times a year, and do not happen at all in some years. When they happen, though, it is often in early times of the season such as in September or October, or in late winter such as February. Because of this risk, one should be careful when venturing out into the desert or camping in certain areas, as water can suddenly rush down from the nearby mountains and hills. It can sometimes carry a quite strong current that has been known to break down homes of rural people who build their homes from mud, bricks, and other weak materials. Some people drown in the floods, which is strange for a desert country that doesn’t receive much precipitation.
Also, in higher elevations such as on top of the Sinai mountains, temperatures can drop much more than the surrounding areas, allowing for snowfall in winter months, since temperatures can drop down to below freezing, as well as formation of frost even in the low lying desert areas where the temperatures are generally several degrees colder than in the cities.
December, January and February are the coldest months of the year. However, winter days of southern places at the Nile Valley are warmer, but their nights are as cool as northern places.
Visitors should be aware that most houses and apartments in Egypt do not have central heating like countries with colder climates, because the main weather concern in Egypt is the heat. Therefore, even though the weather might not be so cold for a western traveller, inside the apartment it might be colder at day but the temperature indoors is more stable than outdoors. In Cairo, in indoor buildings without air-conditioning, temperatures are about 15°C (59°F) in the coldest winter days and about 34°C (93°F) in the hottest summer days.
Notable climatic features:
Alexandria and Rafah are the rainiest places.
Assiut is the driest city.
Aswan and Luxor are the cities with the hottest summer days.Saint Catherine (mountainous area in south Sinai) has the coldest nights and coldest winters.
Cities or resorts with coolest summer days:
Places with least temperature fluctuation:
Ras El Bar (a coastal town near Damietta).
Baltim (at the northern coast at the center).
Damietta (at the eastern end of the Nile basin at the northern coast).
Cities or resorts with warmest winter nights:
Sharm el Sheikh.
Cities with most temperature fluctuation between days and nights:
Minya (central at the Nile valley).
Sohag (southern at the Nile valley).
Qena (southern at the Nile valley).
Assiut (southern at the Nile valley).
Banks, shops and businesses close for the following Egyptian national holidays (civil and religious), and public transport may run only limited services:
7th January (eastern orthodox Christmas).
25th January (Egyptian revolution day).
25th April (Sinai liberation day).
1st May (labour day).
23rd July (July revolution day).
6th October (armed forces day).
1st Shawwal, the 10th Hijri month (Eid al Fitr, “Breakfast Feast”).
10th Dhu al Hijjah, the 12th Hijri month (Eid al Adha, “Sacrifice Feast”).
Working for shorter day hours for 29 OR 30 days of Ramadan.
Since Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, their exact dates vary between years.
18 June – 16 July 2015 (1436 AH).
6 June – 5 July 2016 (1437 AH).
Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival ofEid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you’re planning to travel to Egypt during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the most important month in the Islamic Calendar for Muslims, the majority religion in Egypt. Commemorating the time when God revealed the Qur’an to Mohammed, during this holy month, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking or smoking until after sundown on each day. Although strict adherence to Ramadan is for Muslims only, some Muslims appreciate that non-Muslims do not take meals or smoke in public places. During Ramadan, many restaurants and cafes won’t open until after sundown. Public transport is less frequent, shops close earlier before sunset and the pace of life (especially business) is generally slow.
As expected, exactly at sunset minute, the entire country quiets down and busy itself with the main meal of the day (iftar, “breaking-fast”) that are almost always done as social events in large groups of friends. Many richer people offer (Tables of the Gracious God موائد الرحمن) in Cairo’s streets that cater full-meals for free for the passers-by, the poorer ones or workers who couldn’t leave their shifts at the time. Prayers become popular ‘social’ events that some like to enrich with special food treats before and after. An hour or two later, an astonishing springing to life of the cities takes place. Streets sometimes richly decorated for the whole month have continuous rush hours till very early in the morning. Some shops and cafes make the biggest chunk of their annual profit at this time of year. Costs of advertising on television and radio soars for this period and entertainment performances are at their peak.
Egypt consists of vast desert plateau interrupted by the Nile valley and delta, along with the Sinai peninsula. Portions of the Nile River valley are bounded by steep rocky cliffs, while the banks are relatively flat in other areas, allowing for agricultural production.
Written by The Travel Valet