A cradle of ancient civilization and culture, and a unified state for over five thousand years, Egypt owes its long existence to the fertile Nile with its replenishing floods. Most of the population is still clustered around this great river and its delta, making these some of the most densely populated regions in the world, while much of the rest of the country consists of harsh deserts with the occasional oasis. Egypt is an attractive destination for travellers and expatriates, with its rich history and material culture, hospitable people, and exciting and varied natural wonders, from the mountains to the deserts to the coral reefs of the Red Sea.
Healthcare in Egypt outside of Cairo, and some other major cities like Alexandria, or tourist destinations like Sharm El Sheikh, is relatively basic, and, where available, treatment can be expensive. While facilities in major cities may be adequate for non-emergency care, most emergency or intensive care treatment should be sought in Cairo. It is also advisable to have insurance cover that provides for emergency evacuation and/or repatriation, should the appropriate facilities not be available, or in case you are visiting or staying in a part of the country without access to high quality care. Tourist destinations such as Luxor or Aswan have inadequate hospital facilities and Nile cruise boats usually do not have a ship’s doctor.
Egypt has poor sanitation, with only around 24% of Egypt’s rural population having access to safe sanitation, and it has been ranked the 16th worst country in the world for sanitation by WaterAid. Child mortality rates in Egypt have been dramatically reduced over the last 30 years- since 1970 dropping from 157 in 1000 births to 26 in 1000 by 2005. There is a state health insurance system in Egypt covering 40 hospitals, 600 polyclinics, 3,000 institute clinics, and 500 pharmacies. Government plans to privatise it were recently put on hold by an Adminstrative Court decision, but the system is poorly funded, and there are plans to require citizens to pay for a proportion of their treatment themselves.
HIV/AIDS has a fairly low prevalence in Egypt – officially around 0.1% - but education about the condition is poor, even in medical schools, and it is not widely understood by the population. In 2008 two men out of a group of eight who were arrested in Cairo, charged with debauchery, were tortured after they tested positive for HIV.
Female “circumcision”, or genital mutilation, is still widely practiced in Egypt, with an estimated 96% of married women in the country having undergone it. It is thought that 63% of Egyptian girls aged 9 or under will have this done to them in the next decade. It is more common in the countryside and less common in the cities, but laws against the practice and vigorous grass roots movements opposing it and spreading information will hopefully reduce the prevalence in future.
For more information about Egypt health insurance, the locally compliant international health insurance plans that we can offer in Egypt, or to receive a free quote, please contact one of our expert advisers today.
Egypt Travel Tips
We understand that foreign countries can be confusing. To help you better understand Egypt we have provided some advice on local customs, laws and general behavior.
Please be advised that the information contained below is only for reference purposes, by no means comprehensive, and is liable to change at any time without prior warning. Please consult with a travel professional before your trip to ensure that you have the most current data.
- Egypt is sunny all year round, and it is vital to take precautions against sunburn, dehydration and heatstroke in the summer, such as wearing a hat, sunscreen, and drinking plenty of water. Winters are fairly mild, although most houses are poorly heated, and rain is usually at night. Summers are hot. April and the surrounding months bring the ‘Khamsin’, a hot dry wind that carries dust and sand from the deserts.
- It is best not to drink the tap water in Egypt, instead choosing either bottled water or boiled and filtered water. Fruit and vegetables should be carefully washed and peeled.
- Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country and it is sensible to adjust your behaviour accordingly. Women should avoid overly revealing clothing in order to minimize verbal or physical sexual harassment by Egyptian men, which can be a problem, particularly for women unescorted by a man. Alcohol is widely available, but may be harder to come by during Ramadan, and public drunkeness can lead to arrest.
- Although homosexuality is not in itself illegal under Egyptian law, some homosexual acts are, and homosexuals have also been convicted for breaching laws on public decency. On the other hand, holding hands in public, hugging, and kissing on the cheek when greeting each other is common among Egyptian men as a show of friendship, and should not be misconstrued.
- The work week in Egypt, as in many other Muslim countries, runs from Saturday to Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday as the weekend. When doing business in Egypt or arranging appointments, maintenance and so on, it is important to remember that punctuality is not ascribed the same importance in Egypt as it is in some Western countries.
- The crime rate in Egypt is reasonably low. Cairo is said to have more police per person than anywhere else in the world, and their treatment of detainees, including the use of torture, is widely criticized by human rights groups. Nevertheless, purse-snatching, pick-pocketing and petty theft does occur. Egypt also has a drug trafficking problem, and the penalties for drug-related crimes are severe.
- Children of Egyptian fathers are considered Egyptian citizens, which can have a bearing on custody disputes or national service obligations.
- Egypt has a significant number of unexploded landmines in its territory, a legacy of the Second World War. There are estimated to be around 22 million mines and other unexploded ordnance in the country, concentrated in the Western Desert west of Alexandria, the Eastern Desert between Cairo and the Suez canal, and the Sinai peninsula. Locating, mapping and clearing the mines is hindered by the featureless terrain and shifting sands, and flooding can also move the mines onto roadways in drifts of sand. It is therefore important to heed official advice and take care when driving on or off road in these areas.
- There are restrictions on taking photographs of military installations or important strategic infrastructure in Egypt, including bridges, canals, and the Suez Canal. You may also encounter trouble when trying to photograph other buildings such as embassies or religious buildings and you should not photograph any uniformed government personnel.
- Egypt has an extremely high incidence of road fatalities, and driving should only be undertaken after careful consideration. Traffic rules are widely ignored, to the extent of driving the wrong way on one-way streets or highways; vehicles are often unlit at night; road markings, including functioning traffic lights, are rare; animals and pedestrians often walk in amongst the traffic. Minibuses and tourist buses can also be very unsafe.
- Terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists are a major concern in Egypt, with a spate of bombings in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Targets included tourist sites in the Sinai peninsular.
- The border between Egypt and Gaza is often closed, and opened only for short periods of time. Ask your embassy for advice if you need to cross this border.
- Kidnapping is a concern in some remote areas of the country such as the southwestern desert near Sudan. In September 2008 11 foreign tourists and eight Egyptians were kidnapped by bandits in this area. They were later freed by Egyptian special forces. Travel to these areas remains risky.
Whenever you travel to a new country it is advisable to obtain some information about your destination so that you are better prepared when you arrive. It is for this reason that we have provided a general outline of Egypt for you below.
Please be advised that this information is meant for reference purposes only, and all data contained on this page may change without prior warning. For more up to date information about Egypt, please consult a travel expert before you depart.
Official Name: Gumhūriyyat Miṣr al-‘Arabiyyah/ Arab Republic of Egypt
Capital: Cairo, which is also the largest city.
Location: Located in North Africa and connected to the Middle East via the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt encompasses the lower reaches and the mouth of the Nile and also the Suez Canal, and adjoins the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Israel and the Gaza strip are its neighbours to the North, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west.
Size: 1,001,450 km²
Climate: Hot dry summers, moderate winters.
Population: 81,713,520 (July 2008 est.), making it the most populous country in the Arab world and the second-most populous in Africa. The vast majority of the population lives near the Nile, the Nile delta, or along the Suez Canal.
Life expectancy at birth: 71.85 years (Male: 69.3 years; Female: 74.52 years (2008 est.))
Prevalence of HIV/AIDS: less than 0.1%, around 12,000 people living with HIV/AIDS (2001 est.)
Major illnesses: Bacterial diarrhea, Hepatitis A, and Typhoid fever are all diseases to take precautions against. A Yellow Fever vaccination is also required for those coming from infected areas. Swimming in the Nile or its canals, contact with stagnant water, or drinking untreated water can expose you to bacterial and other infections and the parasitic disease Schistosomiasis, or Bilharzia.
As of March 11, 2008, the WHO has confirmed forty-seven human cases of the H5NI strain of avian influenza, of bird flu, in Egypt since March 2006. These cases have resulted in twenty deaths. You should avoid contact with live poultry.
Ethnic Groups: Eastern Hamitic (Egyptians, Bedouins, and Berbers) (99%); Greek, Nubian, Armenian, other European (mainly Italian and French) (1%)
Languages: Arabic (official), English is widely understood. Adult literacy is at around 58%
Religion: Muslim (mostly Sunni) (90%), Coptic Christian (9%) and other (1%)
Government: Egypt is a republic, with a president elected for six year terms, with no term limits (Hosni Mubarak has been incumbent since 1981), and a bicameral system consisting of a People’s Assembly and an Advisory Council. The government has to approve the formation of political parties, and the constitution bans religious-based parties, although the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, which is technically illegal, is a potentially significant source of opposition. Egypt has also had an official State of Emergency law in place since 1967, with a break in 1980, which was renewed following the assassination of Anwar Sadat and ever since then. This places limits on the possibilities for official and unofficial political opposition.
Head of State: President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak (since October 1981)
Head of Government: Dr Ahmed Nazif (since July 2004)
Military: With around 450,000 personel, the Egyptian armed forces are the largest on the African continent and the 11th largest in the world. There is compulsory military service for males from the age of 18 for 12-36 months.
Economy: The government introduced reforms in 2005 reducing personal and corporate tax rates, reducing energy subsidies, and privatizing several enterprises, with a result that GDP grew about 5% per year in 2005-06, and topped 7% in 2007. On the other hand, standard of living for most Egyptians has not increased proportionally, and the government still spends a large amount of the budget subsidizing food and fuel, without which support many people would face severe hardship. As a result, Egypt had a budget deficit around 7.5% of GDP in 2007.
Resources, including oil and coal, and in particular natural gas, are some of Egypt’s most important assets. Agriculture remains a major industry but its growth is affected by the limited availability of suitable land; Egypt’s rapidly growing population and the effects of climate change make this one of the most serious issues facing Egypt in the near future.
GDP: Purchasing Power Parity $405.4 billion (2007 est.), Official Exchange Rate $127.9 billion (2007 est.)