Travelling – whether it is for business or pleasure – definitely comes with its little luxuries. Staying in a lovely, welcoming hotel and dining out are some of our favourite aspects of globe-trotting, yet, when your trip sees you guided on autopilot from hotel, to the office, to tourist spot and back to the hotel, you can find yourself missing out on the wonders of the world around you!
When you exist solely in tourist mode, it is all too easy to miss out on the local favourites, hidden surprises and authentic culture of your new surroundings. While we're all for indulging in a little tourism, it is also important to really experience the place you are in! Here, we have got some top tips for doing just that - travelling like a local.
Greater Cairo is the largest metropolitan area in Africa, while New Cairo is the new business and commercial district, on the south-eastern edge of Cairo governorate – just 15 minutes away from Cairo International Airport (CAI) and 45 minutes from downtown.
Dress for the weather
Nothing shouts 'tourist!' louder than someone wearing clothing that they have bought for their holiday, but still insist on wearing even if the weather is not suitable. Separate from appearances, comfort should be paramount when you are going from attraction to attraction, so be sure to check the weather ahead of time pack accordingly.
Sunny/blue skies can be expected throughout the year. In summer, the highs rarely surpass 40 °C (104 °F), and lows drop to about 20 °C (68 °F). In winter, the high temperatures range from 19 to 29 °C (66 to 84 °F), while night-time lows drop to below 11 °C (52 °F), often to 5 °C (41 °F).
Familiarise yourself with the currency
Nothing stands out more in a shop or a restaurant than someone that has to carefully examine each coin before paying for something. This can easily highlight you as a tourist - something which, in some areas, can be unwise.
Instead, take some time to learn the value of each note and coin before you venture out. Not only will you look like you are used to the currency, but it also indicates you are comfortable in your surroundings.
The country's currency is the Egyptian pound "Genēh Maṣri" Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [ɡeˈneː(h) ˈmɑsˤɾi], denoted by the code EGP or the abbreviation LE or L.E., which stands for livre égyptienne. Cash is the best method of payment, especially when shopping in souks (markets) or using taxis. Credit and debit cards are also widely used as a method of payment.
Research through conversation
You can read every guide and article about a location before you get there, but there is no way of really knowing exactly what your destination will be like until you experience it yourself!
The official language used in Egypt is Arabic, but English is commonly used by locals as well.
Learn some key phrases
When you are travelling to a country where they speak a language you don't understand, the best way to counter communication issues is simple - learn a few essential phrases before you go. More often than not, you will find that people are far more receptive to you, even for just having a go.
Common Arabic phrases used in Egypt:
Hi = Salam
Yes = Naam
No = Laa
Please = Min fadlak
Thanks = Shukran
Good morning = Sa-bah el khayr
Good evening = Mas-aa el khayr
How are you? = Ezayak
I'm fine, thanks = Tamam, shukran!
And you? = Wa ant? (to male) / Wa anti? (to female)
Good = Kuwayes
Thank you (very much) = Shukran (jazeelan)
You're welcome = Afwan
Goodbye = Ma-a salama
Good manners and courtesy are prized attributes, so always arrive on time if you have a meeting. However, be aware that punctuality is not uniformly considered a virtue in the Arab world, and people are often kept waiting before or during a meeting. Be patient, and do not take it as a lack of respect.
When a woman meets an Arab man, she should not offer to shake his hand, unless he extends his hand towards her first. Greet the most senior person first when meeting a group of people, and in the likely event that you are offered refreshments at home or the office, accept at least one cupful as it may be considered discourteous to refuse. Frequently, this will be Western-style tea or coffee, however, people will often serve a sweet, milk-less tea or coffee.
Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, although it can get cool during winter evenings. Swimwear is acceptable at the swimming pool, but visitors to Cairo should dress modestly, particularly in conservative areas and public places. Shorts and T-shirts are suitable attire in many places, although when visiting mosques, religious sites or older parts of the city, both men and women may feel more comfortable wearing loose-fitting clothes that cover shoulders, arms and legs. Women will usually be required to wear a headscarf when entering mosques.
The official Egyptian weekend takes place over Friday and Saturday. Some smaller private companies close only on Fridays. Government offices open at 08:00 and close at 15:00, while private offices tend to keep longer hours, adopting either 'straight shift' or 'split shift'. The former normally requires eight working hours, starting from between 07:30 and 09:00 and including a lunch break lasting between 30 minutes to an hour.
During Ramadan, working hours shorten by two to three hours, with most of the work accomplished in the early hours of the morning or much later in the evening after the day’s fast is broken (at sunset).
Dine like an Egyptian
Egyptians are well-versed when it comes to food, and in most cases, the word to bear in mind is generosity. Never expect to be fed small portions, and always be prepared for unexpected extras on the house, such as freshly baked bread and dips, or a refreshing after-meal cup of “karkadeh” (hibiscus tea).
Egyptian cuisine is simple and tasty, mostly relying on vegetables, herbs, lamb and chicken. It is characterised by dishes such as Ful Medames, mashed fava beans; Koshari, a mixture of lentils, rice, pasta and other ingredients; Molokheyya, chopped and cooked bush okra with garlic and coriander sauce; and Fetir Meshaltet. Egyptian cuisine shares similarities with food of the Eastern Mediterranean region, such as rice-stuffed vegetables, vine leaves, shawarma, kebab, falafel, Baba Ghannoug, and baklava.
Some consider Koshari - a mixture of rice, lentils, and macaroni - to be the national dish, while Ful Medames is one of the most popular dishes. Fava beans are also used in making falafel (also known as “ta`meyya”), which originated in Egypt and spread to other parts of the Middle East.