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EGYPT is probably the world's oldest civilization having emerged from the Nile Valley around 3,100 years ago, historically. Egypt links two continents, stretching across the northeastern corner of Africa and the southwestern edge of Asia. The country is approximately 626,000 square miles (1,000,000 square km) in size. Its longest distance north-south is 640 miles (1,025 km) and widest distance east-west is about 775 miles (1,240 km).


The northern border is the Mediterranean Sea and the southern boundary is with Sudan. On the northeastern border are Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia. The Red Sea flanks the eastern border, while the whole of the western border is with Libya. Egypt’s 60 million people live primarily in the Nile Valley, leaving the rest of the land sparsely populated. Cairo, the largest city in Egypt, is estimated to have a population of over 15 million people, which is growing at an alarming rate. The deserts of Egypt comprise over 90 percent of the land surface but are inhabited by around 5 percent of the population. The deserts are part of an arid region that stretches from the Atlantic coast in the west to Central Asia in the east.


CURRENCY 
The local currency unit is the Egyptian Pound. Modern Egyptian currency (specifically paper money) ranges from the 25 Piastres (quarter pound note) up to a 1,000 pound note. Unlike, for example, American bills, Egyptian currency is not the same size. The smaller the denomination of the note, the smaller its physical size. Egyptian coins duplicate the value of some of the Egyptian bills. There are 25 Piastres and 50 Piastres coins, but because of this duplication, many establishments in Egypt rarely have coins. Travelers can exchange their currency for Egyptian Pounds at Cairo International Airport and at commercial banks in most commercial and tourist centers. Banks are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 2:00pm daily, but are closed Friday, Saturday, and most holidays. Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard) are only accepted in major cities and tourist areas. Foreign currency may be imported and exported without restriction provided it is declared on arrival.


WATER 
Bottled water (mayyama'daniyya) is available in all areas frequented by tourists; both large and small bottles are sold on the street and from ice buckets at most of the antiquities sites. Be sure the cap is sealed. Mayyashurb or mayyaahday (drinking water) is safe in most metropolitan areas.


CLIMATE & WEATHER
Egypt lies between the Mediterra­nean and the 23rd Parallel north of the Equator and is sunny for all but a few days of the year. Rain does not fall on more than 40 days a year and then only in a few places. Within Egypt, there is the contrast between the coastal Mediterranean climate and the hot dryness of the interior. In the desert areas there is a sharp contrast between day And night temperatures. The weather is predictably dry, sunny and warm most of the year with very little rainfall. The winter temperatures are similar to the European and USA spring. June, July and August are rather hot, but the evenings are refreshingly Cooler due to the desert breezes that blow into the Nile Valley.


DRESS
Don’t wear anything too showy around most places in Egypt. Make it conservative unless you want to grab all the eyes around. People in some cities and rural areas are not used to seeing that much skin, so cover up unless you’re on the beach somewhere. There won’t be a problem in some tourist areas such as Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada where this is only normal. But in areas like Islamic Cairo, and Coptic Cairo you should wear something conservative. Of course you don’t always have to stick to that, wear anything you like if you’re going out somewhere. Just avoid walking in the streets with anything attractive.