When to go

Temperature-wise, the best time for travelling in Egypt, except possibly Alexandria, is between October and April and especially November to February. The sun shines the whole year round and even if winter nights get cold in Cairo, daytime temperatures are almost always above 20°C though there's a risk of cloudy haze. In Alexandria, stiff breezes make it unpleasant at the beginning of the year, but it's also a place to be avoided during the summer holidays (June to mid-September) when rich Cairenes descend and take over the coastal resorts and public beaches become unbearably crowded. During the winter months, the mountains of Sinai and the sands of the desert are freezing at night, and while sleeping under the stars is still possible you have to be very well prepared for the cold.

The temperature increases as you travel south, Luxor is always about 10°C warmer than Cairo, and it can hit 50°C in Aswan between June and August. The desert is intolerably hot in the summer and barely any safaris are undertaken, while in April be prepared for the khamseen wind - the wind of 50 days - which blows sand and heat that are totally blinding. Relative humidity can be high (over 70%) on the coast and the delta. Inland, humidity is never a problem and at the height of summer it falls to less than 20% in many places.

Another factor to take into account is Islamic festivals, most of which add to anyone's enjoyment of Egypt, but if you want a smooth and comfortable travelling experience Ramadan is a month to avoid. During this time, the vast majority of the population will be fasting and it can be almost impossible in small places to find food during the day. To eat, drink or smoke in public is definitely insensitive and alcohol is only available to foreigners in tourist strongholds or Westernized bars and hotels. Transport also becomes more difficult as the streets of Cairo are gridlocked for three hours before sunset with commuters hurrying to get home, long journeys are broken by halts for iftar (breakfast) and drivers push all limits for speed. Despite all the inconveniences, however, overlapping with a few days of Ramadan can be atmospheric and fun, as cities stay up the whole night and hospitality is extended even more than usual.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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