Egypt is a melting pot of cultures and civilizations. Since time immemorial, the country has captured the world's fascination, often evoking images of pyramids, temples, and mummies. It is indeed surprising that people know more about ancient Egypt than its modern-day counterpart, whose culture is heavily influenced by Hellenism, Christianity, and Islam. In recent times, after a series of protests that brought the once-staggering tourism industry to its knees, Egypt is once again fighting its way to the top.
Geography & Demographics
Egypt is one of six transcontinental nations, or countries that span more than one continent. In Egypt's case, the country spans Africa and Asia, thanks to the Isthmus of Suez on the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered to the west by Libya, to the south by Sudan, and to the east by the Gaza Strip and Israel. Egypt's cities and towns are situated near the Nile Valley and Nile Delta because a large portion of its more than one million square kilometer land area is covered in desert. This does not mean desert areas are unpopulated. The Western Desert, which includes parts of both the Sahara and Libyan deserts, have pockets of life at five oases: Siwa, Bahariyya, Farafra, Kharga, and Dakhla.
Despite using only a small portion of its total land area for habitation, Egypt is one of the most populated countries in Africa and the Middle East with over 84 million people. The majority of the population, about 90 percent, are ethnic Egyptians, while the rest belong to ethnic minorities which include Turks, Greeks, and Bedouins. Egypt's three largest cities, Cairo, Alexandria, and Giza, host around 20 percent of the population. Egypt is predominantly Muslim, with 90 percent of the population following the Sunni branch.
Egypt's climate is generally arid, with summers hot and dry, and winters moderately cool. Temperatures average between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius in the summer months of June, July, and August. In coastal areas facing the Red Sea, the temperature can shoot above 40 degrees Celsius. In contrast, Egypt's Mediterranean coast has lower temperatures at under 40 degrees. If it can be helped, avoid traveling to Egypt in the summer, if you don’t enjoy extreme heat. The best time to visit Egypt is in the fall, winter, and spring, or from September to April.
Food & Culture
The official language of Egypt is Modern Standard Arabic, which is the literary standard across Arab nations in Africa and the Middle East. A wide variety of Arabic languages are spoken in the country, including Egyptian Arabic, Sa'idi Arabic, Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic, and Sudanese Arabic. Aside from Arabic, four foreign languages are taught in schools, English, French, German, and Italian.
Egyptian cuisine makes heavy use of legumes and vegetables, making the country an alluring vacation destination for vegetarians. Bread is a staple, especially pita-type bread called Eish Masri. Egypt's most famous dish is the Koshary, a delightful mix of pasta, rice, lentils, and garlic tomato sauce garnished with chickpeas and fried onions.
To say that Egypt is a cultural powerhouse may be an understatement, especially when you take a closer look at Egyptian art and architecture, both ancient and contemporary. Structures like the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Temple of Edfu in Upper Egypt, still standing today after 2,000 years with walls covered in ancient artwork, are testament to the ancient civilization's sound architectural design and engineering practices.
The country's currency is the Egyptian Pound (EGP), which trades at about seven EGP to one US dollar. Before spending cash at Egypt's very colorful markets, remember that shopkeepers are open to haggling. The same cannot be said of stores in malls, like Citystars Malls, where the prices of goods are fixed. If you are touring the souks and on the lookout for souvenirs to bring home, it pays to know some Arabic numerals and how to haggle.
Interning in Egypt
Egypt offers a wide variety of placements, ranging from marine research and conservation to teaching various subjects at learning centers. Most programs are based in Egypt's largest city and capital Cairo, or Al-Qusayr and Hurghada. Going on an internship program in Egypt isn't just about working, it is also about learning more about the culture and history. In this country, interns never run out of places to visit and things to study. While on an internship in Egypt, participants may want to learn Arabic from one of the many language schools in major urban centers as well.
Programs to consider:
“Observe to Conserve” with the Marine Biology College in Egypt while conducting Dolphin and Turtle Research and Reef Conservation. Help with Turtle Nesting, Raising Public Awareness, and even Scuba as part of an internship!
Europeans can become an Intern in Egypt with the Better World Foundation and teach in the capital city of Cairo! Students range from 18 to 30 years of age.
Work for Reach Out Development, an NGO in Cairo! Varied placements are available, with interns guiding their internship to their field interests.