Few places on earth inspire such vivid imagery in the imagination as Egypt. From the massive, humbling Pyramids of Giza to the legendary resting place of the pharaohs in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings, from Cairo’s countless mosques and minarets to the numerous giant temples and statues guarding in abundance all along the Nile, Egypt is outstanding. Cairo itself is known as the “Mother of the World”, and even though travellers' first few days here might be spent in a stupor trying to figure out how to cross a street without getting run over by one of its 17 million inhabitants, or defending oneself against the plethora of over-zealous rug merchants, its chaotic charm doesn’t take long to sink in. Get used to the fact that, if you are female, you will be constantly pursued in varying degrees of friendliness. And regardless of gender, get used to eating a lot of the same chicken shwarma and rice koshari. It will all be worth it when you gaze upon the Giza plateau for the first time, or take your first hit of glorious apple sheesha in some little dark downtown alley café. Beneath the somewhat overtly eager demeanour of the countries touts, lies a very friendly and welcoming society, eager to see foreigners come visit the new “free Egypt” (though it is important to keep in mind the current travel warnings for this and any other country involved in the 'Arab spring' uprisings). For those travellers with a bit more time, a trip to the Sinai Peninsula is also a must-do, where the red sea diving and beach-bum life in Dahab is second to none, and climbing in the footsteps of Moses up Mount Sinai by moonlight with a Bedouin guide, is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. ~ Julia Totino


 Full name: Arab Republic of Egypt

 Population: 83.69 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Cairo

 Largest city: Cairo

 Area: 1.00 million (386,102 sq. mi.)

 Major languages: Arabic, English, French

 Major religions: Islam, Coptic, Christianity

 Monetary unit: Egyptian Pound

 GDP per capita: US $6,500

 Internet domain: .eg

 International dialling code: +20

 Source: CIA World Factbook