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uction of a massive iron wall along its border with the Gaza Strip, in a bid to shut down smuggling tunnels into the territory. The wall will be nine to 10 kilometers long, and will go 20 to 30 meters into the ground, Egyptian sources said. It will be impossible to cut or melt.
The new plan is the latest move by Egypt to step up its counter-smuggling efforts. Although some progress had been made, the smuggling market in Gaza still flourishes.
Egyptian forces demolish tunnels or fill them with gas almost every week, often with people still inside them, and Palestinian casualties in the tunnels have been steadily rising.
Recently, Egypt examined several possibilities of blocking the tunnels, and joint American-Egyptian patrols have been seen in Rafah attempting to detect tunnels using underground sensors.
Construction of the wall has already begun. It will be made of enormous slates of steel, reaching deep into the ground. However, it is not expected to stem smuggling completely.
Several defense sources told Haaretz they believe that once captive soldier Gilad Shalit is released, Israel will have to re-examine the benefits of closing Gaza off. The closure has been undermined by the tunnel system, which provides not only munitions but food, cars, motorcycles, drugs, medicine and fuel, much more than what Israel allows into the Strip through the official border crossing.
The tunnels also allow people to cross in and out of the Strip, including terrorists who linked up with pro-Al-Qaida groups in Gaza and tried to carry out attacks in Egypt, defense sources said.
The smuggling industry is so institutionalized that tunnel operators purchase licenses from the Rafah municipality, allowing them to connect to electricity and water. Hamas has also been ensuring no children are employed in the tunnels, and is taxing all smuggled goods.
The Egyptians often intercept munitions before they can enter the Strip and have stepped up checks at internal roadblocks and checkpoints in the Sinai. Observers say mounting American pressure is in part responsible for increasing Egyptian efforts to combat the smugglers.
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Egypt is reached by air, water as well as road and rail. Those travelling by air can come in through Cairo International Airport, Alexandria, Nozah, Luxor and Aswan in Upper Egypt, Hurghaba in the Red Sea area, and Sharm El-Sheikh in South Sinai.
There are several airliners that offer Egypt flights including British Airways, Alitalia, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Dutch Airlines, and Thai Airways International.
In addition to airports there are a number of marine harbors for those that prefer to travel by sea. For those travelling on the Mediterranean Sea, the ports of Alexandria, Port Said, and Damietta are all possible entry points. There is also a port right at the Gulf of Suez and another, the port of Nuweiba on the Gulf of Aqaba. The Red Sea offers three options for travellers; the ports of Hurghaba, Safaga, and Sharm El-Sheikh.
For those who prefer road trips, there are three overland entry posts. The Salloum entry post is located on the northwestern border (for those coming in from Lybia). The famous Rafah crossing is on the northeastern border for those coming in from the Gaza strip, the Occupied Territories, and Israel. On the eastern border there is a post at Taba for those coming in from Israel.
Getting the right paper work and visa is essential to a stress free entry into Egypt. Non-Egyptian visitors arriving in Egypt are required to be in possession of a valid passport. Visas can be obtained from either the Egyptian Diplomatic and consular Missions Abroad, the Entry Visa Department, or from Immigration and Nationality Administration (TDINA). However it is possible for visitors to obtain an entry visa at any major points of entry.
Visitors entering Egypt at the overland border post to Taba to visit Gulf of Aqaba coast and St. Catherine can be exempted from visa and granted a free residence permit for fourteen days to visit the area. Citizens of the following countries are required to be in possession of a pre-arrival visa: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, Croatia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Lebanon, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, The Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri-Lanka, Tadzhikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and all African countries.
Those in possession of a residence permit in Egypt are not required to obtain an entry visa if they leave the country and return to it within the validity of their residence permit or within six months, whichever period is less.
There are three kinds of visas to Egypt. Tourist visas are usually valid for a period not exceeding three months and granted on either single or multiple entry basis. Entry visa are required of any visitors arriving in Egypt for purposes such as work, and study that are not related to tourism. This visa is necessary for the completion of the residence procedure in Egypt. Transit visas are made available to travellers transiting through Egypt. Once in Egypt, visitors have different options to get around the country in an easy and comfortable way. The options range from car rental, luxury trains, and coaches to domestic flights to connect tourist cities.
If you are coming in through Cairo International, you have the option of renting a limousine with fixed fees according to your accommodation location from the airport, or use Cairo airport transportation service which covers all the country and airports. You can request for this service through your travel agent or from the information desk at the airport.
The easiest and most common way of moving within any city is by taxis. This are easily available in the major cities, Cairo, for instance, has a fleet of air-conditioned and metered yellow cabs. One is whoever advised to book their taxis at least an hour before their intended time for their trip. In some cases it is recommended that you ask for a receipt as proof of payment to avoid any inconvenience later.
Alternatively one could catch a regular taxi on the street or even in front of their hotel. They are usually coloured depending on the city they operate in. in Alexandria they are yellow and black, in Cairo they are black and white. It is very important to know the colour codes in different cities so that you minimize risks.
Egypt’s major cities have a healthy bus system within and between the cities. Examples of which are Super Jet, Delta and Upper Egypt buses. They go from city to city and they provide catering facilities, toilets and on board entertainment. The con in travelling with buses is that they stop far too often thus taking too long especially on long distance trips. Rail travel is highly recommended for long distance travel.
The underground, which is comprised of two long lines, is the cheapest and fastest way to move inside Cairo and Giza governorate especially in the rush hours (from 2 pm to 5pm). The first, from Helwan to El Marg has 33 stops; the second, from Giza to Shoubra El Khema has 18 stops. Note that the first carriage on each train is always strictly for women. Summer working hours are from 6:00 am to 1:00 am and winter working hours are from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm.
Many transportation companies offer a wide choice of luxury cars and coaches with well trained drivers. Car rental agencies are represented in the major cities as well as the international and domestic airports. The train is one of the best ways to travel between major Egyptian cities.
Three kinds of trains are available: the ordinary, the express, and the turbo. The express and the turbo are the more expensive options, but they come with the advantage of a pampered journey taking you to your destination rapidly with all catering facilities and air-conditioning. An excellent turbo train service is available between Cairo and main cities around the country. The train takes about two hours to go from Cairo to Alexandria.
For those who prefer to travel by air locally, Egypt Air – the national carrier – links most of the tourist cities in Egypt with its reliable domestic flights. It is possible to fly directly from Luxor to Sharm El Sheikh or Alexandria.
Samuel Maina is online travel writer for Africa point Limited, an Africa specialist travel agent, offering online reservation services for hotels, airline tickets, rental cars, tours and safaris to 13 African countries. Read some of his works on
Africa Travel News and Africa Point Online
The rise and fall of the pyramid era
The pyramids epitomize ancient Egypt, yet the biggest were constructed during a short span of time early in a civilization that was to last almost three millennia. The first large Egyptian pyramid was the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, built during the third dynasty of the Old Kingdom to protect the body of the king Djoser who died around 2649 BCE. It was this feat that heralded the short but remarkable age of the gigantic stone pyramids of ancient Egypt.
The greatest achievements of the pyramid builders were the Pyramids of Giza, built near the capital city of Memphis for the fourth dynasty kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure who ruled through 2589-2504 BCE. But pyramid building soon waned as the power and prosperity of the kings of Egypt weakened with the end of the Old Kingdom.