Friday, April 27, 2012

E Booking trains in Egypt

You can book train travel for 1st and 2nd class journeys online by credit card.
Booking 1st and 2nd class rail travel by credit card is simple.

(*Sleeper trains* must be booked in person at Ramsis or Giza Station preferably 24 hrs beforehand in CASH)

Book train travel here 

Sleeper Train

Twice nightly Cairo to Aswan via Luxor Sleeper (Wagons Lit) trains

Departs 20.00 hrs and 21.35 every evening from Giza Railway Station (connected to Giza Metro Station) Giza, Cairo.

Tickets can be purchased at the Giza Railway station, or from Ramsis Station Downtown , from window marked Sleeper Train opposite platform 11. It is wise to book 24 hours previous to ensure a cabin.

Tickets must be paid in CASH in US $ or EGP and ticket price is $60 or 360EGP per person.

Cabins are comfortable and sleep two persons in fold down seat beds.  Interconnceting door allows one large cabin for children or 4. All linen is provided and there is a small washhand basin and towel provided. Attendants will come when you press the button to turn down and make your beds when you choose.

Each cabin starting the journey has a sofa for two persons. After having dinner, the car steward turns the sofa into two beds. The cabin has a basin with hot & cold water, a razor shaving point, two towels, buttons for controlling heating, music & lights, 2 coat hangers, individual reading lights and 2 dining tables.

Toilets are located at each end of the sleeper section and all cabins have hangers to hang a few clothes and a large overhead luggage compartment.

Dinner is served in your cabin on leaving the station, consisting of a basic hot meal of rice, meat, pasta, bread and potatoes served with tea or coffee and a piece of fruit.

There is a smoking carriage in the middle of the sleeper section where hot and cold drinks and small snacks can also be bought.

Wake up call for Luxor is at 04.00 giving passengers time to wash and dress and have breakfast consisting of bread and cheese, croissant and jam and honey and a Danish pastry served with coffee and tea.

The train arrives in Luxor Main Station at 05.15 hrs and 07.10 hrs.

Schedule and Prices
Schedule here:

Egyptian train booking times and fares info 
Book here:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Importing a car into Egypt

Private vehicles are allowed to be imported on the condition that they are manufactured and imported in the same year. The cars may not be used or second-hand. An exception will be made for those cars imported in the name of patients or the handicapped, in accordance with the provisions of Customs exemption no. 186 of 1986 and its executive list. Cars are subject to customs categorization based on engine capacity.

Sales Tax

15% sales tax 40% customs charge up to 1000 cc
15% sales tax 55% customs charge between 1000 and 1300 cc
15% sales tax 100% customs charge between 1300 and 1600 cc
30% sales tax 135% customs charge between 1600 and 2000 cc
45% sales tax 135% customs charge More than 2000 cc

Capacity Private cars must not have a capacity exceeding 9 persons, nor can they have been manufactured with a greater capacity and subsequently have had seats removed. The original car license or a sealed certificate issued by any foreign traffic authority will be accepted as proof of ownership. This will not need validating as long as it states car ownership.Those cars equipped for medical purposes and arriving in the name of patents and the handicapped will, once inspected, be exempt from customs on the following conditions:

• Presentation of a medical report from the General Medical Board with the personal details of the patient or handicapped person, case determination and medical equipment.

• The equipment subject to exemption must be imported in the patient’s name.

• The car must be a small model with an engine capacity not in excess of 1,500 cc and 4 seats.

• The value of the car must not exceed 12,000 LE for ordinary disabilities or 15,000 LE for a person disabled as a result of a work injury. The disability must not be less than 35% and be proven by a report from the committee concerned in the General Administration of Health Insurance.

• In the event of the value of the car exceeding the aforementioned quantities, then the exemptions will meet the said values.

• The car may not be involved in any legal negotiations (sale, mortgage, etc.) for the period of 5 years starting from the date of release from Customs, except through payment of customs (and any other) taxes or fees from which it has been exempted. Once this period of time has passed, the owner is free to negotiate with the car, or purchase another medically equipped car also valid for exemptions. Any negotiation with the vehicle before the 5 years have passed, without notifying the Customs authorities or paying the Customs tax or any other tax, will be considered an evasion of Customs.

Temporary release

The release of cars belonging to Egyptians residing abroad, tourists, and transit travelers coming to spend a short period in the country within the limits of the residence period (maximum 6 months) after one year.After this period, the cars may be deposited inside the Customs zone prepared for this purpose, or exported from the country. These cars will not be granted release again (on a temporary basis) until a period of time similar to that spent inside the country, has passed.In return for the service provided for 3 months, or part thereof, the fees charged are as follows.

up to 1600 cc - 250 LE
between 1600 and 2000 cc - 500 LE
More than 2000 - 1000 LE

Cars accompanying tourist groups will be exempted if the stay does not exceed 1 month. The fees will be reduced to 100 LE.Cars running on diesel accompanying tourist groups will be authorized entry into the country, as well as 4-wheel drive vehicles.Furthermore, after getting authorization from the Military Intelligence Office, private cars will be temporarily released with suspension of payment of Customs tax and other taxes and fees. The suspension is conditional to the following:

• Insurance should be paid in cash or though a bank guarantee, including all relevant taxes and fees, in order to obtain Form 93 K.M with the details of the car.

• An international license from one of the automobile clubs or an authorized tourist company in Egypt.

• A written statement of responsibility from one of the Ministries or government bodies or official academic institutions to pay the tax if the car is not re-exported. This also applies to the cars of foreign experts brought by any of the Ministries.

• The Diplomatic Corps will take full responsibility of those diplomats’ cars which exceed the permitted length of stay. This also applies to the cars of foreign VIPs residing temporarily in Egypt.

• A written statement of responsibility from the Office of Tourism is needed for the cars of tourists coming as groups with international licenses.

• Regarding the temporary release of cars of Arab and foreign students in universities and institutions in Egypt: 250 LE will be paid every 3 months for cars with a capacity of no more than 1,600 cc.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

St Catherines bedouin medicinal herb growers

All around Saint Catherine, in tiny spring-fed gardens, the Jabaliya Bedouin are cultivating medicinal plants. Just 10 years ago this was unheard of. Then in 2003, the MPCP (Medicinal Plants Conservation Project) began surveying the mountains for medicinal plants. 

By 2005 word had spread that the project’s micro-financing offshoot, the MPA (Medicinal Plants Association), with its dark-roofed greenhouses down in Saint Catherine, was offering good money for thyme, rosa arabica, anise and oregano. 

What had been worthless goat fodder growing between granite and basalt was now a cash crop. It could even be more lucrative than marijuana, and maybe even more than opium.

Ahmed Saleh is an herbalist. He also runs the MPA. Three of us are sitting in his low-ceiling living room in Saint Catherine, South Sinai, while Saleh wordlessly mixes a yellow powder concoction with store-bought honey. The mustard-yellow paste goes into small glass jars.

“This one is going to Israel,” he says, holding a finished product to the light. “A man has ordered ten.”
But his friend Soliman Mahmoud is doing most of the talking. Saleh has asked him to drop by for tea and explain to the reporter the healing powers of the local plants. The living room’s mood has turned fervent.
“Some people believe easily,” says Mahmoud, who works as a guide at Saint Catherine Monastery. “But not me. I didn’t believe what people said about medicinal plants at first.
“Then my child was sick,” he continues. “He was two years old and four months. I took him to the doctor and they gave him antibiotic injections. But after 10 days he would be sick again. Eventually I did not have enough money and I was going to sell my car and take my child to the big hospital in Cairo. The local doctor gave us a referral to a specialist.”

As it happened, the night before he left for Cairo he visited Saleh for dinner. Saleh caught wind of his plans and urged him to cancel the doctor’s appointment. He did. Then Saleh gave him a jar of the mustard-yellow paste. Mahmoud fed it to his son. The boy’s health improved dramatically overnight. Cynical Mahmoud became a believer.

Sinai, says Saleh, has 472 plant species — and more than 100 are used as medicine. Forty-two of these are endangered and 14 are endemic. 

 The harsh conditions have favored species that evolve to specialize in limited, niche conditions.  As a result, it is one of Egypt’s most bio-diverse areas.
Today there are 60 Bedouin gardens growing plants for the MPA, Saleh says. The association fosters seedlings in Saint Catherine, and then distributes the young plants to the surrounding gardens. Some are nearby, others are working far-flung wells. The plants are then harvested and processed by a team of female MPA employees in Saint Catherine. They are blended, packaged, branded and marketed.

A 20-gram tea blend of rosemary, peppermint and other herbs retails for LE20, while 400 grams of the raw plant stuff costs about LE25 — a 1,600 percent mark-up. The 250-gram jar of mustard-yellow paste — containing anise, ginger, rosemary, oregano and 10 other ingredients — is about LE100. Most of the product is sold domestically, though some will go to neighboring Gulf countries and Europe.

The MPA takes a 10 percent commission of the profit and the rest goes to the growers. Medicinal herbs are a rare good news story for the Sinai economy. Last winter’s rains failed, a late frost scorched the almond blossoms and tourism numbers are way down. Mahmoud says he is finding it hard to support his family on his earnings as a tour guide. They may move to Suez or somewhere else on the coast, where maybe they can catch and sell fish.
You don’t have to believe in the herbs’ healing powers to have faith in the business model.

But according to Saleh and Mahmoud, there is also plenty of strong anecdotal evidence in favor of swapping aspirin for an herbal-brewed tea, or Panadol for the massage oil.

“Many in Egypt have colon problems because of their diet,” says Saleh. “They eat a lot of oil — falafel, shawarma, chips. The Bedouin also have lots of kidney problems and need dialysis.”

Saleh has prescriptions for eczema, hair loss, fish and lactose allergies, immune deficiency, high salt levels and rheumatism. There’s even an herbal Viagra. Tiny dark jars of 40 blended oils, sandwich bags of powders and salves of royal jelly pile into the dark corners of the living room. They will be sold in the shop down the road. From starting life in remote mountain valleys, the herbs see out their days on a dresser in a dim Cairo bedroom, or lugged across the globe in a backpack.

The MPA parent project, the MPCP, was established with an 8 million-euro grant from the Global Environmental Facility — a UNDP-UNEP, World Bank environmental fund. It sought to graft Bedouin lore onto a Western micro-finance model — and to combine botanical textbook knowledge with Bedouin oral learning. In nine years of the project, feral donkeys have been trucked off to Giza Zoo, (apparently solving the donkey problem), abandoned orchards revived as herb farms, and the seeds of rare medicinal species deposited in the vaults of the Cairo gene bank.

And sometimes, under the MPCP greenhouse plastic, vanished strains have returned.
“The old people tell me that there used to be lots of herbs growing at a remote spot,” says Saleh. “So I go to these areas and find goat dung. Sometimes it’s up to 60 years old. I take the dung, water it and seeds grow. They can stay inside the dung for 100 years and grow again.”

In 2012, the MPCP was awarded the US$5,000 UNDP Equator Prize for its work in preserving genetic heritage.

But the seed funding will run out this June and the project will be turned over to the Environment Ministry. The MPCP will remain an NGO, says project manager Adel Soliman. Its 12 employees will keep their jobs.

The MPA, however, will remain independent from the government. Thanks to its share of profits, the offshoot is self-sustaining.

Paramotor in Ain Sokhna Egypt

Friday the 20th of April, all our clients are invited to come and try the first PARAMOTOR tandem flying experience in Egypt.

Itinerary in Brief:

Meet in front of Baron Palace at 7am and head towards Al Ain Al Sokhna. Expected to return around 8pm.
Reach Sokhna, listen to your instructions CAREFULLY, cause you are taking off :D and fly on top of Attaka mountains and the beach.
Other fun activities available: including Go Karting and food competition ;)

Trip Difficulty Level: Intro. & Intermediate. But requires a brave heart.
No experience required.

The bus ride is free to all members of our loyalty programs, holders of our
Loyal Card, Upgraded Loyal Card, also Silver, Gold & Platinum members.

Tandem Paramotor Experience: EGP550 per person. With 25% discount for our loyal card holders.

Check the website for more information.

Call +2012 74322400 from 9am to 5pm Sunday to Thursday.
Or send us an email saying: “I'm loyal and I wanna fly” to

Sunday, April 15, 2012

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to help the Orphans of Egypt



How it all Began

The "Sunshine Project" as it is today was founded in 1996 by Pearl Smith and Dr. Amr Taha, secretary General of the Egyptian Doctors Association, and officially opened in the Spring of that year. Early in1997 a trust fund was set up in the UK and charitable status registered. However, the history of the Project dates further back.
In 1992 Pearl Smith was on holiday and met some doctors who were attending a conference in Luxor. During discussions Pearl expressed her concern for the condition of some of the street children. As a result of this interest Pearl was invited to visit a local clinic caring particularly for children and mothers. It was in this one dingy room that she became fully aware of the desperate plight of abandoned children in Egypt. The conditions she witnessed two baby boys living in imprinted itself on her heart.
From this moment on the need of these children preyed on her mind. Pearl became a regular visitor to the clinic, flying back and forth from her UK home, and decided a special home needed to be opened for these children. After selling her home and moving to Luxor, Pearl began a campaign to open such a facility.
In 2003 Pearl Smith returned to the UK to receive treatment for Cancer, sadly Pearl lost her battle with the disease and she died in February 2004.
After Pearl’s sudden and untimely death, long term deputy Lorna Ford took the reigns in Luxor. Lorna re-established the Project under charity No 5, Lorna as Project Manager helped to organise the purchase of Ahmed Esmet Street premises and she ensured the completion of the Village Project. Lorna left the Project in 2009 and Sunshine continued under the Management of the Sunshine Foundation board members in Luxor. The Sunshine Project is an established registered charity (No 5).The Project in Luxor continues to flourish and continues to provide home and care to many needy children, As of June 2010 the number of children receiving care rose to 92.
Initially opening with a handful of children in rented accommodation, the project has become one of the largest N.G.O. organisations in Upper Egypt. On average a new baby arrives every month.

How you can Help

There are so many ways to help a Sunshine child and they need that help now! Please do not put off till tomorrow what you could do today. Sunshine has always been wholly reliant on people’s generosity and you can make all the difference to these children’s lives.
  • Sponsoring a Child
  • Make a one-off Donation
  • On-Line Donation
  • Payroll Giving
  • On-Line Shopping
  • Organise an Event
  • Help us with our Wish List
  • Visit Us in person
For more information on how you can help to make a difference to the lives of these children take a look at the Support Us page
For a list of urgently needed items required both in Egypt and here in the UK take a look at our Wish List

Sunshine Project 

Monday, April 9, 2012