Al-Ahram Weekly Online   7 - 13 February 2008
Issue No. 883
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Handbook help

Although travellers nowadays mainly resort to the Internet for travel information and advice, guidebooks still attract quite a large number of tourists as they are well-researched, well-written, and can be taken wherever you go. The proof that guidebooks are still in fashion is that hundreds of guidebooks are still printed and reprinted every year dealing with various topics of touristic interest.

Many guidebooks are still written about Egypt, its tourist attractions, ancient sites, customs, traditions, entertainment, food, flora and fauna.

Here is a list of some of the more interesting guidebooks recently published about Egypt.

- Spiral Guide-Egypt : by Anthony Sattin and Sylvie Franquet, published by the American University in Cairo Press, 206 pages.

This guide, although small in size, is extremely informative and attractive especially for first time visitors to Egypt. It is not the kind of guide that includes a lot of text but it includes the most important information encapsulated in a few words accompanied by fantastic photos, recent maps and travel tips.

Instead of the customary introduction of Egypt, its population, the political regime, history and other introductory information, the guide starts with what they call "a magazine" of short articles to inspire and inform travellers, giving a snapshot of the destination's character.

The first of the magazine's articles includes the best and most of Egypt. It says that there's never enough time to see everything in Egypt but don't miss these sites like the Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum, Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings and Sultan Hassan Mosque. The article also mentions places from where you can get the best views of Cairo, Luxor, the Red Sea and the Nile, the best mosques, best buzzes, best places for peace and quiet and the most quirky sites such as the Police Museum, the Cavafy Museum and the chaplet of the Convent of St George in Coptic Cairo.

Another article in the magazine, "Death on the Nile" discusses the idea of death in ancient Egypt, the ancient belief in death after life and mummification, as well as Islamic death rites. Other articles include issues on Islam, Christianity and Judaism, the most common colloquial words in Egypt and their meaning, Egyptian chronicles from 5000 BC to the present time, food in Egypt, and dancing and entertainment.

Other sections of the book include practical information for a successful trip to Egypt, from arrival to departure in the section entitled "Finding Your Feet". The "What to See and Do" section is colour-coded geographic chapters, each with itinerary and map detailing numbered "don't miss" attractions and other sights for travellers to explore at their leisure.

The book also suggests the best routes in Egypt that give a real flavour of the destination through "Walks and Tours" section. The guide concludes with an atlas which is a handy reference to help travellers find their way around.

- The Illustrated Guide to the Coptic Museum and the Churches of Old Cairo: by Gawdat Gabra and Marianne Eaton-Krauss, the American University in Cairo Press, 297 pages.

This is the official guide to the newly renovated Coptic Museum, home to the world's largest and most exquisite collection of Coptic Christian artefacts from two millennia. It is intended to be an authoritative, up-to-date guide of the galleries with their completely new arrangement of the museum's treasures, including a number of important objects, such as the unique covers of codices from Nag Hammadi, wall paintings from Kellia, and some mediaeval icons, which are on view for the first time.

Introductions are provided for each category of objects, room by room or for the group of rooms devoted to a single theme such as monasticism or icons. Selected objects in each section are described in detail. The bibliography at the end of the book includes a number of works of interest for the general reader.

The book includes an introduction to the history of Coptic Christianity, a chronology, and floor plans of the museum. It also guides the visitor around the neighbouring Coptic churches of Old Cairo including the Hanging Church (Al-Moalaqa), the Church of St Sergius, the Church of St Barbara, and the Synagogue of Ben Ezra.

- Focus: Marina-North Coast : by Emad Zaki, published by Promotion Team, 48 pages, free of charge.

This is the most comprehensive guide to Egypt's Northern Coast resorts, especially Marina. Building on the success of Focus Photo directory for hotels and resorts published two years ago, Focus Marina was thus initiated.

The guide is designed to serve Marina residents and frequent visitors by providing detailed data of places that consumers visit on a daily basis. Marina, which has become the largest and most important tourist centre on the North Coast, has grown into a whole city of special taste and style. It enjoys entertainment spots, commercial stores and a complete infrastructure. This guide is divided into five sections, the first being about accommodation in Marina be it hotels or real estate. The second includes commercial stores, air- conditioning, banks, bakeries, beach clothing, bookstores, building material, carpets and rugs, coiffeurs, dairy products, electronic goods, food, gift shops, home furniture, kids corners, kids wear, marine equipment, pharmacies, restaurants and cafés, supermarkets, shoes and accessories and others. The third section deals with entertainment facilities in Marina such as carting, cinemas, kids places, private beaches and sports facilities. General services and emergencies are in the fourth and fifth sections with all the important telephone numbers of healthcare, police, security, transportation and water.

The guide is distributed free of charge in Marina information centres on the Mediterranean North Coast.

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