Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in North Africa that includes the Sinai Peninsula, a land bridge to Asia. Covering an area of about 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,560 square miles), Egypt borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and Israel and the Gaza Strip to the northeast; on the north and the east are the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, respectively.
Egypt is the fifteenth most populous country in the world. The vast majority of its 788.8 million population (2006) live near the banks of the Nile River (about 40,000 km² or 15,450 sq miles) where the only arable agricultural land is found. Large areas of land form part of the Sahara Desert and are sparsely inhabited. Around half of Egypt’s residents live in urban areas, with the majority spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo (the largest city in Africa and the Middle East), Alexandria and other major towns in the Nile Delta.
Egypt is famous for its anncient civilization and some of the world’s most ancient and important monuments, including the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza; the southern city of Luxor contains a particularly large number of ancient artifacts such as the Karnak Temple an
The Nile Valley was site of continuous human habitation since at least the Paleolithic. Traces of these early peoples appear in the form of artifacts and rock carvings along the terraces of the Nile and in the desert oases. In the 10th millennium BC, a grain-grinding culture using the earliest type of sickle blades had been replaced by another culture of hunter-gatherers and fishers using stone tools. Climate changes and/or overgrazing around 8000 BC began to desiccate the pastoral lands of Egypt, eventually forming the Sahara. Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural ecconomy and more centralized society.
By about 6000 BC, organized agriculture and large building construction had appeared in the Nile Valley. During the Neolithic, several predynastic cultures developed independently in Upper and Lower Egypt. The Badarian culture and the successor Naqada series are generally regarded as precursors to Dynastic Egyptian civilization. The earliest known Lower Egyptian site, Merimda, predates the Badarian by about 700 years. Contemporaneous Lower Egyptian communities coexisted with their southern counterparts for more than two thousand years, remaining somewhat culturally se
A unified kingdom was founded circa 3150 BC by King Menes, giving rise to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia. Egyptian culture flourished during this long period and remained distinctively Egyptian in its religion, arts, language and customs. The first two ruling dynasties of a unified Egypt set the stage for the Old Kingdom period, c. 2700−2200 BC., famous for its many pyramids, most notably the 3rd Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the 4th Dynasty Giza Pyramids.
The Great Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, built during the Old Kingdom, are modern national icons that also lie at the heart of Egypt’s thriving tourism industry.
The First Intermediate Period ushered in a time of political upheaval for about 150 years. Stronger Nile floods and stabilization of government, however, brought back renewed prosperity for the country in the Middle Kingdom c. 2040 BC, reaching a peak during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. A second period of disunity heralded the arrival of the first alien ruling dynasty in Egypt, that of the Semitic Hy
The New Kingdom (c. 1550 − 1070 BC) began with the 18th dynasty, marking the rise of Egypt as an international power that expanded during its greatest extension to an empire as far south as Jebel Barkal in Nubia, and included parts of the Levant in the east.
This period is known for some of the most well-known Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II. The first known self-conscious expression of monotheism came during this period in the form of the cult of Atenism. Frequent contacts with other nations brought in new ideas in the New Kingdom.
The Hanging Church is Cairo’s most famous Coptic church first built in the AD 3rd or 4th century.
The Thirtieth Dynasty was the last native ruling dynasty during the Pharaonic epoch. It fell to the Persians in 343 BC after the last native pharaoh, King Nectanebo II, was defeated in battle. Later, Egypt fell to the Greeks an
The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a brief Persian invasion early in the seventh century, until in AD 639, Egypt was invaded by the Muslim Arabs.
The form of Islam the Arabs brought to Egypt was Sunni, though early in this period Egyptians began to blend their new faith with indigenous beliefs and practices that had survived through Coptic Christianity, giving rise to various Sufi orders that have flourished to this day. Muslim rulers nominated by the Islamic Caliphate remained in control of Egypt for the next six centuries, including a period for which it was the seat of the Caliphate under the Fatimids. With the end of the Ayyubid dynasty, a Turco-Circassian military caste, the Mamluks, took control about AD 1250 and continued to govern even after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517.
The brief French Invasion of Egypt in 1801 had a great social impact on the country and its culture, as native Egyptians were introduced to the principals of the French Revolution and were invited to head their own government. A series of civil wars took place between the Ottoman Turks, the Mamluks, and Albanian mercenaries following the evacuation of French troops, resulting in the Albanian Muhammad Ali taking control of Egypt where he was appointed as the Ottoman viceroy in 1805. He led a modernization campaign of public works, including irrigation projects, agricultural reforms and increased industrialization, which were then taken up and further expanded by his grandson and successor Isma’il Pasha.
Following the completion of the Suez Canal by Ismail in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub. In 1866, the Assembly of Delegates was founded to serve as an advisory body for the government. Its members were elected from across Egypt and eventually they came to have an important influence on governmental affairs. The country also fell heavily into debt to European powers. Ostensibly to protect its investments, the United Kingdom seized control of Egypt’s government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914 when as a result of the declaration of war with the Ottoman Empire, Britain declared a protectorate over Egypt and deposed the khedive, replacing him with his uncle who was appointed Sultan of Egypt.
Between 1882 and 1906, a local nationalist movement for independence was taking shape. The Dinshaway Incident prompted Egyptian opposition to take a stronger stand against British occupation and the first political parties were founded. After the first World War, Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party led the Egyptian nationalist movement after gaining a majority at the local Legislative Assembly. When the British exiled Zaghlul and his associates to Malta on March 8, 1919, Egypt witnessed its first modern revolution. Constant revolting by the Egyptian people throughout the country led Great Britain to issue a unilateral declaration of Egypt’s independence on February 22, 1922.
The new Egyptian government drafted and implemented a new constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary representative system. Saad Zaghlul was popularly-elected as Prime Minister of Egypt in 1924, and in 1936 the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded.
Night view of Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the Middle East. The Cairo Opera House (center) is the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital.
The Egyptian Republic was declared on 18 June 1953 with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic. Naguib was forced to resign in 1954 by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the real architect of the 1952 movement, and was later put under house arrest. Nasser assumed power as President and declared the full independence of Egypt from the United Kingdom on June 18, 1956. He also nationalized the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956 leading to the 1956 Suez Crisis. Three years after the 1967 Six Day War, in which Egypt lost the Sinai to Israel, Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who presented his takeover in terms of a Corrective Revolution.
Sadat switched Egypt’s Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972, and launched the Infitah economic reform policy, while violently clamping down on religious and secular opposition alike. In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel in an attempt to regain the occupied Sinai Penninsula. Both the US and the USSR intervened and a cease-fire was reached between both sides. Despite not being a complete military success, most historians agree that the Yom Kippur war presented Sadat with a political victory that would later allow him to pursue peace with Israel. In 1977, Sadat made a historical visit to Israel which led to the 1978 peace treaty in exchange for the complete Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. Sadat’s initiative sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt’s expulsion from the Arab League, but was supported by the vast majority of Egyptians. Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by a fundamentalist military soldier in 1981 and was succeeded by the incumbent Hosni Mubarak.
Main article: Governorates of Egypt
Map of Egypt
Egypt is divided into 26 governorates (Muhafazat; singular – Muhafazah) and the city of Luxor, which is classified as a city rather than a governorate. There will soon be 27 governorates, as the city of Luxor is becoming a governorate.
· Urban Governorates: Port Said, Cairo, Suez and Alexandria
· Lower Governorates: Damietta, Ismailia, Gharbia, Kalyoubia, Dakahlia, Menoufia, Sharkia, Kafr El-Sheikh and Behera
· Upper Governorates: Aswan, Giza, Luxor, Quena, Beni-Suef, Menia, Suhag, Assyout and Fayoum
· Frontier Governorates: Red Sea, New Valley, Matrouh, North Sinai and South Sinai.
Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East and the second-most populous on the African continent, with nearly 79 million people. Almost all the population is concentrated along the banks of the Nile (notably Alexandria and Cairo), in the Delta and near the Suez Canal. Approximately 90% of the population adheres to Islam and most of the remainder to Christianity (primarily the Coptic Orthodox denomination). Apart from religious affiliation, Egyptians can be divided demographically into those who live in the major urban centers and the fellahin or farmers of rural villages.
Egyptians are by the far the largest ethnic group in Egypt at 97-98% (about 76.4 million) of the total population. Ethnic minorities include the Bedouin Arab tribes living in the eastern deserts and the Sinai Peninsula, the Berber-speaking Siwis of the Siwa Oasis, and the ancient Nubian communities clustered along the Nile in the southernmost part of Egypt.
Egypt also hosts some 90,000 refugees and asylum seekers, made up mostly of 70,000 Palestinian refugees and 20,000 Sudanese refugees. The once-vibrant Jewish community in Egypt has virtually disappeared, with only a small number remaining in Egypt and those who visit on religious occasions. Several important Jewish archaeological and historical sites remain.
Satellite image of Egypt, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
At 386,636 mi² (1,001,450 km²), Egypt is the world’s 30th-largest country (after Mauritania). It is comparable in size to Tanzania, and is more than half the size of the US state of Alaska.
Egypt is bordered by Libya on the west, Sudan on the south, and on Israel and Gaza Strip on the northeast. Egypt’s important role in geopolitics stems from its strategic position: a transcontinental nation, it possesses a land bridge (the Isthmus of Suez) between Africa and Asia, which in turn is traversed by a navigable waterway (the Suez Canal) that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea.
Apart from the Nile Valley, the majority of Egypt’s landscape is a big, sandy desert. The winds blowing can create sand dunes over 100 feet high. Egypt includes parts of the Sahara Desert and of the Libyan Desert. These deserts were referred to as the “red land” in ancient Egypt, and they protected the Kingdom of the Pharaohs from western threats.
Egypt has a dry climate. It is hot in the summer, with temperatures averaging between 80° and 90 °F. Winters are warm, with temperatures averaging between 55° and 70 °F. A steady wind from the northwest helps hold down the temperature near the coast.
The Khamaseen is a wind that blows from the south in Egypt, usually in spring or summer, bringing sand and dust, and sometimes raises the temperature in the desert to more than 100 °F. Rain seldom falls in Egypt. Along the Mediterranean Coast, the average yearly rainfall is 8 inches. Farther south, only about 1 inch of rain falls every year.
Egyptian culture has five thousand years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilizations and for millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that influenced later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After the Pharaonic era, Egypt itself came under the influence of Hellenism, Christianity, and Islamic culture. Today, many aspects of Egypt’s ancient culture exist in interaction with newer elements, including the influence of modern Western culture, itself with roots in ancient Egypt.
Egypt’s capital city, Cairo, is Africa’s largest city and has been renowned for centuries as a center of learning, culture and commerce. Egypt has the highest number of Nobel Laureates in Africa and the Arab World. Some Egyptian born politicians were or are currently at the helm of major international organizations like Boutros Boutros-Ghali of the United Nations and Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA.
Football (soccer) is the de facto national sport of Egypt. Egyptian Soccer clubs El Ahly and El Zamalek are the two most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time champions of the sport regionally. Squash and tennis are other close favorites among Egyptians. The Egyptian Squash team has been known for its fierce competition in world-wide championships since 1930s.