Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Egypt Country Page

Pyramids of Giza
Pyramids of Giza, Cairo. Photo: KHALED DESOUKI / AFP


Egypt (Officially the Arab Republic of Egypt) is located in the northeastern corner of Africa on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. The country bears a strategic place as it sits at crossroads between North Africa, West Asia, Europe, and the Orient.

With an area of 1001,450 km2, about 95% of the population lives in a narrow strip of fertile land along the Nile. This strip does not exceed 5% of the whole Egyptian land area. Egypt is one of the countries in which runs the Nile River for about 1500 km starting by the southern border of the country and ending by the Mediterranean Sea.

Egypt is bordered by Libya to the east, by Sudan to the south, by the Red Sea, Palestine, and Israel to the west, and the Mediterranean to the north. In the eastern part of the country, the Suez Canal connects the Red Sea in the south to the Mediterranean in the north. The length of the canal amounts to 162 km.

Cairo is the capital and the biggest city in Egypt. It is the largest Arab city in terms of population and area. In terms of population, Cairo ranks second in Africa and seventeen in the world. According to 2017 statistics, the population of Cairo is 9.5 million, representing about 10% of the total population of the country.

Egypt was home to one of the most important civilizations in the ancient Middle East, let alone that it was the site of one of the oldest urban societies in the world. Pharaonic Egypt flourished for 3000 years through a series of local dynasties interspersed with short periods of foreign rule.

Under the rule of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty, an advanced and educated community flourished in Alexandria, until it was conquered by the Romans in 30 BC. Egypt remained part of the Roman Empire and then the Byzantine Empire until the arrival of Muslim Arabs between 639 and 642 AD.

Map Egypt
Egypt Map. @Fanack

Since then, Egypt has become one of the intellectual and cultural centers in the Arab Islamic world. By the thirteenth century, Egypt’s position has been strengthened when the Mongol armies annihilated the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad.

The caliphate has been then formally transferred to Egypt under the Mamluk sultans. In 1517, the Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamluks and tightened its control over Egypt until the French managed to occupy the country for a short period between 1798 and 1801.

Egypt’s strategic location has become the center of the trade route between Africa, Europe, and Asia. This natural feature was strengthened in 1869 after the establishment of the Suez Canal. In 1882, the United Kingdom occupied Egypt and continued to exercise strong influence over the country until the end of World War II (1939-1945).

In 1952, a military coup resulted in forming of a revolutionary regime that encouraged a mixture of socialism and Arab nationalism.

The political discourse and the nationalization of the new republican system sparked the Suez crisis in 1956. This crisis was only resolved after the intervention of the United States and the Soviet Union. Since that, Egypt’s presence in the Mediterranean region has been put in the international spotlight until nowadays.

The population is estimated at 104 million in 2020. Arabic is the official language of the country, while English and French are widely understood by the educated classes.
The majority of Egyptians are Muslims according to the Sunni doctrine. According to most estimates, there is a Shiite minority in Egypt that does not exceed a million people.

Islam is the state religion and the source of legislation in it. Christianity in its various denominations (Copts, Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants) is ranked second in terms of the religious belief of the population.

The pound is the local currency of Egypt. It is officially linked to the US dollar (1 $ = 16 pounds in 2020). Natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, and manganese, in addition to limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, rare earth elements, and zinc.

In terms of military strength, Egypt is ranked 12 out of 137 among the countries included in the 2019 Global Firepower Report. It is the only country in the Middle East and North Africa to own two aircraft carriers.

Egypt has one of the most established and influential media industries in the Middle East. The origins of modern media in Egypt can be traced back to 1828 when the printed press was introduced with the first newspaper in the country “Al-Waqa’i’ al-Misriyya”. After that, Al-Ahram newspaper was founded in 1875, which is the oldest existing newspaper in the Arab world.

In 2010, there were 142 newspapers registered in the country. By 2012, this number increased to 567. Generally, newspapers are divided between state-sponsored publications and those of a specific political party or institution. A large group of private satellite channels is being broadcasted. At the same time, Egyptian radio channels are very popular, and the same applies to the network of state-owned television channels.

The list of prominent faces in Egypt includes Yusef Zaidan, the opposing lawyer Khaled Ali and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports is responsible for managing sports in Egypt in all its fields. Football is the most popular game in Egypt. Egyptian football fans are historically divided between Al-Ahly and Zamalek. Egypt is also the record holder for the number of African Cup of Nations titles that it has won with 7 titles.

There is an international Egyptian presence in many other sports such as handball, squash, basketball and weightlifting. Egypt takes the lead globally in squash. Egypt usually participates in the Olympic Games. The Olympic history of Egypt dates back to 1910.

The relatively warm and temperate winters facilitate cultivation throughout the year. The short period of cultivation allows most crops to grow multi-crops where water is available. Summer is a hot dry desert.

The country is divided geographically into the following main regions:

A – The valley and the Delta which is a triangular, alluvial region with a summit in Cairo and its base on the Mediterranean Sea. Both regions are very fertile.
B – Western Sahara, which includes about three-quarters of the total area.
C – the Eastern Desert, which consists of a series of mountains that extend along the Red Sea, and exceed a height of 2000 meters in some cases. Its total area amounts to 220 square kilometers.
D – the Sinai Peninsula, which is the key to Egypt and links it to the Arab East.

Egypt has many monuments that attract tourists, including the Pyramids of Giza and the Karnak Temple in Luxor.

Vehicle driving is right-sided as in the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. Egypt’s time zone is (GMT+2) while the international dialing code is 002+.

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