Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East. The great majority of its over 81 million peoplelive near the banks of the Nile River, in an area of about 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found. The large areas of the Sahara Desert are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt’s residents live in urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Monuments in Egypt such as the Giza pyramid complex and its Great Sphinx were constructed by its ancient civilization. Its ancient ruins, such as those of Memphis, Thebes, and Karnak and the Valley of the Kings outside Luxor, are a significant focus of archaeological study. The tourism industry and the Red Sea Riviera employ about 12% of Egypt’s workforce.
The economy of Egypt is one of the most diversified in the Middle East, with sectors such as ourism, agriculture, industry and service at almost equal production levels.
On 18 June 1953, the Egyptian Republic was declared, 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 in June, 1956. British forces completed their withdrawal from the occupied Suez Canal Zone on 13 June 1956. He nationalized the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956, prompting the 1956 Suez Crisis.
In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel invaded and occupied Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, which Egypt had occupied since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Three years later President Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat in 1970. Sadat switched Egypt’s Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. He launched the Infitah economic reform policy, while clamping down on religious and secular opposition.
In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched the October War, a surprise attack against the Israel forces occupying the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. It was an attempt to regain part of the Sinai territory Israel had captured 6 years earlier. Sadat hoped to seize some territory through military force, and then regain the rest of the peninsula by diplomacy. The conflict sparked an international crisis between the US and the USSR, both of whom intervened. The second UN-mandated ceasefire halted military action. While the war ended with a military stalemate, it presented Sadat with a political victory that later allowed him to regain the Sinai in return for peace with Israel.
Sadat made a historic visit to Israel in 1977, which led to the 1979 peace treaty in exchange for 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 it was supported by most Egyptians. A fundamentalist military soldier assassinated Sadat in Cairo in 1981. He was succeeded by Hosni Mubarak.
On 25 January 2011, widespread protests began against Mubarak’s regime. The objective of the protest was the removal of Mubarak from power. These took the form of an intensive campaign of civil resistance supported by a very large number of people and mainly consisting of continuous mass demonstrations. By 29 January it was becoming clear that Mubarak’s regime had lost control when a curfew order was ignored, and the army took a semi-neutral stance on enforcing the curfew decree. Some protesters, a very small minority in Cairo, expressed nationalistic views against what they deemed was foreign interference, highlighted by the then-held view that the U.S. administration had failed to take sides, as well as linking the regime with Israel.
On 11 February 2011, Mubarak resigned and fled Cairo. Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had stepped down and that the Egyptian military would assume control of the nation’s affairs in the short term. (See also 2011 revolution.) Jubilant celebrations broke out in Tahrir Square at the news. Mubarak may have left Cairo for Sharm el-Sheikh the previous night, before or shortly after the airing of a taped speech in which Mubarak vowed he would not step down or leave.
On 13 February 2011, the high level military command of Egypt announced that both the constitution and the parliament of Egypt had been dissolved. The parliamentary election was to be held in September.
At 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,660 sq mi), Egypt is the world’s 30th-largest country. In land area, it is about the same size as all Central America, twice the size of Spain, four times the size of the United Kingdom, and the combined size of the US states of Texas and California. It lies between latitudes 22° and 32°N, and longitudes 24° and 36°E.
Nevertheless, due to the aridity of Egypt’s climate, population centres are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta, meaning that about 99% of the population uses only about 5.5% of the total land area. Egypt is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. 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, traversed by a navigable waterway (the Suez Canal) that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean by way of the Red Sea.
Temperatures average between 80 °F (27 °C) and 90 °F (32 °C) in summer, and up to 109 °F (43 °C) on the Red Sea coast. Winter temperatures average between 55 °F (13 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C). A steady wind from the northwest helps lower temperatures near the Mediterranean coast. The Khamaseen is a wind that blows from the south in spring, bringing sand and dust, and sometimes raises the temperature in the desert to more than 100 °F (38 °C).
Egypt is divided into 27 governorates. The governorates are further divided into regions. The regions contain towns and villages. Each governorate has a capital, sometimes carrying the same name as the governorate.
In April 2008, Cairo and Giza were subdivided into 4 governorates, namely the governorates of Cairo, Giza, 6 October and Helwan. As of April 2011, 6 October and Helwan governorates were again incorporated into Giza and Cairo respectively. In 2009, the city of Luxor was declared an independent governorate.
The official language of the Republic is Modern Standard Arabic. The spoken languages are: Egyptian Arabic (68%), Sa’idi Arabic (29%), Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic (1.6%), Sudanese Arabic (0.6%), Domari (0.3%), Nobiin (0.3%), Beja (0.1%), Siwi and others. Additionally, Greek, Armenian and Italian are the main languages of immigrants. In Alexandria in the 19th century there was a large community of Italian Egyptians and Italian was the “lingua franca” of the city.
Egyptian culture has six 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 other African countries. 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 at the helm of major international organizations like Boutros Boutros-Ghali of the United Nations and Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA.
Egypt is a recognized cultural trend-setter of the Arabic-speaking world, and contemporary Arab culture is heavily influenced by Egyptian literature, music, film and television. Egypt gained a regional leadership role during the 1950s and 1960s, which gave a further enduring boost to the standing of Egyptian culture in the Arab world.