Egypt (About the EoE)

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Ancient Pyramids of Giza. Source: Ricardo Liberato

Countries and Regions of the World Collection Eoe-globes.jpgEgypt is a nation of eighty-four million people in north-Africa, it also controls the Sinai Peninsula, part of the Middle East and western-Asia. Thus, Egypt controls the only land bridge between Africa and remainder of Eastern Hemisphere. It also controls the Suez Canal, a sea link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Its size, and juxtaposition to Israel, gives it a major role in Middle Eastern geopolitics. Egypt is mostly a vast desert plateau interrupted by the Nile Valley and delta.



Egypt's major environmental issues include:

  • Agricultural land being lost to urbanization and windblown sands;
  • Increasing soil salination below Aswan High Dam;
  • Desertification; oil pollution threatening coral reefs, beaches, and marine habitats;
  • Other water pollution from agricultural pesticides and herbicides, raw sewage, and industrial effluents;
  • Limited natural freshwater resources away from the Nile, which is the only perennial water source; and,
  • Rapid growth in population overstraining the Nile and natural resources.

Egypt is susceptible to periodic droughts; frequent earthquakes, flash floods, landslides; hot, driving windstorm called khamsin occurs in spring; dust storms, and sandstorms.

The regularity and richness of the annual Nile River flood, coupled with semi-isolation provided by deserts to the east and west, allowed for the development of one of the world's great civilizations. A unified kingdom arose circa 3200 BC, and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia.

The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 B.C., who in turn were replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines.

It was the Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the 7th century AD, and who ruled for the next six centuries.

A local military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 AD and continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517 AD.

Following the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub, but also fell heavily into debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, Britain seized control of Egypt's government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914.

Partially independent from the UK in 1922, Egypt acquired full sovereignty with the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952.

The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have altered the time-honored place of the Nile River in the agriculture and ecology of Egypt.

A rapidly growing population (the largest in the Arab world), limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress society. The government has struggled to meet the demands of Egypt's growing population through economic reform and massive investment in communications and physical infrastructure.

Geography, population, history, military strength, and diplomatic expertise give Egypt extensive political influence in the Middle East and within the Non-Aligned Movement as a whole. Cairo has been a crossroads of Arab commerce and culture for millennia, and its intellectual and Islamic institutions are at the center of the region's social and cultural development.

450px-fostatoldcairopappoport.jpg Old Cairo. Source:: A.S.Rappoprt History of Egypt Unrest and Transition of 2011
Egyptian youth and opposition groups, inspired by events in Tunisia leading to overthrow of the government there, organized a "Day of Rage" campaign on 25 January 2011 (Police Day) to include non-violent demonstrations, marches, and labor strikes in Cairo and other cities throughout Egypt. Protester grievances focused on police brutality, state emergency laws, lack of free speech and elections, high unemployment, rising food prices, inflation, and low minimum wages.

Within several days of the onset of protests, President Mubarak addressed the nation pledging the formation of a new government, and in a second address he offered additional concessions, which failed to assuage protesters and resulted in an escalation of the number and intensity of demonstrations and clashes with police.

On 11 February Mubarak resigned and national leadership was assumed by a Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). The SCAF dissolved the Egyptian parliament, suspended the nation's constitution, and formed a committee to recommend constitutional changes to facilitate a political transition through democratic elections.

Following some delays, elections for a new parliament took place between November 2011 and January 2012. Presidential elections are scheduled for May 2012.


Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan, and includes the Asian Sinai Peninsula

Geographic coordinates: 27 00 N, 30 00 E

Area: 1,001,450 km2 (995,450 km2 land and 6,000 km2 water)

Land boundaries: 2,665 km. Border countries: Gaza Strip 11 km, Israel 266 km, Libya 1,115 km, Sudan 1,273 km

Coastline: 2,450 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

Natural hazards: periodic droughts; frequent earthquakes; flash floods; landslides; hot, driving windstorm called khamsin occurs in spring; dust storms; sandstorms

Terrain: Vast desert plateau interrupted by Nile valley and delta. Its lowest point is the Qattara Depression (-133 metres) and its highest point is Mount Catherine (2,629 metres).

Climate: Desert; hot, dry summers with moderate winters

Waterways (2006): 3,500 km. note: includes Nile River, Lake Nasser, Alexandria-Cairo Waterway, and numerous smaller canals in delta; Suez Canal (193.5 km including approaches) navigable by oceangoing vessels drawing up to 17.68 m


Satellite Image of Egypt. Source: The Map Library


Topology of Egypt. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ecology and Biodiversity

1. Nile Delta flooded savanna (aqua)

2. Mediterranean dry woodlands and steppe (coast strip west of Nile delta)

3. North Saharan steppe and woodlands

4. Saharan halophytics (purple - Qattara Depression )

5. Sahara desert

6. Tibesti-Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlands (southwest corner at border with Libya and Sudan)

7. South Saharan steppe and woodlands(southeast - cream)

8. Red Sea coastal desert (west coast of Red Sea)

9. Arabian Desert and East Sahero-Arabian xeric shrublands (most of Sinai peninsula)

10. Red Sea Nubo-Sindian tropical desert and semi-desert (southern Sinai coast)

Damage to coral reefs is chiefly due to massive increases in tourism, snorkeling, scuba diving, sewage discharge and boat groundings; little data indicates ocean temperature is a significant degradation factor. (Kotb et al, 2008) Further detail on marine ecology of Egypt can be found in:

  • Northern Africa and coastal and marine environments
  • Red Sea large marine ecosystem
  • Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)
  • Mediterranean Basin
  • Siwa Oasis


Ecoregions of Egypt. Source: World Wildlife fund


The Nile Delta of Egypt, irrigated by the Nile River and its many distributaries, is some of the richest farm land in the world and home to over half of Egypt's population. The capital city of Cairo lies at the apex of the delta in the middle of the scene. Across the river from Cairo one can see the three large pyramids and sphinx at Giza. The Suez Canal is just to the right of the delta; the Mediterranean Sea is at the top of the view. Click on photo for higher resolution. Image courtesy of NASA.


The Sultan Hassan and Ar-Rifai Mosques as seen from the Citadel with Cairo in the background. The Sultan Hassan Mosque and Madrasah (religious school) is a masterpiece of Mamluk architecture that was begun in 1356 and completed in 1363. It contains the burial chamber of the Sultan's two sons and is featured on the Egyptian hundred-pound note. The Ar-Rifai Mosque was built between 1869 and 1912. It houses the tomb of King Farouk, Egypt's last reigning monarch, and other members of the Egyptian royal family, as well as the tomb of the last shah of Iran.

People and society

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and the second-most populous on the African continent. Nearly all of the country's 80 million people live in the following locations: Cairo and Alexandria; elsewhere on the banks of the Nile; in the Nile delta, which fans out north of Cairo; and along the Suez Canal. These regions are among the world's most densely populated, containing an average of over 3820 persons per square mile (1540 per sq. km.), as compared to about 200 persons per sq. mi. for the country as a whole.

Small communities spread throughout the desert regions of Egypt are clustered around oases and historic trade and transportation routes. The government has tried with mixed success to encourage migration to newly irrigated land reclaimed from the desert. However, the proportion of the population living in rural areas has continued to decrease as people move to the cities in search of employment and a higher standard of living.

The Egyptians are a fairly homogeneous people of Hamitic origin. Mediterranean and Arab influences appear in the north, and there is some mixing in the south with the Nubians of northern Sudan. Ethnic minorities include a small number of Bedouin Arab nomads in the eastern and western deserts and in the Sinai, as well as some 50,000-100,000 Nubians clustered along the Nile in Upper (southern) Egypt.

The literacy rate is about 71.4% of the adult population. Education is free through university and compulsory from ages 6 through 15. Rates of primary and secondary education have strengthened in recent years. 93% of children enter primary school today, compared with 87% in 1994. Major universities include Cairo University (100,000 students), Alexandria University, and the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar University, one of the world's major centers of Islamic learning.

Egypt's vast and rich literature constitutes an important cultural element in the life of the country and in the Arab world as a whole. Egyptian novelists and poets were among the first to experiment with modern styles of Arabic literature, and the forms they developed have been widely imitated. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arab to win the Nobel prize for literature. Egyptian books and films are available throughout the Middle East.

Population: 83,688,164 (July 2012 est.) (15th largest population in the world)

Ethnic groups: Egyptian 99.6%, other 0.4% (2006 census)

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 32.7% (male 13,725,282/female 13,112,157)
15-64 years: 62.8% (male 26,187,921/female 25,353,947)
65 years and over: 4.5% (male 1,669,313/female 2,031,016) (2011 est.)

Median Age: 24.3 years (2011 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.922% (2012 est.)

Birth rate: 24.22 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death rate: 4.8 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net migration rate: -0.2 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Urbanization: 43.4% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 2.1% (2010-15 est.)

Life expectancy at birth: 72.93 years

male: 70.33 years
female: 75.66 years (2012 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.94 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes

Literacy:definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 71.4%
male: 83%
female: 59.4% (2005 est.)


Egypt has endured as a unified state for more than 5000 years, and archeological evidence indicates that a developed Egyptian society has existed for much longer. Egyptians take pride in their "pharaonic heritage" and in their descent from what they consider mankind's earliest civilization. The Arabic word for Egypt is Misr, which originally connoted "civilization" or "metropolis."

Archeological findings show that primitive tribes lived along the Nile long before the dynastic history of the pharaohs began. By 6000 B.C., organized agriculture had appeared.

In about 3100 B.C., Egypt was united under a ruler known as Mena, or Menes, who inaugurated the 30 pharaonic dynasties into which Egypt's ancient history is divided--the Old and the Middle Kingdoms and the New Empire. The pyramids at Giza (near Cairo), which were built in the fourth dynasty, testify to the power of the pharaonic religion and state. The Great Pyramid, the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops), is the only surviving monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ancient Egypt reached the peak of its power, wealth, and territorial extent in the period called the New Empire (1567-1085 B.C.).

Persian, Greek, Roman, and Arab Conquerors
In 525 B.C., Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, led a Persian invasion force that dethroned the last pharaoh of the 26th dynasty. The country remained a Persian province until conquered by Alexander the Great in 322 B.C., ushering in Ptolemaic rule in Egypt that lasted for nearly 300 years.

Following a brief Persian reconquest, Egypt was invaded and conquered by Arab forces in 642 A.D. A process of Arabization and Islamization ensued. Although a Coptic Christian minority remained--and constitutes about 10% of the population today--the Arab language inexorably supplanted the indigenous Coptic tongue. For the next 1300 years, a succession of Arab, Mameluke, and Ottoman caliphs, beys, and sultans ruled the country.

European Influence
The Ottoman Turks controlled Egypt from 1517 until 1882, except for a brief period of French rule under Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1805, Mohammed Ali, commander of an Albanian contingent of Ottoman troops, won autonomy from the Ottoman Empire and founded the dynasty that ruled Egypt until his great-great grandson, Farouk , was overthrown in 1952. Mohammed Ali ruled Egypt until 1848, ushering in the modern history of Egypt. The rapid growth of Cairo as an urban center began in the reign of Ismail (1863-79). Eager to modernize the capital, he ordered the construction of a European-style city to the west of the medieval core. The Suez Canal was completed in Ismail’s reign in 1869, and its completion was celebrated by many events, including the commissioning of Verdi's "Aida" for a new opera house and the building of great palaces, such as the Omar Khayyam (originally constructed to entertain the French Empress Eugenie, and now the central section of the Cairo Marriott Hotel).

In 1882, British expeditionary forces crushed an Egyptian revolt led by Ahmed Orabi Pasha, marking the beginning of British occupation and the virtual inclusion of Egypt within the British Empire. Egypt became independent from the British Empire in 1922. British influence, however, continued to dominate Egypt's political life.

Between 1922 and 1952, three main political forces competed with one another: the Wafd, a broadly-based nationalist political organization strongly opposed to British influence; King Fuad, whom the British had installed during World War I; and the British themselves, who were determined to maintain control over the Suez Canal. Other political forces emerging in this period included the Communist Party (1925) and the Muslim Brotherhood (1928), which eventually became a potent political and religious force.

During World War II, British troops used Egypt as a base for Allied operations throughout the region. British troops were withdrawn to the Suez Canal area in 1947, but nationalist, anti-British feelings continued to grow after the war. On July 22-23, 1952, a group of disaffected army officers (the "Free Officers") led by Lt. Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew King Farouk, whom the military blamed for Egypt's poor performance in the 1948 war with Israel. Following a brief experiment with civilian rule, they abrogated the 1923 constitution and declared Egypt a republic on June 19, 1953. Nasser evolved into a charismatic leader, not only of Egypt, but of the Arab world, promoting and implementing "Arab socialism." He nationalized much of Egypt's economy.

Nasser helped establish the Non-Aligned Movement of developing countries in September 1961, and continued to be a leading force in the movement until his death in 1970. When the United States held up military sales in reaction to Egyptian neutrality toward Moscow, Nasser concluded a seminal arms deal with Czechoslovakia in September 1955.

When the U.S. and the World Bank withdrew their offer to help finance the Aswan High Dam in mid-1956, Nasser nationalized the privately owned Suez Canal Company. The crisis that followed, exacerbated by growing tensions with Israel over guerrilla attacks from Gaza and Israeli reprisals, resulted in the invasion of Egypt that October by France, Britain, and Israel; U.S. political intervention helped reverse the invasion, and the Canal remained nationalized.

Nasser's domestic policies were frequently oppressive, yet generally popular. All opposition was stamped out, and opponents of the regime frequently were imprisoned without trial. Nasser's foreign and military policies helped provoke the Israeli attack of June 1967 that virtually destroyed Egypt's armed forces along with those of Jordan and Syria. Israel also occupied the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. Nasser, however, was revered by the masses in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world until his death in 1970.

After Nasser's death, another of the original "Free Officers," Vice President Anwar el-Sadat, was elected President. In 1971, Sadat concluded a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union, but a year later, ordered Soviet advisers to leave. In 1973, he launched the October war with Israel, in which Egypt's armed forces achieved initial successes but were driven back by Israeli counterattacks.

Camp David and the Peace Process
In a momentous change from the Nasser era, President Sadat shifted Egypt from a policy of confrontation with Israel to one of peaceful accommodation through negotiations. Following the Sinai Disengagement Agreements of 1974 and 1975, Sadat created a fresh opening for progress by his dramatic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977. This led to President Jimmy Carter's invitation to President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to join him in trilateral negotiations at Camp David.

The historic Camp David accords were signed by Egypt and Israel and witnessed by the United States on September 17, 1978. The accords led to the March 26, 1979 signing of the Egypt-Israel Treaty of Peace, by which Egypt regained control of the Sinai in May 1982. Throughout this period, U.S.-Egyptian relations steadily improved, but Sadat's willingness to break ranks by making peace with Israel antagonized most other Arab states.

Domestic Politics after Camp David
Sadat introduced greater political freedom and a new economic policy, the most important aspect of which was the “infitah” or "open door." This relaxed government controls over the economy and encouraged private, including foreign, investment. Sadat dismantled much of the existing political machine and brought to trial a number of former government officials accused of criminal excesses during the Nasser era.

On October 6, 1981, Islamic extremists assassinated President Sadat. Hosni Mubarak, Vice President since 1975 and an air force commander during the October 1973 war, was elected President later that month. He was subsequently confirmed by popular referendum for four more 6-year terms; the most recent referendum took place in September 2005. Egypt was readmitted to the Arab League in 1989 after being expelled for reaching a peace agreement with Israel.

Between 1991 and 2011, Egypt undertook a domestic economic reform program to reduce the size of the public sector and expand the role of the private sector. Political reform stalled, however. The government repressed civil society and opposition groups and maintained Egypt’s longstanding state of emergency. The first competitive presidential elections, held in 2005, were marked by low voter turnout and charges of fraud. Parliamentary elections in 2005 saw significant opposition gains but also violence, low turnout, fraud, and vote rigging. In one notable case, Ayman Nour, member of parliament and popular leader of the opposition Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, was arrested in 2005 and ultimately sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He was released in 2009. Following parliamentary elections in 2010 that saw significant irregularities and pre-election restrictions, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) continued to dominate national politics by maintaining an overriding majority in the People’s Assembly and Shura Council.

The Arab Spring in Egypt: Revolution at Tahrir Square
After an 18-day massive, popular revolution centered on Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign as the President of Egypt on February 11, 2011. He relinquished the administration of power first to his Vice President and then to a transitional government led by the Egyptian military’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which then appointed a civilian prime minister and cabinet to run the Egyptian government.

In a March 19, 2011 referendum, Egyptians voted overwhelmingly to amend Egypt’s constitution, thus setting the legal groundwork for democratic parliamentary and presidential elections. The referendum included amendments that set term limits for the president, affirmed judicial oversight of elections, and prevented the state of emergency from remaining in effect for longer than six months unless approved by a public referendum. It also provided for the establishment of a 100-member constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. On January 23, 2012, Egypt’s newly elected lower house of parliament, the People’s Assembly, convened for the first time; the SCAF transferred legislative authority to the parliament on the same day. The new members of Egypt’s upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, met on February 28, 2012. The SCAF announced that presidential elections will take place on May 23-24, 2012, with a run-off scheduled for June 16-17 if necessary. By June 30, 2012, the SCAF has pledged to transfer executive authority to an elected president.


Egypt’s March 19, 2011 public referendum produced a temporary constitutional framework that empowers the SCAF to govern Egypt in the interim, with the goal of transferring power to a civilian government and drafting a new constitution in 2012.

Egypt’s parliament is made up of a 508-seat People’s Assembly (498 elected) and a 270-seat Shura Council (180 elected). Egyptians now vote in a mixed parallel proportional representation (PR) and individual candidate (IC) system, where two thirds of the parliament is elected by PR party lists and one third is elected by IC districts. Elections to the lower house of parliament took place in three rounds from November 2011-January 2012, while elections to the upper house occurred in two rounds from January-March 2012. Egypt’s March 2011 constitutional declaration stipulates that the next elected president will appoint 90 members of the Shura Council.

Capital: Cairo - 10.902 million (2009)

Other Major Cities: Alexandria - 4.387 million (2009)

Administrative Divisions: 27 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazat); Ad Daqahliyah, Al Bahr al Ahmar (Red Sea), Al Buhayrah, Al Fayyum, Al Gharbiyah, Al Iskandariyah (Alexandria), Al Isma'iliyah (Ismailia), Al Jizah (Giza), Al Minufiyah, Al Minya, Al Qahirah (Cairo), Al Qalyubiyah, Al Uqsur (Luxor), Al Wadi al Jadid (New Valley), As Suways (Suez), Ash Sharqiyah, Aswan, Asyut, Bani Suwayf, Bur Sa'id (Port Said), Dumyat (Damietta), Janub Sina' (South Sinai), Kafr ash Shaykh, Matruh, Qina, Shamal Sina' (North Sinai), Suhaj


Independence date: 28 February 1922 (from UK protectorate status; the revolution that began on 23 July 1952 led to a republic being declared on 18 June 1953 and all British troops withdrawn on 18 June 1956)

Note - it was ca. 3200 B.C. that the Two Lands of Upper (southern) and Lower (northern) Egypt were first united politically

Legal system: Based on Islamic and civil law (particularly Napoleonic codes); judicial review by Supreme Court and Council of State (oversees validity of administrative decisions). Egypt accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction with reservations. and accepts International criminal court (ICCt) jurisdiction. It is a non-party state to the International criminal court (ICCt). Egypt's judicial system is similar to European (primarily French) legal concepts and methods. The courts have demonstrated increasing independence, and the principles of due process and judicial review have gained greater respect since the January 25 Revolution. Egypt’s legal code is derived largely from the Napoleonic Code. Marriage and personal status (family law) are primarily based on the religious law of the individual concerned, which for most Egyptians is Islamic Law (Sharia).

Type: Republic

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory


One of the fascinating aspects of viewing Earth at night is how well the lights show the distribution of people. In this view of Egypt, we see a population almost completely concentrated along the Nile Valley, just a small percentage of the country's land area. The Nile River and its delta look like a brilliant, long-stemmed flower in this astronaut photograph of the southeastern Mediterranean Sea. The Cairo metropolitan area forms a particularly bright base of the flower. The smaller cities and towns within the Nile Delta tend to be hard to see amidst the dense agricultural vegetation during the day. However, these settled areas and the connecting roads between them become clearly visible at night. Likewise, infrastructure and urbanized regions along the Nile River also become apparent. Another brightly lit region is visible along the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean, the Tel-Aviv metropolitan area in Israel (image right). To the east of Tel-Aviv lies Amman, Jordan. The two major water bodies that define the western and eastern coastlines of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba, are outlined by lights along their coastlines (image lower right). The city lights of Paphos, Limassol, Larnaca, and Nicosia are visible on the island of Cyprus (image top). Scattered blue-grey clouds cover the Mediterranean Sea and the Sinai, while much of northeastern Africa is cloud-free. The thin yellow-brown band tracing the Earth's curvature at image top is airglow, a faint band of light emission that results from the interaction of atmospheric atoms and molecules with solar radiation at approximately 100 km (60 mi) altitude. Photo courtesy of NASA.

International Environmental Agreements

Egypt is party to international agreements on: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94 and Wetlands.

Water and Agriculture

Approximately one-third of Egyptian labor is engaged directly in farming, and many others work in the processing or trading of agricultural products. Nearly all of Egypt's agricultural production takes place in some 2.5 million hectares (6 million acres) of fertile soil in the Nile Valley and Delta. Some desert lands are being developed for agriculture, including the ambitious Toshka project in Upper Egypt, but some other fertile lands in the Nile Valley and Delta are being lost to urbanization and erosion.

Warm weather and plentiful water permit several crops a year in the Nile Valley. Further improvement is possible, but land is worked intensively and yields are high. Cotton, rice, wheat, corn, sugarcane, sugar beets, onions, and beans are the principal crops. Increasingly, a few modern operations are producing fruits, vegetables and flowers, in addition to cotton, for export. While the desert hosts some large, modern farms, more common traditional farms occupy one acre each, typically in a canal-irrigated area along the banks of the Nile. Many small farmers also have cows, water buffaloes, and chickens, although larger modern farms are becoming more important.

The United States is a major supplier of wheat, corn, and soybean products to Egypt, almost all through commercial sales. Egypt is one of the U.S.'s largest markets for wheat sales. U.S. agricultural sales to Egypt average $2 billion annually. U.S. food assistance programs to Egypt ended in 1992 as Egypt became more prosperous. Egypt continues to receive modest food assistance through the World Food Program and from France.

"Egypt," wrote the Greek historian Herodotus 25 centuries ago, "is the gift of the Nile." The land's seemingly inexhaustible resources of water and soil carried by this mighty river created in the Nile Valley and Delta the world's most extensive oasis. Without the Nile, Egypt would be little more than a desert wasteland.

The river carves a narrow, cultivated floodplain, never more than 20 kilometers wide, as it travels northward toward Cairo from Lake Nasser on the Sudanese border, behind the Aswan High Dam. Just north of Cairo, the Nile spreads out over what was once a broad estuary that has been filled by river deposits to form a fertile delta about 250 kilometers wide (150 mi.) at the seaward base and about 160 kilometers (96 mi.) from south to north.

Before the construction of dams on the Nile, particularly the Aswan High Dam (started in 1952, completed in 1970), the fertility of the Nile Valley was sustained by the water flow and the silt deposited by the annual flood. Sediment is now obstructed by the Aswan High Dam and retained in Lake Nasser. The interruption of yearly, natural fertilization and the increasing salinity of the soil has been a manageable problem resulting from the dam. The benefits remain impressive: more intensive farming on millions of acres of land made possible by improved irrigation, prevention of flood damage, and the generation of billions of low-cost kilowatt hours of electricity.

Due to climate change and rising sea levels, the lower delta faces issues with soil salinity. Waters from the Mediterranean infiltrate the soil, spoiling hundreds of acres of previously lush farm lands. Though the sea rise is gradual and Egypt has time to adapt, the population cannot afford losing more farm land seeing how thousands of acres have already been swallowed up by urban sprawl. Farmers in affected areas have to pump in more fresh water and purchase expensive sand and fertilizer to save their lands, which leads many to abandon the land and become climate refugees.

The Western Desert accounts for about two-thirds of the country's land area. For the most part, it is a massive sandy plateau marked by seven major depressions. One of these, Fayoum, was connected about 3,600 years ago to the Nile by canals. Today, it is an important irrigated agricultural area.

Total renewable water resources (1997): 86.8 cu km

Freshwater withdrawal: total: 68.3 cu km/yr (8% domestic, 6% industrial, 86% agricultural) (2000).

Per capita Freshwater withdrawal: 923 cu m/yr

Agricultural products: cotton, rice, corn, wheat, beans, fruits, vegetables; cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats

Irrigated land (2003): 34,220 sq km

See:Water profile of Egypt


In addition to the agricultural capacity of the Nile Valley and Delta, Egypt's natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, and iron ore. Crude oil is found primarily in the Gulf of Suez and in the Western Desert. Natural gas is found mainly in the Nile Delta, off the Mediterranean seashore, and in the Western Desert. Oil and gas accounts for approximately 12% of GDP. Export of petroleum and related products (including bunker and aviation sales) amounted to approximately $11.4 billion in fiscal year 2008-2009.

Crude oil production has been in decline for over a decade, from a high of more than 920,000 barrels per day (BPD) in 1995 to less than 550,000 BPD as of October 2009. To minimize the growing domestic demand for oil-based products, estimated in July 2009 at more than 31 million metric tons per year, Egypt is encouraging the production of natural gas. Production of natural gas doubled from 21 million metric tons in mid-2003 to 43 million metric tons in July 2008. In FY 2008-2009, natural gas production amounted to 6.4 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day. In March 2009 the Egyptian Gas Holding Company announced plans for 23 new exploration wells with total investments of $1.1 billion during fiscal year 2009-2010.

As of July 2009, crude oil and condensates reserves were estimated at 4.4 billion barrels, and proven natural gas reserves were estimated at 77 trillion cubic feet (TCF) with possible additional reserves totaling another 40-50 TCF. However, independent oil and gas experts indicated that Egypt’s proven natural gas reserves may be as high as 70 TCF, of which more than 80% (i.e., 57 TCF) is from the cone of the Nile Delta. Texas-based Apache Oil Company is the largest American investor in Egypt, with a total investment of more than $7 billion since 1995.

The Ministry of Petroleum regards expansion of the Egyptian petrochemical industry and increased exports of natural gas as significant strategic objectives. Three liquefied natural gas (LNG) trains are operating in Egypt. The first is in Damietta on the eastern side of the Nile Delta and is operated by the Spanish electric utility Union Fenosa; the second is a project located at Idku in the western Delta, with British Gas (BG) Group and the Malaysian state oil company Petronas as the major investors; and the third, the Mediterranean Gas Complex in Port Said, utilizes gas for export and domestic consumption, with the Italian company AGIP and BP as the main shareholders.

Egypt and Jordan established the Eastern Gas Company to export natural gas to Jordan, and then later to Syria and Lebanon. In summer 2003 Egypt completed the first phase of the project by exporting gas to Jordan via a new pipeline from El Arish on Egypt's north Sinai cost to Taba on the Gulf of Aqaba, and then underwater to the Jordanian city of Aqaba. The second phase was completed in 2005, connecting the pipeline to the Jordanian town of Rihab, north of the capital Amman. While by 2008 gas exports grew to 12.6 million metric tons of oil equivalent, the Government of Egypt may have to import natural gas within 3 to 4 years in order to meet domestic demand, particularly for producing electricity. In the wake of higher world market gas prices, the Government of Egypt in 2009 succeeded in renegotiating upward the price received under existing long-term gas export contracts with purchasers in Europe, Jordan, and Israel. The pipeline that carries gas through Egypt to Israel and Jordan was attacked on at least 10 separate occasions in 2011, resulting in the frequent disruption of supplies.

Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, zinc.

Land Use:

arable land: 2.92%
permanent crops: 0.5%
other: 96.58% (2005)


See: Energy profile of Egypt

Energy in Egypt
Production Consumption Exports Imports Reserves
Electricity 123.9 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
109.1 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
1.022 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
896 million kWh
(2008 est.)
Oil 662,600 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
740,000 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
163,000 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
177,200 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
4.4 billion bbl
(1 January 2011 est.)
Natural Gas 62.69 billion cu m
(2009 est.)
44.37 billion cu m
(2009 est.)
18.32 billion cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
2.186 trillion cu m
(1 January 2011 est.)
Source: CIA Factbook

Border Conflicts


The Port of Suez - here viewed from the International Space Station - is located in Egypt along the northern coastline of the Gulf of Suez. The port and city are the southern terminus of the Suez Canal that transits through Egypt and debouches into the Mediterranean Sea near Port Said. The port serves vessels transporting general cargo, oil tankers, and both commercial and private passenger vessels. Several large vessels are visible in the Gulf of Suez and berthed at various docks around the port. Photo courtesy of NASA.


This oblique image captures a northbound convoy of cargo ships entering the Mediterranean Sea from the Suez Canal (leftmost canal branch at image center). The Canal connects Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea with the port of Suez on the Red Sea, and provides an essentially direct route for transport of goods between Europe and Asia. The Canal is 163 km (101 mi) long and 300 m (984 ft) wide at its narrowest point - sufficiently wide for ships as large as aircraft carriers to traverse it. Transit time from end to end averages 14 hours. Image courtesy of NASA

International disputes:

  • Sudan claims but Egypt de facto administers security and economic development of Halaib region north of the 22nd parallel boundary;
  • Egypt no longer shows its administration of the Bir Tawil trapezoid in Sudan on its maps;
  • Gazan breaches in the security wall with Egypt in January 2008 highlight difficulties in monitoring the Sinai border;
  • Saudi Arabia claims Egyptian-administered islands of Tiran and Sanafir

Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 60,000 - 80,000 (Iraq); 70,198 (Palestinian Territories); 12,157(Sudan)(2007)


Occupying the northeast corner of the African continent, Egypt is bisected by the highly fertile Nile valley, where most economic activity takes place.

Egypt's economy was highly centralized during the rule of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser but opened up considerably under former Presidents Anwar El-Sadat and Mohamed Hosni Mubarak.

With the installation of the 2004 Egyptian cabinet and the 2005 presidential election, the Government of Egypt began a new reform movement, following a stalled economic reform program begun in 1991, but moribund since the mid-1990s. Since 2004, the cabinet economic team has simplified and reduced tariffs and taxes, improved the transparency of the national budget, revived stalled privatizations of public enterprises and implemented economic legislation designed to foster private sector-driven economic growth and improve Egypt's competitiveness. The Egyptian economy experienced steady GDP growth rates around 7% between 2005 and 2008, before dropping below 5% during the global economic crisis. The economy is still hampered by government intervention, substantial subsidies for food, housing, and energy, and bloated public sector payrolls. Limited energy subsidy reform began in 2007 but has stalled since the 2008 global economic crisis. Agriculture is mainly in private hands, and has been largely deregulated, with the exception of cotton, sugar, and rice production. Construction, non-financial services, and domestic marketing are also largely private. The Egyptian economy, however, relies heavily on tourism, oil and gas exports, and Suez Canal revenues, much of which is controlled by the public sector and is also vulnerable to outside factors. The tourism sector suffered tremendously following a terrorist attack in Luxor in October 1997. As a result of the global economic crisis, annual revenues for the Suez Canal fell sharply in 2008 and began only a partial recovery in 2009. The drop in Canal traffic and revenues has been partially offset by high international oil prices, as the shorter Suez route cuts costs for some shippers.

The World Bank ranked Egypt 94 out of 183 economies in its 2011 Doing Business report; among Arab countries it is likewise in the middle— eight out of 20. Egypt has made many improvements to its business and regulatory environment since 2004, when the most recent round of liberalizing reforms began, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Egypt’s tourism industry, which is $10 billion per year (approximately 6% of GDP), suffered a major blow as a result of the Arab Spring revolution in January and February 2011, and its slow recovery is highly vulnerable to perceptions about Egypt’s internal political stability and security. Egypt’s economy contracted seven percent between January and March 2011. High inflation, low consumer confidence, and labor unrest are among the challenges facing Egypt’s current transitional government. Subsequent labor strikes, factory closures, and disruptions in the stock market greatly contributed to the increase in debt and inflation.

The proliferation of independent labor unions in Egypt has been one of the significant results of Egypt’s democratic revolution in January and February 2011. Between March 11 and June 1, the Egyptian government registered 26 new independent unions as part of its declared commitment to freedom of association in the new Egypt.

For nearly three decades, the United States has worked with Egyptians to support their economy and quality of life through programs focused on economic development and good governance. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s programs have used benchmarks that aim to stimulate the small and microenterprise sectors, improve budget transparency to increase macroeconomic stability, and improve the trade regime and business climate. USAID’s economic support program provides up to $100 million to support job creation, humanitarian assistance, and poverty alleviation for those negatively affected by the recent economic downturn. To support the Middle East peace process through regional economic integration, the United States also permits products to be imported from Egypt without tariffs if they have been produced by factories registered in Qualified Industrial Zones and 10.5% of the inputs of these products originate from Israel.
Despite the relatively high levels of economic growth in recent years, living conditions for the average Egyptian remained poor and contributed to public discontent.

After unrest erupted in January 2011, the Egyptian Government drastically increased social spending to address public dissatisfaction, but political uncertainty at the same time caused economic growth to slow significantly, reducing the government's revenues. Tourism, manufacturing, and construction are among the hardest hit sectors of the Egyptian economy, and economic growth is likely to remain slow at least through 2012.

The government is utilizing foreign exchange reserves to support the Egyptian pound and Egypt may seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

GDP (purchasing power parity): $515.4 billion (2011 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate): $231.9 billion (2011 est.)

GDP - per capita: $6,500 (2011 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 14.4%
industry: 39.5%
services: 45.8% (2011 est.)

Industries: textiles, food processing, tourism, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbons, construction, cement, metals, light manufactures

Exports: crude oil and petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metal products, chemicals, processed food

Imports: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, wood products, fuels

Currency: Egyptian pound (EGP)

Ports and terminals: Ayn Sukhnah, Alexandria, Damietta, El Dekheila, Sidi Kurayr, Suez



A view of the Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea rift area. The left side of the view is dominated by the great triangle of the Sinai peninsula, which is partly obscured by clouds. The Gulf of Aqaba is the finger of the Red Sea (bottom center) pointing north to the Dead Sea, the small body of water near the center of the view. The gulf and the Dead Sea are northerly extensions of the same geological rift that resulted in the opening of the Red Sea. The Gulf of Suez appears in the lower left corner. Image courtesy of NASA The Aswan High Dam (top of photo) is 4 km (2.5 mi) across and 111 m (364 ft) high. Completed in 1971, it was constructed to supply cheap hydroelectric power to both Egypt and Sudan by impounding, controlling, and regulating the flood waters of the Nile River in Lake Nasser, the world's second largest artificial lake. The lake extends over 800 km (500 mi) in length, covers an area of some 5,200 sq km (2,000 sq mi) and is as much as 107 m (350 ft) deep at the face of the dam. Image courtesy of NASA.

Transport and Communication

Transportation facilities in Egypt are centered in Cairo and largely follow the pattern of settlement along the Nile. The main line of the nation's 5,500-kilometer (3,400-mi.) railway network runs from Alexandria to Aswan and the Suez Canal. The well-maintained road network has expanded rapidly to over 47,500 kilometers (29,515 mi.), covering the Nile Valley and Delta, Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, the Sinai, and the Western oases.

Egypt Air provides reliable domestic air service to major tourist destinations from its Cairo hub, in addition to overseas routes. As a recently-joined member of the Star Alliance, government-owned Egypt Air is expanding its air fleet and its international routes, in keeping with the Government of Egypt’s overall vision of Egypt as a growing and increasingly key regional transportation hub. The Nile River system (about 1,000 km. or 620 mi.) and the principal canals (1,600 km. almost 1,000 mi.) are important locally for transportation. The Suez Canal is a major waterway for global and regional commerce and navigation, linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Major ports are Alexandria, Port Said, the East Port Said container terminal and Damietta on the Mediterranean, and Ain El Sukhna, Suez and Safraga on the Red Sea, with major infrastructure and capacity modernizations and upgrades ongoing since 2008 in most of these ports.

Egypt has long been the cultural and informational center of the Arab world, and Cairo is the region's largest publishing and broadcasting center. There are tens of daily newspapers with a total circulation of more than 4 million, and a number of monthly newspapers, magazines, and journals. Daily and weekly newspapers are a mix of independent, political party, and pro-government publications, and these papers conduct a lively, often highly partisan, debate on public issues. Recently, online publications have been on the rise, along with the online versions of major independent publications. Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) is the state-run entity that controls Egyptian TV (ETV), Nile TV, and Nile News, as well as the specialized channels (7 channels, including sports, culture, comedy, and children’s programming) and most radio frequencies in Egypt. ETV controls terrestrial (free-to-air) broadcasts throughout Egypt, broadcasting Channel 1 and Channel 2 nationwide, as well as six regional channels and depends heavily on commercial revenue. ETV sells its specially produced programs and soap operas to the entire Arab world. In addition to Egyptian programming, Al Arabia, Al Jazeera, the Middle East Broadcast Company, a Saudi television station transmitting from London (MBC), Lebanese networks (Future and LBC), Arab Radio and Television (ART), and other Gulf stations as well as Western networks such as CNN, BBC, Fox News, and Al Hurra provide access to more international programs to Egyptians who own satellite receivers. NileSat, one of the three main providers of satellite TV to the region, is effectively controlled by ERTU and hosts a wide variety of channels.

Beginning in 2001, private satellite TV and radio has entered the Egyptian media marketplace. Three new private satellite-based TV stations were launched in November 2001, marking a significant change in Egyptian government policy. Dream TV 1 and 2 produce talk shows, cultural programming, broadcast contemporary video clips and films featuring Arab and international actors, as well as soap operas; another private station, El-Mehwar, focuses on business and general news. Other new independent TV stations include Al Hayat TV, O TV and ONTV (owned by the Orascom conglomerate), El Saa and Modern TV. These private channels also transmit on NileSat. Recently, there has been a proliferation of religious themed channels catering to Salafis (ultra-conservative Muslims).

Radio in Egypt is almost all government-controlled and uses 44 short-wave frequencies, 18 medium-wave stations, and four FM stations. There are seven regional radio stations covering the country. Egyptian Radio transmits 60 hours daily overseas in 33 languages and three hundred hours daily within Egypt. In 2000, Radio Cairo introduced new specialized (thematic) channels on its FM station. These stations, known as Radio El Nile, include news and music.
Both traditional journalists and bloggers played critical roles reporting on the events of the January 2011 Revolution. Activists also organized heavily through social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. In the revolution’s early days, the government blocked access to social networking websites, followed by a near complete shutdown of Internet and cell phone access across the country for several days, before it was finally restored.


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