Main article: Geography of Egypt
White Desert, Farafra
At 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,660 sq mi), Egypt is the world's 38th-largest country. In terms of land area, it is approximately the same size as all of Central America, twice the size of France, four times the size of the United Kingdom, and the combined size of the US states of Texas and California.
Nevertheless, due to the aridity of Egypt's climate, population
centres are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta,
meaning that approximately 99% of the population uses only about 5.5%
of the total land area.
The Coastline of Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city
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, 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.
The Nile River in Egypt
Apart from the Nile Valley, the majority of Egypt's landscape is a desert. The winds blowing can create sand dunes more than 100 feet (30 m) 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.
Towns and cities include Alexandria, one of the greatest ancient cities, Aswan, Asyut, Cairo, the modern Egyptian capital, El-Mahalla El-Kubra, Giza, the site of the Pyramid of Khufu, Hurghada, Luxor, Kom Ombo, Port Safaga, Port Said, Sharm el Sheikh, Suez, where the Suez Canal is located, Zagazig, and Al-Minya. Oases include Bahariya, el Dakhla, Farafra, el Kharga and Siwa. Protectorates include Ras Mohamed National Park, Zaranik Protectorate and Siwa. See Egyptian Protectorates for more information.
Satellite image of Egypt, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Egypt does not receive much rainfall except in the winter months.
South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 2 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 in)
per year and at intervals of many years. On a very thin strip of the
northern coast the rainfall can be as high as 410 mm (16 in),
with most of the rainfall between October and March. Snow falls on
Sinai's mountains and some of the north coastal cities such as
Damietta, Baltim, Sidi Barrany, etc. and rarely in Alexandria, frost is
also known in mid-Sinai and mid-Egypt.
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. Temperatures
average between 55 °F (13 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C) in winter. A steady
wind from the northwest helps hold down the temperature near the
Mediterranean coast. The Khamaseen
is a wind that blows from the south in Egypt in spring, bringing sand
and dust, and sometimes raises the temperature in the desert to more
than 100 °F (38 °C).
Every year, a predictable flooding of the Nile replenishes Egypt's
soil. This gives the country consistent harvest throughout the year.
Many know this event as The Gift of the Nile.
The rise in sea levels due to global warming
threatens Egypt's densely populated coastal strip and could have grave
consequences for the country's economy, agriculture and industry.
Combined with growing demographic pressures, a rise in sea levels could
turn millions of Egyptians into environmental refugees by the end of the century, according to climate experts.[
There is evidence of rock carvings along the Nile terraces and in the desert oases. In the 10th millennium BC, a culture of hunter-gatherers and fishers replaced a grain-grinding culture.
Climate changes and/or overgrazing around 8000 BC began to desiccate
the pastoral lands of Egypt, forming the Sahara. Early tribal peoples
migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralized society.
By about 6000 BC the Neolithic culture rooted in the Nile Valley. During the Neolithic era, 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 seven hundred years. Contemporaneous Lower Egyptian
communities coexisted with their southern counterparts for more than
two thousand years, remaining somewhat culturally separate, but
maintaining frequent contact through trade. The earliest known evidence
of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BC.
|<table style="display: inline;" class="mw-hierotable" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tr><td><table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tr><td valign="middle" align="center">|
The Great Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, built during the Old Kingdom, are modern national icons that are 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 foreign ruling dynasty in Egypt, that of the Semitic Hyksos. The Hyksos invaders took over much of Lower Egypt around 1650 BC and founded a new capital at Avaris. They were driven out by an Upper Egyptian force led by Ahmose I, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty and relocated the capital from Memphis to Thebes.
The Hanging Church of Cairo, first built in the third or fourth century AD, is one of the most famous Coptic Churches in Egypt.
The New Kingdom (c.1550−1070 BC) began with the Eighteenth 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 noted for some of the most well-known Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II. The first historically attested expression of monotheism came during this period in the form of Atenism. Frequent contacts with other nations brought new ideas to the New Kingdom. The country was later invaded by Libyans, Nubians and Assyrians, but native Egyptians drove them out and regained control of their country.
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 Macedonians and Romans, beginning over two thousand years of foreign rule.
Before Egypt became part of the Byzantine realm, Christianity had been brought by Saint Mark the Evangelist in the AD first century. Diocletian's reign marked the transition from the Roman to the Byzantine era in Egypt, when a great number of Egyptian Christians were persecuted. The New Testament had by then been translated into Egyptian. After the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, a distinct Egyptian Coptic Church was firmly established.
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.
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 Cairo was the seat of the Caliphate under the Fatimids. With the end of the Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluks, a Turco-Circassian military caste, took control about AD 1250. They continued to govern the country until the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517, after which it became a province of the Ottoman Empire. The mid-14th-Century Black Death killed about 40% of the country's population.[
Mosque of Mohamed Ali built in the early nineteenth century within the Cairo Citadel.
The brief French Invasion of Egypt led by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 had a great social impact on the country and its culture. Native Egyptians became exposed to the principles of the French Revolution and had a chance to exercise self-governance.
The expulsion of the French in 1801 by Ottoman, Mamluk, and British
forces was followed by four years of anarchy in which Ottomans,
Mamluks, and Albanians who were nominally in the service of the
Ottomans, wrestled for power. Out of this chaos, the commander of the
Albanian regiment, Muhammad Ali (Kavalali Mehmed Ali Pasha) emerged as a dominant figure and in 1805 was acknowledged by the Sultan in Istanbul as his pasha (viceroy)
in Egypt; the title implied subordination to the Sultan but this was in
fact a polite fiction: Ottoman power in Egypt was finished and Muhammad
Ali, an ambitious and able leader, established a dynasty
that was to rule Egypt (at first really and later as British puppets)
until the revolution of 1952. His primary focus was military: he
annexed Northern Sudan (1820-1824), Syria (1833), and parts of Arabia and Anatolia;
but in 1841 the European powers, fearful lest he topple Byzantium
itself, checked him: he had to return most of his conquests to the
Ottomans, but he kept the Sudan and his title to Egypt was made
hereditary. A more lasting consequence of his military ambition is that
it made him the moderniser of Egypt. Anxious to learn the military (and
therefore industrial) techniques of the great powers he sent students
to the West and invited training missions to Egypt. He built
industries, a system of canals for irrigation and transport, and
reformed the civil service. For better or worse, the introduction in 1820 of long-staple cotton,
the Egyptian variety of which became famous, transformed Egyptian
agriculture into a cash-crop monoculture before the end of the century.
The social effects of this were enormous: it led to the concentration
of agriculture in the hands of large landowners, and, with the
additional trigger of high cotton prices caused by the United States' civil war
production drop, to a large influx of foreigners who began in earnest
the exploitation of Egypt for international commodity production.
Muhammad Ali was succeeded briefly by his son Ibrahim (in September 1848), then by a grandson Abbas I (in November 1848), then by Said (in 1854), and Isma'il
(in 1863). Abbas I was cautious. Said and Ismail were ambitious
developers; unfortunately they spent beyond their means. The Suez
Canal, built in partnership with the French, was completed in 1869. The
expense of this and other projects had two effects: it led to enormous
debt to European banks, and caused popular discontent because of the onerous taxation
it necessitated. In 1875 Ismail was forced to sell Egypt's share in the
canal to the British government. Within three years this led to the
imposition of British and French controllers
who sat in the Egyptian cabinet, and, "with the financial power of the
bondholders behind them, were the real power in the government." Local dissatisfaction with Ismail and with European intrusion led to the formation of the first nationalist groupings in 1879, with Ahmad Urabi
a prominent figure. In 1882 he became head of a nationalist-dominated
ministry committed to democratic reforms including parliamentary
control of the budget. Fearing a diminishment of their control, Britain
and France intervened militarily, bombarding Alexandria and crushing
the Egyptian army at the battle of Tel el-Kebir. They reinstalled Ismail's son Tewfik as figurehead of a de facto British protectorate. In 1914 the Protectorate was made official, and the title of the head of state, which had changed from pasha to khedive in 1867, was changed to sultan, to repudiate the vestigial suzerainty of the Ottoman sultan, who was backing the Central powers in World War I. Abbas II was deposed as khedive and replaced by his uncle, Husayn Kamil, as sultan.
In 1906, the Dinshaway Incident prompted many neutral Egyptians to join the nationalist movement. After the First World War, Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party led the Egyptian nationalist movement, gaining a majority at the local Legislative Assembly. When the British exiled Zaghlul and his associates to Malta on 8 March 1919, the country arose in 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 22 February 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. In 1936 the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty
was concluded. Continued instability in the government due to remaining
British control and increasing political involvement by the king led to
the ousting of the monarchy and the dissolution of the parliament in a
military coup d'état known as the 1952 Revolution. The officers, known as the Free Officers Movement, forced King Farouk to abdicate in support of his son Fuad.
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 Jamal 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 18 June 1956. His nationalization of the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956 prompted the 1956 Suez Crisis.
View of Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the Middle East. The Cairo Opera House (bottom-right) is the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital.
Three years after the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel had invaded and occupied Sinai, Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. 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 violently clamping down on religious and secular opposition alike.
In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched the October War, a surprise attack against the Israeli forces occupying the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. It was an attempt to liberate the territory Israel had captured 6 years earlier. Both the US and the USSR intervened and a cease-fire was reached. Despite not being a complete military success, most historians agree that the October War presented Sadat with a political victory that later allowed him to regain the Sinai in return with peace with Israel.
Sadat made a historic visit to Israel in 1977, which led to the 1979 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 it was supported by the vast majority of Egyptians. A fundamentalist military soldier assassinated Sadat in Cairo in 1981. He was succeeded by the incumbent Hosni Mubarak. In 2003, the Egyptian Movement for Change, popularly known as Kefaya, was launched to seek a return to democracy and greater civil liberties
Main article: Egyptians#Identity
Mahmoud Mokhtar's Egypt's Renaissance 1919-1928, Cairo University.
The Nile Valley was home to one of the oldest cultures in the world, spanning three thousand years of continuous history. When Egypt fell under a series of foreign occupations after 343 BC, each left an indelible mark on the country's cultural landscape. Egyptian identity evolved in the span of this long period of occupation to accommodate, in principle, two new religions, Christianity and Islam; and a new language, Arabic, and its spoken descendant, Egyptian Arabic. The degree to which Egyptians identify with each layer of Egypt's history in articulating a sense of collective identity
can vary. Questions of identity came to fore in the last century as
Egypt sought to free itself from foreign occupation for the first time
in two thousand years. Three chief ideologies came to head:
ethno-territorial Egyptian nationalism, secular Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism, and Islamism.
Egyptian nationalism predates its Arab counterpart by many decades,
having roots in the nineteenth century and becoming the dominant mode
of expression of Egyptian anti-colonial activists and intellectuals
until the early 20th century. Arab nationalism reached a peak under Nasser but was once again relegated under Sadat; meanwhile, the ideology espoused by Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood is present in small segments of the lower-middle strata of Egyptian society.
Main article: Politics of Egypt
Egypt has been a republic since 18 June 1953. President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has been the President of the Republic since 14 October 1981, following the assassination of former-President Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat. Mubarak is currently serving his fifth term in office. He is the leader of the ruling National Democratic Party. Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif was sworn in as Prime Minister on 9 July 2004, following the resignation of Dr. Atef Ebeid from his office.
Although power is ostensibly organized under a multi-party semi-presidential system, whereby the executive power is theoretically divided between the President and the Prime Minister,
in practice it rests almost solely with the President who traditionally
has been elected in single-candidate elections for more than fifty
years. Egypt also holds regular multi-party parliamentary elections.
The last presidential election, in which Mubarak won a fifth
consecutive term, was held in September 2005.
In late February 2005, President Mubarak announced in a surprise
television broadcast that he had ordered the reform of the country's
presidential election law, paving the way for multi-candidate polls in
the upcoming presidential election. For the first time since the 1952 movement,
the Egyptian people had an apparent chance to elect a leader from a
list of various candidates. The President said his initiative came "out
of my full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more
freedom and democracy."
However, the new law placed draconian restrictions on the filing for
presidential candidacies, designed to prevent well-known candidates
such as Ayman Nour from standing against Mubarak, and paved the road for his easy re-election victory.
Concerns were once again expressed after the 2005 presidential
elections about government interference in the election process through
fraud and vote-rigging, in addition to police brutality and violence by
pro-Mubarak supporters against opposition demonstrators.
After the election, Egypt imprisoned Nour, and the U.S. Government
stated the "conviction of Mr. Nour, the runner-up in Egypt's 2005
presidential elections, calls into question Egypt's commitment to
democracy, freedom, and the rule of law."
As a result, most Egyptians are skeptical about the process of democratization
and the role of the elections. Less than 25 percent of the country's 32
million registered voters (out of a population of more than 72 million)
turned out for the 2005 elections. A proposed change to the constitution would limit the president to two seven-year terms in office.
Thirty-four constitutional changes voted on by parliament on 19
March 2007 prohibit parties from using religion as a basis for
political activity; allow the drafting of a new anti-terrorism law to
replace the emergency legislation in place since 1981, giving police
wide powers of arrest and surveillance; give the president power to
dissolve parliament; and end judicial monitoring of election.
As opposition members of parliament withdrew from voting on the
proposed changes, it was expected that the referendum would be
boycotted by a great number of Egyptians in protest of what has been
considered a breach of democratic practices. Eventually it was reported
that only 27% of the registered voters went to the polling stations
under heavy police presence and tight political control of the ruling
National Democratic Party. It was officially announced on 27 March 2007
that 75.9% of those who participated in the referendum approved of the constitutional amendments
introduced by President Mubarak and was endorsed by opposition free
parliament, thus allowing the introduction of laws that curb the
activity of certain opposition elements, particularly Islamists.
Main article: Human rights in Egypt
Members of the Kefaya democracy movement protesting a fifth term for President Hosni Mubarak. See also video
Several local and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have for many years criticized Egypt's human rights record as poor. In 2005, President Hosni Mubarak faced unprecedented public criticism when he clamped down on democracy activists
challenging his rule. Some of the most serious human rights violations,
according to HRW's 2006 report on Egypt, are routine torture, arbitrary
detentions and trials before military and state security courts.
Discriminatory personal status laws governing marriage, divorce,
custody and inheritance which put women at a disadvantage have also
been cited. Laws concerning Coptic Christians
which place restrictions on church building and open worship have been
recently eased, but major construction still requires governmental
approval, while sporadic attacks on Christians and churches continue. Intolerance of Bahá'ís and unorthodox Muslim sects, such as Sufis and Shi'a, also remains a problem. The Egyptian legal system only recognizes three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. When the government moved to computerize identification cards, members of religious minorities, such as Bahá'ís, could not obtain identification documents.
An Egyptian court ruled in early 2008 that members of other faiths can
obtain identity cards without listing their faiths, and without
becoming officially recognized. (For more on the status of religious minorities, see the Religion section.)
In 2005, the Freedom House rated political rights in Egypt as "6" (1 representing the most free and 7 the least free rating), civil liberties as "5" and gave it the freedom rating of "Not Free."
It however noted that "Egypt witnessed its most transparent and
competitive presidential and legislative elections in more than half a
century and an increasingly unbridled public debate on the country's
political future in 2005."
In 2007, human rights group Amnesty International released a report criticizing Egypt for torture
and illegal detention. The report alleges that Egypt has become an
international center for torture, where other nations send suspects for
interrogation, often as part of the War on Terror. The report calls on Egypt to bring its anti-terrorism laws into accordance with international human rights statutes and on other nations to stop sending their detainees to Egypt.
Egypt's foreign ministry quickly issued a rebuttal to this report,
claiming that it was inaccurate and unfair, as well as causing deep
offense to the Egyptian government.
Consensual homosexual conduct between adults is criminalized under Egyptian law as a "practice of debauchery". Since 2001, Egyptian authorities have made hundreds of arbitrary arrests of young gay
men, many of whom have been tried and convicted for acts of
"debauchery", while hundreds of others have been harassed and tortured,
according to HRW. In February 2008, a new round of arrests and torture of HIV-positive
citizens followed a man's admission to the police that he was
HIV-positive, sparking international outcry that the Egyptian
government was treating the AIDS disease as a homosexual "crime" instead of providing care, prevention and education.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) is one of the longest-standing bodies for the defence of human rights in Egypt. In 2003, the government established the National Council for Human Rights, headquartered in Cairo and headed by former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who directly reports to the president.
The council has come under heavy criticism by local NGO activists, who
contend it undermines human rights work in Egypt by serving as a
propaganda tool for the government to excuse its violations and to provide legitimacy to repressive laws such as the recently renewed Emergency Law. Egypt had announced in 2006 that it was in the process of abolishing the Emergency Law,
but in March 2007 President Mubarak approved several constitutional
amendments to include "an anti-terrorism clause that appears to
enshrine sweeping police powers of arrest and surveillance", suggesting
that the Emergency Law is here to stay for the long haul.
Main article: Foreign relations of Egypt
Egypt's foreign policy operates along moderate lines. Factors such as population size,
historical events, military strength, diplomatic expertise and a
strategic geographical position give Egypt extensive political
influence in Africa and the Middle East. Cairo has been a crossroads of
regional commerce and culture for centuries, and its intellectual and
Islamic institutions are at the center of the region's social and cultural development.
The permanent Headquarters of the Arab League
are located in Cairo and the Secretary General of the Arab League has
traditionally been an Egyptian. Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa
is the current Secretary General. The Arab League briefly moved from
Egypt to Tunis in 1978, as a protest to the signing by Egypt of a peace
treaty with Israel, but returned in 1989.
Egypt was the first Arab state to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, with the signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty
in 1979. Egypt has a major influence amongst other Arab states, and has
historically played an important role as a mediator in resolving
disputes between various Arab states, and in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Former Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1991 to 1996.
In the twenty-first century, Egypt has encountered a major problem
with immigration, as millions of Africans attempt to enter Egypt
fleeing poverty and war. Border control methods can be "harsh,
Governorates and markazes
Main articles: Governorates of Egypt and Markazes of Egypt
Map of Egypt, showing the 29 capitals of governorates, plus the self-governing city of Luxor (numbers label 5 capitals).
Egypt is divided into 29 governorates (in Arabic, called muhafazat, singular muhafazah). The governorates are further divided into regions (markazes).
Each governorate has a capital, often having the same name as the governorate (see map, showing names of the 29 capitals).
The tables (below) list the governorates in alphabetical
order. In April 2008, Cairo and Giza have divided to 4 governorates,
the new governorates are 6th of October and Helwan beside Cairo and Giza
|<table class="wikitable" border="1"><tr>Governorate|
|<table class="wikitable" border="1"><tr>Governorate|
<tr><td>6th of October</td>
<td>6th of October</td>
Cairo's city centre is a busy economic hub
Egypt's economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum
exports, and tourism; there are also more than three million Egyptians
working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Europe. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970 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, limited
arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress the economy.
The government has struggled to prepare the economy for the new
millennium through economic reform and massive investments in
communications and physical infrastructure. Egypt has been receiving
U.S. foreign aid
(since 1979, an average of $2.2 billion per year) and is the
third-largest recipient of such funds from the United States following
the Iraq war. Its main revenues however come from tourism as well as
traffic that goes through the Suez Canal.
Egypt has a developed energy market based on coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro power. Substantial coal deposits are in the north-east Sinai, and are mined at the rate of about 600,000 tonnes (590,000 LT; 660,000 ST) per year. Oil and gas are produced in the western desert regions, the Gulf of Suez,
and the Nile Delta. Egypt has huge reserves of gas, estimated at 1,940
cubic kilometres, and LNG is exported to many countries.
Economic conditions have started to improve considerably after a
period of stagnation from the adoption of more liberal economic
policies by the government, as well as increased revenues from tourism
and a booming stock market. In its annual report, the IMF has rated Egypt as one of the top countries in the world undertaking economic reforms. Some major economic reforms taken by the new government since 2003 include a dramatic slashing of customs and tariffs. A new taxation law implemented in 2005 decreased corporate taxes from 40% to the current 20%, resulting in a stated 100% increase in tax revenue by the year 2006.
Tourists ride in traditional Nile boats.
FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) into Egypt has increased considerably in the past few years due to the recent economic liberalization measures taken by minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieddin, exceeding $6 billion in 2006.
Although one of the main obstacles still facing the Egyptian economy
is the trickle down of the wealth to the average population, many
Egyptians criticize their government for higher prices of basic goods
while their standards of living
or purchasing power remains relatively stagnant. Often corruption is
blamed by Egyptians as the main impediment to feeling the benefits of
the newly attained wealth.
Major reconstruction of the country's infrastructure is promised by the
government, with a large portion of the sum paid for the newly acquired
3rd mobile license ($3 billion) by Etisalat.
The best known examples of Egyptian companies that have expanded regionally and globally are the Orascom Group and Raya.
The IT sector has been expanding rapidly in the past few years, with
many new start-ups conducting outsourcing business to North America and
Europe, operating with companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and other
major corporations, as well as numerous SME's. Some of these companies
are the Xceed Contact Center, Raya Contact Center, E Group Connections
and C3 along with other start ups in that country. The sector has been
stimulated by new Egyptian entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on their
country's huge potential in the sector, as well as constant government
Main articles: Demographics of Egypt and Egyptians
Egypt is the most populated country in the Middle East and the third most populous on the African continent, with an estimated 75 million people (as of mid-2008). Egypt's population was estimated at 3 million when Napoleon invaded the country.
Almost all the population is concentrated along the banks of the Nile
(notably Cairo and Alexandria), 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. The last 40 years have seen a rapid increase in population due to medical advances and massive increase in agricultural productivity, made by the Green Revolution.
Egyptians are by far the largest ethnic group in Egypt at 98% of the total population. Ethnic minorities include the Bedouin Arab tribes living in the eastern deserts and the Sinai Peninsula, the Berber-speaking Siwis (Amazigh) of the Siwa Oasis, and the ancient Nubian communities clustered along the Nile. There are also tribal communities of Beja concentrated in the south-eastern-most corner of the country, and a number of Dom clans mostly in the Nile Delta and Faiyum who are progressively becoming assimilated as urbanization increases.
Egypt also hosts an unknown number of refugees and asylum seekers, but they are estimated to be between 500,000 and 3 million. There are some 70,000 Palestinian refugees, and about 150,000 recently arrived Iraqi refugees, but the number of the largest group, the Sudanese, is contested. The once-vibrant Greek and Jewish communities in Egypt have virtually disappeared,
with only a small number remaining in the country, but many Egyptian
Jews visit on religious occasions and for tourism. Several important
Jewish archaeological and historical sites are found in Cairo,
Alexandria and other cities.
Main article: Media of Egypt
Egyptian media are highly influential both in Egypt and the Arab World, attributed to large audiences and increasing freedom from government control. Freedom of the media is guaranteed in the constitution; however, many laws still restrict this right. After the Egyptian presidential election of 2005,
Ahmed Selim, office director for Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi,
declared an era of a "free, transparent and independent Egyptian media."
Main article: Religion in Egypt
Cairo's unique cityscape with its ancient mosques. Since 640 AD, as many mosques have appeared throughout Egypt, so Cairo, has acquired the nickname of "city of a thousand minarets"
Religion in Egypt controls many aspects of social life and is
endorsed by law. Egypt is predominantly Muslim, with Muslims comprising
about 90% of a population of around 80 million Egyptians Almost the entirety of Egypt's Muslims are Sunnis. A significant number of Muslim Egyptians also follow native Sufi orders, and there is a minority of Shi'a.
Most of the non-Muslims in Egypt are Christians. Christians represent around 10% of the population and are the largest Christian community in the Middle East. About 90% of Christians in Egypt belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Other native Egyptian Christians are adherents of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Coptic Evangelical Church and various Coptic Protestant denominations. Non-native Christian communities are largely found in the urban regions of Cairo and Alexandria.
There is also a small, but nonetheless historically significant, non-immigrant Bahá'í population around 2000, and an even smaller community of Jews of about 200, then a tiny number of Egyptians who identify as atheist and agnostic. The non-Sunni, non-Coptic communities range in size from several hundreds to a few thousand. The original Ancient Egyptian religion has all but disappeared.
According to the constitution of Egypt, any new legislation must at least implicitly agree with Islamic law; however, the constitution bans political parties with a religious agenda.
Egypt hosts two major religious institutions. Al-Azhar University, founded in 970 A.D by the Fatimids as the first Islamic University in Egypt and the main Egyptian Church the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria established in the middle of the 1st century by Saint Mark.
In Egypt, Muslims and Christians live as neighbors, they share a common history and national identity. They also share the same ethnicity, race, culture, and language.
Al-Azhar Mosque founded in AD 970 by the Fatimids as the first Islamic University in Egypt
Millions of Egyptians follow the Christian faith as members of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.
Religion plays a central role in most Egyptians' lives, The Adhan
(Islamic call to prayer) that is heard five times a day has the
informal effect of regulating the pace of everything from business to
media and entertainment. Cairo is famous for its numerous mosque minarets and is justifiably dubbed "the city of 1,000 minarets", with a significant number of church towers. This religious landscape has been marred by a history of religious extremism, recently witnessing a 2006 judgement of Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court,
which made a clear legal distinction between "recognized religions"
(i.e., Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) and all other religious
beliefs. This ruling effectively delegitimizes and forbids practice of
all but the three Abrahamic religions.
This judgment had made it necessary for non-Abrahamic religious
communities to either commit perjury or be denied Egyptian
identification cards (see Egyptian identification card controversy),
until a 2008 Cairo court case ruled that unrecognized religious
minorities may obtain birth certificates and identification documents,
so long as they omit their religion on court documents.
In 2002, under the Mubarak government, Coptic Christmas (January the 7th) was recognized as an official holiday, though Copts
complain of being minimally represented in law enforcement, state
security and public office, and of being discriminated against in the
workforce on the basis of their religion.
The Coptic community, as well as several human rights activists and
intellectuals, maintain that the number of Christians occupying
government posts is not proportional to the number of Copts in Egypt
Main article: Culture of Egypt
Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a commemoration of the ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt's second largest city.
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
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 currently at the helm of major international organizations like Boutros Boutros-Ghali of the United Nations and Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA.
The work of early nineteenth-century scholar Rifa'a et-Tahtawi gave
rise to the Egyptian Renaissance, marking the transition from Medieval to Early Modern Egypt. His work renewed interest in Egyptian antiquity and exposed Egyptian society to Enlightenment principles. Tahtawi co-founded with education reformer Ali Mubarak a native Egyptology school that looked for inspiration to medieval Egyptian scholars, such as Suyuti and Maqrizi, who themselves studied the history, language and antiquities of Egypt. Egypt's renaissance peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the work of people like Muhammad Abduh, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, Tawfiq el-Hakim, Louis Awad, Qasim Amin, Salama Moussa, Taha Hussein and Mahmoud Mokhtar. They forged a liberal path for Egypt expressed as a commitment to individual freedom, secularism and faith in science to bring progress.
Art and architecture
Eighteenth dynasty painting from the tomb of Theban governor Ramose in Deir el-Madinah.
The Egyptians were one of the first major civilizations to codify
design elements in art and architecture. The wall paintings done in the
service of the Pharaohs followed a rigid code of visual rules and meanings. Egyptian civilization is renowned for its colossal pyramids, colonnades and monumental tombs. Well-known examples are the Pyramid of Djoser designed by ancient architect and engineer Imhotep, the Sphinx, and the temple of Abu Simbel.
Modern and contemporary Egyptian art can be as diverse as any works in
the world art scene, from the vernacular architecture of Hassan Fathy and Ramses Wissa Wassef, to Mahmoud Mokhtar's famous sculptures, to the distinctive Coptic iconography of Isaac Fanous.
The Cairo Opera House
serves as the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital.
Egypt's media and arts industry has flourished since the late
nineteenth century, today with more than thirty satellite channels and
over one hundred motion pictures produced each year. Cairo has long
been known as the "Hollywood of the Middle East;" its annual film
festival, the Cairo International Film Festival,
has been rated as one of 11 festivals with a top class rating worldwide
by the International Federation of Film Producers' Associations. To bolster its media industry further, especially with the keen competition from the Persian Gulf Arab States and Lebanon, a large media city was built. Some Egyptian-born actors, like Omar Sharif, have achieved worldwide fame.
constitutes an important cultural element in the life of Egypt.
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 throughout the Middle East. The first modern Egyptian novel Zaynab by Muhammad Husayn Haykal was published in 1913 in the Egyptian vernacular. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arabic-language writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Egyptian women writers include Nawal El Saadawi, well known for her feminist activism, and Alifa Rifaat who also writes about women and tradition. Vernacular poetry is perhaps the most popular literary genre amongst Egyptians, represented by the works of Ahmed Fouad Negm (Fagumi), Salah Jaheen and Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi.
Main article: Music of Egypt
Upper Egyptian folk musicians from Kom Ombo.
Egyptian music is a rich mixture of indigenous, Mediterranean, African and Western elements. In antiquity, Egyptians were playing harps and flutes, including two indigenous instruments: the ney and the oud. Percussion
and vocal music also became an important part of the local music
tradition ever since. Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings
to the creative work of people such as Abdu-l Hamuli, Almaz and Mahmud
Osman, who influenced the later work of Egyptian music giants such as Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Abdel Halim Hafez.
From the 1970s onwards, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly
important in Egyptian culture, while Egyptian folk music continues to
be played during weddings and other festivities.
Egypt is famous for its many festivals and religious carnivals, also known as mulid.
They are usually associated with a particular Coptic or Sufi saint, but
are often celebrated by all Egyptians irrespective of creed or
religion. Ramadan has a special flavor in Egypt, celebrated with sounds, lights (local lanterns known as fawanees)
and much flare that many Muslim tourists from the region flock to Egypt
during Ramadan to witness the spectacle. The ancient spring festival of
Sham en Nisim (Coptic: Ϭⲱⲙ‘ⲛⲛⲓⲥⲓⲙ shom en nisim) has been celebrated by Egyptians for thousands of years, typically between the Egyptian months of Paremoude (April) and Pashons (May), following Easter Sunday.
Cairo International Stadium during the 2006 African Cup of Nations
Football (soccer) is the de facto national sport of Egypt. Egyptian Soccer clubs El Ahly, Petrojet, ENPPI, Haras El Hodood, Police Unión, Army's Vanguards, Ismaily, El Zamalekand El Masry
are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time
regional champions. The great rivalries keep the streets of Egypt
energized as people fill the streets when their favorite team wins.
Egypt is rich in soccer history as soccer has been around for over 100
years. The country is home to many African championships such as the Africa Cup of Nations. While, Egypt's national team has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup
since 1990, the Egyptian team won the Africa Cup Of Nations an
unprecedented six times, including two times in a row in 1957 and 1959
and again in 2006 and 2008, setting a world record.
Squash and tennis
are other popular sports in Egypt. The Egyptian squash team has been
known for its fierce competition in international championships since
the 1930s. Amr Shabana is Egypt's best player and the winner of the world open three times and the best player of 2006.
The Egyptian Handball team also holds another record; throughout the 34 times the African Handball Nations Championship
was held, Egypt won first place five times (including 2008), five times
second place, four times third place, and came in fourth place twice.
The team won 6th and 7th places in 1995, 1997 at the World Men's
Handball Championship, and twice won 6th place at the 1996 and 2000
Main article: Military of Egypt
Two Egyptian Mi-17 helicopters after unloading troops during an exercise.
The Egyptian Armed forces have a combined troop strength of around 450,000 active personnel. According to the Israeli chair of the former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz, the Egyptian Air Force has roughly the same number of modern warplanes as the Israeli Air Force and far more Western tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft batteries and warships than the IDF.
The Egyptian military has recently undergone massive military
modernization mostly in their Air Force. Other than Israel, Egypt is
speculated by Israel to be the first country in the region with a spy satellite, EgyptSat 1,
and is planning to launch 3 more satellites (DesertSat1, EgyptSat2,
DesertSat2) over the next two years. Egypt is considered to be the
leading military power in the Middle East along with Israel.