Wednesday, October 14, 2009


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 B.C., 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 and who ruled for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 and continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. 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 British-backed 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.

Egypt lies in the north-eastern corner of Africa, a major crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, Africa and west and south Asia, with an area of 386,000 square miles (four times the size of the UK). It is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel and Jordan to the north-east. Its north coast is on the Mediterranean Sea, while the Red Sea bounds the eastern coast. The Suez Canal links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean - a linkage vital to both Egypt and the world. Less than 4% of the country is cultivated and inhabited, mainly in the Nile Delta and along the banks of the Nile.

The Nile runs for over 1,000 miles within Egypt, from Wadi Halfa in the south to the Mediterranean in the north. It divides the country into four broad regions; the Western Desert, which occupies almost two-thirds of the total area, the Eastern Desert, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Nile Valley and Delta, which is the most densely populated region of the country. Egypt is dependent on the Nile for nearly all its water needs. The vast majority of the remaining land is made up of sparsely inhabited, arid desert.

Egypt is hot and dry in the summer, mild in the winter with rainfall increasing nearer the coastlines. Temperatures increase southwards, and on average, these vary between 22-37 degrees Centigrade in the summer and 9-19 degrees Centigrade in the winter.

Area: 1,001,450 sq. km
Population: : 76.5 million (Census 2006)
Capital City: Cairo (population - 17 million)
People: Eastern Hamitic (Egyptians, Bedouins, and Berbers) (99%); Greek, Nubian, Armenian, other European (primarily Italian and French) (1%)
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely understood
Religion(s): Muslim (mostly Sunni) (90%), Coptic Christian (9%) and other (1%)
Currency: : 1 Egyptian Pound (LE) = 100 Piastres (PT)