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Egypt is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Western Asia. Egypt borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west. Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River. Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world’s most famous monuments, including the Giza pyramid complex and its Great Sphinx.

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 IT sector has been expanding rapidly in the past few years, stimulated by new Egyptian entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on their country’s huge potential in the sector, as well as constant government encouragement.

There is an old saying that “Egypt is the gift of the Nile,” which perfectly encapsulates one of the most salient features of this fabled and fascinating land.  The cradle of one of the world’s most ancient civilizations, Egypt has been regarded since time immemorial as a land of milk and honey, owing to the amazing fertility of the Nile valley and the Delta through which this mighty river flows on its way to the north coast and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Cairo offers the visitor a kaleidescope of ancient and modern, as this is where, on the edge of the desert plateau, stand the Pyramids and Great Shinx of Giza, those extraordinary monuments to the kings of some of the oldest ancient Egyptian dynasties, and last survivors of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

This extraordinarily rich heritage is naturally a powerful magnet for visitors from all over the world…one does not have to be an academic or an Egyptologist in particular, to delight in the multitude of monuments and smaller treasures that can be seen, but nowadays there is much more besides this unrivaled historical legacy that lures visitors to Egypt.  In addition to the historical and cultural legacy, there is so much more.

Fast Facts

Capital Cairo
Official languages Arabic
Demonym Egyptian
Government Provisional government

appointed by military junta

Area 1,002,450 km2
Population 84,550,000
GDP (PPP) $559.843 billion
Currency Egyptian pound
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
Drives on the right

History of Egypt

 The Great Pyramids at Giza

Egypt is arguably one of the oldest civilizations on earth.  Evidence of human habitation in the Nile Valley can be found dating back to the Paleolithic era before the 10th millennium BC.  Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralized society.  The Badarian culture and the successor Naqada series are generally regarded as precursors to Dynastic Egyptian civilization.  The earliest known evidence of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BC.

A unified kingdom was founded circa 3150 BC by King Menes, giving rise to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia. Egyptians subsequently referred to their unified country as tawy, meaning “two lands”, and later kemet, the “black land”, a reference to the fertile black soil deposited by the Nile river. Egyptian culture flourished during this long period and remained distinctively Egyptian in its religion, arts, language and customs. The first two ruling dynasties of a unified Egypt set the stage for the Old Kingdom period, c.2700−2200 BC., famous for its many pyramids, most notably the Third Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the Fourth Dynasty Giza Pyramids.

Abu Simbel

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 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 Greeks and Romans, beginning over two thousand years of foreign rule.

The Citadel complex with Mohamed Ali Mosque

Recent history in Egypt saw the Egyptian Republic being declared on June 18, 1953, 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. Nasser was a strong and tactful and influential leader.  He assumed power as President and declared the full independence of Egypt from the United Kingdom on June 18, 1956. His nationalization of the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956 prompted the 1956 Suez Crisis.

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.  After many years of a controversial Presidency, a fundamentalist military soldier assassinated Sadat in Cairo in 1981. He was succeeded by the incumbent Hosni Mubarak (still in power today). In 2003, the Egyptian Movement for Change, popularly known as Kefaya, was launched to seek a return to democracy and greater civil liberties.