Egypt

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Egypt redirects here. For information on the ancient civilization, see Ancient Egypt
جمهوريّة مصر العربيّة
Gomhuriat Masr Al-Arabiah
Arab Republic of Egypt
Flag of Egypt Coat of arms of Egypt
Flag Coat of arms
Motto:
Anthem: Bilady, Bilady, Bilady
Location of Egypt
Capital Cairo
30°2′ N 31°13′ E
Largest city Cairo
Official language(s) Arabic
Government
President of Egypt
Prime Minister of Egypt
Republic
Hosni Mubarak
Ahmed Nazif
Independence
Granted
Declared
From the United Kingdom
February 28, 1922
June 18, 1953
Area
• Total

• Water (%)

1,001,450 km² ( 30th)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

0.6%%
Population
2005 est.
• [[As of |]] census

Density

77,505,756 ( 15th)

77/km² ( 93rd)
{{{population_densitymi²}}}/mi²
GDP ( PPP)
• Total
• Per capita
2004 estimate
$282,333,000,000 ( 31st)
$4,072 ( 115th)
HDI ( 2003) 0.659 ( 119th) – medium
Currency Egyptian pound (LE) ( EGP)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
EET ( UTC+2)
EEST ( UTC+3)
Internet TLD .eg
Calling code +20

The Arab Republic of Egypt, commonly known as Egypt, (in Arabic: مصر, romanized Misr, in Egyptian Arabic Másr, ), is a republic in North Africa. While most of the country is geographically located in Africa, the Sinai Peninsula east of the Suez Canal is in Asia.

Covering an area of about 1,020,000 square kilometres (394,000 mi²), Egypt shares land borders with Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and Israel and the Gaza Strip to the northeast and has coasts on the north and east by the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, respectively.

Egypt is the fifteenth most populous country in the world. The vast majority of its 77 million population (2005) live near the banks of the Nile River (about 40,000 km² or 15,450 mi²), where the only arable agricultural land is found. Large areas of land are part of the Sahara Desert and are sparsely inhabited. About half of the Egyptian people today are urban, living in the densely populated centers of greater Cairo, the largest city in Africa, and Alexandria.

Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most stunning ancient monuments, including the Giza Pyramids, the Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings; the southern city of Luxor contains a particularly large number of ancient artifacts. Today, Egypt is widely regarded as the main political and cultural centre of the Arab and Middle Eastern regions.

Origin and history of the name

Misr, the Arabic and official name for modern Egypt, is of Semitic origin directly cognate with the Hebrew מִצְרַיִם Mitzráyim meaning "the two straits", and possibly means "a country" or "a state." The ancient name for the country, kemet, or "black land," is derived from the fertile black soils deposited by the Nile floods, distinct from the 'red land' (deshret) of the desert. This name became keme in a later stage of Coptic. The English name "Egypt" came via the Latin word Aegyptus derived from the ancient Greek word Αίγυπτος Aiguptos (see also List of traditional Greek place names). This word may in turn be derived from the ancient Egyptian phrase ḥwt-k3-ptḥ ("Hwt ka Ptah") meaning "home of the Ka (part of the soul) of Ptah," the name of a temple of the god Ptah at Memphis. For details see the article Copt.

History

Main articles: History of Egypt and Ancient Egypt

The Great Sphinx of Giza, with the Pyramid of Khafre in the background are at the heart of Egypt's thriving tourism industry.
The Great Sphinx of Giza, with the Pyramid of Khafre in the background are at the heart of Egypt's thriving tourism industry.

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 was founded circa 3200 BC by King Narmer, and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty, known as the Thirtieth Dynasty, fell to the Persians in 341 BC who dug the predecessor of the Suez canal and connected the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Later, Egypt fell to the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Persians again.

It was the Muslim Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the seventh century to the Egyptians, who gradually adopted both. Muslim rulers nominated by the Islamic Caliphate remained in control of Egypt for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 and continued to govern even 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; however, the country also fell heavily into debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, the United Kingdom seized control of Egypt's government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914.

Almost fully independent from the UK in 1922, the Egyptian Parliament drafted and implemented a new constitution in 1923 under the leadership of the popular revolutionary Saad Zaghlul. Between 1924-1936 there existed a short-lived but successful attempt to model Egypt's constitutional government after the European style of government; known as Egypt's Liberal Experiment. However, in 1952 a military coup d'état forced King Farouk I, a constitutional monarch, to abdicate in support of his son King Ahmed Fouad II.

Finally, the Egyptian Republic was declared on 18 June 1953 with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic. After Naguib was also forced to resign in 1954 by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the real architect of the 1952 movement, the latter assumed power as President and nationalized the Suez Canal leading to the 1956 Suez Crisis. Nasser came out of the war an Arab hero, and Nasserism won widespread influence in the region though was met with mixed reactions amongst Egyptians, many of whom had previously been indifferent to Arab nationalism.

Between 1958 and 1961, Nasser undertook to form a union between Egypt and Syria known as the United Arab Republic. This attempt too was met with mixed reactions, and it was clear that many Egyptians resented finding that the name of their country, which had endured for thousands of years, was suddenly eliminated. Three years after the 1967 Six Day War, in which Egypt lost the Sinai to Israel, Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who presented his takeover in terms of a Corrective Revolution. Sadat switched Egypt's Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972, and launched the Infitah economic reform, while violently clamping down on religious and secular opposition alike. Egypt's name was also restored.

In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched a surprise attack on Israel in the October War (known also as the Yom Kippur War), which, despite not being a complete military success, was by most accounts a political victory. Both the United States and the USSR intervened, and a cease-fire was reached between Egypt and Israel. In 1979, Sadat made peace with Israel in exchange for the Sinai, a move that sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt's expulsion from the Arab League (it was readmitted in 1989). Sadat was murdered by a religious fundamentalist in 1981, and succeeded by Hosni Mubarak.

Politics

The Office of the President of Egypt at the Presidential Palace.
The Office of the President of Egypt at the Presidential Palace.

Egypt has been a republic since 18 June 1953. President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has been the President of the Republic since October 14, 1981, following the assassination of former-President Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat. Mubarak is currently serving his sixth 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.

Egypt is regarded by many as being ruled by a military dictatorship. Although power is ostensibly organised 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 sixth consecutive term, was held in September 2005 (see below).

The Egyptian Parliament.
The Egyptian Parliament.

In late-February 2005, 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 elections about government interference in the election process through fraud and vote-rigging. In addition, violence by pro-Mubarak supporters against opposition demonstrators and police brutality were evident during the elections. This poses major questions about the government's purported commitment to democracy.

As a result, most Egyptians are skeptical about the process of democratisation and the role of the elections. A very small proportion of those eligible to vote actually turned out for the 2005 elections. Newspapers, however, have exhibited an increasing degree of freedom in criticizing the president, and the results of the recent parliamentary elections, which saw Islamist parties such as the banned Muslim Brotherhood winning many seats, genuinely indicate that a change of some sorts is underway.

The permanent headquarters for the League of Arab States (The Arab League) is located in Cairo. Egypt was the first Arab state to establish diplomatic relations with the state of Israel, after the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty at the Camp David Accords. 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 nations, and in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Most Arab nations still give credence to Egypt playing that role, though its effects are often limited.

Military

The Egyptian Armed Forces ( Arabic: القوات المسلحة المصرية) consists of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Air Defense. The Coast Guard and Border Guard operate as subordinates to the Navy and Army Command respectively.

Egyptian F-16s flying in close formation next to the Pyramids
Egyptian F-16s flying in close formation next to the Pyramids

The Egyptian military is the strongest military power on the African continent, and the second largest in the Middle East, the largest being that of Israel - (Source: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies' annual Middle East Strategic Balance). The Egyptian Armed Forces also ranks among the most battle-trained armed forces in the region. Its inventory includes F-16s, Mirage 2000 aircraft, MiG-29 fighters, Apache helicopters, M1 Abrams Tanks and medium-long range missiles. The Egyptian Armed forces, has a combined troop strength of 450,000 active personnel.

The Supreme Commander is Hosni Mubarak, wartime Field Marshal of the army, admiral of the navy, Chief Air Marshal ( Colonel General) of the Air Forces and Air Defence Forces. During peacetime, the title of Supreme Commander is ceremonial.

The Commander-in-Chief and commander of the army is Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Minister Of Defense and Military Production.

The Chief of Staff is Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan.

The Commander of the Navy is Vice Admiral Tamer Abd El Aleem Mohamed Ismail

The Commander of the Air Forces is Air Marshal (Lt. Gen.) Magdy Galal Sharawi

The Commander of the Air Defence Forces is Major General Abd El Aziz Seif

Conscription is compulsory for Egyptian men of 18 years of age. Full-time students may defer their service until the age of 28. The length of the service depends on the level of education achieved by the conscripted.

Military relations between Egypt and the US are strong. Military cooperation between the two countries covers a number of strategic areas, including cooperation in the ongoing process of modernising Egyptian armaments and training the Egyptian armed forces.

While military cooperation between the US and Egypt is close and diversified, this does not constitute a form of military alliance. Nothing could furnish clearer proof of this than the high degree of transparency surrounding all aspects of Egyptian-US military cooperation. Bilateral exercises and mutual training are carried out regularly, and, according to one US source, reflect the high level of professionalism and the growing excellence of the fighting men and women in the various branches of the Egyptian armed forces.

Egypt takes part regularly in military exercises with the US and other European and Arab allies, including the manoeuvres that take place in Egypt every two years.

Egypt continues to contribute regularly to United Nations peacekeeping missions, most recently in East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Governorates

Map of Egypt
Map of Egypt

Egypt is divided into 26 governorates (Muhafazat; singular – Muhafazah) and the city of Al Uqsur (Luxor), which is classified as a city rather than a governorate.

  • Aswan
  • Asyut
  • Al-Bahr Al-Ahmar (Red Sea)
  • Bani Suwayf
  • El-Beheirah
  • Bur Sa'id (Port Said)
  • Ad-Daqahliyah
  • Dumyat
  • Al-Fayyum
  • Al-Gharbiyah
  • Al-Iskandariyah (Alexandria)
  • Al-Isma'iliyah
  • Ganub Sina (South Sinai)
  • El Gizah (Giza)
  • Kafr El Shaykh
  • Matruh
  • Al-Monufiyah
  • Al-Minya
  • Al Qahirah (Cairo)
  • Al Qalyubiyah
  • Qina
  • Shamal Sina' (North Sinai)
  • Al Sharqiyah
  • Suhaj
  • Al-Suways (Suez)
  • El Wadi El-Gedid (New Valley)
  • Luqsur (Luxor)

Foreign relations

Modern Cairo
Modern Cairo

Geography, population, history, military strength, and diplomatic expertise give Egypt extensive political influence in the Middle East. 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.

The League of Arab States headquarters is in Cairo. The Secretary General of the League has traditionally been an Egyptian. Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa is the present Secretary General of the Arab League.

Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali served as Secretary General of the United Nations from 1991 to 1996.

Egypt is on good terms with all of its neighbours, and was the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel. It has a territorial dispute with Sudan over the Hala'ib Triangle.

Economy

Egyptian countryside, south of Cairo.
Egyptian countryside, south of Cairo.

Egypt's economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum exports, and tourism; there are also more than 5 million Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf area like UAE, and Europe. The United States as well has a large population of Egyptian immigrants.

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 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, much financed from U.S. foreign aid (since 1979, an average of 2.2 billion dollars per year). Egypt is the third-largest recipient of such funds from the United States following the Iraq war. Economic conditions are starting to improve considerably after a period of stagnation due to 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.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Egypt

Egypt is the second most populous country in Africa, at about 77,500,000 people. Nearly all the population is concentrated along the banks of the Nile, notably Alexandria and Cairo, and 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).

The Egyptians are a fairly homogeneous people. North African and Eastern Mediterranean influences are more predominant in the north, while the south which bears the same influences is also home to people who are related to Nubians and Africans further southeast such as Ethiopians. The bulk of modern Egyptian society still maintains a homogenous genetic tie to ancient Egyptian society, which has always been rural and quite populous compared to neighboring countries. The Egyptian people have spoken only languages from the Afro-Asiatic family (previously known as Hamito-Semitic) throughout their history starting with Old Egyptian to modern Egyptian Arabic.

Ethnic minorities include a small number of Bedouin Arab nomads in the Sinai and eastern and western deserts, as well as some Nubians clustered along the Nile in Upper (southern) Egypt who are estimated to be about 0.8% of the population. Egypt also hosts some 90,000 refugees and asylum seekers, made up mostly of 70,000 Palestinian refugees and 20,000 Sudanese refugees. The once-vibrant Jewish community in Egypt has virtually disappeared, with only a small number remaining in Egypt and those who visit on religious occasions. Several important Jewish archeological and historical sites also remain.

Religion

Over six million Egyptians follow the Christian faith as members of the Coptic Church
Over six million Egyptians follow the Christian faith as members of the Coptic Church

According to the constitution, any new legislation must implicitly agree with Islamic (Arabic: الإسلام) laws. Egypt is predominantly Muslim, covering about 94% of the population, most belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. Christians represent about 6% of the population, primarily the Coptic denomination, though other Christian groups are present, including standard Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Orthodox, in Alexandria and Cairo, whose adherents are mainly descendants of Italian, Greek, and Armenian immigrants.
There are also some few, small Jewish communities that are numbered as few as 300 Egyptians.

There are also many who consider themselves as atheists, agnostics, and skeptics, although their numbers can not be identified.

The mainstream Hanafi school of Sunni Islam is largely organised by the state, through Wizaret Al-Awkaf (Ministry of Religious Affairs). Al-Awkaf controls all mosques and Muslim clerics. Imams are trained in Imam vocational schools and at Al-Azhar University. The department supports Sunni Islam and has commissions authorised to give Fatwa judgements on Islamic issues.

Egypt also hosts two major religious institutions. Al-Azhar University is the oldest Islamic institution for higher studies (founded around 970 CE), with its corresponding mosque Al-Azhar. Egypt also has a strong Christian heritage as it is the home of the Coptic Orthodox Church headed by the Patriarch of Alexandria, which has a following of approximately 50 million Christians worldwide.

Geography

Image:EgyptianDesert.JPG
A great part of Egypt's landmass is desert.

Egypt is bordered by Libya on the west, Sudan on the south, and on Israel on the northeast. 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.

Towns and cities include Alexandria, one of the great 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, Shubra-El-Khema, Suez, where the Suez Canal is located, Zagazig, and Al-Minya.

Deserts: 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 harm.

Oases include: Bahariya Oasis, Dakhleh Oasis, Farafra Oasis, Kharga Oasis, Siwa Oasis. An oasis is a fertile or green area in the midst of a desert.

Culture

Egypt's capital Cairo is the largest city in Africa and the Middle East
Egypt's capital Cairo is the largest city in Africa and the Middle East

Egypt's capital city, Cairo, is Africa's largest city and has been renowned for centuries as a center of learning, culture and commerce. The Egyptian Academy of the Arabic Language is responsible for regulating the Arabic Language (Arabic:اللغة العربية ) throughout the world.

Egypt also hosts two major religious institutions. Al-Azhar University (Arabic: جامعة الأزهر ) is the oldest Islamic institution for higher studies (founded around 970 CE), with its corresponding mosque Al-Azhar. The head of Al-Azhar is traditionally regarded as the supreme leader of Sunni Muslims all over the world. Egypt also has a strong Christian heritage as evidenced by the existence of the Coptic Orthodox Church headed by the Patriarch of Alexandria, which has a following of approximately 50 million Christians worldwide (one of the famous Coptic Orthodox Churches is Saint Takla Haimanot Church in Alexandria http://www.St-Takla.org).

Though considered a low-income country, Egypt has a thriving media and arts industry, with more than 30 satellite channels and more than 100 motion pictures produced each year. To bolster its media industry, especially with the keen competition from the Persian Gulf states and Lebanon, it has built a large media city that it has promoted as the "Hollywood of the East." Egypt is the only Arab country with an opera house.

Some famous Egyptians include:

  • Saad Zaghlul (leader of first modern Egyptian revolution)
  • Gamal Abdel Nasser (former president)
  • Boutros Boutros-Ghali (former Secretary General of the United Nations)
  • Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize-winning novelist)
  • Umm Kulthum (singer)
  • Omar Sharif (actor)
  • Ahmed Zewail (Nobel Prize-winning chemist)
  • Mohamed ElBaradei (Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize)
  • Anwar Sadat (former president and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize)

For more famous Egyptians check: [1]

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