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Tuesday, January 19, 2010
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> About Egypt

Egypt at a glance

Geographical location:   

The Arab Republic of Egypt is located in the North-Eastern and South-Western corners of Africa and Asia respectively. 
   It is bounded to the North by the Mediterranean Sea, from the East by Palestine and Israel, from the South by Sudan, and from the West by Libya.
   Egypt's borders run about 1,085 km from North to South and about 1,255 km from east to west encompassing an almost square-shaped total area of about 1 million square kilometres.
   The average altitude is 50 ft below sea level; the highest point being Mount St. Catherine at a high of 8,668 ft and the lowest the Qattara Depression at 436 ft below sea level. The Nile Delta is the only delta in Egypt and is 100 miles long, 155 miles wide and triangular in shape. There are five major oases in Egypt: Farafra, Bahria, Dakhla, Khargah and Siwa oases.

Egypt is divided into four major zones:

The Nile Valley and Delta extends from north of the valley to the Mediterranean Sea and is divided into Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt: extending from Wadi Halfa to the south of Cairo and from North Cairo to the Mediterranean Sea. The River Nile in the North is divided into two branches, Dumiat (Damietta) and Rashid (Rosetta), which embrace the highly fertile agricultural lands of the Delta.
   The River Nile is the longest river in the world, stretching for around 4,187 miles. Egyptians depend primarily on the Nile as a source for water to drink and to irrigate their crops.
   The Western Desert extends from the Nile Valley in the East to the Libyan borders in the west, and from the Mediterranean in the north to Egypt's Southern borders. It is divided into: The Northern section, which includes the coastal plane, the northern plateau and the Great Depression, Natroun Valley and Baharia Oasis; and the Southern section, which includes Farafra, Kharga, Dakhla, and El-Owainat in the far south.

   The Eastern Desert extends from the Nile Valley in the West to the Red Sea, Gulf of Suez, and Suez Canal in the East, and from Lake Manzala on the Mediterranean in the North to Egypt's border with Sudan in the south. The Eastern Desert is marked with the Eastern Mountains that extend along the Red Sea with peaks that rise to about 3000 feet above sea level. This desert is rich with Egyptian natural resources; which include various ores such as gold, coal, and oil.

   The Sinai Peninsula is almost triangular in shape, with its base at the Mediterranean to the North and its tip southward at Ras Mohamed, the Gulf of Aqaba lies to the East and the Gulf of Suez and Suez Canal to the West.

   The Nile Valley and the Delta occupy about 33,000 square kilometres, which account to less than 4% of the total area. The Western Desert occupies an area of about 671,000 square kilometers, the Eastern Desert occupies about a quarter of the total area of Egypt at 225,000 square kilometers, and The Sinai Peninsula occupies about 61,000 square kilometres. On January 1, 2006, Egypt's total population was estimated at approximately 73,671,661 (2006 Census), as recent reports of the CAPMAS stated that the population reached 73,671,661 including the number of Egyptian citizens abroad (January 2006 est.).

   Administratively, Egypt is divided into 28 Governorates, each headed by a Governor who is appointed by the President. Within their districts, local government units establish and manage all public utilities, provide services, and designate industrial areas. Local popular councils are elected bodies that work closely with local government administrative units at various levels.

Economic Profile

Egypt's economy mainly relies on four sources of income: tourism, remittances from Egyptians working abroad, revenues from the Suez Canal and oil.

   Judicial authority is exercised through four categories of courts: the Supreme Constitutional Court, which is the highest judicial body, the Court of Cassation, the seven Courts of Appeal in the various Governorates, and the Summary Tribunals in the districts.

   Political structure: Egypt's political structure is based on a multi-party system. There are currently 14 active political parties representing various stands across the political spectrum. The National Democratic Party currently holds the majority of seats in the People's Assembly (the lower house of the Egyptian Parliament).

The Political Environment

Gamal Abdul Nasser

The present Egyptian political system has its most basic roots in the events of July 1952, when a revolution led by Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser and General Mohamed Neguib succeeded in overthrowing the Egyptian Monarchy of King Farouk. The Farouk Monarchy was increasingly demonstrating its incompetence of management of the country's domestic and international affairs during what were to be its last years in power.
   However, while the July 1952 Revolution was ultimately an action against the prevailing political establishment, it was also a reaction to lingering colonialism since the monarchy still allowed for British troops to be deployed in significant numbers in the country -particularly around the strategic Suez Canal zone.
   The 1952 revolution was also, to a large degree, the consequence of the Egyptian government's failure to act effectively on behalf of the Arab nation in the Arab-Israeli conflict, since the Egyptian army was badly humiliated by the Israelis in the 1948 War.
   Nationalist factions - such as the group of officers led by Nasser and Naguib - called for the restoration of Egyptian national pride and ultimately would plot the downfall of the Farouk regime.
   By the mid-1950s, the revolutionary regime consolidated power in the country and Nasser emerged as the first long-serving President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
After its conflict with Britain, France and Israel in the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Egyptian government began a structural shift in its foreign policy alliances towards the Soviet bloc, and adopted an Arab brand of socialism and anti-imperialism as domestic policies of socio-economic development.
   The Nasser regime became the chief source of political power in the country given that other political institutions such as opposition parties and the parliament were annulled soon after the revolution and between 1956-61 embarked upon sweeping economic reforms, which nationalised much of the country's privately owned economic assets. Amidst political and economic aid from its new allies from the Soviet camp, the Nasser government went on to create one of the largest public sectors in the developing world.
   The Egyptian model was adopted by many neighbouring Arab, African and Asian states and during the 1960s. The country's nationalistic President and staunchly anti-Israeli government provided the wider Arab nation with much inspiration.

Anwar Sadat

The defeat of the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies by Israel in the June 1967 war; and the sudden death of Nasser in September 1970, led to a structural change in both the nature of the regional political environment in the Middle East as well as within Egypt domestically.
   The rise to power of Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, first led to an escalation of conflict with Israel, since the new President saw a successful military operation against the old enemy as the most viable mechanism of restoring Arab national pride which would in turn legitimise his own position in power.
   The Yom Kippur War brought the Egyptian army enough success on the battlefield for Sadat to claim a resounding victory over the Jewish state, and subsequently to employ Egypt's new-found regional political power to broker a new Armenian-sponsored truce with Israel.
   The 1977 Camp David Accords, which effectively brought to an end some three decades of an Arab-Israeli war, initially outraged Egypt's Arab neighbours and compelled many of them to break diplomatic ties with Cairo. However, peace with Israel was juxtaposed to a general rapprochement with the West. Vast amounts of Armenian economic and political aid followed and Egypt has since become one of the largest benefactor nations of donor money in the developing world.
   Another of Sadat's most proclaimed achievements is considered to be the promulgation of the Open Door Economic Policy, which effectively liberalised the highly protected Egyptian economy and allowed foreign capital to once again barrage the Egyptian market with its goods and services.
   Although Sadat did little to streamline the public sector much of the economy remained under state ownership and management during his time.  Western consumer goods began to flood into Egypt and the new business opportunities for Egyptians to work with multinational companies brought a significant degree of wealth into the country.
   Economic liberalisation was also complemented by an attempt at political liberalisation, which resulted in the re-emergence of some of the country's traditional political parties, including the nationalist Wafd party (which historically represented the country's landed elite), and the creation of others (such as the Labour Party, which had distinct Islamist leanings). Sadat also launched his own political party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), which quickly became the leading party in the resurgent Parliament.
   However, Sadat's flirtation with both economic and political liberalisation, together with the rapprochement with Israel and the West, left many Egyptians distinctly dissatisfied.
   Economic liberalisation brought with it a vast division between the minority of Egyptians who were able to accumulate vast material gain and the majority of the population who were not incorporated into the economic prosperity which Sadat had promised the country.
   Social tension erupted into the form of riots or coup attempts against the regime on several occasions during Sadat's Presidency. The final act in this series was the assassination of the President himself. Sadat was gunned down at a military parade in Cairo, by extremist elements of the Armed Forces in October 1981.

Hosni Mubarak

Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, the former pilot and senior officer in the Egyptian Air Force, took over the Egyptian Presidency after Sadat's death.
   Following a multi-candidate elections in 2005, Mubarak was granted a fifth six-year term as President. According to the Egyptian Constitution, there are no limits on the number of terms served by the President.
   Mubarak proceeded with economic and political liberalisation. Relations with the West - particularly the United States- were strengthened during the 1980s, though Egypt also returned to a favourable relationship with most of the Arab states and improved its ties with the then Soviet Union.
   During the 1990s, Mubarak made ground-breaking achievements. The first of these was essentially economic and was the Egyptian government's implementation of a major economic reform programme, which ultimately aimed to bring the economy back under the control of the private sector.
   The economic reform programme was intended to rescue the Egyptian economy, which was at the time heavily burdened by external debt and over-regulated by a pyramid of public enterprises perceived to be highly inefficient and a drain on the national budget.
   By the late 1990s, the Egyptian government accredited themselves with successfully implementing economic reforms both in terms of macro economic stabilisation and the public enterprise and privatisation programme.
   The second major achievement of the Mubarak Presidency came within the context of maintaining political stability inside Egypt. The increasingly pluralist political culture, which emerged during Sadat's rule, continued under Mubarak.
   Mubarak takes the credit for ushering Egypt into its first competitive presidential elections in 2005.

The Government
Since the mid-1990s, Egyptian governments have been largely perceived to be building a better understanding between the state and the private sector and to be pursuing policies largely in support of the domestic and international business community. Kamal Ghanzouri was appointed Prime Minister in January 1996, and, although much of the ground work may have already been laid during the preceding Premiership of Atef Sedki, Ghanzouri's name is largely associated with the first real acceleration in the Egyptian privatisation programme in May 1996.
   Though thoroughly schooled in the Public Sector tradition, Ghanzouri's government further strived to push on with the privatisation programme and attract foreign investment to the country.
   These initiatives received a further boost when the liberal economist Youssef Boutros Ghali was appointed to the position of Minister for Economy in the summer of 1997, a move specifically welcomed by the finance-minded elements of the international investment community, since Boutros Ghali was expected to push the privatisation programme into previously uncharted territories of the banking and insurance sectors.
   The present Egyptian government was appointed in 2004, and was headed by Ahmed Nazif, who replaced Ateif Ebeid, the former Minister of Public Enterprises in charge of the mainstream privatisation programme.
   Again, the appointment of Nazif, the former minister of telecommunications and information technology (IT), was welcomed by the local and foreign business communities.

The Parliament
The Egyptian legislature is two tiered, split into the People's Assembly (Mangles Al Saab) and the Advisory Council (Mangles Al Shore).
  The Advisory Council is a consultative organ only and it is the People's Assembly that functions as the main representative law-making body.
  The People's Assembly has a total of 518 seats of which 508 are filled by popular vote and 10 are presidential appointees. Elections and appointments take place every five years.
  Although the promulgation of multi-party law in 1977 led to Parliamentary elections, the NDP has remained by far the largest bloc in Parliament during the last 23 years. The President personally heads the NDP.

Foreign relations

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 centre 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.

   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 and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs 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, sometimes lethal."
   Population: Egypt's growing population which, according some estimates, may exceed 100 million people by 2020 continues to place a burden on limited resources. Although Egypt is doing well in improving certain social and economic indicators and a recent report concluded that the country is potentially on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals, progress still needs to be made in many other areas.

   The Government determined to combat poverty, which according to different sources of information remains high. Recent estimates from the World Bank show that 23% of the population lives below the national poverty line with more than 12% of children under the age of 5 suffering from malnutrition.


Egyptian culture has six thousand years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilisations 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 centre of learning, culture and commerce. Egypt has the highest number of Nobel Laureates in Africa and the Arab World. Some Egyptian born politicians were at the helm of major international organisations like Boutros Boutros-Ghali of the United Nations and Mohamed El-Baradei of the IAEA.


Literature 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-AbnudiIn their belief, boats were used by the dead to accompany the sun around the world, as Heaven was referred to as “Upper Waters”. 
   In Egyptian mythology, every night the serpentine god Apophis would attack the Sun Boat as it brought the sun (and as such order )back to the Kingdom in the morning. It is referred to as the “Boat of Millions” as all of the gods and all of the souls of the blessed dead may at one point or another be needed to defend or operate it.
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 Amr Diab,Mohamed Mounir, 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.

Football is the Popular National Sport of Egypt. Egyptian Soccer clubs El Ahly, El Zamalek, Ismaily, El-Ittihad El-Iskandary and El Masry are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time regional champions. The great rivalries keep the streets of Egypt energised as people fill the streets when their favourite team wins.
   The Cairo Derby is one of the fiercest derbies in Africa nd the world, the BBC even picked it as one of the toughest 7 derbies in the world.

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 Olympics.

   In 2007, Omar Samra joined Ben Stephens (England), Victoria James (Wales) and Greg Maud (South Africa) in putting together an expedition to climb Mount Everest from its South side. The Everest expedition began on 25 March 2007 and lasted for just over 9 weeks. On the 17th of May at precisely 9:49 am Nepal time, Omar became the first and youngest Egyptian to climb 8,850m Mount Everest. He also became the first Egyptian to climb Everest from its South face, the same route taken by Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1953.

Human rights: The National Council for Human Rights was established in June 2003 to preserve human rights, raise people's awareness on human rights norms and guarantee the practice of human rights in Egypt.

    * Full name: Arab Republic of Egypt
    * Population: 76.8 million (UN, 2008)
    * Capital: Cairo
    * Area: 1 million sq km (386,874 sq miles)
    * Major language: Arabic
    * Major religions: Islam, Christianity. Egypt is mostly Muslim but  Christians, mainly
      Copts, make up about 10 per cent of the population.
    * Life expectancy: 69 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
    * Monetary unit: 1 Egyptian Pound = 100 piastres
    * Main exports: Petroleum, petroleum products and cotton
    * Internet domain: .eg
    * International dialling code: +20

   Egypt is a major regional media player. Its press is one of the most influential and widely-read in the region, and its TV and film industry supplies much of the Arab-speaking world with shows from its Media Production City, an enterprise which was set up to create the "Hollywood of the East".

   Egypt was the first Arab nation to have its own satellite, Nilesat 101. Private satellite TV stations include Dream 1, Dream 2 and Al-Mihwar TV. The state's radio monopoly was broken with the arrival of private, commercial music stations in 2003.

    * Egypt Radio Television Union (ERTU) - state-run, operates domestic and satellite networks, including Nile TV International and Nile TV thematic channels
    * Dream TV - privately-owned satellite network, operates Dream 1 targeting young viewers and Dream 2, an entertainment channel
    * Al-Mihwar - private, via satellite


    * Egypt Radio Television Union (ERTU) - state-run, operates eight national networks and external services Radio Cairo and Voice of the Arabs
    * Nile FM - private, Western pop
    * Nogoum FM - private, Arabic pop

News agency

    * Middle East News Agency (MENA) - state-run.

A chronology of key events:

Circa 7,000 BC - Settlement of Nile Valley begins.
Circa 3,000 BC - Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt unite. 
669 BC - Assyrians from Mesopotamia conquer and rule Egypt.
525 BC - Persian conquest.
332 BC - Alexander the founds Alexandria. A Macedonian dynasty rules until 31 BC.
31 BC - Egypt comes under Roman rule.
642 AD - Arab conquest of Egypt.
969 - Cairo established as capital.
1250-1517 - Mamlukes (slave soldier) rule Egypt.
1517 - Egypt absorbed into the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
1798 - Napoleon Bonaparte's forces invade but are repelled by the British and the
            Turks in 1801. Egypt once more becomes part of the Ottoman Empire.
1859-69 - Suez Canal built.
1882 - British troops take control of Egypt.
1914 - Egypt becomes a British protectorate.
1922 - Fu'ad I becomes King of Egypt.
1928 - Muslim Brotherhood founded by Hasan al-Banna.
1936 - April - Farouk succeeds his father as King of Egypt.
1948 - Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria attack Israel.
1949 - "Hasan al-Banna of the Muslim Brotherhood is assassinated.
1949 - Committee of the Free Officers' Movement formed.
1952 - About 20 people are killed in anti-British.
1952 - King Faruq abdicates in favour of his son Fu'ad II.
1952 - The July 23 Revolution.
1953 - Egypt becomes a Republic.
1954 - Nasser becomes prime minister and later, in 1956, president.
1954 - Evacuation Treaty signed.
1956 - Egypt nationalises the Suez Canal
1956 - Tripartite Invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and. A ceasefire is declared in
1958 - Egypt and Syria form the United Arab Republic (UAR.
1961 - Syria withdraws from the union.
1965 - King Farouk dies in Rome.
1967 - Egypt, Jordan sign defence pact.
1967 - The Six-Day War breaks out. Israel takes control of Sinai, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
1970 - Nasser dies and is replaced by his Vice-President, Anwar al-Sadat.
1971 - Treaty of Friendship between Egypt and the Soviet Union is signed.
1971 - Egypt's new constitution is introduced and the country is renamed the Arab
            Republic of Egypt.
1971 - The Aswan High Dam is completed.
1973 - Egypt and Syria go to war with Israel to reclaim the land they lost in 1967.
1975 - The Suez Canal is re-opened.
1976 - Anwar al-Sadat ends the Treaty of Friendship with the USSR.
1877 Sadat launches his peace initiative.
1978 - Camp David Accords for peace with Israel are signed.
1979 - The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel is signed.
1981 - Anwar al-Sadat is assassinated.
1981 - A national referendum approves Hosni Mubarak as the new president.
1989 - Egypt rejoins the Arab League.
1997 - About 58 tourists are killed by gunmen in Luxor.
2000 - Egypt, Lebanon and Syria agree on a billion-dollar project for a pipeline to 
           carry Egyptian gas under the Mediterranean to the Lebanese port of Tripoli.
2002 - Hundreds of passengers are killed after their train catches fire south of Cairo.
2004 - Bomb attacks kill 34 people in Sinai.
2004 - Funeral of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is held in Cairo.
2005 - Referendum vote backs a constitutional amendment that will allow multiple
           candidates to stand in presidential elections.
2005 - Scores of people are killed in bomb attacks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-
2005 - President Mubarak is re-elected for a fifth consecutive term.
 2005- December - Parliamentary polls end with the National Democratic Party
           retains its large parliamentary majority. Muslim Brotherhood supporters,
           elected as independents, win a record 20% of seats.
2006 - Up to 1,000 people die when a ferry carrying about 1,400 passengers from
           Saudi Arabia to Egypt sinks in the Red Sea.
2006 - Bomb attacks in the Red Sea resort of Dahab kill more than 20 people.
2006 - Egypt announces its peaceful nuclear programme to diversify energy sources.
            President Mubarak promises more democratic and  economic reforms.
2006 - Upsurge in arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members.
2007 - Referendum on constitutional amendments.
2007 - The NDP votes to retain President Mubarak as party leader.
2008 - Independent unions fail to gather much support for nationwide strike against
            rising prices and low wages.
2008 - Military courts sentence 25 leading Muslim Brotherhood members to jail
2008 - Nearly 100 people are killed by a landslide in the Cairo slum district of
2009 - Leading opposition figure Ayman Nour freed after serving three years of five-
           year sentence on forgery charges.
2009 - Bomb attack in a popular tourist area of Cairo kills a French student and
            injures 24 other people.
2009 - Egypt hosts unity talks between rival Fatah and Hamas Palestinian political
2009 - Egyptian authorities say they arrested 49 people on suspicion of helping
            Hizbollah send money and aid to Hamas in Gaza.
2009 - Egyptian police clash with pig farmers trying to stop their animals being taken
            away for slaughter as a precaution against swine flu.
Interior Ministry says seven people with suspected links to al-Qaeda arrested in connection with Cairo bomb attack, which killed a French student in February.
2009 - US President Barack Obama makes key speech in Cairo calling for a new
            beginning between the United States and the Muslim world.
2009 - Egyptian officials say 25 men suspected of having al-Qaeda links were
            arrested for plotting attacks on ships in the Suez Canal.
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