The vast majority of Egypt's population inhabit the length of the Nile river (about 40,000 km²). Large areas of land are part of the Sahara Desert and sparsely inhabited. The country is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most stunning ancient monuments, including pyramids, Karnak temple and the Valley of the Kings. Today, Egypt is widely considered the main political and cultural center of the Arab world.
Main articles: History of Egypt
Mişr, the Arabic name for Egypt, is of Semitic origin, and possibly means 'a country' or 'a state'.
(For the origin of the name Egypt, see Aegyptus.)
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 BC and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 BC, 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 following World War II. In 1952 Gamal Abdel Nasser assumed power and nationalized the Suez Canal leading to the 1956 Suez Crisis. Between 1958 and 1961 Egypt was in a union with Syria known as the United Arab Republic.
Main article: Politics of Egypt
Egypt is a republic. Hosni Mubarak, has been President since October 14, 1981, following Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. He is the leader of the National Democratic Party which has led Egypt continually since the split with Syria in 1978. Egypt was the first Arab country to establish peace with Israel after the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty (main point of the Camp David Accords). The permanent headquarters for the Arab League are located in Cairo. Egypt regularly holds multi-party elections, but there is expressed concern from international human rights observers concerning freedom of speech, government interference in local elections, etc.
Main article: Governorates of Egypt
Egypt is divided into 26 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah):
Main article: Economy of Egypt
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, and Europe.
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 ready the economy for the new millennium through economic reform and massive investment in communications and physical infrastructure, much financed from U.S. aid. Egypt is the second largest recipient of such funds from the United States after Israel.
Main article: Demographics of Egypt
Egypt is the most populous Arab country, at about 73,000,000 people. Nearly all the population is concentrated along the River Nile, notably Alexandria and Cairo, and along the Nile Delta and near the Suez Canal.
Main articles: Geography of Egypt
Deserts: Egypt includes parts of the Sahara Desert and of the Libyan Desert
Egypt's important role in geopolitics stems from its strategic position: as a land bridge between Africa and Asia, and as a passage between the Mediterranian Sea and the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal.
Main article: Culture of Egypt
The capital city, Cairo, is Africa's largest city and has been renowned for centuries as a center of learning, culture and commerce.
Egypt also hosts two major religious institutions. Al-Azhar University, 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 claims a following of 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 a 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 has the only Opera House amongst Arab countries.
Some famous Egyptians include: Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize-winning novelist), Umm Kulthum (singer), Omar Sharif (actor), Ahmed Zewail (Nobel Prize-winning chemist), Boutros Boutros-Ghali (former Secretary General of the United Nations), Mohamed ElBaradei (Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency), and Anwar Sadat (former president and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.)
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