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Egypt

Capital Cairo
Continent Africa
Code +20
Currency Egyptian pound (E£)
Languages Arabic , Arabic

Description

Egypt is a transcontinental country, spanning the northeast corner of Africa and the Sinai Peninsula of Western Asia. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip (Palestine) and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. The Gulf of Aqaba in the northeast, whose maximum width is 24 km (15 mi), separates Egypt from Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Cairo is the country's capital and largest city.

Egypt has one of the longest histories of any country, tracing its heritage along the Nile Delta back to the 6th–4th millennia BCE. Considered a cradle of civilization, Ancient Egypt saw some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanization, organized religion, and central government. Iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy and remain a significant focus of scientific and popular interest. Egypt's long and rich cultural heritage is an integral part of its national identity, which reflects its unique transcontinental location being simultaneously Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African. Egypt was an early and important center of Christianity, but was largely Islamised in the seventh century and remains a predominantly Muslim country, albeit with a significant Christian minority.

Modern Egypt dates back to 1922 when it gained independence from the British Empire as a monarchy. Following the 1952 revolution, Egypt declared itself a republic, and in 1958 it merged with Syria to form the United Arab Republic, which dissolved in 1961. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Egypt endured social and religious strife and political instability, fighting several armed conflicts with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973, and occupying the Gaza Strip intermittently until 1967. In 1978, Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, officially withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and recognizing Israel. The country continues to face challenges, from political unrest, including the recent 2011 revolution and its aftermath, to terrorism and economic underdevelopment. Egypt's current government, a semi-presidential republic led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has been described by several watchdogs as authoritarian or heading an authoritarian regime, responsible for perpetuating the country's problematic human rights record.

Islam is the official religion of Egypt and Arabic is its official language. With over 100 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa (after Nigeria and Ethiopia), and the fourteenth-most populous in the world. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq mi), where only arable land is found. The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of Egypt's territory, are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centers of greater Cairo, Alexandria, and other major cities in the Nile Delta.

Egypt is considered to be a regional power in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Muslim world, and a middle power worldwide. It is a developing country, ranking 116th on the Human Development Index. It has a diversified economy, which is the second-largest in Africa, the 33rd-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the 20th-largest globally by PPP. Egypt is a founding member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab League, the African Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the World Youth Forum.

History

The history of Egypt has been long and wealthy, due to the flow of the Nile River with its fertile banks and delta, as well as the accomplishments of Egypt's native inhabitants and outside influence. Much of Egypt's ancient history was a mystery until Egyptian hieroglyphs were deciphered with the discovery and help of the Rosetta Stone. Among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Ancient Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first king of the First Dynasty, Narmer. Predominantly native Egyptian rule lasted until the conquest by the Achaemenid Empire in the sixth century BC.

In 332 BC, Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great conquered Egypt as he toppled the Achaemenids and established the short-lived Macedonian Empire, which gave rise to the Hellenistic Ptolemaic Kingdom, founded in 305 BC by one of Alexander's former generals, Ptolemy I Soter. The Ptolemies had to fight native rebellions and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its final annexation by Rome. The death of Cleopatra ended the nominal independence of Egypt, resulting in Egypt's becoming one of the provinces of the Roman Empire.

Roman rule in Egypt (including Byzantine) lasted from 30 BC to 641 AD, with a brief interlude of control by the Sasanian Empire between 619 and 629, known as Sasanian Egypt. After the Muslim conquest of Egypt, parts of Egypt became provinces of successive Caliphates and other Muslim dynasties: Rashidun Caliphate (632-661), Umayyad Caliphate (661–750), Abbasid Caliphate (750–935), Fatimid Caliphate (909–1171), Ayyubid Sultanate (1171–1260), and the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517). In 1517, Ottoman sultan Selim I captured Cairo, absorbing Egypt into the Ottoman Empire.

Egypt remained entirely Ottoman until 1867, except during French occupation from 1798 to 1801. Starting in 1867, Egypt became a nominally autonomous tributary state called the Khedive of Egypt. However, Khedivate Egypt fell under British control in 1882 following the Anglo-Egyptian War. After the end of World War I and following the Egyptian revolution of 1919, the Kingdom of Egypt was established. While a de jure independent state, the United Kingdom retained control over foreign affairs, defense, and other matters. British occupation lasted until 1954, with the Anglo-Egyptian agreement of 1954.

The modern Republic of Egypt was founded in 1953, and with the complete withdrawal of British forces from the Suez Canal in 1956, it marked the first time in 2500 years that Egypt was both fully independent and ruled by native Egyptians. President Gamal Abdel Nasser (president from 1950 to 1970) introduced many reforms and created the short-lived United Arab Republic (with Syria). His terms also saw the Six-Day War and the creation of the international Non-Aligned Movement. His successor, Anwar Sadat (president from 1970 to 1981) changed Egypt's trajectory, departing from many of the political, and economic tenets of Nasserism, re-instituting a multi-party system, and launching the Infitah economic policy. He led Egypt in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 to regain Egypt's the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967. This later led to the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty.

Recent Egyptian history has been dominated by events following nearly thirty years of rule by former president Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian revolution of 2011 deposed Mubarak and resulted in the first democratically elected president in Egyptian history, Mohamed Morsi. Unrest after the 2011 revolution and related disputes led to the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état.

Geography

Egypt lies primarily between latitudes 22° and 32°N, and longitudes 25° and 35°E. At 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,660 sq mi), it is the world's 30th-largest country. Due to the extreme aridity of Egypt's climate, population centers are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta, meaning that about 99% of the population uses about 5.5% of the total land area. 98% of Egyptians live on 3% of the territory.

Egypt is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. 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, traversed by a navigable waterway (the Suez Canal) that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean by way of the Red Sea.

Apart from the Nile Valley, the majority of Egypt's landscape is desert, with a few oases scattered about. Winds create prolific dunes that peak at more than 30 meters (100 ft) high. Egypt includes parts of the Sahara desert and the Libyan Desert. These deserts protected the Kingdom of the Pharaohs from western threats and were referred to as the "red land" in ancient Egypt.

Towns and cities include Alexandria, the second-largest city; Aswan; Asyut; Cairo, the modern Egyptian capital and largest city; El Mahalla El Kubra; Giza, the site of the Pyramid of Khufu; Hurghada; Luxor; Kom Ombo; Port Safaga; Port Said; Sharm El Sheikh; Suez, where the south end of the Suez Canal is located; Zagazig; and Minya. Oases include Bahariya, Dakhla, Farafra, Kharga and Siwa. Protectorates include Ras Mohamed National Park, Zaranik Protectorate, and Siwa.

On 13 March 2015, plans for a proposed new capital of Egypt were announced.

Government

The House of Representatives, whose members are elected to serve five-year terms, specializes in legislation. Elections were last held between November 2011 and January 2012 which was later dissolved. The next parliamentary election was announced to be held within 6 months of the constitution's ratification on 18 January 2014 and was held in two phases, from 17 October to 2 December 2015 Originally, the parliament was to be formed before the president was elected, but interim president Adly Mansour pushed the date. The Egyptian presidential election, 2014, took place on 26–28 May 2014. Official figures showed a turnout of 25,578,233 or 47.5%, with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi winning with 23.78 million votes, or 96.9% compared to 757,511 (3.1%) for Hamdeen Sabahi.

After a wave of public discontent with the autocratic excesses of the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi, on 3 July 2013 then-General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced the removal of Morse from office and the suspension of the constitution. A 50-member constitution committee was formed for modifying the constitution, which was later published for public voting and was adopted on 18 January 2014.

In 2013, Freedom House rated political rights in Egypt at 5 (with 1 representing the freest and 7 the least), and civil liberties at 5, which gave it the freedom rating of "Partly Free".

Egyptian nationalism predates its Arab counterpart by many decades, having roots in the 19th century and becoming the dominant mode of expression of Egyptian anti-colonial activists and intellectuals until the early 20th century. The ideology espoused by Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood is mostly supported by the lower-middle strata of Egyptian society.

Egypt has the oldest continuous parliamentary tradition in the Arab world. The first popular assembly was established in 1866. It was disbanded as a result of the British occupation of 1882, and the British allowed only a consultative body to sit. In 1923, however, after the country's independence was declared, a new constitution provided for a parliamentary monarchy.

Economy

Egypt's economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum imports, natural gas, and tourism; there are also more than three million Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Libya, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf, and Europe. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970 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, limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress the economy.

The government has invested in communications and physical infrastructure. Egypt has received United States foreign aid since 1979 (an average of $2.2 billion per year) and is the third-largest recipient of such funds from the United States following the Iraq war. Egypt's economy mainly relies on these sources of income: tourism, remittances from Egyptians working abroad, and revenues from the Suez Canal.

Egypt has a developed energy market based on coal, oil, natural gas, and hydropower. Substantial coal deposits in northeast Sinai are mined at the rate of about 600,000 tonnes (590,000 long tons; 660,000 short tons) per year. Oil and gas are produced in the western desert regions, the Gulf of Suez, and the Nile Delta. Egypt has huge reserves of gas, estimated at 2,180 cubic kilometers (520 Cu, Ni), and LNG up to 2012 exported to many countries. In 2013, the Egyptian General Petroleum Co (EGPC) said the country will cut exports of natural gas and tell major industries to slow output this summer to avoid an energy crisis and stave off political unrest, Reuters has reported. Egypt is counting on top liquid natural gas (LNG) exporter, Qatar to obtain additional gas volumes in summer while encouraging factories to plan their annual maintenance for those months of peak demand, said EGPC chairman, Tarek El Barkatawy. Egypt produces its energy, but has been a net oil importer since 2008 and is rapidly becoming a net importer of natural gas.

Economic conditions have started 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 International Monetary Fund (IMF) has rated Egypt as one of the top countries in the world undertaking economic reforms. Some major economic reforms undertaken by the government since 2003 include a dramatic slashing of customs and tariffs. A new taxation law implemented in 2005 decreased corporate taxes from 40% to the current 20%, resulting in a stated 100% increase in tax revenue by the year 2006.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Egypt increased considerably before the removal of Hosni Mubarak, exceeding $6 billion in 2006, due to economic liberalization and privatization measures taken by the minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieddin. Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has experienced a drastic fall in both foreign investment and tourism revenues, followed by a 60% drop in foreign exchange reserves, a 3% drop in growth, and a rapid devaluation of the Egyptian pound.

Although one of the main obstacles still facing the Egyptian economy is the limited trickle-down of wealth to the average population, many Egyptians criticize their government for higher prices of basic goods while their standards of living or purchasing power remain relatively stagnant. Corruption is often cited by Egyptians as the main impediment to further economic growth. The government promised major reconstruction of the country's infrastructure, using money paid for the newly acquired third mobile license ($3 billion) by Etisalat in 2006 In the Corruption Perceptions Index 2013, Egypt was ranked 114 out of 177.

Egypt's most prominent multinational companies are the Orascom Group and Raya Contact Center. The information technology (IT) sector has expanded rapidly in the past few years, with many start-ups selling outsourcing services in North America and Europe, operating with companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, and other major corporations, as well as many small and medium-sized enterprises. Some of these companies are the Xceed Contact Center, Raya, E Group Connections, and C3. The IT sector has been stimulated by new Egyptian entrepreneurs with government encouragement.

An estimated 2.7 million Egyptians abroad contribute actively to the development of their country through remittances (US$7.8 billion in 2009), as well as circulation of human and social capital and investment. Remittances, money earned by Egyptians living abroad and sent home, reached a record US$21 billion in 2012, according to the World Bank.

Egyptian society is moderately unequal in terms of the income distribution, with an estimated 35–40% of Egypt's population earning less than the equivalent of $2 a day, while only around 2–3% may be considered wealthy.

Culture

Egypt is a recognized cultural trendsetter in the Arabic-speaking world. Contemporary Arabic and Middle-Eastern culture is heavily influenced by Egyptian literature, music, film, and television. Egypt gained a regional leadership role during the 1950s and 1960s, giving a further enduring boost to the standing of Egyptian culture in the Arabic-speaking world.

Egyptian identity evolved in the span of a long period of occupation to accommodate Islam, Christianity, and Judaism; and a new language, Arabic, and its spoken descendant, Egyptian Arabic which is also based on many Ancient Egyptian words.

The work of early 19th-century scholar Rifa'a al-Tahtawi renewed interest in Egyptian antiquity and exposed Egyptian society to Enlightenment principles. Tahtawi co-founded education reformer Ali Mubarak a native Egyptology school that looked for inspiration to medieval Egyptian scholars, such as Suyuti and Maqrizi, who themselves studied the history, language, and antiquities of Egypt.

Egypt's Renaissance peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the work of people like Muhammad Abduh, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, Muhammad Loutfi Goumah, Tawfiq el-Hakim, Louis Awad, Qasim Amin, Salama Moussa, Taha Hussein, and Mahmoud Mokhtar. They forged a liberal path for Egypt expressed as a commitment to personal freedom, secularism, and faith in science to bring progress.

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