|Arab Republic of Egypt |
National name: Jumhuriyat Misr al-Arabiyah
President: Hosni Mubarak (1981)
Prime Minister: Ahmed Nazif (2004)
Land area: 384,344 sq mi (995,451 sq km); total area: 386,662 sq mi (1,001,450 sq km)
Population (2007 est.): 80,264,543 (growth rate: 1.7%); birth rate: 22.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 30.1/1000; life expectancy: 71.6; density per sq mi: 209
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Cairo, 11,146,000 (metro. area), 7,629,866 (city proper)
Other large cities: Alexandria, 3,891,000; Giza, 2,597,600 (part of Cairo metro. area); Shubra el Khema, 1,018,000 (part of Cairo metro. area); El Mahalla el Kubra, 462,300
Monetary unit: Egyptian pound
Languages: Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes
Ethnicity/race: Egyptian 98%, Berber, Nubian, Bedouin, and Beja 1%, Greek, Armenian, other European (primarily Italian and French) 1%
Religions: Islam (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, Christian 1%, other 6%
Literacy rate: 71.4% (2005 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP $334.4 billion (2006 est.); per capita $4,200. Real growth rate: 6.8%. Inflation: 6.5%. Unemployment: 10.3%. Arable land: 3%. Agriculture: cotton, rice, corn, wheat, beans, fruits, vegetables; cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats. Labor force: 21.8 million (2006); agriculture 32%, industry 17%, services 51% (2001 est.). Industries: textiles, food processing, tourism, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbons, construction, cement, metals, light manufactures. Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, zinc. Exports: $24.22 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): crude oil and petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metal products, chemicals. Imports: $35.86 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, wood products, fuels. Major trading partners: Italy, U.S., Syria, Germany, Spain, France, China, UK, Saudi Arabia (2004).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 10.4 million (2005); mobile cellular: 14.045 million (2005). Radio broadcast stations: AM 42 (plus 15 repeater stations), FM 14, shortwave 3 (1999). Television broadcast stations: 98 (Sept. 1995). Internet hosts: 2,254 (2006). Internet users: 5 million (2005).
Transportation: Railways: total: 5,063 km (2004). Highways: total: 92,370 km; paved: 74,820 km; unpaved: 17,550 km (2004 est.). Waterways: 3,500 km; note: includes Nile River, Lake Nasser, Alexandria-Cairo Waterway, and numerous smaller canals in delta; Suez Canal (193.5 km including approaches) navigable by oceangoing vessels drawing up to 17.68 m (2004). Ports and harbors: Alexandria, Damietta, El Dekheila, Port Said, Suez, Zeit. Airports: 87 (2004 est.).
International disputes: Egypt and Sudan retain claims to administer the two triangular areas that extend north and south of the 1899 Treaty boundary along the 22nd Parallel, but have withdrawn their military presence; Egypt is developing the Hala'ib Triangle north of the Treaty line; since the attack on Taba and other Egyptian resort towns on the Red Sea in October 2004, Egypt vigilantly monitors the Sinai and borders with Israel and the Gaza Strip; Egypt does not extend domestic asylum to some 70,000 persons who identify as Palestinians but who largely lack UNRWA assistance and, until recently, UNHCR recognition as refugees.
Egypt, at the northeast corner of Africa on the Mediterranean Sea, is bordered on the west by Libya, on the south by the Sudan, and on the east by the Red Sea and Israel. It is nearly one and one-half times the size of Texas. Egypt is divided into two unequal, extremely arid regions by the landscape's dominant feature, the northward-flowing Nile River. The Nile starts 100 mi (161 km) south of the Mediterranean and fans out to a sea front of 155 mi between the cities of Alexandria and Port Said.
Egyptian history dates back to about 4000 B.C., when the kingdoms of upper and lower Egypt, already highly sophisticated, were united. Egypt's golden age coincided with the 18th and 19th dynasties (16th to 13th century B.C.), during which the empire was established. Persia conquered Egypt in 525 B.C., Alexander the Great subdued it in 332 B.C., and then the dynasty of the Ptolemies ruled the land until 30 B.C., when Cleopatra, last of the line, committed suicide and Egypt became a Roman, then Byzantine, province. Arab caliphs ruled Egypt from 641 until 1517, when the Turks took it for their Ottoman Empire.
Napoléon's armies occupied the country from 1798 to 1801. In 1805, Mohammed Ali, leader of a band of Albanian soldiers, became pasha of Egypt. After completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, the French and British took increasing interest in Egypt. British troops occupied Egypt in 1882, and British resident agents became its actual administrators, though it remained under nominal Turkish sovereignty. In 1914, this fiction was ended, and Egypt became a protectorate of Britain.
Egyptian nationalism, led by Zaghlul Pasha and the Wafd Party, forced Britain to relinquish its claims on the country. Egypt became an independent sovereign state on Feb. 28, 1922, with Fu'ad I as its king. In 1936, by an Anglo-Egyptian treaty of alliance, all British troops and officials were to be withdrawn, except from the Suez Canal Zone. When World War II started, Egypt remained neutral.
When Israel declared independence in 1948, Egypt and other Arab countries attacked; by 1949, however, Israel had rebuffed them.
Tensions grew between the Wafd Party and the monarchy following independence, and in 1952, the army, led by Gen. Mohammed Naguib, seized power. Three days later, King Farouk abdicated in favor of his infant son. The monarchy was abolished and a republic proclaimed on June 18, 1953, with Naguib becoming president and prime minister. He relinquished the prime ministership in 1954 to Gamal Abdel Nasser, leader of the ruling military junta. Nasser also assumed the presidency in 1956.
Nasser's policies embroiled his country in continual conflict. In 1956, the U.S. and Britain withdrew their pledges of financial aid for the building of the Aswan High Dam. In response, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and expelled British oil and embassy officials. The Soviet Union then agreed to finance the dam and would come to exert increasing influence over Egypt in the coming decade. Israel, barred from the canal and exasperated by terrorist raids, invaded the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Britain and France, after demanding Egyptian evacuation of the canal zone, attacked Egypt on Oct. 31, 1956. Worldwide pressure forced Britain, France, and Israel to halt the hostilities. A UN emergency force occupied the canal zone, and all troops were evacuated in the spring of 1957.
From 1956 to 1961, Egypt and Syria united to form a single country called the United Arab Republic (UAR). Syria ended this relationship in 1961 after a military coup, but Egypt continued to call itself the UAR until 1971.
In 1967, border tensions between Egypt and Israel led to the Six-Day War. On June 5, Israel launched an air assault, and within days had annexed the Sinai Peninsula, the East Bank of the Jordan River, and the Golan Heights. A UN cease-fire on June 10 saved the Arabs from complete rout. Nasser declared the 1967 cease-fire void along the canal in April 1969 and began a war of attrition. On Sept. 28, 1970, Nasser died of a heart attack. Anwar el-Sadat, an associate of Nasser and a former newspaper editor, became the next president.
In July 1972, Sadat ordered the expulsion of Soviet “advisers and experts” from Egypt because the Russians had not provided the sophisticated weapons he felt were needed to retake territory lost to Israel in 1967.
The fourth Arab-Israeli War broke out on Oct. 6, 1973, during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Egypt swept deep into the Sinai, while Syria strove to throw Israel off the Golan Heights. A UN-sponsored truce was accepted on Oct. 22. In Jan. 1974, both sides agreed to a settlement negotiated by the U.S. that gave Egypt a narrow strip along the entire Sinai bank of the Suez Canal. In June, President Nixon made the first visit by a U.S. president to Egypt and full diplomatic relations were established. The Suez Canal was reopened on June 5, 1975.
In the most audacious act of his career, Sadat flew to Jerusalem at the invitation of Prime Minister Menachem Begin on Nov. 20, 1977, to discuss a permanent peace settlement. The Arab world reacted with fury. Egypt and Israel signed a formal peace treaty on March 26, 1979. The pact ended 30 years of war and established diplomatic and commercial relations.
By mid-1980, two-thirds of the Sinai had been transferred back to Egypt, but Sadat halted further talks with Israel in Aug. 1980 because of continued Israeli settlement of the West Bank. On Oct. 6, 1981, Sadat was assassinated by extremist Muslim soldiers at a parade in Cairo. Vice President Hosni Mubarak, a former air force chief of staff, succeeded him. Israel completed the return of the Sinai to Egyptian control on April 25, 1982. Israel's invasion of Lebanon in June brought a marked cooling in Egyptian-Israeli relations, but not a disavowal of the peace treaty.
The government has concentrated much of its time and attention in recent years on combating Islamic extremists, who have in particular targeted Copts (Egyptian Christians). In 1997, a terrorist attack on foreign tourists killed 70. During the 1990s, about 26,000 Islamic militants were imprisoned and dozens were executed.
Egypt and Sudan resumed diplomatic relations in March 2000, which broke off in 1995 after Egypt accused Sudan of attempting to assassinate Hosni Mubarak. Human rights activists have increased their criticism of Egypt for its heavy-handed crack down on potentially disruptive Islamic groups, and for the harassment of intellectuals advocating greater democracy.
At least 90 people died in a series of car-bomb explosions at popular Red Sea resort Sharm el Sheik in July 2005. Two militant groups claimed responsibility.
In July 2005, President Mubarak announced he would seek a fifth six-year term. Earlier in the year Mubarak had amended the constitution to allow for multiparty elections, the first in Egyptian history, and on Sept. 6, Mubarak was reelected with 88.6% of the vote. Turnout was 23%.
In Feb. 2006, an Egyptian ferry overturned in the Red Sea. More than 1,000 people died in the disaster.
In March 2007, voters overwhelmingly endorsed changes to the Constitution that strengthen the presidency. Voter turnout was low, at about 27%, and opposition groups claimed the vote was rigged.