Often thought of as the jewel in North Africa's crown, Egypt is a popular destination for history buffs, nature lovers and adventure seekers. It is home to some of the world's most iconic sights, including the Great Pyramid at Giza, the only surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Below, we list some of the essential information needed to plan a trip to this exceptional country.
Egyptian Pound (EGP)
Egypt is a presidential republic. The current president is Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Egypt is situated in the top right corner of North Africa. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, by Libya to the west, and by Sudan to the south. In the east, the country borders Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Red Sea.
Egypt has four land boundaries, totalling 1,624 miles/ 2,612 kilometers:
Gaza Strip: 8 miles/ 13 kilometers
Israel: 130 miles/ 208 kilometers
Libya: 693 miles/ 1,115 kilometers
Sudan: 793 miles/ 1,276 kilometers
Egypt has a total landmass of 618,544 miles/ 995,450 kilometers, making it more than eight times the size of Ohio, and more than three times the size of New Mexico. It is a hot, dry country, with an arid desert climate that results in scorching summers and moderate winters. Egypt's lowest point is the Qattara Depression, a sinkhole with a depth of -436 feet/ -133 meters, while its highest elevation is 8,625 feet/ 2,629 meters at the summit of Mount Catherine.
To the northeast of the country lies the Sinai Peninsula, a triangular stretch of desert that bridges the divide between North Africa and Southwest Asia. Egypt also controls the Suez Canal, which forms a sea link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, allowing onwards passage into the Indian Ocean. Egypt's size, strategic location and proximity to Israel and the Gaza Strip put the nation at the forefront of Middle Eastern geopolitics.
According to a July 2015 estimate by the CIA World Factbook, the population of Egypt is 86,487,396, with a projected growth rate of 1.79%. The life expectancy for the total population is around 73 years, while Egyptian women give birth to an average of 2.95 children during their lifetime. The population is almost evenly divided between men and women, while 25 - 54 years is the most populous age bracket, constituting 38.45% of the total population.
The official language of Egypt is Modern Standard Arabic. Various versions including Egyptian Arabic, Bedouin Arabic and Saidi Arabic are spoken in different areas of the country, while English and French are widely spoken and understood by the educated classes.
According to a 2006 census, Egyptians make up 99.6% of the country's population, with the remaining 0.4% including expatriate Europeans and asylum seekers from Palestine and Sudan.
Islam is the predominant religion in Egypt, with Muslims (mainly Sunni) accounting for 90% of the population. The remaining 10% includes a variety of Christian groups, including Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Catholic, Maronite, Orthodox and Anglican.
Overview of Egyptian History:
Evidence of human habitation in Egypt dates back to the tenth millennium BC. Ancient Egypt became a unified kingdom in approximately 3,150 BC and was ruled by a series of successive dynasties for almost 3,000 years. This period of pyramids and pharaohs was defined by its remarkable culture, with major advances in the areas of religion, arts, architecture and language. Egypt’s cultural richness was underpinned by an incredible wealth, founded on the agriculture and trade facilitated by the fertility of the Nile Valley.
From 669 BC onwards, the dynasties of the Old and New Kingdoms crumbled under an onslaught of foreign invasions. Egypt was conquered in turn by the Mesopotamians, the Persians, and in 332 BC, by Alexander the Great of Macedonia. The country remained part of the Macedonian empire until 31 BC, when it came under Roman rule. By the 4th Century AD, the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman empire had led to the replacement of traditional Egyptian religion - until Muslim Arabs conquered the country in 642 AD.
Arab rulers continued to rule Egypt until it was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1517. There followed a time of weakening economy, plague and famine, which in turn paved the way for three centuries of conflict over control of the country - including a briefly successful invasion by Napoleonic France. Napoleon was forced to leave Egypt by the British and the Ottoman Turks, creating a vacuum that allowed Ottoman Albanian commander Muhammad Ali Pasha to establish a dynasty in Egypt that lasted until 1952.
In 1869, the Suez Canal was completed after ten years of construction. The project nearly bankrupted Egypt, and the extent of the debts owed to European countries opened the door for a British takeover in 1882. In 1914, Egypt was established as a British protectorate. Eight years later, the country regained independence under King Fuad I; however, political and religious conflict in the Middle East in the wake of World War Two led to a military coup in 1952, and the subsequent establishment of the Egyptian republic.
Since the revolution, Egypt has experienced a time of economic, religious and political turmoil. This comprehensive timeline gives a detailed insight into Egypt's chaotic modern history, while this site provides an overview of the country's current economic situation.
NOTE: At the time of writing, parts of Egypt are considered to be politically unstable. It is strongly advised to check up-to-date travel warnings before planning your Egypt adventure.