Facts and Information About Egypt

Egypt (North Africa) Introduction and Overview

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Egypt, one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations, still draws visitors and businessmen by the plane-load. Ancient monuments, the Red Sea coast, Nile Cruises and Africa's largest city, Cairo, are among its many attractions.

Location: Egypt is located in North Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Libya is on the west and the Gaza Strip and the Red Sea make up the eastern border; see map.

Area: Egypt covers just over 1 million square kilometers, about the same size as France and Germany combined.

Capital City: Cairo

Population: Around 78 million people live in Egypt.

Language: Arabic (official), English and French are widely understood by educated classes.

Religion: Muslim (mostly Sunni) 94%, Coptic Christian, and other 6%.

Climate: It's hot and sunny for most of the year in Egypt. Winters (November to February) are generally mild. More about Egypt's weather and average temperatures.

When to Go: October - April when it's a bit cooler, but the Red Sea coast is a year-round destination. Learn more about the best time to visit Egypt.

Currency: Egyptian Pound

Egypt's Main Attractions:

  • The Pyramids of Giza: The Pyramids represent one of the greatest architectural feats by man. The last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid is one of the world's oldest tourist attractions and the reason most people visit Egypt today. More about the Pyramids.
  • Luxor: Luxor is known as the world's largest open-air museum. Luxor and Karnak Temples are hugely impressive as are the tombs across the Nile in the Valley of Kings and Queens.
  • Egyptian Museum in Cairo: With over 120,000 artifacts, the museum houses an incredible display depicting ancient Egypt's glorious reign. Mummies, sarcophagi, pottery, jewelry and of course King Tutankhamen's treasures.
  • Abu Simbel: The two temples built for the pharaoh Ramesses II have been attracting visitors since Victorian times. Almost as impressive as the monument itself is the story of its restoration in the 1960's. More about Abu Simbel ...
  • Hurghada/Red Sea Coast: The Red Sea coast is hugely popular with beach lovers and divers. Package tours operate from every European country and are often very affordable ... more about Hurghada.

Travel to Egypt

Egypt's International Airport: Egypt's main airport is Cairo International Aiport (Airport code: CAI), 12 miles (20 km's) northeast of Cairo's city center. There are also international airports in Sharm El Sheikh (Airport Code: SSH) and Alexandria (Airport Code: ALY).

Getting to Egypt: Egypt is easily accessible by air direct from the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. A few ferries operate from Greece and Cyprus and sail into Alexandria. More about getting to Egypt and getting around.

Egypt's Embassies/Visas: A valid passport and a tourist visa are required for most nationalities. Tourist visas are available at Egyptian embassies and consulates around the world.

Egypt's Tourist Information Office: Misr Travel Tower, Abbassia Square, Cairo, Egypt. Tel: 285-4509/284-1970; E-mail: http://www.egypt.travel/index.php?nav1=contact; Web Site: http://www.egypt.travel/index.php.

Egypt's Economy and Politics

Economy: Occupying the northeast corner of the African continent, Egypt is bisected by the highly fertile Nile valley, where most economic activity takes place.

Egypt's economy was highly centralized during the rule of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser but has opened up considerably under former President Anwar El-Sadat and current President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak. Cairo has aggressively pursued economic reforms to encourage inflows of foreign investment and facilitate GDP growth. In 2005, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif's government reduced personal and corporate tax rates, reduced energy subsidies, and privatized several enterprises. The stock market boomed, and GDP grew about 7% each year since 2006. Despite these achievements, the government has failed to raise living standards for the average Egyptian and has had to continue providing subsidies for basic necessities. Foreign direct investment has increased significantly in the past two years. Egypt's export sectors - particularly natural gas - have bright prospects.

Politics/History: 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 B.C., and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 B.C., 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 with the overthrow of the British-backed monarchy in 1952. 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 meet the demands of Egypt's growing population through economic reform and massive investment in communications and physical infrastructure.

Egyptian youth and opposition groups, inspired by events in Tunisia leading to overthrow of the government there, organized a "Day of Rage" campaign on 25 January 2011 (Police Day) to include non-violent demonstrations, marches, and labor strikes in Cairo and other cities throughout Egypt. Protester grievances focused on police brutality, state emergency laws, lack of free speech and elections, high unemployment, rising food prices, inflation, and low minimum wages. Within several days of the onset of protests, President MUBARAK addressed the nation pledging the formation of a new government, and in a second address, he offered additional concessions, which failed to assuage protesters and resulted in an escalation of the number and intensity of demonstrations and clashes with police. On 11 February MUBARAK resigned and national leadership was assumed by a Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). The SCAF dissolved the Egyptian parliament, suspended the nation's constitution, and formed a committee to recommend constitutional changes to facilitate a political transition through democratic elections. Following some delays, elections for a new parliament took place between November 2011 and January 2012. Presidential elections held in May and June witnessed the victory of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed MURSI over former Prime Minister Ahmed SHAFIQ.