Setting the Scene Egypt

With thanks to Wikipedia

The English name Egypt was borrowed from Middle French Egypte, from Latin Aegyptus, from ancient Greek Aígyptos. The Greek forms were borrowed from Late Egyptian (Amarna) Hikuptah "Memphis", a corruption of the earlier Egyptian name Hwt-ka-Ptah meaning "home of the ka (soul) of Ptah", the name of a temple to the god Ptah at Memphis.

The ancient Egyptian name of the country is Kemet which means "black land", referring to the fertile black soils of the Nile flood plains, distinct from the "red land" of the desert

History

There is evidence of rock carvings along the Nile terraces and in desert oases. In the 10th millennium BC, a culture of hunter-gatherers and fishers replaced a grain-grinding culture. Climate changes and/or overgrazing around 8000 BC began to desiccate the pastoral lands of Egypt, forming the Sahara. Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralized society.

By about 6000 BC a Neolithic culture rooted in the Nile Valley. During the Neolithic era, several predynastic cultures developed independently in Upper and Lower Egypt. The Badarian culture and the successor Naqada series are generally regarded as precursors to dynastic Egypt. The earliest known Lower Egyptian site, Merimda, predates the Badarian by about seven hundred years. Contemporaneous Lower Egyptian communities coexisted with their southern counterparts for more than two thousand years, remaining culturally distinct, but maintaining frequent contact through trade. The earliest known evidence of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BC.

A unified kingdom was founded c. 3150 BC by King Menes, leading to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia. Egyptian culture flourished during this long period and remained distinctively Egyptian in its religion, arts, language and customs. The first two ruling dynasties of a unified Egypt set the stage for the Old Kingdom period, c. 2700–2200 BC., which constructed many pyramids, most notably the Third Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the Fourth Dynasty Giza Pyramids.


 

The First Intermediate Period ushered in a time of political upheaval for about 150 years. Stronger Nile floods and stabilization of government, however, brought back renewed prosperity for the country in the Middle Kingdom c. 2040 BC, reaching a peak during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. A second period of disunity heralded the arrival of the first foreign ruling dynasty in Egypt, that of the Semitic Hyksos. The Hyksos invaders took over much of Lower Egypt around 1650 BC and founded a new capital at Avaris. They were driven out by an Upper Egyptian force led by Ahmose I, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty and relocated the capital from Memphis to Thebes.

The New Kingdom c. 1550–1070 BC began with the Eighteenth Dynasty, marking the rise of Egypt as an international power that expanded during its greatest extension to an empire as far south as Tombos in Nubia, and included parts of the Levant in the east. This period is noted for some of the most well known Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II. The first historically attested expression of monotheism came during this period as Atenism. Frequent contacts with other nations brought new ideas to the New Kingdom. The country was later invaded and conquered by Libyans, Nubians and Assyrians, but native Egyptians eventually drove them out and regained control of their country.

The Thirtieth Dynasty was the last native ruling dynasty during the Pharaonic epoch. It fell to the Persians in 343 BC after the last native Pharaoh, King Nectanebo II, was defeated in battle.

The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to Cyrene to the west, and south to the frontier with Nubia. Alexandria became the capital city and a centre of Greek culture and trade. To gain recognition by the native Egyptian populace, they named themselves as the successors to the Pharaohs. The later Ptolemies took on Egyptian traditions, had themselves portrayed on public monuments in Egyptian style and dress, and participated in Egyptian religious life.


 

The last ruler from the Ptolemaic line was Cleopatra VII, who committed suicide with her lover Mark Antony, after Caesar Augustus had captured them. The Ptolemies faced rebellions of native Egyptians often caused by an unwanted regime and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its annexation by Rome. Nevertheless Hellenistic culture continued to thrive in Egypt well after the Muslim conquest.

Christianity was brought to Egypt by Saint Mark the Evangelist in the 1st century. Diocletian's reign marked the transition from the Roman to the Byzantine era in Egypt, when a great number of Egyptian Christians were persecuted. The New Testament had by then been translated into Egyptian. After the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, a distinct Egyptian Coptic Church was firmly established.

The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a brief Persian invasion early in the 7th century, until in 639, Egypt was absorbed into the Islamic Empire by the Muslim Arabs. When they defeated the Byzantine Armies in Egypt, the Arabs brought Sunni Islam to the country. Early in this period, Egyptians began to blend their new faith with indigenous beliefs and practices, leading to various Sufi orders that have flourished to this day. These earlier rites had survived the period of Coptic Christianity.

Muslim rulers nominated by the Islamic Caliphate remained in control of Egypt for the next six centuries, with Cairo as the seat of the Caliphate under the Fatimids. With the end of the Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluks, a Turco-Circassian military caste, took control about AD 1250. By the late 13th century, Egypt linked the Red Sea, India, Malaya, and East Indies. They continued to govern the country until the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517, after which it became a province of the Ottoman Empire. The mid-14th-century Black Death killed about 40% of the country's population.

After the 15th century, the Ottoman invasion pushed the Egyptian system into decline. The defensive militarization damaged its civil society and economic institutions. The weakening of the economic system combined with the effects of plague left Egypt vulnerable to foreign invasion. Portuguese traders took over their trade

The brief French invasion of Egypt led by Napoleon Bonaparte began in 1798. The expulsion of the French in 1801 by Ottoman, Mamluk, and British forces was followed by four years of anarchy in which Ottomans, Mamluks, and Albanians -- who were nominally in the service of the Ottomans—wrestled for power. Out of this chaos, the commander of the Albanian regiment, Muhammad Ali (Kavalali Mehmed Ali Pasha) emerged as a dominant figure and in 1805 was acknowledged by the Sultan in Istanbul as his viceroy in Egypt; the title implied subordination to the Sultan but this was in fact a polite fiction: Ottoman power in Egypt was finished and Muhammad Ali, an ambitious and able leader, established a dynasty that was to rule Egypt until the revolution of 1952. In later years, the dynasty became a British puppet.

His primary focus was military: he annexed Northern Sudan (1820–1824), Syria (1833), and parts of Arabia and Anatolia; but in 1841 the European powers, fearful lest he topple the Ottoman Empire itself, forced him to return most of his conquests to the Ottomans, but he kept the Sudan and his title to Egypt was made hereditary. A more lasting result of his military ambition is that it required him to modernize the country. Eager to adopt the military (and therefore industrial) techniques of the great powers, he sent students to the West and invited training missions to Egypt. He built industries, a system of canals for irrigation and transport, and reformed the civil service.

The introduction in 1820 of long-staple cotton, the Egyptian variety of which became notable, transformed its agriculture into a cash-crop monoculture before the end of the century. The social effects of this were enormous: land ownership became concentrated and many foreigners arrived, shifting production towards international markets.

British colony

British rule lasted from 1882 when the British succeeded in defeating the Egyptian Army at Tel El Kebir in September and took control of the country, to the 1952 Egyptian revolution which made Egypt a republic and when British advisers were expelled.

Muhammad Ali was succeeded briefly by his son Ibrahim (in September 1848), then by a grandson Abbas I (in November 1848), then by Said (in 1854), and Isma'il (in 1863). Abbas I was cautious. Said and Ismail were ambitious developers, but they spent beyond their means. The Suez Canal, built in partnership with the French, was completed in 1869. The cost of this and other projects had two effects: it led to enormous debt to European banks, and caused popular discontent because of the onerous taxation it required. In 1875 Ismail was forced to sell Egypt's share in the canal to the British Government. Within three years this led to the imposition of British and French controllers who sat in the Egyptian cabinet, and, "with the financial power of the bondholders behind them, were the real power in the Government."

Local dissatisfaction with Ismail and with European intrusion led to the formation of the first nationalist groupings in 1879, with Ahmad Urabi a prominent figure. In 1882 he became head of a nationalist-dominated ministry committed to democratic reforms including parliamentary control of the budget. Fearing a reduction of their control, the UK and France intervened militarily, bombarding Alexandria and crushing the Egyptian army at the battle of Tel el-Kebir. They reinstalled Ismail's son Tewfik as figurehead of a de facto British protectorate.

In 1914, the Protectorate was made official, and the title of the head of state, which had changed from pasha to khedive in 1867, was changed to sultan, to repudiate the vestigial suzerainty of the Ottoman sultan, who was backing the Central powers in World War I. Abbas II was deposed as khedive and replaced by his uncle, Hussein Kamel, as sultan.

In 1906, the Dinshaway Incident prompted many neutral Egyptians to join the nationalist movement. After the First World War, Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party led the Egyptian nationalist movement to a majority at the local Legislative Assembly. When the British exiled Zaghlul and his associates to Malta on 8 March 1919, the country arose in its first modern revolution. The revolt led the UK government to issue a unilateral declaration of Egypt's independence on 22 February 1922.

Kingdom

The new government drafted and implemented a constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary system. Saad Zaghlul was popularly elected as Prime Minister of Egypt in 1924. In 1936, the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded. Continued instability due to remaining British influence and increasing political involvement by the king led to the dissolution of the parliament in a military coup d'état known as the 1952 Revolution. The Free Officers Movement forced King Farouk to abdicate in support of his son Fuad. British military presence in Egypt lasted until 1954.

Republic

On 18 June 1953, the Egyptian Republic was declared, with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic. Naguib was forced to resign in 1954 by Gamal Abdel Nasser – the real architect of the 1952 movement – and was later put under house arrest. Nasser assumed power as President in June, 1956. British forces completed their withdrawal from the occupied Suez Canal Zone on 13 June 1956. He nationalized the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956, prompting the 1956 Suez Crisis.

In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel invaded and occupied Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, which Egypt had occupied since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Three years later President Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat in 1970. Sadat switched Egypt's Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. He launched the Infitah economic reform policy, while clamping down on religious and secular opposition.

In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched the October War, a surprise attack against the Israeli forces occupying the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. It was an attempt to regain part of the Sinai territory Israel had captured 6 years earlier. Sadat hoped to seize some territory through military force, and then regain the rest of the peninsula by diplomacy. The conflict sparked an international crisis between the US and the USSR, both of whom intervened. The second UN-mandated ceasefire halted military action. While the war ended with a military stalemate, it presented Sadat with a political victory that later allowed him to regain the Sinai in return for peace with Israel.

Sadat made a historic visit to Israel in 1977, which led to the 1979 peace treaty in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. Sadat's initiative sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt's expulsion from the Arab League, but it was supported by most Egyptians. A fundamentalist military soldier assassinated Sadat in Cairo in 1981. He was succeeded by Hosni Mubarak.

In 2003, the Egyptian Movement for Change, popularly known as Kefaya, was launched to oppose the Mubarak regime and to establish democratic reforms and greater civil liberties.

2011 revolution

On 25 January 2011, widespread protests began against Mubarak's government. The objective of the protest was the removal of Mubarak from power. These took the form of an intensive campaign of civil resistance supported by a very large number of people and mainly consisting of continuous mass demonstrations. By 29 January it was becoming clear that Mubarak's government had lost control when a curfew order was ignored, and the army took a semi-neutral stance on enforcing the curfew decree. Some protesters, a very small minority in Cairo, expressed views against what they deemed was foreign interference, highlighted by the then-held view that the U.S. administration had failed to take sides, as well as linking the administration with Israel.

On 11 February 2011, Mubarak resigned and fled Cairo. Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had stepped down and that the Egyptian military would assume control of the nation's affairs in the short term. Jubilant celebrations broke out in Tahrir Square at the news. Mubarak may have left Cairo for Sharm el-Sheikh the previous night, before or shortly after the airing of a taped speech in which Mubarak vowed he would not step down or leave.On 13 February 2011, the high level military command of Egypt announced that both the constitution and the parliament of Egypt had been dissolved. The parliamentary election was to be held in September.

On 28 Nov 2011, Egypt held its first parliamentary election since the previous regime had been in power. Turnout was high and there were no reports of irregularities or violence, although members of some parties broke the ban on campaigning at polling places by handing out pamphlets and banners.

The flag

As a result of their conditional independence from Great Britain in 1922, the Egyptian royal family issued a Royal Decree establishing a national flag. This first flag was a major step for Egypt, and its colors were green with a white crescent and three stars in the middle.

The next version of the flag was established in 1958 by Presidential Decree, to incorporate aspects of Syria and Egypt, since they were merged into one country, the United Arab Republic. This new flag had three colors: red, white with two green stars, and black. The rectangular flag had a width of 1/3 the size of its length.

The flag was changed once again in 1972, with an amendment to the law. This new flag had the stars removed, and replaced with a golden hawk. The hawk was replaced in 1984 by the golden eagle of Salah El Dine, the Ayubbid Sultan of the Crusades who ruled Egypt and Syria in the 12th century. This flag still waves over Egypt today.

Geography

At 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,660 sq mi), Egypt is the world's 30th-largest country. In land area, it is about the same size as all Central America, twice the size of Spain, four times the size of the United Kingdom and the combined size of the US states of Texas and California. It lies between latitudes 22° and 32°N, and longitudes 24° and 36°E.


 

Nevertheless, due to the aridity of Egypt's climate, population centres are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta, meaning that about 99% of the population uses only about 5.5% of the total land area. Egypt is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and by 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. Winds create prolific sand dunes that peak at more than 100 feet (30 m) high. Egypt includes parts of the Sahara Desert and of the Libyan Desert. These deserts that protected the Kingdom of the Pharaohs from western threats were referred to as the "red land" in ancient Egypt.

Climate

Most of Egypt's rain falls in the winter months. South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 2 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 in) per year and at intervals of many years. On a very thin strip of the northern coast the rainfall can be as high as 410 mm (16.1 in), mostly between October and March. Snow falls on Sinai's mountains and some of the north coastal cities such as Damietta, Baltim, Sidi Barrany, etc. and rarely in Alexandria. Frost is also known in mid-Sinai and mid-Egypt.

Temperatures average between 80 °F (27 °C) and 90 °F (32 °C) in summer, and up to 109 °F (43 °C) on the Red Sea coast. Winter temperatures average between 55 °F (13 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C). A steady wind from the northwest helps lower temperatures near the Mediterranean coast. The Khamaseen is a wind that blows from the south in spring, bringing sand and dust, and sometimes raises the temperature in the desert to more than 100 °F (38 °C).

Prior to the construction of the Aswan Dam, the Nile flooded annually (colloquially The Gift of the Nile) replenishing Egypt's soil. This gave the country consistent harvest throughout the years.

The potential rise in sea levels due to global warming could threaten Egypt's densely populated coastal strip and have grave consequences for the country's economy, agriculture and industry. Combined with growing demographic pressures, a significant rise in sea levels could turn millions of Egyptians into environmental refugees by the end of the century, according to some climate experts.

Politics

Egypt has been officially named a "Republic" since 18 June 1953. However, it has been under Emergency Law continually since 1967 (with the exception of an 18-month break in 1980). Between 1981 and 2011, Egypt was ruled autocratically by Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, who came to power after the assassination of President Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat. Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik was sworn in as Prime Minister on 29 January 2011, following the resignation of Ahmed Nazif. Since President Mubarak's resignation during the 2011 revolution, Egypt's de facto government has been the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, chaired by Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

Although power is nominally organized under a multi-party semi-presidential system, whereby the executive power is theoretically divided between the President and the Prime Minister, in practice it has rested almost solely with the President who traditionally has been elected in single-candidate elections for more than fifty years. Egypt has also held regular multi-party parliamentary elections. The last presidential election, in which Mubarak won a fifth consecutive term, was held in September 2005. In 2009, Dr. Ali El Deen Hilal Dessouki, Media Secretary of the NDP, described Egypt as a "pharaonic" political system, and democracy as a "long term goal". Dessouki also stated that "the real centre of power in Egypt is the military".

In late February 2005, Mubarak announced in a surprise television broadcast that he had ordered the reform of the country's presidential election law, paving the way for multi-candidate polls in the upcoming presidential election. For the first time since the 1952 movement, the Egyptian people had an apparent chance to elect a leader from a list of various candidates. The President said his initiative came "out of my full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy." However, the new law placed restrictions on the candidates, designed to prevent well-known politicians such as Ayman Nour from standing against Mubarak, and paved the road for his easy re-election victory.

After the 2005 presidential elections observers alleged government interference in the election process through fraud and vote-rigging, and police brutality and violence by pro-Mubarak supporters against opposition demonstrators. After the election, Mubarak imprisoned Ayman Nour, and the U.S. government stated the "conviction of Mr. Nour, the runner-up in Egypt's 2005 presidential elections, calls into question Egypt's commitment to democracy, freedom, and the rule of law."

Most Egyptians were skeptical about the process of democratization and the intent of the election rules. Less than 25% of the country's 32 million registered voters (out of a population of more than 72 million) turned out for the 2005 elections.

Thirty-four constitutional changes voted on by parliament on 19 March 2007 prohibit parties from using religion as a basis for political activity, allow the drafting of a new anti-terrorism law to replace the emergency legislation in place since 1981, authorize broad police powers of arrest and surveillance, give the president power to dissolve parliament and end judicial election monitoring. Opposition members of parliament abstained from voting on the proposed changes. Only 27% of registered voters turned out under heavy police presence and tight political control. It was officially announced on 27 March 2007 that 75.9% of those who participated in the referendum approved the constitutional amendments. The results were endorsed by the rump parliament, thus allowing the introduction of laws that curb the activity of opposition elements, particularly Islamists.

The Egyptian military receives billions of dollars of aid from the United States. It remains Egypt's most powerful institution. It has dozens of factories manufacturing weapons as well as consumer goods, and it exempts itself from laws that apply to other sectors.

Foreign relations

Egypt's foreign policy is supported by its population size, historical events, military strength, diplomatic expertise and a strategic geographical position. It has extensive political influence in Africa and the Middle East. Cairo has been a crossroads of regional commerce and culture for centuries, and its intellectual and Islamic institutions are at the centre of the region's social and cultural development.

The permanent Headquarters of the Arab League are located in Cairo and the Secretary General of the Arab League has traditionally been Egyptian. Former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa is the current group's Secretary General. The Arab League briefly moved from Egypt to Tunis in 1978 to protest the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, returning in 1989.

Egypt was the first Arab state to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, with the signing of the treaty. Despite the peace treaty, Israel is still largely considered an enemy country within Egypt. Egypt has historically played an important role as a mediator in resolving disputes between various Arab states, and in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Egypt is a major ally of the United States.

In the 21st century, Egypt has had a major problem with immigration, as millions of Africans flee poverty and war. Border control methods can be "harsh, sometimes lethal."

Military

The Egyptian Armed forces have a combined troop strength of around 450,000 active personnel According to the Israeli chair of the former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz, the Egyptian Air Force has roughly the same number of modern warplanes as the Israeli Air Force and far more Western tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft batteries and warships than the IDF.

The Egyptian military has recently undergone massive modernization, mostly in its Air Force. Egypt is speculated by Israel to be the second country in the region with a spy satellite, EgyptSat 1, and is planning to launch 3 more satellites (DesertSat1, EgyptSat2 & DesertSat2) over the next two years.

Administrative divisions

Egypt is divided into 27 governorates. The governorates are further divided into regions. The regions contain towns and villages. Each governorate has a capital, sometimes carrying the same name as the governorate.

The Upper governorates are located south of Cairo, while the Lower governorates are located in the Delta of the Nile, north of Cairo.

Human rights

Several local and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have for many years criticized Egypt's human rights record as poor. In 2005, President Hosni Mubarak faced unprecedented public criticism when he clamped down on democracy activists challenging his rule. Some of the most serious human rights violations, according to HRW's 2006 report on Egypt, are routine torture, arbitrary detentions and trials before military and state security courts.

Egypt has also been cited for discriminatory personal status laws governing marriage, custody and inheritance, which critics say put women at a disadvantage. Laws concerning Coptic Christians which place restrictions on church building and open worship have been recently eased, but major construction still requires Government approval, while sporadic attacks on Christians and churches continue. Intolerance of Bahá'ís and unorthodox Muslim sects, such as Sufis and Shi'a, also remains a problem.

The Egyptian legal system only recognizes three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. When the Government moved to computerize identification cards, members of religious minorities, such as Bahá'ís, could not obtain identification documents. An Egyptian court ruled in early 2008 that members of other faiths can obtain identity cards without listing their faiths, and without becoming officially recognized. (For more on the status of religious minorities, see the Religion section.)

In 2007, Amnesty International released a report criticizing Egypt for torture and illegal detention. The report alleges that Egypt has become an international centre for torture, where other nations send suspects for interrogation, often as part of the War on Terror. The report calls on Egypt to bring its anti-terrorism laws into accordance with international human rights statutes and on other nations to stop sending their detainees to Egypt. Egypt's foreign ministry quickly issued a rebuttal to this report, claiming that it was inaccurate and unfair, as well as causing deep offense.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) is one of the longest-standing bodies for the defence of human rights in Egypt. In 2003, the Government established the National Council for Human Rights, headquartered in Cairo and headed by former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who directly reports to the President. The council has come under heavy criticism by local activists, who contend it undermines human rights work in Egypt by serving as a propaganda tool for the Government to excuse its violations and to give legitimacy to repressive laws such as the recently renewed Emergency Law. Egypt had announced in 2006 that it was in the process of abolishing the Emergency Law, but in March 2007, Mubarak approved several constitutional amendments to include "an anti-terrorism clause that appears to enshrine sweeping police powers of arrest and surveillance", suggesting that the Emergency Law will remain for the long haul.

Economy

Egypt's economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum exports, exports of natural gas, and tourism; there are also more than three million Egyptians working abroad, mainly in 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 U.S. 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. Its main revenues however come from tourism as well as traffic that goes through the Suez Canal.

Egypt has a developed energy market based on coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro power. Substantial coal deposits are in the northeast Sinai, and are mined at the rate of about 600,000 metric tons (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 1,940 cubic kilometres (470 cu mi), and LNG is exported to many countries.

Economic conditions have started to improve considerably after a period of stagnation from 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 taken by the new 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) into Egypt has increased considerably in the past few years, exceeding $6 billion in 2006, due to the recent economic liberalization and privatization measures taken by minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieddin.

Although one of the main obstacles still facing the Egyptian economy is the trickle down of the wealth to the average population, many Egyptians criticize their Government for higher prices of basic goods while their standards of living or purchasing power remains relatively stagnant. Corruption is often cited by Egyptians as the main impediment to further economic growth.

Egypt's most prominent multinational companies are the Orascom Group and Raya Contact Centre. The IT sector has expanded rapidly in the past few years, with many start-ups selling outsourcing services to North America and Europe, operating with companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and other major corporations, as well as many small and medium enterprises. Some of these companies are the Xceed Contact Centre, Raya, E Group Connections and C3. The 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.

Demographics

Egypt is the most populated country in the Middle East and the third most populous on the African continent, at about 80 million inhabitants in 2009. Population grew rapidly from 1970–2010 due to medical advances and increases in agricultural productivity, enabled by the Green Revolution. Egypt's population was estimated at only 3 million when Napoleon invaded the country in 1798. In 1939, Egypt had a population of 16.5 million.

The population is concentrated along the Nile (notably Cairo and Alexandria), in the Delta and near the Suez Canal. Approximately 90% of the population adheres to Islam and most of the rest to Christianity, primarily the Coptic Orthodox denomination. Apart from religious affiliation, Egyptians can be divided demographically into those who live in the major urban centres and the fellahin or farmers of rural villages.

Egyptians are by far the largest ethnic group in Egypt at 91% of the total population. Ethnic minorities include the Abazas, Turks, Greeks, Bedouin Arab tribes living in the eastern deserts and the Sinai Peninsula, the Berber-speaking Siwis (Amazigh) of the Siwa Oasis, and the Nubian communities clustered along the Nile. There are also tribal Beja communities concentrated in the south-eastern-most corner, and a number of Dom clans mostly in the Nile Delta and Faiyum who are progressively becoming assimilated as urbanization increases. According to the International Organization for Migration, an estimated 2.7 million Egyptians live abroad. Approximately 70% of Egyptian migrants live in Arab countries (923,600 in Saudi Arabia, 332,600 in Libya, 226,850 in Jordan, 190,550 in Kuwait with the rest elsewhere in the region) and the remaining 30 % are living mostly in Europe and North America (318,000 in the United States, 110,000 in Canada and 90,000 in Italy).

Egypt also hosts an unknown number of refugees and asylum seekers, estimated to be between 500,000 and 3 million. There are some 70,000 Palestinian refugees, and about 150,000 recently arrived Iraqi refugees, but the number of the largest group, the Sudanese, is contested. The once-vibrant Greek and Jewish communities in Egypt have almost disappeared, with only a small number remaining in the country, but many Egyptian Jews visit on religious occasions and for tourism. Several important Jewish archaeological and historical sites are found in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities.

Languages

The official language of the Republic is Modern Standard Arabic.[2] The spoken languages are: Egyptian Arabic (68%), Sa'idi Arabic (29%), Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic (1.6%), Sudanese Arabic (0.6%), Domari (0.3%), Nobiin (0.3%), Beja (0.1%), Siwi and others. Additionally, Greek, Armenian and Italian are the main languages of immigrants. In Alexandria in the 19th century there was a large community of Italian Egyptians and Italian was the "lingua franca" of the city.

The main taught foreign languages in schools are English, French, German and sometimes Italian.

The historical languages include the Egyptian languages (also known as Copto-Egyptian) consisting of ancient Egyptian and Coptic, and form a separate branch among the family of Afro-Asiatic languages.

The "Koiné" dialect of the Greek language was important in Hellenistic Alexandria, and was used in the philosophy and science of that culture, and was also studied by later Arabic scholars.

Religion

Egypt hosts two major religious institutions, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria established in the middle of the 1st century by Saint Mark the Evangelist, and Al-Azhar University founded in 970 CE by the Fatimids as the first Islamic University in the world.

Islam

Egypt is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country with Islam as its state religion. The percentage of the adherents of various religions is a controversial topic in Egypt, with different sources citing different figures. Around 90% are identified as Muslim A significant number of Muslim Egyptians also follow native Sufi orders, and there is a minority of Shi'a. Islam plays a central role in the lives of most Egyptian Muslims. The Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) is heard five times a day, and has the informal effect of regulating the pace of everything from business to media and entertainment. Cairo is famous for its numerous mosque minarets and is justifiably dubbed "the city of 1,000 minarets".Cairo also comprises a significant number of church towers.

Islam arrived in the 7th century, and Egypt emerged as a centre of politics and culture in the Muslim world. Under Anwar Sadat, Islam became the official state religion and Sharia the main source of law.

Christianity

There is a significant Christian minority in Egypt, who make up between 5% and 10% of the population. Over 90% of Egyptian Christians belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, an Oriental Orthodox Church. Other native Egyptian Christians are adherents of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church of Egypt and various other Protestant denominations. Non-native Christian communities are largely found in the urban regions of Cairo and Alexandria.

Coptic Christians face discrimination at multiple levels of the government, ranging from a disproportional representation in government ministries to laws that limit their ability to build or repair churches. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life ranks Egypt as the fifth worst country in the world for religious freedom. The Pew Forum also ranks Egypt among the 12 worst countries in the world in terms of religious violence against religious minorities and in terms of social hostilities against Christians. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed Egypt on its watch list for religious freedom that requires close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government.

Coptic Christians are minimally represented in law enforcement, state security and public office, and are being discriminated against in the workforce on the basis of their religion. The Coptic community, as well as several human rights activists and intellectuals, maintain that the number of Christians occupying government posts is not proportional to the number of Copts in Egypt. They are also the victims of discriminatory religious laws, anti-Christian judges, and anti-Christian state police. Anti-Christian laws include laws governing repairing old churches or constructing new ones, which are usually impossible tasks, requiring presidential permission to build a new church, and a governor’s permission to renovate even the bathroom in an already-built church. Anti-Christian judges tend to "legislate from the bench

Religious minorities

Egypt recognizes only three religions; Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Other faiths practiced by Egyptians, such as s small Bahá'í community, are not recognized by the state. Individuals wishing to include such religions on their state issued identifications are denied, and had been put in the position of either not obtaining required identification or lying about their faith. A 2008 court ruling allowed members of unrecognized faiths to obtain identification and leave the religion field blank.

Culture

Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a commemoration of the ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt's second largest city.

Egyptian culture has six thousand years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilizations and for millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that influenced later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and other African countries. After the Pharaonic era, Egypt itself came under the influence of Hellenism, Christianity, and Islamic culture. Today, many aspects of Egypt's ancient culture exist in interaction with newer elements, including the influence of modern Western culture, itself with roots in ancient Egypt.

Egypt's capital city, Cairo, is Africa's largest city and has been renowned for centuries as a centre of learning, culture and commerce. Egypt has the highest number of Nobel Laureates in Africa and the Arab World. Some Egyptian born politicians were or are at the helm of major international organizations like Boutros Boutros-Ghali of the United Nations and Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA.

Egypt is a recognized cultural trend-setter of the Arabic-speaking world, and contemporary Arab culture is heavily influenced by Egyptian literature, music, film and television. Egypt gained a regional leadership role during the 1950s and 1960s, which gave a further enduring boost to the standing of Egyptian culture in the Arab world.

The Nile Valley was home to one of the oldest cultures in the world, spanning three thousand years of continuous history. When Egypt fell under a series of foreign occupations after 343 BC, each left an indelible mark on the country's cultural landscape. Egyptian identity evolved in the span of this long period of occupation to accommodate, in principle, two new religions, Islam and Christianity; and a new language, Arabic, and its spoken descendant, Egyptian Arabic

After two thousand years of occupation, three ideologies competed for the attention of newly independent Egyptians: ethno-territorial Egyptian nationalism, secular Arab nationalism/pan-Arabism, and Islamism. 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 Arab nationalism reached a peak under Nasser but subsided under Sadat; meanwhile, the ideology espoused by Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood is present in small segments of the lower-middle strata of Egyptian society.

The work of early 19th-century scholar Rifa'a et-Tahtawi led to the Egyptian Renaissance, marking the transition from Medieval to Early Modern Egypt. His work renewed interest in Egyptian antiquity and exposed Egyptian society to Enlightenment principles. Tahtawi co-founded with 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

Art and architecture

The Egyptians were one of the first major civilizations to codify design elements in art and architecture. The wall paintings done in the service of the Pharaohs followed a rigid code of visual rules and meanings. Egyptian civilization is renowned for its colossal pyramids, temples and monumental tombs. Well-known examples are the Pyramid of Djoser designed by ancient architect and engineer Imhotep, the Sphinx, and the temple of Abu Simbel. Modern and contemporary Egyptian art can be as diverse as any works in the world art scene, from the vernacular architecture of Hassan Fathy and Ramses Wissa Wassef, to Mahmoud Mokhtar's sculptures, to the distinctive Coptic iconography of Isaac Fanous.The Cairo Opera House serves as the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital. Egypt's media and arts industry has flourished since the late 19th century, today with more than thirty satellite channels and over one hundred motion pictures produced each year. Cairo has long been known as the "Hollywood of the Middle East;" its annual film festival, the Cairo International Film Festival, has been rated as one of 11 festivals with a top class rating worldwide by the International Federation of Film Producers' Associations. To bolster its media industry further, especially with the keen competition from the Persian Gulf Arab States and Lebanon, a large media city was built. Some Egyptian-born actors include Omar Sharif.

Egyptian media are highly influential throughout the Arab World, attributed to large audiences and increasing freedom from government control Freedom of the media is guaranteed in the constitution; however, many laws still restrict this rightAfter the Egyptian presidential election of 2005, Ahmed Selim, office director for Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi, declared an era of a "free, transparent and independent Egyptian media."

Today, the Egyptian media is experiencing greater freedom. Several Egyptian Talk shows, like 90 Minutes and Al- Ashera Masa'an, which air on private channels, and even state television programs such as El-beit beitak criticize the Government, which was previously banned.

Literature is an important cultural element in the life of Egypt. Egyptian novelists and poets were among the first to experiment with modern styles of Arabic literature, and the forms they developed have been widely imitated throughout the Middle East. The first modern Egyptian novel Zaynab by Muhammad Husayn Haykal was published in 1913 in the Egyptian vernacular.[135] Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arabic-language writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Egyptian women writers include Nawal El Saadawi, well known for her feminist activism, and Alifa Rifaat who also writes about women and tradition.

Vernacular poetry is perhaps the most popular literary genre among Egyptians, represented by the works of Ahmed Fouad Negm (Fagumi), Salah Jaheen and Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi. In their belief, boats were used by the dead to accompany the sun around the world, as Heaven was referred to as “Upper Waters”. In Egyptian mythology, every night the serpentine god Apophis would attack the Sun Boat as it brought the sun (and as such order )back to the Kingdom in the morning. It is referred to as the “Boat of Millions” as all the gods and souls of the blessed dead may at one point or another be needed to defend or operate it.

Egyptian music is a rich mixture of indigenous, Mediterranean, African and Western elements. In antiquity, Egyptians were playing harps and flutes, including two indigenous instruments: the ney and the oud. Percussion and vocal music also became an important part of the local music tradition ever since. Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings to the creative work of people such as Abdu-l Hamuli, Almaz and Mahmud Osman, who influenced the later work of Egyptian music giants such as Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Abdel Halim Hafez. From the 1970s onwards, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly important in Egyptian culture, while Egyptian folk music continues to be played during weddings and other festivities. Some of the most prominent contemporary Egyptian pop singers include Amr Diab and Mohamed Mounir.

Egypt celebrates many festivals and religious carnivals, also known as mulid. They are usually associated with a particular Coptic or Sufi saint, but are often celebrated by all Egyptians irrespective of creed or religion. Ramadan has a special flavor in Egypt, celebrated with sounds, lights (local lanterns known as fawanees) and much flare that many Muslim tourists from the region flock to Egypt during Ramadan to witness the spectacle. The ancient spring festival of Sham en Nisim  has been celebrated by Egyptians for thousands of years, typically between the Egyptian months of Paremoude (April) and Pashons (May), following Easter Sunday.

Egypt is one of the boldest countries in the middle east in the music industry. The next generation of the Egyptian music is considered to be the rise, as the music was disrupted by some foreign influences, bad admixing, and abused oriental styles. The new arising talents starting from the late 1990s are taking over the rein now as they play different genres of many cultures. Rock And Metal music are prevailing widely in Egypt now,as much as the oriental jazz and folk music are becoming well-known now to the Egyptian and non-Egyptian fans

Sports

Football is the Popular National Sport of Egypt. Egyptian Football clubs Al-Ahly, El Zamalek, Ismaily, El-Ittihad El-Iskandary and El Masry are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time regional champions. The great rivalries keep the streets of Egypt energized as people fill the streets when their favorite team wins. The Cairo Derby is one of the fiercest derbies in Africa and the world, the BBC even picked it as one of the toughest 7 derbies in the world. The Egyptian national football team is ranked among the best in the world according to the FIFA World Rankings. The country is home to many African championships such as the Africa Cup of Nations. While, Egypt's national team has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1990, the Egyptian team won the Africa Cup Of Nations an unprecedented seven times, including two times in a row in 1957 and 1959 and an unprecedented three times in a row in 2006, 2008, and 2010 setting a world record.

Squash and tennis are other popular sports in Egypt. The Egyptian squash team has been known for its fierce competition in international championships since the 1930s. Amr Shabana is Egypt's best player and the winner of the world open three times and the best player of 2006.

The Egyptian Handball team also holds another record; throughout the 34 times the African Handball Nations Championship was held, Egypt won first place five times (including 2008), five times second place, four times third place, and came in fourth place twice. The team won 6th and 7th places in 1995, 1997 at the World Men's Handball Championship, and twice won 6th place at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

In 2007, Omar Samra joined Ben Stephens (England), Victoria James (Wales) and Greg Maud (South Africa) in putting together an expedition to climb Mount Everest from its South side. The Everest expedition began on 25 March 2007 and lasted for just over 9 weeks. On the 17 May at precisely 9:49 am Nepal time, Omar became the first and youngest Egyptian to climb 8,850m Mount Everest. He also became the first Egyptian to climb Everest from its South face, the same route taken by Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1953.

 

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