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July 2005

Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, 1988

Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, 1988

The republic of Egypt is located in Northern Africa, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan, and includes the Asian Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt covers an area of 1,001,450 sq. km. (386,000 sq. mi.), approximately equal to Texas and New Mexico combined. Cairo is the capital city (pop. estimated at 16 million) and other cities include Alexandria (6 million), Aswan, Asyut, Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia.

Egypt’s terrain consists of desert, except for the Nile valley and delta. In general, the climate is dry, with hot summers and moderate winters.

Arabic is the official Egyptian language; other languages include English and French.

The Egyptians are a fairly homogeneous people of Hamitic origin. Mediterranean and Arab influences appear in the north, and there is some mixing in the south with the Nubians of northern Sudan. Ethnic minorities include a small number of Bedouin Arab nomads in the eastern and western deserts and in the Sinai, as well as some 50,000-100,000 Nubians clustered along the Nile in Upper (southern) Egypt. Religions include Muslim, which is mostly Sunni (94%) and Coptic Christian and other (6%).

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and the second-most populous on the African Continent. The literacy rate is about 57% of the adult population. Education is free through university and compulsory from ages six through fifteen.

Egypt has endured as a unified state for more than 5,000 years, and archeological evidence indicates that a developed Egyptian society has existed for much longer. Egyptians take pride in their "pharaonic heritage" and in their descent from what they consider mankind's earliest civilization. The Arabic word for Egypt is Misr, which originally connoted "civilization" or "metropolis." Egypt received independence from the U.K. in 1922 and a constitution was established in 1971.

The Egyptian economy relies heavily on tourist, oil and gas, and Suez Canal revenues, all of which are vulnerable to outside factors. The tourism sector suffered tremendously following a terrorist attack on tourists in Luxor in October 1997, the 2000-01 Gulf War, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, and the 2003 Iraq War, affecting the economy as a whole.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. Dept. of State Background Notes, 07/2005, 08/2004