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November 2011



Egypt (386,000 sq. mi.) is approximately equal to Texas and New Mexico combined, lies in Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan, and includes the Asian Sinai Peninsula. In 2007, it was estimated to have a population of 80,335,036, with 16 million in the capital city of Cairo. The official language is Arabic with English and French also widely spoken.

Egypt consists of a vast desert plateau interrupted by Nile valley and delta. Its climate is desert, with hot, dry summers and moderate winters. The highest point in Egypt is Mount Catherine 2,629 m (above sea level); the lowest point is the Qattara Depression -133 m (below sea level). Egypt's natural resources include: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, rare earth elements, and zinc. Natural hazards facing Egypt are: periodic droughts, frequent earthquakes, flash floods, landslides, driving windstorm called khamsin occurs in spring, dust storms, and sandstorms.

A unified kingdom arose in what is now Egypt, circa 3200 B.C., and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. In 341 B.C., the Persians took control; in turn, they were replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. The Arabs introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the 7th century and ruled for the next six centuries. Following the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub. To protect its investments, Britain seized control of Egypt's government in 1882. 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 tax resources. On 11 February 2011, recently appointed Vice President Suliman announced Mubarak's resignation and the assumption of national leadership by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). Mubarak and other high-ranking officials were arrested in mid-April. The constitution was suspended by the military caretaker government 13 February 2011 and a new provisional constitution adopted 30 March 2011.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 11/2011; 11/2010

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