Total: 1,001,450 sq km
Land: 995,450 sq km
Water: 6,000 sq km
Total: 2,612 km
border countries (6):
Gaza Strip 13 km
Israel 208 km
Libya 1,115 km
Sudan 1,276 km
Coastline: 2,450 km
Total: 4,477 km
People and Society
Egypt is the most populated country in the Middle East, and the third most populous on the African continent, with about 97 million inhabitants as of 2017. Its population grew rapidly from 1970 to 2010 due to medical advances and increases in agricultural productivity enabled by the Green Revolution. Egypt’s population was estimated at 3 million when Napoleon invaded the country in 1798.
Egypt society in 1990 reflected both ancient roots and the profound changes that have occurred since Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the country in 1798. Land tenure, crops, and cultivation patterns had all been transformed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the country had become increasingly urbanized and industrialized. Nevertheless, approximately half the population still lived in rural areas where settlement patterns remained defined, as they had been since pharaonic times, by the Nile River and irrigated agriculture. Villages were clustered along both banks of the Nile and along myriad irrigation canals in the Delta.
The land-reform measures implemented by the government in the 1950s and 1960s led to the redistribution of nearly 15 percent of the arable land to about 10 percent of the rural population. Land reform limited individual landownership to twenty-one hectares, thus forcing the wealthiest landed families to sell most of their holdings. Small peasant proprietors were the main beneficiaries of the redistribution. By the early 1980s, however, continued population growth and rising production costs had eroded many of the accomplishments of land reform.
Massive urbanization beginning after World War II has had a pervasive and accelerating impact on the nation ‘s cities, especially Cairo and Alexandria. These cities, which were once the enclaves of the relatively prosperous and privileged, have attracted millions of rural migrants, including landowning families ‘ children who wanted to pursue an education and illiterate sons and daughters of poor, landless peasants who were willing to work as unskilled laborers. The migrants have adapted to urban life by attempting to replicate the social organization found in villages. Residential patterns, employment practices, and socializing have tended to reflect and to reinforce relationships formed in the countryside.
Egypt is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country with Islam as its state religion. The percentage of adherents of various religions is a controversial topic in Egypt. An estimated 85 – 90% are identified as Muslim, 10 – 15% as Coptic Christians, and 1% as other Christian denominations. Although Egypt was a Christian country before the 7th Century, after Islam arrived, the country was gradually Islamised into a majority-Muslim country. It is not known when Muslims reached a majority variously estimated from 1000 A.D. to as late as the 14th century. Egypt emerged as a center of politics and culture in the Muslim world under Anwar Sadat, Islam became the official state religion and Sharia the main source of law. It is estimated that 15 million Egyptians follow Native Sufi orders, with the Sufi leadership asserting that the numbers are much greater as many Egyptian Sufis are not officially registered with a Sufi order.
Egyptian Arab 84.1%, Sudanese Arab 5.5%, Arabized Berber 2.2%, Bedouin 2.0%, Rom (Gypsy), and other 4.8%
Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes
Muslim (predominantly Sunni) 90%, Christian (majority Coptic Orthodox, other Christians include Armenian Apostolic, Catholic, Maronite, Orthodox, and Anglican) 10% (2015 est.)
The deserts of Egypt contain nomadic, seminomadic, and sedentary but formerly nomadic groups, with distinct ethnic characteristics. Apart from a few non-Arab tribal groups and the mixed urban population, the inhabitants of the Sinai and the northern section of the Eastern Desert are all fairly recent immigrants from Arabia, who bear some physical resemblances to Arabian Bedouin. Their social organization is tribal, each group conceiving of itself as being united by a bond of blood and as having descended from a common ancestor. Originally, tent dwellers and nomadic herders, many have become seminomads or even totally sedentary, as in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
The southern section of the Eastern Desert is inhabited by the Beja, who bears a distinct resemblance to the surviving depictions of predynastic Egyptians. The Egyptian Beja are divided into two tribes—the ʿAbābdah and the Bishārīn. The ʿAbābdah occupy the Eastern Desert south of a line between Qinā and Al-Ghardaqah; there are also several groups settled along the Nile between Aswān and Qinā. The Bishārīn live mainly in Sudan, although some dwell in the ʿIlbah Mountain region, their traditional place of origin. Both the ʿAbābdah and Bishārīn people are nomadic pastoralists who tend herds of camels, goats, and sheep.
The inhabitants of the Western Desert, outside the oases, are of mixed Arab and Amazigh (Berber) descent. They are divided into two groups, the Saʿādī (not to be confused with the Saʿīdī, Upper Egyptians) and the Mūrābiṭīn. The Saʿādī regard themselves as descended from Banū Hilāl and Banū Sulaym, the great Arab tribes that migrated to North Africa in the 11th century. The most important and numerous of the Saʿādī group are the Awlād ʿAlī. The Mūrābiṭīn clans occupy a client status in relation to the Saʿādī and may be descendants of the original Amazigh inhabitants of the region. Originally herders and tent dwellers, the Bedouin of the Western Desert have become either seminomadic or totally sedentary. They are not localized by clan, and members of a single group may be widely dispersed. Many peoples have since mixed with them, including Egyptians from the Nile valley, Arabs, Sudanese, Turks, and sub-Saharan Africans.
Egypt has the largest overall education system in Africa, and it has grown rapidly since the early 1990s. In recent years the Government of Egypt has given greater priority to improving the education system. According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Egypt is ranked 108 in the HDI, and 9 in the lowest 10 HDI countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, in 2014. With the help of the World Bank and other multilateral organizations, Egypt aims to increase access in early childhood to care and education and the inclusion of ICT at all levels of education, especially at the tertiary level. The government is responsible for offering free education at all levels. The current overall expenditure on education is about 12.6 percent as of 2007. The Ministry of education is also tackling with a number of issues: trying to move from a highly centralized system to offering more autonomy to individual institutions, thereby increasing accountability.
The public education system in Egypt consists of three levels: the basic education stage for 4–14 years old: kindergarten for two years followed by a primary school for six years and preparatory school (ISCED Level 2) for three years. Then, the secondary school (ISCED Level 3) stage is for three years, for ages 15 to 17, followed by the tertiary level. Education is made compulsory for 9 academic years between the ages of 4 and 14. Moreover, all levels of education are free within any government-run schools. According to the World Bank, there are great differences in educational attainment of the rich and the poor, also known as the “wealth gap.” Although the median years of school completed by the rich and the poor are only one or two years the wealth gap reaches as high as nine or ten years.
Promotional examinations are held at all levels except in grades 6 and 9 at the basic education level and the grade 12 in the second stage, which applies standardized regional or national exams. The Ministry of Education is responsible for making decisions about the education system with the support of three Centers: the National Center of Curricula Development, the National Center for Education Research, and the National Center for Examinations and Educational Evaluation. Each center has its own focus in formulating education policies with other state-level committees. On the other hand, the Ministry of Higher Education supervises the higher education system.
Egypt launched its National Strategic Plan for Pre-University Education Reform (2007 – 2012). The Strategic Plan (which has the subtitle ‘Towards an educational paradigm shift’), which is a comprehensive, sustainable, and collective approach towards ensuring an education of quality for all and developing a knowledge society. Its key elements are access and participation; teachers; pedagogy; curriculum and learning assessment; textbooks and learning materials; management and governance; and a quality improvement strategy.
Egypt’s economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum imports, natural gas, and tourism; there are also more than three million Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Libya, 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 United States 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. Egypt’s economy mainly relies on these sources of income: tourism, remittances from Egyptians working abroad and revenues from the Suez Canal.
However, the economy has continued to face many hurdles. The general standard of living in Egypt remains rather low, and in relation to the size of its population, its economic resources are limited. Land remains its main source of natural wealth, but the amount of productive land is insufficient to support the population adequately. Increases in population have put pressure on resources, producing chronic underemployment, and many Egyptians have sought employment abroad.
Since 2000, the pace of structural reforms, including fiscal, monetary policies, taxation, privatization and new business legislation, helped Egypt move towards a more market-oriented economy and prompted increased foreign investment. The reforms and policies have strengthened macroeconomic annual growth results which averaged 8% annually between 2004 and 2009 but the government largely failed to equitably share the wealth and the benefits of growth have failed to trickle down to improve economic conditions for the broader population, especially with the growing problem of unemployment and underemployment.
About 96 percent of Egypt’s total area is desert. Lack of forests, permanent meadows, or pastures places a heavy burden on the available arable land, which constitutes only about 3 percent of the total area. This limited area, is, however, highly fertile and is cropped more than once a year. That is why Agriculture remains an important sector of the Egyptian economy. It contributes nearly one-seventh of the GDP, employs roughly one-fourth of the labor force, and provides the country—through agricultural exports—with an important part of its foreign exchange.
The area of agricultural land in Egypt is confined to the Nile Valley and Delta, with a few oases and some arable land in Sinai. The total cultivated area is 7.2 million feddans (1 feddan = 0.42 ha). The entire crop area is irrigated, except for some rain-fed areas on the Mediterranean coast. Over the past four decades, an area of 900 000 feddans of newly reclaimed land has been added to the agricultural area. The landholdings are fragmented, with the average size of farm units being 2.5 feddans. The total area cropped annually is about 11.5 million feddans, which represents a cropping ratio of about 2:1. Egypt has an arid climate with an annual average rainfall ranging from 60 to 190 mm along the Mediterranean coast to 25 to 60 mm in the Nile delta, and less than 25 mm in upper Egypt and adjacent areas. The climate is generally very uniform with good sunshine. In addition, the Nile is an exceptional source of water, and soil near the Nile is generally of excellent quality.
Egypt’s total agricultural crop production has increased by more than 20 percent in the past decade. During the same period, the rate of population growth has increased at a slightly higher rate than the increase in crop production. The most important crops grown in Egypt are discussed briefly below.
Cereals: Rice is one of the major field crops, grown on nearly 500 000 feddans, and is considered the second most important export crop after cotton. Wheat is the major winter cereal grain crop and the third major crop in terms of area planted (about 600 000 feddans). Maize is the second most important crop (750 000 feddans), but at least 50 percent of its production is used for livestock and poultry feed.
Fiber crops: Cotton has traditionally been the most important fiber crop in Egypt and the leading agricultural export crop.
Sugar crops: Sugarcane is the main sugar crop in upper Egypt. About 90 percent of the yield is used for sugar extraction. Sugar beet also grows in large areas in the Nile delta and contributes to the sugar industry in Egypt.
Food Legumes: These include a number of bean crops that are used for human consumption, such as broad beans and soybeans.
Forage crops: Egyptian clover, berseem, is the major winter forage crop cultivated in the Nile Valley and Delta. It is the most widely grown field crop and occupies an area which totals 1.2 million feddans.
Fruits: Citrus, primarily oranges that represent 85 percent of total citrus production, makes up 50 percent of total fruit production. The fruit-planted area has expanded over the last three decades to reach about 200 000 feddans. Other subtropical fruits are also grown in Egypt, including grapes, stone fruits and pome fruits.
Vegetable: Tomatoes are grown in three seasons – winter, summer, and autumn – on about 3 percent of Egypt’s total planted area. Losses in tomato crops have been large as a result of tomato leaf curl virus, early and late blight, and nematodes. Potatoes are the second most important vegetable after tomatoes, both in terms of cash value and total tonnage produced.
The first systematic effort in modern Egyptian history to create a manufacturing sector was undertaken during Muhammad Ali ‘ s rule in the first half of the nineteenth century. Although that attempt failed to achieve the ambitious goals set for it, the rudiments of modern manufacturing were put in place. These consisted primarily of food processing, such as rice milling and sugar refining, and textile production, including cotton ginning and production of linen and woolen fabrics. Little was accomplished, however, for about ninety years afterward, and the economy remained essentially dependent on cotton exports.
During the 20th century, manufacturing grew to be one of the largest sectors of Egypt’s economy, accounting (along with mining) for roughly one-fourth of the GDP by the 21st century. Domestic manufactures were weak from the late 19th century until about 1930 because of free trade policies that favoured importing foreign products. Motivated by the need to increase national income, to diversify the economy, and to satisfy the aspirations of nascent nationalism, the government imposed a customs tariff on foreign goods in 1930 that promoted the development of Egyptian manufactures. The Bank of Egypt also extended loans to Egyptian entrepreneurs in the 1920s and ’30s to help stimulate Egyptian domestic production. A succession of companies were founded that engaged in printing, cotton ginning, transport, spinning and weaving (linen, silk, and cotton), vegetable oil extraction, and the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and rayon. Egypt was a major Allied base during World War II (1939–45) but was largely cut off from European imports; this situation further fueled the development of manufacturing, particularly of textile products.
Industries were located mainly in the urban governorates. Cairo and Giza accounted for about 37.5 percent of all industries and Alexandria for more than 23 percent. Industrial location was governed by factors such as population density, as in the case of food processing, and by the availability of skilled labor, as in the case of electronics in Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria, as well as in the case of furniture in Damietta and Al Qalyubiyah, north of Cairo. The concentration of industries both expressed and reinforced regional disparities as well as the skewed population distribution.
Textiles and clothing is one of the largest manufacturing and exporting processes in the country and a huge employment absorber. The Egyptian apparel industry is attractive for two reasons. First, its proximity to European markets, whose rapidly changing fashions require quick replenishment. Egypt’s geographical proximity to style-conscious Europe is a logistical advantage. Second, the production of garments is a low-capital and high-labor-intensive industry, and the local population of 66 million provides a ready workforce as well as a natural local consumer market that acts as a springboard for exports. The textile industry contributes with one quarter of Egypt’s non-oil export proceeds, with Cotton textiles comprising the bulk of Egypt’s TC export basket.
By the beginning of the 21st century, most large manufacturing enterprises were still owned or operated by the state, although the government had begun to sell substantial holdings to the private sector. Major manufactures included chemicals of all sorts (including pharmaceuticals), food products, textiles and garments, cement and other building materials, and paper products as well as derivatives of hydrocarbons (including fuel oil, gasoline, lubricants, jet fuel, and asphalt). Iron, steel, and automobiles were of growing importance to the Egyptian economy.
Banking and Finance
Modern banking activities date from the mid-19th century. The Bank of Egypt opened in 1858 and the Anglo-Egyptian Bank in 1864. The French bank Crédit Lyonnais began operations in Egypt in 1866, followed by the Ottoman Bank (1867) and then other French, Italian, and Greek banks. The National Bank of Egypt (1898) and the Agricultural Bank of Egypt (1902) were founded with British capital. The first purely Egyptian Bank was the Banque Misr (1920).
From its inception the National Bank of Egypt assumed the main functions of a central bank, a status that was confirmed by law in 1951. In 1957 all English and French banks and insurance companies were nationalized and taken over by various Egyptian joint-stock companies; thereafter, all shareholders, directors, and managers of those financial institutions were bound by law to be Egyptian citizens. Banque Misr, long responsible for controlling a number of industrial companies in addition to conducting ordinary banking business, was nationalized in 1960. As of 1961 the National Bank of Egypt—which had also been nationalized in 1960—was divided into a commercial bank that maintained the original name and the Central Bank of Egypt, which functioned as a central bank. Later that year, all remaining financial institutions were nationalized, and their operations were concentrated in five commercial banks, in addition to the central bank, the government-sponsored Public Organization for Agricultural Credits and Co-operatives, the Development Industrial Bank, and three mortgage banks. The national currency, the Egyptian pound (Arabic: ginīh), is issued by the central bank.
The government again reorganized the banking system in the early 1970s, merging some of the major banks and assigning special functions to each of the rest. Two new banks were created, and foreign banks were again permitted in the country as part of a program aimed at liberalizing the economy. Of particular interest were joint banking ventures between Egyptian and foreign banks. In 1980 Egypt’s first international bank since the revolution was opened and a national investment bank was established. Islamic banks have been set up in Egypt, paying dividends to their investors instead of interest, which is proscribed under Islamic law. In 1992 the stock exchanges at Cairo (1903) and Alexandria (1881), which had been closed since the early 1960s, were reopened, and in 1997 they were fully merged as the Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchange.
The supply of money has, in general, followed the development of the economy; the authorities have aimed at tolerable increases in the price level, although some prices soared during the 1970s and ’80s. Long pegged to the U.S. dollar, the pound was allowed to float in January 2003.
Egypt is a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Since World War II the international liquidity of the Egyptian economy, including the Special Drawing Rights, added in 1970, has been depressed. In the late 1970s both internal and external debts rose, primarily because of large government subsidies to the private sector. In the 1980s and ’90s the government gradually introduced price increases on goods and services, effectively reducing (though not eliminating) subsidies for food and fuel. In 1991 Egypt signed an agreement with the IMF and the World Bank called the Economic Reform and Structural Adjustment Program, which reduced the fiscal deficit, removed consumer subsidies, eliminated price controls, liberalized trade, reformed labour laws, and privatized state-owned enterprises. Although the program strengthened Egypt’s economy during the 1990s, economic growth slowed in the early 21st century. In late 2016, persistent dollar shortages and waning aid from its Gulf allies led Cairo to turn to the IMF once again for a 3-year, $12 billion loan program.
Tourism is one of the leading sources of income, crucial to Egypt’s economy. At its peak in 2010 the sector employed about 12% of Egypt’s workforce serving approximately 14.7 million visitors Egypt, and providing revenues of nearly $12.5 billion, as well as contributing more than 11% of GDP and 14.4% of foreign currency revenues. The Giza Necropolis is one of Egypt’s most well-known tourist attractions; it is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence.
The number of tourists in Egypt stood at 0.1 million in 1951. Tourism became an important sector of the economy from 1975 onwards, as Egypt eased visa restrictions for almost all European and North American countries and established embassies in new countries like Austria, Netherlands, Denmark and Finland. In 1976, tourism was a focal point of the Five Year Plan of the Government, where 12% of the budget was allocated to upgrading state-owned hotels, establishing a loan fund for private hotels, and upgrading infrastructure (including road, rail, and air connectivity) for major tourist centers along the coastal areas. Tourism reached a pinnacle in 2010 by reaching 14.7 million visitors. Since then the number of tourists has significantly declined (down to 9.5 million in 2013) and revenue down to $5.9 billion due to security threats and civil unrest.
During the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, the number of visitors plummeted by over 37% that year falling from 14 million in 2010 to 9 million by the end of 2011. This has impacted a diverse range of businesses directly or indirectly dependent on tourism, from travel accommodation and tourist attractions to car rental and air transportation, as well as health and wellness industries. Tour operators offering heavy discounts to encourage tourists back have been somewhat successful at the Red Sea resorts where prices remain lower compared to 2011.
Major tourist destinations include the millennia-old monuments in the Nile Valley. Principal among them are the Pyramids and Great Sphinx at Giza, the Abu Simbel temples south of Aswan and the Karnak Temple Complex and Valley of the Kings near Luxor.
Attractions in Cairo include the Cairo Museum and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha. The coast of the Sinai Peninsula has well-visited seaside resorts, in addition to Hurghada city on the Red Sea coast and the Famous El Gouna Resort 25 km Hurghada.
Giza, 20 km southwest of Cairo, Luxor, about 500 km south of Cairo, Abu Simbel, about 850 km south of Cairo, Alexandria is a main summer resort, Sinai Peninsula, Ain Sukhna, about 110 km east of Cairo, and Assiut in south of Egypt are the other major tourist destination.
Egypt’s beaches on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, which extend to over 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles), are also popular tourist destinations; the Gulf of Aqaba beaches, Safaga, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor, Dahab, Ras Sidr, and Marsa Alam are popular cites.
In 2017, Bloomberg said Egypt has “shed its years of social and political unrest” and makes the top 20 list of 2017 travel destinations. The latest United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has revealed that Egypt is one of the world’s fast-growing tourist destination for 2017, it raised to 8 million compared to the prior year which was about 5.26 million.