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Egypt enjoys a unique geographical location. It is an Arab-African country situated on the north-eastern corner of the African continent. It is also partly an Asian country, being linked to that continent by the Sinai Peninsula, which has always played a pivotal role in history as a crossing point between the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. Due to its singular geographical situation, Egypt has always been a connecting link between the world’s continents. Although the country’s position was affected following the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope route, it later regained its vital role after the creation of the Suez Canal. Egypt lies between latitudes 22° and 32° and between longitudes 24° and 37° to the east of the Greenwich Meriden.

The Arab Republic of Egypt consists of a total area of about 1,002,000 square kilometres, of which only 35,189 square kilometres, ie, 3.6%, are populated.

Cairo, the capital of the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a time-honoured city, with an outstanding position among world capitals. It has a population of approximately 17,000,000, ranking 21st among world cities in terms of population, and making it the largest in the Arab world and Africa.

The Arab Republic of Egypt is divided into four major parts:

1- Nile Valley and Delta
This consists of an area of about 33,000 square kilometers, accounting for 4% of the total area of the country, while the remaining area, ie, 96%, is desert.

It extends in the south from above Wadi Halfa up to the Mediterranean coast in the north.
It is divided into:
- Upper Egypt, extending from Wadi Halfa to the south of Egypt
- Lower Egypt (Nile Delta), extending from the south of Cairo to the Mediterranean coast in the north

2- Western Desert
The Western Desert occupies an area of about 671.000 sq km, ie, 68% of the country’s total area, extending from the Nile Valley in the east to the Egyptian-Libyan borders in the west and from the Mediterranean coast in the north to Egypt’s southern borders with Sudan.
The Western Desert terrain is dominated by sand dunes, extending from north to south. It is divided into two sections:
- The northern section, extending from the Mediterranean coast to the Great Depression area
- The southern section, extending from the south of the Great Depression area to the borders of Sudan

3 - Eastern Desert
With an area of about 225,000 sq. km, ie, 25% of the country’s total area, the Eastern Desert is noted for its mountain range along the Red Sea coast, with peaks that rise up to about 2,000 metres above sea level.

4 - Sinai Peninsula
With an area of about 61,000 sq. km, ie, 6% of the country’s total area, the Sinai Peninsula is triangular in shape, with its base in the north and apex in the south. It is bounded by the Mediterranean coast to the north, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, and the Suez Canal to the west.

Climate is determined by many factors, chief of which are location, terrain and atmospheric pressure and water surfaces. Basically, Egypt lies within the dry tropical region, except for the northern parts that lie within the warm moderate region, with a climate similar to the Mediterranean, characterised by hot dry summers and moderate winters with little rainfall.

Natural Resources
Egypt’s land area is about 238 million feddans, of which only 7.7. million feddans are cultivated, while the remainder consists of desert, lakes and territorial waters.

Water resources
Egypt depends for its water supply on the following:
- surface water from the Nile, rain and storm water and subterranean water. While The Nile remains the main source of fresh water, there are additional, albeit limited resources, consisting of recycled agricultural drainage water resulting from irrigating cultivated land; and treated sanitary waste water.
The quantity of water available for use at present is 61.61 billion cubic metres per annum, broken down as follows:
- 53.3 billion cubic metres of Nile water from the Aswan Dam reservoir, to irrigate cultivated land (old and newly-reclaimed)
- 3.3. billion cubic metres of underground water (in the Delta, Upper Egypt and Sinai) for drinking purposes
- 7.2. billion cubic metres of recycled agricultural drainage water, for other industrial purposes
- 0.8 billion cubic metres of treated sanitary waste water, for non-consumer purposes.

Mineral Resoures
The Arab Republic of Egypt has a large wealth of major minerals, particularly petroleum, phosphate, iron and manganese.

Arabic is Egypt’s official language, but English and French are widely spoken.

Islam is the country's main religion. Coptic Christians make up most of the remaining population.

The unit of currency is the Egyptian pound (LE), which is divided up into 100 piastres(pt).

Administrative Division and local Government
The Arab Republic of Egypt is divided into 26 governorates, each comprising a number of urban districts, provincial towns (marakez) and villages. The city of Luxor is an independent administrative entity.

Geographical regions
The country is divided into seven regions as follows:
1 — Southern Upper Egypt
2 — Central Upper Egypt
3 — Northern Upper Egypt
4 — Greater Cairo
5 — Canal Region (Canal governorates plus North and South Sinai governorates)
6 — Delta Region
7 — Alexandria and Matrouh
At present, Egypt has about 4,625 villages in addition to 22,704 affiliate and subsidiary hamlets.


Egypt is the bastion of faith and the faithful on earth, the connecting link between the past and the present and truly the “cradle of civilisation”. This is proved by the history of the Ancient Egyptian civilisation: Egypt was the world’s first state to emerge as a stable, central political unit, when its people permanently settled on the banks of the River Nile.

Under the rule of King Menes, the First of Egypt’s Pharaohs, its provinces were united at the beginning of the third millennium BC. At that time, there emerged the greatest and most advanced civilisation known to the Ancient World, namely the Pharaonic Civilisation. The monuments and landmarks of this civilisation are still extant, bearing witness to the greatness of the Ancient Egyptians, who understood “total development”, and, therefore, accorded due attention to all economic considerations in the areas of agriculture, industry, trade and irrigation.

Herodotus´ statement that “Egypt is the Gift of the Nile” is only half-true. In point of fact, Ancient Egyptian civilisation evolved as a result of creative interaction between the Ancient Egyptians and their physical surroundings. This fact is more clearly reflected in the words of the modern Egyptian historian Shafiq Ghorbal: “Egypt is the gift of the Egyptians.”

Throughout times of strength, as well as weakness, Egypt has maintained its unique identity, formed through a process of interaction between its unique cultural characteristics and other civilisations, including the Pharaonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic peoples. While being a melting-pot for all such civilisations, Egypt has over the years maintained its own distinct identity through the unity of culture and language.

The Pharaonic Period
Civilisation in Egypt started in pre-historic times, estimated by some archaeologists to be around 100,000 years ago. Since the late Palaeolithic era (10.000 years BC), the ancient Egyptians considered themselves as a separate nation, calling themselves “The People of Egypt” or “The People of the Earth”. At that time, there were two separate kingdoms in Egypt. The first was founded in Lower Egypt, with Butu as its capital, the papyrus as its emblem, Horus as its deity and the snake as its symbol. The Southern Kingdom had Nekhen as its capital, Seth as its deity and the lotus as its emblem. Several attempts were made to unite both the north and south kingdoms but were unsuccessful until the year 3,200 BC, when King Menes (Narmer) ascended the throne. His rule marked the beginning of written history and the era of dynasties, which followed in succession until the 30th dynasty.

The Old Kingdom (2980 BC - 2475 BC)
During this era, principles of central government were established. Menes was called the King of Both Lands and “Bearer of Both Crowns”. At this time, hieroglyphic writing, i.e. sacred engraving, was devised.

Kings were actively involved in securing the country’s borders and trade between Egypt and Sudan was developed. Egypt then embarked on a glorious period of its history, known as the pyramid-builders’ age, when the first pyramid of Saqqara was built.

With the flourishing of agriculture, industry and trade, the first river fleet was also introduced by the Egyptians.

The Middle Kingdom (2160 BC — 1580 BC)
Kings of the Middle Kingdom attended to those projects most beneficial to the people such as irrigation, agriculture and trade. During that era, a canal was dug to connect the Nile with the Red Sea. Mines and quarries were operated and arts and architecture flourished.
However, towards the end of this kingdom, Egypt was invaded by the Hyksos in 1957 BC, who occupied and ruled the country for about 150 years.

The New Kingdom (1580 BC — 1150 BC)
At the hands of King Ahmus I, the Hyksos were beaten and expelled from Egypt.

And, learning from experience, a strong Egyptian army was built, thus making it possible to create a great empire extending from the Euphrates in the east to the fourth cataract on the River Nile in the south.

This era also witnessed Akhenaton´s religious revolution. He called for the worship of one deity symbolised by the sun. He also built a new capital for Egypt, which he named Aketaton. From the 21st to the 28th dynasty, Egypt was occupied by the Assyrians in 670 BC and by the Persians in 523 BC. The last native dynasty came to an end in 332 BC, when Alexander the Great invaded Egypt and was recognised as a Pharaoh.

Arts under the Pharaonic Civilisation
The Ancient Egyptians were the first to introduce systems of government, setting up the authorities required to administer the country’s affairs.

Also, the vizier’s position was created to assist the Pharaoh in administering government affairs, and the vizier himself was provided with staff, thereby ushering in the first system of local government.

On the religious front, Ancient Egyptians had already arrived at some concepts ranging from polytheism to monotheism advocated by Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton),who was highly regarded for his philosophical thinking. Then came the country’s outstanding achievements in architecture. The first pyramid ever built in Egypt was Zoser’s. However the Giza Pyramids, together with the Sphinx, built during the 4th dynasty, are the most famous of the 97 pyramids built as tombs for Pharaohs.

During the period of the Middle Kingdom, many funerary temples were built. The most famous of these was the Labyrinth Temple or the “Maze Palace” as it was called by the Greeks. It was built in Hawara by King Amenmehat III, who also built castles, fortresses and walls along Egypt’s eastern borders.
The Middle Kingdom period was the heyday of architectural arts, when exquisite inscriptions and fine artworks were engraved on the walls of colossal temples, chief of which were Karnak, Luxor and Abu Simbel.

Humanity is also indebted to Egyptians for inventing writing with the advent of the “Hieroglyphic Alphabet”, composed of 24 letters. In particular, Egyptians excelled in religious writing, the oldest examples of which were “The Text Pyramid” and the “Book of the Dead”, which contained texts written on papyrus and were buried with the dead to protect them from the perils of the “after life”.

Ancient Egyptian wrote music and stories, too. Music was used for educating young people as well as in public and private ceremonies, including funerals.

Costumes in Pharaonic Egypt varied depending on class. In general, clothes were made of soft linen or silk fabrics imported from Ancient Syria (Phoenicia) and differed according to the occasion.
Ornaments were also known to ancient Egyptians, and were derived from natural surroundings such as papyrus, palm-trees, lotus flowers and precious stones. At the same time, women, used Kohl as eye-liner and wore bracelets, necklaces and rings.

Egypt in the Greek Era
Having beaten the Persians in Asia Minor, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in the year 332 BC. The Egyptians, who had been involved in constant revolts against the greatly-resented Persian rule, welcomed Alexander, who admired and took an interest in Egyptian religion. He later selected a unique site on the Mediterranean Sea, where he established a new town bearing his name and made it the capital of Greek rule in Egypt and a principal sea harbour.

Egypt under the Ptolemies
(323 BC — 30 BC)
After Alexander’s death, Egypt was ruled by his general, Ptolemy, who founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty that ruled Egypt for three centuries and adopted Alexandria as its capital. Later, though, because of a series of weak kings and continuous revolts by the Egyptians, the Ptolomaic dynasty soon degenerated. Thereafter, Rome stepped in and put an end to the rule of Queen Cleopatra in 30 BC.

The Egyptian Civilisation under the Ptolemies
Alexandria was well known not only as a centre of outstanding achievements in arts, science, industry and trade but also as the prime harbour on the Mediterranean thanks to its famed lighthouse, considered by the Greeks to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The city was further renowned for its university, which symbolised a great Hellenistic-Egyptian civilisation.

Alexandria University
At Alexandria University, founded by the Ptolemies, scientists came to significant conclusions concerning the earth’s rotation around the sun and the approximate circumference of the planet. The University was also famous for the study of medicine, particularly anatomy and surgery. The most famous university scientists were the geometrician Euclides, the geographer Ptolemy and the Egyptian historian Maniton.

Library of Alexandria
(Bibliotheca Alexandrina) and its Cultural Influence
The Ptolemies also established a large library in Alexandria. It was considered the greatest in the world at that time and contained more than 500,000 papyrus rolls. The Ptolemies ordered that each visiting scientist should donate a copy of his work, thus bringing the number documents to more than 700,000.

Egyptian Civilisation under the Romans
In 30 BC, Egypt was conquered by the Romans and became a province in their empire. However, due to its unique geographical position, the fertility of its land and its cultural and urban development, the country was regarded as the empire’s most precious property. During this period, agriculture and industry, particularly glass manufacturing, flourished. Egypt was especially known for glass blowing and paper manufacturing, as well as making perfume, cosmetics and fine linen fabrics.

The Egyptian capital was practically the largest trading centre in the east Mediterranean and the second city of the Roman Empire. And the university maintained its position as a centre of scientific research and a seat of learning for scholars from all over the world.

Egyptian Civilisation during the Coptic Era
Coptic architecture upheld the spirit of ancient Pharaonic art. And churches built from the 5th century AD up to the Arab conquest of Egypt are models of Coptic art

The prevailing style of painting during the Coptic era was an extension of the Fresco style (or oxidised colour painting) on gypsum-coated walls inherited from previous eras.

Also, a unique form of church music, in harmony with Ancient Egyptian melodies, emerged during the Coptic era. And, indeed, some of the church tunes played today in Coptic churches still bear Pharaonic names.

Aspects of Islamic Civilisation in Egypt
Under Islamic rule, Egypt generally enjoyed a golden age in arts and architecture. This was evidenced in the building of many mosques, fortresses and city walls. The first Islamic capital of Egypt was founded at Fustat, which has developed into the modern city of Cairo.

The Nilometer on the Island of Roda in modern Cairo, built by Abbassid Caliph Al-Mutawakel Billah in 295 AD, is known to be the oldest Islamic monument in Egypt.

The period also witnessed the development of local Islamic architecture. The Al-Azhar Mosque, built by Jawahr Al Siqilli, general for the Fatimid Caliph Al- Mu´izz Lidin Ellah, and the Al Anwar and Al-Aqmar Mosques are examples of Fatimid architecture. And the Al Geoshi Mausoleum is a model for dome structures and mosques built around the tombs of eminent men of religion. During the Ayyubid period, further advances were made in the field of architecture, and Salah Eddin´s (Saladin´s) Citadel still stands out as a lofty, striking example of Islamic architecture.

The Mamelukes were no less advanced in this field. They also left behind a great wealth of finely-designed and decorated mosques, domes, mystics’ houses, palaces, schools, khans (inns), fortresses and public drinking fountains. The most notable arts of the period were wood-engraving and ornamentation, textiles, porcelain and stained glass.


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