Egypt, officially Arab Republic of Egypt, country in northeastern Africa and southwestern Asia. It is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Israel and the Red Sea, on the south by Sudan, and on the west by Libya. The country has a maximum length from north to south of about 1085 km (about 675 mi) and a maximum width, near the southern border, of about 1255 km (about 780 mi). It has a total area of 997,739 sq km (385,229 sq mi). Cairo is the capital and largest city.
The land of the Nile River, Egypt is the cradle of one of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations and has a recorded history that dates from about 3200 BC. The descriptive material that follows is pertinent to modern Egypt. The History section covers Egypt from ancient times, including the Dynastic Period (3200 BC-343 BC), the Hellenistic Period (332 BC-30 BC), Roman and Byzantine Rule (30 BC-AD 638), the Caliphate and the Mamelukes (642-1517), Ottoman Domination (1517-1882), and British colonialism (1882-1952) as well as modern, independent Egypt (1952- ).
LAND AND RESOURCES Less than one-tenth of the land area of Egypt is settled or under cultivation. This territory consists of the valley and delta of the Nile, a number of desert oases, and land along the Suez Canal. More than 90 percent of the country consists of desert areas, including the Libyan Desert in the west, a part of the Sahara, and the Arabian Desert (also called the Eastern Desert), which borders the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez, in the east. The Libyan Desert (also known as the Western Desert) includes a vast sandy expanse called the Great Sand Sea. Located here are several depressions with elevations below sea level, including the Qattara Depression, which has an area of about 18,000 sq km (about 7000 sq mi) and reaches a depth of 133 m (436 ft) below sea level; also found here are the oases of Siwa, Kharijah, Baḩriyah, Farafra, and Dakhla. Much of the Arabian Desert occupies a plateau that rises gradually east from the Nile Valley to elevations of about 600 m (about 2000 ft) in the east and is broken along the Red Sea coast by jagged peaks as high as about 2100 m (about 7000 ft) above sea level. In the extreme south, along the border with Sudan, is the Nubian Desert, an extensive region of dunes and sandy plains. The Sinai Peninsula consists of sandy desert in the north and rugged mountains in the south, with summits looming more than about 2100 m (about 7000 ft) above the Red Sea. Mount Catherine (Jabal Katrinah) (2637 m/8652 ft), the highest elevation in Egypt, is in the Sinai Peninsula, as is Mount Sinai (Jabal Mosá), where, according to the Old Testament, Moses received the Ten Commandments.
The Nile enters Egypt from Sudan and flows north for about 1545 km (about 960 mi) to the Mediterranean Sea. For its entire length from the southern border to Cairo, the Nile flows through a narrow valley lined by cliffs. Lake Nasser, a huge reservoir formed by the Aswan High Dam, extends south across the Sudan border. The lake is about 480 km (about 300 mi) long and is 16 km (10 mi) across at its widest point. About two-thirds of the lake lies in Egypt. South of a point near the town of Idfû, the Nile Valley is rarely more than 3 km (2 mi) wide. From Idfû to Cairo, the valley averages 23 km (14 mi) in width, with most of the arable portion on the western side. In the vicinity of Cairo the valley merges with the delta, a fan-shaped plain, the perimeter of which occupies about 250 km (about 155 mi) of the Mediterranean coastline. Silt deposited by the Rosetta (Arabic Rashid), Damietta (Arabic Dumyat), and other distributaries has made the delta the most fertile region in the country. However, the Aswan High Dam has reduced the flow of the Nile, causing the salty waters of the Mediterranean to erode land along the coast near the Nile. A series of four shallow, brackish lakes extends along the seaward extremity of the delta. Another larger lake, Birkat Qarûn, is situated inland in the desert north of the town of Al Fayyûm. Geographically and traditionally, the Nile Valley is divided into two regions, Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt, the former consisting of the delta area and the latter comprising the valley south of Cairo.
Although Egypt has about 2450 km (1520 mi) of coastline, two-thirds of which are on the Red Sea, indentations suitable as harbors are confined to the delta. The Isthmus of Suez, which connects the Sinai Peninsula with the African mainland, is traversed from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Suez by the Suez Canal.
Natural Resources Egypt has a wide variety of mineral deposits, some of which, such as gold and red granite, have been exploited since ancient times. The chief mineral resource of contemporary value is petroleum, found mainly in the Red Sea coastal region, at Al ‘Alamayn (El ‘Alamein) on the Mediterranean, and in the Sinai Peninsula. Other minerals include phosphates, manganese, iron ore, and uranium. Natural gas is also extracted.
Plants and Animals The vegetation of Egypt is confined largely to the Nile delta, the Nile Valley, and the oases. The most widespread of the few indigenous trees is the date palm. Others include the sycamore, tamarisk, acacia, and carob. Trees that have been introduced from other lands include the cypress, elm, eucalyptus, mimosa, and myrtle, and various types of fruit trees. The alluvial soils of Egypt, especially in the delta, sustain a broad variety of plant life, including grapes, many kinds of vegetables, and such flowers as the lotus, jasmine, and rose. In the arid regions alfa grass and several species of thorn are common. Papyrus, once prevalent along the banks of the Nile, is now limited to the extreme south of the country.
Because of its arid climate Egypt has few indigenous wild animals. Gazelles are found in the deserts, and the desert fox, hyena, jackal, wild ass, boar, jerboa, and ichneumon inhabit various areas, mainly the delta and the mountains along the Red Sea. Among the reptiles of Egypt are lizards and several kinds of poisonous snakes, including the asp and the horned viper. The crocodile and hippopotamus, common in the lower Nile and Nile delta in antiquity, are now restricted to the upper Nile. Birdlife is abundant, especially in the Nile delta and Nile Valley. The country has approximately 300 species of birds, including the sunbird, golden oriole, egret, hoopoe, plover, pelican, flamingo, heron, stork, quail, and snipe. Birds of prey found in Egypt include eagles, falcons, vultures, owls, kites, and hawks. Many species of insects are found in Egypt—beetles, mosquitoes, flies, and fleas being especially numerous; scorpions are found in desert areas. About 100 species of fish can be found in the Nile and in the deltaic lakes. 36495zkz39ktf4v
Agriculture Egypt is predominantly an agricultural country, with about 40 percent of the labor force engaged in crop farming, herding, or fishing. The pattern of land ownership was greatly altered by the Agricultural Reform Decree of 1952, which limited individual holdings to about 80 hectares (about 200 acres), a figure revised in 1961 to about 40 hectares (about 100 acres), and revised again to about 20 hectares (about 50 acres) in 1969. Lands requisitioned by the government were distributed to the fellahin (peasants), but an economic gap still remains between the middle-class farmers and the fellahin. Government programs have expanded arable areas through reclamation, irrigation (notably since the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970), and the use of advanced technology (fertilizers, mechanized equipment).
The yields of Egyptian farmlands are now among the highest in the world. Egypt is one of the world’s leading producers of long-staple (long-fibered) cotton. Annual cotton lint production in 1997 was about 890,000 metric tons. Warm weather and plentiful water permit as many as three crops a year, giving Egypt abundant agricultural yields. In the early 1990s principal crops, ranked by estimated value and annual production in metric tons, included rice (3.9 million), tomatoes (4.7 million), wheat (4.6 million), maize (5.2 million), sugarcane (11.6 million), potatoes (1.8 million), and oranges (1.7 million). A wide variety of other vegetables and fruits are also grown.
The principal pastoral industry of Egypt is the breeding of beasts of burden. The livestock population in 1997 included 2.7 million cattle, 2.8 million buffalo, 3.5 million sheep, 3.2 million goats, 1.7 million asses, and 52 million poultry.
Fishing Egypt has a significant fishing industry. In 1995 the annual catch was 302,800 metric tons. Among the most productive areas are the shallow deltaic lakes, Birkat Qarûn, and the Red Sea. The formerly productive sardine fisheries along the Mediterranean coast have been greatly depleted since the construction of the Aswan High Dam. A fishing industry is being developed in Lake Nasser. kt495z6339kttf
Mining Crude petroleum, which accounts for 37 percent of export earnings, is the most important mineral product of Egypt. Production was about 26.4 million barrels annually in the early 1960s. As a result of the discovery in the 1950s and 1960s of large new fields in the Al ‘Alamayn and Gulf of Suez areas, and a major exploration effort in the 1970s, annual production of crude petroleum increased to 337 million barrels in 1996. Proven reserves stood at 6.2 billion barrels in 1992 as Egypt renewed exploration, signing 12 agreements with foreign companies to drill new wells. The country is encouraging natural gas production to supply domestic energy needs, with annual extraction in 1996 of 17.9 billion cu m (631 billion cu ft).
Other important products of the mining industry in the early 1990s included phosphate rock (1.5 million metric tons), iron ore (1.2 million tons metal content), and salt (1.1 million tons). Uranium ore began to be mined near Aswan in 1991.