Egypt country profile

  • 6 November 2015
  • From the section Africa
Map of Egypt

Long known for its pyramids and ancient civilisation, Egypt is the largest Arab country and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics in modern times.

In the 1950s President Gamal Abdul Nasser pioneered Arab nationalism and the non-aligned movement, while his successor Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel and turned back to the West.

Egypt's teeming cities - and almost all agricultural activity - are concentrated along the banks of the Nile, and on the river's delta. Deserts occupy most of the country.

The economy depends heavily on agriculture, tourism and cash remittances from Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.

However, rapid population growth and the limited amount of arable land are straining the country's resources and economy, and political unrest has often paralysed government efforts to address the problems.


Arab Republic of Egypt

Capital: Cairo

  • Population 83.9 million

  • Area 1 million sq km (386,874 sq miles)

  • Main language Arabic

  • Main religions Islam, Christianity

  • Life expectancy 72 years (men), 76 years (women)

  • Currency Egyptian Pound

Getty Images


President: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Image copyright Getty Images

Retired Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected president in May 2014, almost a year after he removed his predecessor, President Mohammed Morsi, from office in a popularly-backed coup.

He had served as armed forced chief under Mr Morsi, and was a key figure in the interim government which took over after the ouster.


Image copyright Getty Images

Egypt is a major regional media player. Its press is one of the most influential and widely-read in the region, and its TV and film industry supplies much of the Arab-speaking world with shows from its Media Production City.

Former President Hosni Mubarak's departure in early 2011 precipitated an editorial u-turn among state media that had served for decades as government mouthpieces.

But despite the freedoms ushered in by the uprising, state and private news outlets have struggled to provide genuinely independent coverage.


Some key dates in Egypt's history:

circa 3000 BC - Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt unite. Successive dynasties witness flourishing trade, prosperity and the development of great cultural traditions.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cairo, Egypt's densely-populated capital

332 BC - Alexander the Great, of ancient Macedonia, conquers Egypt, founds Alexandria. A Macedonian dynasty rules until 31 BC.

31 BC - Egypt comes under Roman rule; Queen Cleopatra commits suicide after Octavian's army defeats her forces.

33 AD - Christianity comes to Egypt, and by 4th century has largely displaced Egyptian religion.

4th-6th centuries - Roman province of Egypt becomes part of the Byzantine or eastern Roman Empire.

642 - Arab conquest of Egypt.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ancient sites like Luxor draw millions of tourists to Egypt

1517 - Egypt absorbed into the Turkish Ottoman empire.

1859-69 - Suez Canal built.

1882 - British troops defeat Egyptian army and take control of country.

1914 - Egypt formally becomes a British protectorate.

1922 - Fuad I becomes King and Egypt gains independence, although British influence remains significant until mid-1950s.

1954 - Gamal Abdel Nasser becomes prime minister and in 1956 president, ruling unchallenged until his death in 1970.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The 1956 Suez crisis made Egypt's President Nasser a hero in Arab eyes

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