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Arab Republic of Egypt

Jumhuriat Misr al-'Arabiyah

CAPITAL: Cairo (Al-Qahira)

FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of three horizontal stripesred, white, and blackwith the national emblem in the center white stripe.

ANTHEM: The Arab Republic of Egypt Hymn.

MONETARY UNIT: The Egyptian pound (e£) is a paper currency of 100 piasters or 1,000 milliemes. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 20 piasters and notes of 25 and 50 piasters and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 1000 pounds. e£1 = us$0.17301 (or us$1 = e£5.78) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the official standard, but various local units also are used: 1 feddan, consisting of 333.3 kassabah, equals 0.42 hectare (1.038 acres).

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Evacuation Day, 18 June; Revolution Day, 23 July; Armed Forces Day, 6 October; Popular Resistance Day, 24 October; Victory Day, 23 December. Movable holidays include Sham an-Nassim (Breath of Spring), of ancient origin, as well as such Muslim religious holidays as 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al'Adha', and the 1st of Muharram (Muslim New Year).

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


Situated at the northeastern corner of Africa, the Arab Republic of Egypt has an area of 1,001,450 sq km (386,662 sq mi), extending 1,572 km (997 mi) senw and 1,196 km (743 mi) nesw. However, the cultivated and settled area (Nile Valley, Delta, and oases) constitutes only about 3.5% of Egypt's land area; the Libyan and Western deserts occupy about 75% of the total. Comparatively, the area occupied by Egypt is slightly more than three times the size of the state of New Mexico. Beyond the Suez Canal in the east, the Sinai Peninsula overlaps into Asia; the Sinai was occupied by Israeli forces from 1967 to 1982.

Egypt is bounded on the n by the Mediterranean Sea, on the e by Israel and the Red Sea, on the s by Sudan, and on the w by Libya. The total land boundary length is 2,665 km (1,656 mi) and its total coastline is 2,450 km (1,522 mi). Egypt's capital city, Cairo, is located in the northeastern part of the country.


The altitude of Egypt ranges from 133 m (436 ft) below sea level in the Libyan Desert to 2,629 m (8,625 ft) above in the Sinai Peninsula. The Nile Delta is a broad, alluvial land, sloping to the sea for some 160 km (100 mi), with a 250-km (155-mi) maritime front between Alexandria (Al-Iskandariyah) and Port Said. South of Cairo, most of the country (known as Upper Egypt) is a tableland rising to some 460 m (1,500 ft). The narrow valley of the Nile is enclosed by cliffs as high as 550 m (1,800 ft) as the river flows about 900 km (560 mi) from Aswan to Cairo. A series of cascades and rapids at Aswan, known as the First Cataract (the other cataracts are in the Sudan), forms a barrier to movement upstream.

The bulk of the country is covered by the Sahara, which north of Aswan is usually called the Libyan Desert. East of the Nile, the Arabian Desert extends to the Red Sea. The Western Desert consists of low-lying sand dunes and many depressions. Kharijah, Siwah, Farafirah, Bahariyah, and other large oases dot the landscape; another lowland, the Qattara Depression, is an inhospitable region of highly saline lakes and soils covering about 23,000 sq km (8,900 sq mi). The outstanding topographic feature is the Nile River, on which human existence depends, for its annual floods provide the water necessary for agriculture. Before the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, the floods, lasting generally from August to December, caused the river level to rise about 5 m (16 ft). Now, however, floodwaters can be stored, making it possible to provide year-round irrigation and to reclaim about 1 million feddans (about 1.04 million acres) of land. Damming the Nile resulted in the creation of Lake Nasser, a reservoir 292 km (181 mi) long and 918 km (611 mi) wide.


Most of Egypt is a dry subtropical area, but the southern part of Upper Egypt is tropical. Northern winds temper the climate along the Mediterranean, but the interior areas are very hot. The temperature sinks quickly after sunset because of the high radiation rate under cloudless skies. Annual rainfall averages 2.5 cm (1 in) south of Cairo and 20 cm (8 in) on the Mediterranean coast, but sudden storms sometimes cause devastating flash floods. Hot, dry sandstorms, known as khamsins, come off the Western Desert in the spring. In Cairo, average temperatures range from 14°c (57°f) in January to 28°c (82°f) in July. Relative humidity varies from 68% in February to over 70% in August and 77% in December.


Plants are those common in dry subtropical and tropical lands, such as papyrus. Egypt has no forests but does have date palm and citrus groves; eucalyptus and cypress have been introduced. Sheep, goats, and donkeys are found throughout the country, and camels are found in all the deserts. Egypt has some 300 types of birds, with about half of them being breeding species within the country. Wild animals are few, except for the hyena, jackal, lynx, mongoose, and wild boar, the last-named inhabiting the Nile Delta. The ibex may be found in the Sinai, and gazelles in the deserts. The Nile is adequately stocked with fish, but crocodiles have been reduced to a few along the shores of Lake Nasser. Reptiles include the horned viper and the hooded snake. In 2002, there were about 98 species of mammals,123 species of birds, and over 2,000 species of higher plants.


Egypt's environmental problems stem from its aridity, extremely uneven population distribution, shortage of arable land, and pollution. Soil fertility has declined because of over-cultivation and agricultural land has been lost to urbanization and desert winds. In addition, the nation's beaches, coral reefs, and wildlife habitats are threatened by oil pollution. Heavy use of pesticides, inadequate sewage disposal, and uncontrolled industrial effluents have created major water pollution problems. The expanded irrigation of desert areas after completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970 has increased soil salinity and aided the spread of waterborne diseases.

With recent improvements, about 97% of the rural population and 100% of the urban population have access to improved water sources. The National Committee for Environment, within the office of the prime minister, is the principal agency with environmental responsibilities.

Centuries of human habitation in the Nile Valley have decimated Egypt's wildlife in that region. The hunting of any bird has been prohibited by law. As of 2003, about 9.7% of the total land area was protected. The Wadi Al-Hitan (White Valley) became a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 6 types of mammals, 17 species of birds, 6 types of reptiles, 14 species of fish, and 2 species of plants. Endangered species include the Sinai leopard, northern bald ibis, and green sea turtle. The Sahara oryx has been listed as extinct.


The population of Egypt in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 74,033,000, which placed it at number 16 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 36% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 101 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.0%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 101,092,000. The population density was 74 per sq km (191 per sq mi). However, populated areas constitute only 6% of Egypt's total area and density varies from 84,150 per sq km (32,500 per sq mi) in Cairo to 60 per sq km (23 per sq mi) in the Suez governate. Some 99% of all Egyptians live in the Nile Valley.

The UN estimated that 43% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.39%. The capital city, Cairo (Al-Qahira), had a population of 10,834,000 in that year. Alexandria's metropolitan population was 12,036,000. Other large cities include Giza (Al-Jizah), 2,597,000; Shubra El-Khemia, 1,556,000; Port Said, 548,900; and Suez, 497,000.


In the early 1960s, most of the Greek population emigrated as the result of the government's nationalization measures; nearly all Jews, who formed less than 0.3% of the population in 1966, left the country after the 1967 war with Israel. With the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, up to 100,000 Nubian tribesmen were moved from flooded parts of the upper Nile and resettled in the plain downstream. During the 1970s there was significant internal migration from rural to urban areas. During the 1970s and first half of the 1980s, more than three million workers took jobs in other countries. In 1992 some 2,850,000 Egyptians were living abroad, including about one million in Libya and 850,000 in Saudi Arabia. In 2003 worker remittances to Egypt were $2.9 billion.

The Egyptian government estimates that there are 35 million Sudanese refugees, some of whom have lived in Egypt for over 30 years. In 2000 there were 169,000 migrants living in Egypt. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -0.22 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the immigration level as satisfactory, but the emigration level as too low.


Ethnic groups of Eastern Hamitic stock make up about 99% of the population of Egypt; these include Egyptians, Bedouins, and Berbers. They are a product of the intermixture of ancient Egyptians with the invaders of many millennia from various parts of Asia and Africa. The remaining 1% of the population is made up of minorities, including mainly Nubians, Armenians, Greeks, and other Europeans, primarily Italian and French.


The language of most of the population is Arabic, a Semitic tongue; the 1971 constitution declares Arabic to be Egypt's official language. Dialects vary from region to region and even from town to town. English and French are spoken by most educated Egyptians and by shopkeepers and others. The ancient language of Pharaonic Egypt, a Hamitic tongue, survives vestigially in the liturgy of the Copts, a sizable Christian sect dating back to the 5th century ad. The Nubians of Upper Egypt speak at least seven dialects of their own unwritten language. There are a small number of Berber-speaking villagers in the western oases.


The majority religion is Islam, of which the Sunnis are the largest sect. According to official estimates, 90% of the population are Muslim and 810% are Christian, with the Coptic Orthodox Church being the largest Christian denomination. Other denominations represented include Armenian Apostolic, Greek and Syrian Orthodox, Catholics (including Armenian, Chaldean, Greek, Melkite, Roman, and Syrian), and a variety of evangelical Protestant denominations. The Baha'i faith is also represented. The Jewish community is extremely small.

The 1971 constitution declares Islam to be the state religion. Though the constitution provides for religious freedom, the government has a long history of infringements upon this right. Any religious practices that can be considered in conflict to Shariah (Islamic law) are prohibited and Article 98(F) of the Penal Code allows for prosecution for unorthodox practices and beliefs that are considered to be "insulting heavenly religions." Government discrimination extends to both Muslim fundamentalists and Christians. In 2001, two men were convicted and sentenced to five and three years imprisonment under Article 98(F) for allegedly advocating a tolerance of homosexuality in the Islamic faith. In 2002, eight individuals were convicted under the same article for holding unorthodox Islamic beliefs and practices. Sentences ranged from three years imprisonment for two of the offenders to a one year suspended sentence for those who were not accused of promoting their beliefs to others. Proselytizing is generally considered a violation of Article 98(F).


Egypt's transportation system is well developed, with 64,000 km (39,770 mi) of roads in 2002, of which about 50,000 km (31,070 mi) were paved. In 2003, there were 2,282,760 passenger cars and 688,300 commercial vehicles registered. In 1982, in an attempt to alleviate Cairo's notorious traffic congestion, work began on a city subway system. The first phase, 5 km (3 mi) long, was completed in 1987 at a cost of some $370 million. Cairo Metro, modeled after the Paris Metro, is the first subway to be built in Africa. Alexandria and Cairo are connected by both the Western Desert Highway, a high-speed toll road and the busier Delta Road. Railroads are managed by the state-owned Egyptian Railways, founded in 1852. As of 2004, there was some 5,063 km (3,149 mi) of standard gauge railway that linked all parts of the country. Alexandria and Port Said are the principal ports. Egypt's oceangoing merchant fleet of 77 ships totaled 1,194,696 GRT in 2005.

As of 2004, Egypt had some 3,500 km (2,175 mi) of inland waterways that include the Nile River, the Alexandria-Cairo Waterway, Lake Nasser, the 193.5 km (120 mi) Suez Canal and many other smaller canals in the Nile River delta. However, the Nile River and the Suez Canal are the country's main inland waterways. Steamer service on the Nile is an important means of domestic transport. The modern Suez Canal was constructed between 1859 and 1869 under the supervision of the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps. In 1875 Great Britain became the canal's leading shareholder, and the guarantor of its neutrality in 1888 under the Constantinople Convention. Management of the canal was entrusted to the privately owned Suez Canal Co. British rights over the canal were reaffirmed in the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, then repudiated by Egypt in 1951. In 1956, Egypt nationalized the canal and placed it under the management of the Suez Canal Authority, which had paid former stockholders $64 million by 1963. The canal was closed during the 1967 war with Israel and remained closed until 5 June 1975, when it resumed operations after having been cleared of mines and debris by teams of US, UK, and Egyptian engineers. During its first six months after resuming operations, the canal provided passage for a substantial number of dry-cargo ships but was used by only a comparatively small number of oil tankers, since the newer supertankers could not navigate the canal's 38-ft depth. The first phase of a project to widen and deepen the canal was completed in 1980, permitting ships of 53-ft draft (up to 150,000 tons) to pass through. The second phase includes increasing the navigable depth to 67 ft (up to 270,000 tons). Egypt also announced plans to build five tunnels under the canal and dig a second channel to permit the two-way passage of convoys; the first tunnel at the southern end of the canal was opened to traffic in 1980.

Cairo International Airport is used by numerous international airlines, including Egypt's own Egypt Air. In 2003, about 4.2 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights. As of 2004, Egypt had an estimated 87 airports. In 2005 a total of 72 had paved runways, and there were 2 heliports.


Egypt has the oldest recorded history in Western civilization, dating back 5,000 years. In early times, the desert provided protection against marauders, while the Nile River provided bread. Therefore, by 3400 bc the civilization of Egypt was well developed. The country was united about 3100 bc by Menes (or Narmer), king of Upper Egypt, who conquered Lower Egypt and established the first of some 30 dynasties, ruled over by a divine king, or pharaoh. Menes created a centralized state; under his dynastic successors, trade flourished, and the hieroglyphic form of writing was perfected. During the so-called Old Kingdom, the pharaohs of the fourth dynasty (c.26132494 bc), of whom Cheops (Khufu) was the most notable, began to build the great pyramids as royal tombs. The twelfth dynasty of the Middle Kingdom (c.19911786 bc) built vast irrigation schemes and developed a thriving civilization at Thebes; under their rule, a system of cursive writing was developed. After a century of domination by Semitic peoples known as the Hyksos, who introduced the horse-drawn chariot, ancient Egypt attained its apex during the eighteenth dynasty (c.15701320 bc) of the New Kingdom, under pharaohs Thutmose III, who extended the empire into Asia as far as the Euphrates; Amenhotep III and his son, Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten, or Ikhnaton), who, with his queen, Nefertiti, attempted forcibly to replace Egyptian polytheism with monotheistic worship of the sun god Aten, or Aton; and the boy-king Tutankhamen.

In subsequent centuries, political instability weakened the kingdom, and Egypt was invaded by Assyria (673663 bc), annexed by Persia (525 bc), and conquered by Alexander the Great (332 bc). Alexander established the Macedonian dynasty of the Ptolemies, which ruled Egypt from 323 to 30 bc. During this period, the city of Alexandria flourished as the intellectual center of the Hellenistic world. The best-known ruler of this dynasty was Queen Cleopatra VII (sometimes designated as VI), who was defeated, together with her lover Mark Antony, at the Battle of Actium in 31 bc by Caius Octavius, later the Roman emperor Augustus. After the official division of the Roman Empire following the death of Theodosius in ad 395, Egypt became part of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

Egypt played an integral role in the Muslim world after the Arab conquest by 'Amr ibn-al-'As in 63942. Egypt's conquerors brought in settlers from Arabia and established firm control under the Abbasid caliphate (established in 749) and the Fatimids (9091171), who founded Cairo as their capital in 969. The Fatimids were overthrown by Saladin (Salah ad-Din), founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, which gave way about 1250 to a local military caste, the Mamluks. The Mamluks continued to control the provinces after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517.

Egypt remained a Turkish satrapy for four centuries. In 1805, an energetic Albanian soldier, Muhammad 'Ali, was appointed ruler (wali) of Egypt. He succeeded in establishing his own dynasty, which ruled the country, first under nominal Ottoman control and later as a British protectorate. Muhammad 'Ali destroyed Mamluk feudalism (already weakened by Napoleon's Egyptian campaign in 1798), stabilized the country, encouraged the planting of cotton, and opened the land to European penetration and development.

After the completion of numerous ambitious projects, including the Suez Canal (1869), Egypt became a world transportation hub and heavily burdened by debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, England seized control of Egypt's government in 1882 and, at the time of the outbreak of World War I, made Egypt a protectorate. After the war, in 1922, the United Kingdom took account of the gathering momentum of Egyptian nationalism and recognized Egypt as a nominally sovereign country under King Fuad, but retained control over the conduct of foreign affairs, defense, security of communications, and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Militant nationalism was represented by the Wafd Party, led by Sa'ad Zaghlul Pasha and, after his death, by Nahas Pasha. The conditions of association were revised in the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, under which Britain maintained armed forces only in specified areas and especially along the Suez Canal. In that year, Faruk ascended the throne.

Egyptian nationalism gathered further momentum in World War II, during which Egypt was used as an Allied base of operations, and in 1951 the government in Cairo abrogated the 1936 treaty. Royal extravagance, government corruption, the unsuccessful Palestine campaign against Israel in 1948, and delays in long-expected social and political reforms motivated a successful coup on 23 July 1952 by a group called the Society of the Free Officers. Faruk was dethroned and replaced by his seven-month-old son. A republic was proclaimed on 18 June 1953, with Gen. Muhammad Naguib (Najib), the nominal leader of the officers, as its first president. He, in turn, was forced out of power in 1954 by a younger man, Lt. Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser (Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir), leader of the revolution.

To increase the productive capacity of his country, Nasser entered into preliminary agreements with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the UN to finance in part a new high dam at Aswan. At the same time, he also negotiated economic aid and arms shipments from the Soviet Bloc when he was unable to obtain what Egypt needed from the West. Financial backing for the dam was subsequently withheld by the United States, whereupon, on 26 July 1956, President Nasser proclaimed the nationalization of the Suez Canal and announced that profits derived from its operations would be used for the building of the dam. (The last British occupation troops had been evacuated from their Suez Canal bases a month earlier.) The dam was completed with aid and technical assistance from the USSR.

Simultaneously, a crisis erupted between Egypt and Israel. Incidents involving Egyptian and Palestinian guerrillas (fadayin ) and Israeli border patrols multiplied. On 29 October 1956, as part of a three-nation plot to bring down Nasser and reassert control over the Canal, Israeli armed forces swept into Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The United Kingdom and France then issued an ultimatum to the belligerents to cease-fire. When Egypt rejected the ultimatum, Britain and France took military action in the Port Said area, at the northern end of the canal, landing troops and bombing Egyptian cities from the air. However, the intervention of the United States and the USSR, acting through the UN, led to the withdrawal of the British, French, and Israeli forces by March 1957.

On 1 February 1958, Egypt and Syria proclaimed their union in the United Arab Republic (UAR), under one head of state, one flag, a common legislature, and a unified army. The proclamation was approved by a plebiscite vote of 99.9% in Egypt and 99.98% in Syria. Nasser became president of the UAR, and a new cabinet was formed in March 1958, consisting of 2 Egyptian and 2 Syrian vice presidents, as well as 22 Egyptian and 12 Syrian ministers. Differing economic and political conditions prevented a complete fusion of the two regions, however. Nasser's economic measures were generally accepted, but his program of socialism and nationalization of banks and other commercial establishments were resented and opposed by Syrian businessmen. Syrian opposition to the union was crystallized when Nasser eliminated the separate regional cabinets and set up a unified cabinet in August 1961. On 28 September, the Syrian army revolted, and two days later it proclaimed Syrian independence. Even after the failure of the merger with Syria, Egypt, consistent with its Arab unity ideology, persisted in its attempts to form a union with other Arab states. Cooperation agreements were signed with Iraq, Yemen, Syria again, and Libya during the 1960s and early 1970s. None of these agreements produced a lasting, meaningful political union.

One reason for these political maneuverings was the continuing tension with Israel, which again erupted into open warfare on 5 June 1967, after the UN Emergency Force had on 19 May been withdrawn from the Egyptian-Israeli border at Egypt's demand; on 23 May, Egypt closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping. Israel quickly crippled the Egyptian air force and occupied the Gaza Strip and the Sinai to the Suez Canal, which was blocked and remained so until June 1975. A cease-fire was established on 8 June 1967. On 22 November 1967, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab territories and for the recognition by the Arab states of Israel's right to independent existence within peaceful and secured frontiers. But neither side would agree to peace terms, and Israel continued to occupy the Gaza Strip and the Sinai. During the years after 1967, a "War of Attrition" was fought along the Canal with each side shelling the other and Israeli planes bombing Egyptian cities.

When Nasser died on 28 September 1970, his vice president, Anwar al-Sadat, became president. After a political crisis that resulted in the dismissal from office in May 1971 of 'Ali Sabri and other left-wing leaders who had been close to Nasser (they were subsequently convicted of treason), President Sadat firmly established his hold on the government and began to implement pragmatic economic and social policies. Beginning in July 1971 with the announcement of a 10-year development program, he quickly followed with the introduction in September of a permanent constitution and a series of financial measures designed to give more freedom to the banking system and to encourage investment of foreign and domestic capital. In a surprise move on 18 July 1972, Sadat ordered the expulsion of the 15,000 Soviet military advisers and 25,000 dependents who had come to Egypt after the 1967 war. After the ouster of the Russians, Egypt was able to improve relations with the United States, Europe, and the more conservative Arab states, which provided substantial financial assistance under the Khartoum Agreement to replace Suez Canal revenues (which had ceased when the Canal was closed by the 1967 war with Israel).

Frustrated in his ambition to recover the Sinai, President Sadat broke the 1967 cease-fire agreement on 6 October 1973 by attacking Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula; this assault was coordinated with a Syrian attack on Israeli forces occupying the Syrian Golan Heights. After initial successes, the Egyptian strike forces were defeated by the rapidly mobilized Israeli troops, who then crossed the Canal south of Isma'iliyah, destroyed Egypt's surface-to-air missile sites, and cut off the Egyptian 3d Army. A cease-fire that came into effect on 24 October left Egyptian troops in the Sinai and Israeli troops on the west bank of the Canal. A series of disengagement agreements negotiated by US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger left Egypt in full control of the Canal and established a UN-supervised buffer zone in the Sinai between the Egyptian and Israeli forces. In November 1975, the Sinai oil fields at Abu Rudeis and Ra's Sudr were returned to Egypt.

President Sadat took a bold step toward establishing peace with Israel by going to Jerusalem in November 1977 and by receiving Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Isma'iliyah the following month. In September 1978, he entered into negotiations with Begin, mediated by US President Jimmy Carter, at Camp David, Md., where the two Middle East leaders agreed to a framework for a comprehensive settlement of the conflict. Following further negotiations, Sadat signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in Washington, DC, on 26 March 1979. The treaty provided for the staged withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai, which was completed on schedule by 25 April 1982; set limits on forces and armaments for both sides; established a UN force to supervise the terms of the treaty; and called for full normalization of relations. However, the two nations were unable to agree on the question of autonomy for the Palestinians of the West Bank of the Jordan and in Gaza, as provided for in the Camp David framework. For their roles as peacemakers, Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. But other Arab leaders denounced the accords and sought to isolate Egypt within the Arab world.

Domestically, Sadat encouraged a shift from Nasser's socialism to greater free-market conditions and some political liberalization, one result of which was an upsurge of activity by religious extremists. In early September 1981, Sadat ordered the arrest of 1,536 Muslims, Christian Copts, leftists, and other persons accused of fomenting violent acts. One month later, on 6 October, Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by four Muslim fundamentalists. The vice president, Muhammad Hosni (Husni) Mubarak, who had been Sadat's closest adviser, succeeded him as president, instituted a state of emergency, and immediately pledged to continue Sadat's policies, particularly the terms of the peace treaty with Israel. Relations with Israel cooled during 1982, however, especially after Israeli troops moved into Lebanon. In 1986, renewed efforts at normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel led to the resolution in Egypt's favor of a dispute over Taba, a tiny sliver of land, which had not been returned with the rest of the Sinai.

As a result of Arab fears of an Iranian victory over Iraq in their eight-year war (198088), Egypt, which has the largest army in the Arab world as well as an important arms industry, was welcomed back into the Arab fold following the 'Ammān Arab summit conference in November 1987. Egypt quickly renewed diplomatic relations with a number of Arab states and in May 1989 ended its isolation by rejoining the Arab League, the headquarters of which returned to Cairo. Mubarak continued Sadat's policies of moderation and peacemaking abroad and gradual political liberalization and movement towards free market reforms at home. In July 1989, he became chairman of the Organization of African Unity for one year. In 1990, Egypt played a key role in the coalition to expel Iraq from Kuwait and in 1993 and 1994 was active in promoting the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Mubarak was reelected president in 1987 and 1993. Parliamentary elections in 1987 were termed the fairest since 1952; 100 members of the opposition were elected to the 458-seat chamber. Opposition political forces, however, had become increasingly disenfranchised over the years and after Mubarak's third election, he conceded to their concerns and announced the government would hold a National Dialogue to hear the grievances of any legal political party. Representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, an illegal but tolerated political grouping with massive appeal, were not invited. Just before the meeting, the Nasserists and the New World Party announced they would not participate, essentially nullifying the work of the congress.

In 1995, legislative elections were again held, but, unlike the 1990 polling, the opposition parties announced they would not boycott these elections. The elections were held on 29 November and 6 December and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) won 316 seats, losing several but retaining a vast majority. Although independents won more than 100 seats, nearly all of them were in reality firmly allied with the NDP. In January 1996, Mubarak replaced the sitting prime minister, Dr. Alif Sidqi, with Kamal Ahmed al-Ganzouri.

The most serious opposition to the Mubarak government comes from outside the political system. Religious parties are banned and, as a consequence, Islamic militants have resorted to violence against the regime, singling out Christian Copts and posing a threat to tourism, a major source of foreign exchange earnings. Starting in the mid-1990s, security forces cracked down hard on the militants, resorting to authoritarian measures, including arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and torture to subdue the movement. However, it continued to gather strength, fueled by discontent with poor economic conditions, political autocracy, corruption, secularism, and Egypt's ties with the United States and Israel. In November 1997, militants murdered over 70 persons at a popular tourist site in Luxor. It was alleged that Gamma Islamiyya, one of Egypt's Islamic groups, was responsible for the attacks. However, in 1998 and 1999 the number of violent incidents decreased, and the government began releasing some of the jailed members of Islamist groups, said to number 20,000 by that time.

In September 1999, weeks after surviving an assassination attempt, Mubarak was elected to a fourth six-year term as president, running unopposed. Political opponents and Western observers criticized the ruling NDP's refusal to open up the political system, one result of which, they said, would be to channel some of the political passion now given to outlawed Islamists into legal political parties, who could then use it to create a more open societythus further marginalizing the extremists. However, the government refused to implement electoral reforms. In February 2003, the state of emergency first declared in 1981 was renewed for another three years by President Mubarak.

Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the United States called upon all states to adopt counterterrorism measures. The attacks on the United States gave Egypt a reason for increasing its restrictions on the Islamic opposition, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Gamaa Islamiyya. After 11 September, Egyptian authorities referred increasing numbers of cases of Islamic militants to military courts. One of the leaders of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Muhammad Atta, was Egyptian, as is Ayman al-Zawhiri, the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who is considered to be Osama bin Laden's second in command. The high-profile positions of these Egyptians in the al-Qaeda organization caused some to place increased scrutiny on Egypt's ability to control Islamic extremism.

Terrorist attacks on tourists and others continued into 2004 and 2005. In October 2004, bomb attacks targeted Israeli tourists on the Sinai peninsula; 34 people were killed. In April 2005, a suicide bomber killed three tourists in Cairo; later that month, another bomb attack in Cairo killed an Egyptian man. On 23 July 2005, nearly 90 people were killed in bomb attacks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

In 2005 Egypt changed its constitution to allow the opposition to contest presidential elections. Potential candidates must meet strict criteria for participation, however, and religious parties remain banned. The Muslim Brotherhoodthe only opposition organization with broad popular supportremains outlawed. In the presidential election held on 7 September 2005, Mubarak gained a fifth consecutive term as president. The election was the first under the new system whereby multiple candidates may stand. In previous elections, Egyptians voted yes or no for a single candidate chosen by parliament. In this election, all candidates were permitted to campaign freely and were given equal time on television. Mubarak faced nine opponents in the September election, although only twoAyman Nour of the Tomorrow party, and Noaman Gomaa of the Wafd partyhad any real following. Without monitors in place in most of the nearly 10,000 polling stations, Mubarak supporters engaged in various acts of voter intimidation. Other voting irregularities existed as well. The opposition to Mubarak came largely from a movement called "Kifaya" or "Enough." Kifaya supporters were permitted to protest without police intervention on the day of the election. Different groups affiliated with the Kifaya movement staged demonstrations for several months prior to the election.

In parliamentary elections held in November and December 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood won 34 seats, doubling the number of seats its members held in all of the last parliament, elected in 2000. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidates run as independents, due to the outlaw status of the group. The Muslim Brotherhood solidified its position as the strongest opposition group in Egypt by winning an additional 42 seats in the second round of voting, and 12 in the third, to make a total of 88 seats in the new parliament. In total, the ruling NDP won 315 seats, noticeably fewer than the 388 it held in the outgoing parliament, but nonetheless still above the two-thirds majority necessary to control legislation. The elections were marred by clashes between voters and security forces, leaving 12 dead.

In April 2006 the parliament voted to extend the state of emergency, in place since 1981, until 2008.


On 25 March 1964, President Nasser proclaimed an interim constitution; it remained in effect until a permanent constitution, drafted by the National Assembly, was approved by the electorate in a plebiscite on 11 September 1971. The 1971 constitution declares Egypt to be a democratic socialist state and an integral part of the Arab nation. The state of emergency, in effect since the Sadat assassination in 1981, and tough new antiterrorism laws against Islamists have given the government sweeping powers of repression, reminiscent of the Nasser era.

The president of the republic is the head of state and supreme commander of the armed forces. He appoints and retires as many vice presidents and cabinet members as he wishes; he also appoints the prime minister. In addition, he appoints and retires civil, military, and diplomatic personnel in accordance with the law. The president's power to declare war and conclude treaties with foreign countries is subject to the approval of the People's Assembly, a unicameral legislative body consists of 444 elected and 10 appointed members serving five-year terms. A 264-member advisory body, the Shura Council, was formed in 1980. Until 2005, the People's Assembly nominated the president, who had to be confirmed by plebiscite for a six-year term. The constitution was amended by popular referendum in 1980 to permit Sadat to serve more than two terms. Vice President Mubarak, who became president upon Sadat's assassination, was confirmed in that office in national referendums in October 1981, 1987, 1993, and 1999.

An amendment passed by parliament in May 2005 and approved in a public referendum provides that the president is to be elected in direct public elections to be contested by more than one candidate. In the presidential election held in September 2005, Mubarak was opposed by nine candidates. Official results had Mubarak winning 88.5% of the vote, with voter turnout at 23%. Ayman Nour of the Tomorrow party, who came in second place, took 7.3% of the vote, and Noaman Gomaa of the Wafd party came in third with 2.8%.

Suffrage is universal at age 18.


Since the founding of the republic in 1953, the president and his army colleagues have dominated Egyptian politics. The Arab Socialist Union (ASU; founded by President Nasser as the Egyptian National Union in 1957) was the sole legal political party until 1976, when President Sadat allowed three minor parties to participate in parliamentary elections. In 1978, Sadat replaced the ASU with his own organization, the National Democratic Party (NDP), of which he became chairman. In elections held in June 1979, the NDP won 342 seats in the People's Assembly; the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), 29 seats; the Liberal Socialist Party, 3; and independents, 8. In 1980, however, Sadat denounced the SLP as the "agent of a foreign power," and 13 of the party's deputies defected either to join the NDP or to become independent members of the legislature, thus reducing the number of SLP seats to 16.

In January 1982, President Mubarak was elected without opposition as chairman of the NDP. In elections held in May 1984, the NDP won 390 seats in the National Assembly. The New Wafd (Delegation) Party, the middle class successor of the dominant party of the pre-Nasser period allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, won 58. In the 1987 Assembly elections, the ruling NDP again won about 70% of the vote. Seventeen percent voted for an alliance of Socialist Labor, Liberal Socialist and, under their banner (religious parties are banned), the Muslim Brotherhood; 11% voted for the New Wafd. Elections in 1990 drew only some 25% of eligible voters when the opposition boycotted the poll, charging unfair and undemocratic procedures.

In 1995, the opposition contested the elections, but to little effect. Balloting was held on 29 November and the NDP won a huge majority (317) of the body's 444 seats. Although independents won more than 100 seats, they are so closely allied with the NDP that nearly all of them joined the party after the elections. The New Wafd Party won 6 seats; the National Progressive Unionist Party won 5; the Socialists won 1; and the Nasserists won 1.

In elections for the National Assembly held in October and November 2000, the NDP took 353 of 444 elected seats. The New Wafd Party won 35; the New Delegation Party won 7; the National Progressive Unionist Party took 6; the Nasserists won 3; the Liberal Party took 1 seat; independents won 37 seats and 2 seats remained vacant.

Since the beginning of a campaign of terror against tourists and Egypt's Coptic minority, the government has clamped down on Islamist parties, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, which had always been technically illegal. The Mubarak regime has resorted to strict authoritarian measures and holds thousands of suspected Islamic militants in prison. In November and December 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood won a total of 88 seats in the parliamentary elections; the NDP took 315 seats. Non-Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated parties took 14 seats, including the neo-liberal Wafd Party, traditionally recognized as Egypt's largest opposition party. The rest of the seats were won by independents.


Egypt traditionally has been divided into two regions: Lower Egypt (Wagh al-Bahari), north of Cairo, and Upper Egypt (AsSa'id), south of the capital. Under the local government system established in 1960, Egypt is organized into 26 governorates, each headed by an appointed governor. The governorates are responsible for social, health, welfare, and educational services and for the social and economic development of their region. They are also required to supervise the city and village councils, which are constituted in a similar manner. Real authority resides in Cairo in a highly centralized regime, heavily burdened by bureaucracy. Since 1994, village mayors, who were previously elected, have been appointed by the Ministry of the Interior.


The judicial system is based on English common law, Islamic law, and Napoleonic codes subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court and the Council of State, which oversees the validity of administrative decisions. A tension exists between civil law derived from France and competition from promoters of Islamic law. Islamic activists succeeded in amending the constitution to state that Shariah (Islamic) law is in principle the sole source of legislation. However, Shariah applies primarily to Muslims with regard to family, personal status, and inheritance matters, and non-Muslims have been allowed to maintain separate legislation in all matters except inheritance. Egypt accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction, with reservations.

Simple police offenses, misdemeanors, and civil cases involving small amounts are subject to the jurisdiction of single-judge summary tribunals. The trial courts of the central tribunals, consisting of three justices each, sit in cases exceeding the jurisdiction of summary courts and also consider appeals. Traffic in narcotics and press offenses, considered serious crimes, are tried by the courts of appeals of the central tribunals in the first instance, sitting as assize courts. There are seven courts of appealsat Cairo, Alexandria, Tantā, Al-Manşurah, Asyut, Bani-Souef, and Ismailiawhich sit in chambers of three judges. The highest tribunal is the Court of Cassation, composed of 30 justices, which sits in panels of at least 5 justices.

The 1971 constitution declares that the judiciary is independent of other state powers and that judges are independent and not subject to enforced retirement. The Supreme Constitutional Court is responsible for enforcing adherence to laws and regulations and for interpreting legislation and the constitution. The Office of the Socialist Public Prosecutor is responsible to the People's Assembly for the security of the people's rights, the integrity of the political system, and other matters.

The president appoints all civilian judges, from nominations by the Supreme Judicial Council, a body designed to assure the independence of the judiciary and composed of senior judges, lawyers, law professors, and the president of the Court of Cassation. Judges are appointed for life, with mandatory retirement at age 64. The judiciary has demonstrated a good degree of independence from the executive branch.

The state of emergency in place since 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat led to detention without due process for many persons. Emergency security courts try suspected terrorists whose only recourse upon conviction is an appeal for clemency to the president or prime minister.


Total active armed forces in Egypt numbered 468,500 in 2005. There were also 497,000 reservists divided among all services. The Army had 340,000 active personnel, equipped with 3,855 main battle tanks, 412 reconnaissance vehicles, 520 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 4,750 armored personnel carriers and 4,348 artillery pieces. The Egyptian Air Force in 2005 had 30,000 active personnel, which were equipped with 572 combat capable aircraft, including 218 fighters, 223 fighter ground attack aircraft and 115 attack helicopters. The Air Defense Command is a separate service. As of 2005, active personnel numbered 80,000. Equipment included both missile and gun-based air defense batteries. The Egyptian Navy had an estimated 18,500 active personnel, including 2,000 coast guard personnel. Major naval units included four tactical submarines, one destroyer, 10 frigates, 48 patrol/coastal vessels and 15 mine warfare ships. Egypt's paramilitary forces were estimated at 330,000 active members, including a national guard of 60,000, a central security force of 325,000, and 12,000 border guards. Egypt's defense budget in 2005 was $2.5 billion.


Egypt joined the United Nations as a charter member on 24 October 1945 and participates in ECA, ESCWA, and all the nonregional specialized agencies. The country is a member of the WTO. It belongs to the African Development Bank, the Arab Monetary Fund, COMESA, G-15, G-24, G-77, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Council of Arab Economic Unity, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), and the African Union (AU). It is also a member in OAPEC, a permanent observer at the OAS, and a partner in the OSCE.

Between 1958 and 1973, Egypt made several attempts to establish united or federated states with its Arab neighbors. Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic from February 1958 to September 1961, when Syria broke away; the United Arab States, consisting of Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, survived formally from March 1958 through December 1961, although never a political reality; and a federation between Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, officially established in April 1963, was never implemented. On 1 January 1972, Egypt, Syria, and Libya established the Federation of Arab Republics, but to little practical effect. A formal merger attempt between Egypt and Libya, nominally consummated on 1 September 1973, dissolved in practice when relations between the two countries soured. Egypt became the first Arab state to normalize relations with Israel following the conclusion of the 1979 peace treaty. As a result of this act, however, Egypt's membership in the League of Arab States was suspended; Egypt did not rejoin the League until 1989. Arab League headquarters are in Cairo. Egypt plays a key role in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Egypt is part of the Nonaligned Movement and a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

In environmental cooperation, Egypt is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, International tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


The Egyptian economy has been historically agricultural, with cotton as the mainstay. Land prices are extremely high because of the shortage of arable land, and output of food is not sufficient to meet the needs of a 1.9% population growth rate over the 200105 period. Although Egypt has expanded its private sector in recent years, industry remains centrally controlled and for the most part government owned; since the 1950s, the government has developed the petroleum, services, and construction sectors, largely at the expense of agriculture.

Egypt's significant economic growth rate from 1975 to 1981, made possible in large measure through foreign aid and credits, had declined to about 5% by 1986. Revenues for 198586 from petroleum exports, Suez Canal traffic, tourism, and remittances from Egyptians working abroadall mainstays of the Egyptian economywere eroded in the wake of sharp declines in international oil prices and developments in the Iran-Iraq war. The inflation rate grew from less than 5% annually in the 1960s to nearly 23% by 1986, reflecting worldwide price increases and the government's deficit spending. Egypt's economic position was strengthened when the Gulf states and the United States rewarded the Egyptians for their role in forming the Arab anti-Iraq coalition, reducing external debt to about $40 billion in 1990.

In the early 1990s, the collapse of world oil prices and an increasingly heavy debt burden led Egypt into negotiations with the IMF for balance-of-payments support. As a condition of the support, Egypt embarked on a comprehensive economic reform and structural adjustment program, under the aegis of the IMF and the World Bank. Egypt succeeded in stabilizing the macroeconomic fundamentals necessary for sustained economic growth: the budget deficit was around 1.3% of GDP, and the inflation rate held steady at 3.8% in 1999. However, progress toward privatizing and streamlining the public sector and liberalizing trade policy was slow. Consequently, despite the improvements, the economy has not experienced the economic growth necessary to reduce unemployment (around 10.9% in 2004, but unofficial estimates are more than twice that figure) and generate the targeted 67% growth rates in the GDP (GDP growth averaged 3% over the 200105 period). The inflation rate over the 200105 period averaged 5.2%, and the budget deficit had reached 6.2% of GDP in 2003.

Remittances from Egyptians working abroad have aided the Egyptian economy. Reform legislation in the areas of intellectual property rights, mortgage laws, and legislation developing banking and capital markets have made the business climate more favorable to investment. A more economically liberal cabinet was appointed in mid-2004, which announced far-reaching plans for economic reform. In September of that year, Egypt pushed through custom reforms, proposed income and corporate tax reforms, reduced energy subsidies, and privatized several enterprises. The tourism sector feared a downturn in tourist numbers when Islamic terrorists attacked resorts in the Sinai Peninsula in 2004 and 2005, but the industry performed better than expected. The development of an export market for natural gas is something for which Egypt strives, but improvement in the capital-intensive hydrocarbons sector does not ameliorate Egypt's chronic unemployment problem.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Egypt's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $337.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $4,400. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 5.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 15% of GDP, industry 36.7%, and services 48.4%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $2.961 billion or about $44 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $894 million or about $13 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.1% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Egypt totaled $59.55 billion or about $881 per capita based on a GDP of $82.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.2%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 44% of household consumption was spent on food, 7% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 17% on education. It was estimated that in 2000 about 16.7% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Egypt's civilian labor force increased from 14.8 million in 1990 to 16.8 million in 1994, to an estimated 21.34 million in 2005. In 2002, agriculture accounted for 27.5% of the workforce, with 51.9% in services, and 20.6% in industry. Unemployment was estimated at 10% in 2005.

Egyptian workers obtained the legal right to organize trade unions in 1942. However, private sector unions remain the exception, rather than the rule. In 2005, there were 23 trade unions, all of which were required to be members of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). The ETUF in 2005 had four million members. Approximately 25% of the Egyptian workforce were union members and were employed at state-owned companies. Collective bargaining is permitted, but is handled through a labor consultative council that includes employer, worker and government representatives. Strikes are prohibited while these procedures are in effect. So-called "wildcat strikes" are prohibited. The government sets wages, benefits and job classifications for government and other public sector employees. In the private sector, employee compensation is set according to the country's laws on minimum wages.

For children in the nonagricultural sector, the law sets the minimum working age at 14 or at the age when basic schooling is completed (which is 15), whichever is higher. In addition, minors under the age of 18 are legally limited to the type of work and the conditions under which it is performed. However, child labor remains a problem. In 2005, an estimated two million children were working. The minimum wage for public-sector employees differed among sectors. The maximum number of hours that can be worked was 48 hours per week. Overtime rates of pay begin at 36 hours, with an extra differential rate for daytime and nighttime hours. Minimum rates, in conjunction with a series of bonuses and other benefits generally triples the amount, thus offering a worker and a family with a decent living standard. Enforcement of health and safety regulations is sporadic.


During the 1970s, despite substantial investment in land reclamation, agriculture lost its position as the dominant economic sector. Agricultural exports, which accounted for 87% of all merchandise export value in 1960, fell to 35% in 1974 and to 13% by 2004. In 2003, agriculture accounted for 16% of GDP and 34% of employment.

Cotton has been the staple crop, but it is no longer important as an export. Production in 1999 was 243,000 tons. Egypt is also a substantial producer of wheat, corn, sugarcane, fruit and vegetables, fodder, and rice; substantial quantities of wheat are also imported despite increases in yield since 1970, and significant quantities of rice are exported. Citrus, dates, and grapes are the principal fruits by acreage. Agricultural output in tons in 2004 included corn, 5,800,000; wheat, 7,199,000; rice, 6,150,000; potatoes, 1,950,000; and oranges, 1,750,000. The government exercises a substantial degree of control over agriculture, not only to ensure the best use of irrigation water but also to limit the planting of cotton in favor of food grains. However, the government's ability to achieve this objective is limited by crop rotational constraints.

Egypt's arable area totals about 3.4 million hectares (8.4 million acres), about one-quarter of which is land reclaimed from the desert. However, the reclaimed lands only add 7% to the total value of agricultural production. Even though only 3% of the land is arable, it is extremely productive and can be cropped two or even three times per year. Most land is cropped at least twice a year, but agricultural productivity is limited by salinity, which afflicts an estimated 35% of cultivated land, and drainage problems.

Irrigation plays a major role in a country the very livelihood of which depends upon a single river; 99.9% of the arable land is irrigated. Most ambitious of all the irrigation projects is that of the Aswan High Dam, completed in 1971. A report published in March 1975 by the National Council for Production and Economic Affairs indicated that the dam was successful in controlling floodwaters and ensuring continuous water supplies, but that water consumption had been excessive and would have to be controlled. Some valuable land was lost below the dam because the flow of Nile silt was stopped, and increased salinity remains a problem. Further, five years of drought in the Ethiopian highlandsthe source of the Nile River's watercaused the water level of Lake Nasser, the Aswan High Dam's reservoir, to drop to the lowest level ever in 1987. In 1996, however, the level of water behind the High Dam and in Lake Nasser reached the highest level since the completion of the dam. Despite this unusual abundance of water supply, Egypt can only utilize 55.5 billion cu m (1.96 trillion cu ft) annually, according to the Nile Basin Agreement signed in 1959 between Egypt and Sudan. Another spectacular project designed to address the water scarcity problem is the New Valley (the "second Nile"), aimed at development of the large artesian water supplies underlying the oases of the Western Desert. Total investment in agriculture and land reclamation for the government's Third Plan (19931997) was e£16,963 million.

The agrarian reform law of 1952 provided that no one might hold more than 190 feddans for farming and that each landholder must either farm the land himself or rent it under specified conditions. Up to 95 additional feddans might be held if the owner had children, and additional land had to be sold to the government. In 1961, the upper limit of landholding was reduced to 100 feddans, and no person was allowed to lease more than 50 feddans (1 feddan = 0.42 hectares). Compensation to the former owners was in bonds bearing a low rate of interest, redeemable within 40 years. A law enacted in 1969 reduced landholdings by one person to 50 feddans. By the mid-1980s, 90% of all land titles were for holdings of less than five feddans, and about 300,000 families, or 8% of the rural population, had received land under the agrarian reform program. According to a 1990 agricultural census, there were some three million small land holdings, almost 96% of which were under five feddans (2.1 hectares/5.2 acres). Since the late 1980s, many reforms attempting to deregulate agriculture by liberalizing input and output prices and by eliminating crop area controls have been initiated. As a result, the gap between world and domestic prices for Egyptian agricultural commodities has been closed.

The government plans massive irrigation and development projects to create new communities to alleviate population intensity in the valley, with the objective of increasing the percentage of populated areas from 5.3% to 25% of Egypt's total area. These projects are centralized in southern Egypt, by the Suez Canal, and Sinai. The government plans to create a new delta in the south of the Western Desert parallel to the Nile, adding 540,000 feddans (1,134,000 hectares/2,802,000 acres) to the cultivated area, to be irrigated by the Nile's water.


Because of the very intensive cultivation of the soil, little land is available for animal husbandry, but efforts were made in the 1980s to increase the output of fodder per land unit and the productivity of livestock raising. In 2005, the estimated livestock population included 95,000,000 chickens, 3,960,000 goats, 5,150,000 sheep, 3,920,000 head of buffalo, 4,500,000 head of cattle, and 30,000 hogs. Livestock products in that year included 2,300,000 tons of cow milk, 1,433,000 tons of meat, and 240,000 tons of eggs.


Fishing is concentrated in the Nile Delta and River and in the Mediterranean and Red seas. The catch of sea fish amounted to 160,319,174 tons in 2003. The inland catch was 715,074 tons. Mullet and eels are caught in the Delta and sardines in the Mediterranean. Egypt's production from aquaculture amounted to 445,181 tons. Total fish production from capture and aquaculture was 875,990 tons in 2003. There is a small-scale freezing and canning industry. Nevertheless, Egypt has been a net importer of fish. In the early 1980s, new fish-farming facilities were established at Maryut in the Delta.


There are no forests in Egypt. In 2003, Egypt imported $791.2 million in forest products. The construction and furniture-making industries rely on wood imports. Furniture production engages about 40,000 persons and is concentrated in the Damietta Governorate in the northern part of the Nile Delta. Softwood products come mostly from Russia, Sweden, and Finland; hardwood products from Romania, Croatia, and Bosnia.


In recent decades, crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products have dominated Egypt's mineral industry. However Egypt is also a producer of ferroalloys, gold, iron ore, primary aluminum, steel, secondary copper, lead and zinc, and construction materials such as clay, gypsum, gemstones, dimension stone and raw materials to make glass. Among nonfuel minerals, phosphate rock (around the Red Sea, along the Nile, and in the Western Desert) and iron ore were the most important in terms of value and ore grade. In 2003 Egypt also produced manganese ore, titanium, ilmenite, asbestos, barite, cement, bentonite, fire clay, kaolin, crude feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum and anhydrite, lime, nitrogen, salt, soda ash, sodium sulfate, basalt, dolomite, granite, dimension stone, gravel, limestone, marble blocks (including alabaster), glass sand, construction sand, talc, soapstone, pyrophyllite, and vermiculite, and there were occurrences of gold, ocher, sulfate of magnesia, and nitrate of soda. The government was engaged in efforts to partially privatize mining and metal assets. Although mineral resources have been exploited in Egypt since antiquity, including gemstones and zinc, some regions of the country remained geologically unexplored. Extraction of limestone, clay, and gypsum during World War II rose in response to the Allied armies' urgent demand.

In 2003, Egypt produced 1.5 million metric tons of phosphate rock, unchanged from 2002, but up from 972,000 metric tons in 2001. Output of iron ore and concentrate was 2.5 million metric tons in 2003, unchanged since 2001. Development of an iron ore mine and steel plant near Aswan ceased in 2000 when the government charged the promoters with misappropriating public funds. Higher-quality deposits were being exploited in the Western Desert. Gold and copper deposits were not of sufficient grade to justify profitable extraction.


Egypt is an important non-OPEC energy producer. (OPEC is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.) Commercial quantities of oil were first found in 1908, and more petroleum was found in the late 1930s along the Gulf of Suez. Later, large oil fields were discovered in the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Suez, the Western Desert, and the Eastern Desert. The Abu Rudeis and Ra's Sudr oil fields in the Sinai, captured by Israel in 1967, were returned to Egyptian control in November 1975, and the remaining Sinai oil fields reverted to Egyptian control by the end of April 1982. Egypt's proven crude oil reserves were estimated at 3.7 billion barrels as of 1 January 2005. Oil production in 2004 was estimated at 698,000 barrels per day, (down from 922,000 barrels per day in 1996), of which crude oil accounted for 594,000 barrels per day. Approximately 50% of Egypt's oil production comes from the Gulf of Suez, with the Western Desert, Eastern Desert, and the Sinai Peninsula as country's three other primary producing areas. Domestic consumption was estimated at 564,000 barrels per day in 2004. Net oil exports in that same year were estimated at 134,000 barrels per day. The Suez Canal and the 322-km (200-mi) Sumed Pipeline from the Gulf of Suez to the Mediterranean Sea are two routes for oil from the Persian Gulf, which makes Egypt a strategic point of interest in world energy markets. Although the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has deepened the canal so that it can accommodate the largest bulk freight carriers, the canal was scheduled to be deepened a further 20 m (66 ft) by the end of 2006 to accommodate very large crude carriers (VLCCs).

Egypt operates nine refineries that are capable of processing crude oil at an estimated rate of 726,250 barrels per day, as of 1 January 2005. The largest refinery is the El-Nasr facility located at Suez. It is able to process 146,300 barrels per day.

Major discoveries in the 1990s have given natural gas increasing importance as an energy source. According to data from Egypt's Ministry of Petroleum, the country's reserves of natural gas are estimated at 66 trillion cu ft, as of 1 January 2005, but probable reserves have been placed at or more than 120 trillion cu ft. Since the early 1990s, significant deposits of natural gas have been found in the Western Desert, in the Nile Delta and offshore from the Nile Delta. Domestic consumption of natural gas has also risen as a result of thermal power plants converting from oil to natural gas. As of 2002, Egypt's production and consumption of natural gas are each estimated at 941 billion cu ft.

The Egyptian electric power system is almost entirely integrated, with thermal stations in Cairo and Alexandria and generators at Aswan. In 2002, output was estimated at 81.3 billion kWh, of which nearly 85% was from fossil fuels and 15% was from hydropower (mostly from the Aswan High Dam). In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 75.719 billion kWh. Total installed capacity was estimated at 17.6 million kW, as of 1 January 2002.

A $239 million electricity network link with Jordan was completed in 1998. In late 2002 Egypt announced that it would coordinate a regional energy distribution center to coordinate energy distribution among the nations of the region, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.


Egypt at the time of the 1952 revolution was much further advanced industrially than any other Arab country or indeed any country in Africa except South Africa. Under the socialist Nasser administration, the government coordinated industrial expansion and the establishment of an industrial base. As a result, bureaucracy and a dependence on political directives from the government became common to Egyptian industry. Since the early 1990s the government has promoted privatization as a way to eventually increase industrial output.

Industry accounted for 33% of GDP in 2004, and employed 17% of the labor force. The industrial production growth rate in 2004 was 2.5%. Major industrial products included textiles, chemicals (including fertilizers, polymers, and petrochemicals), pharmaceuticals, food processing, petroleum, construction, cement, metals, and light consumer goods. The clothing and textiles sector is the largest industrial employer.

Greater Cairo, Alexandria, and Helwan are Egypt's main industrial centers, producing iron and steel, textiles, refined petroleum products, plastics, building materials, electronics, paper, trucks and automobiles, and chemicals. The Helwan iron and steel plant, 29 km (18 mi) south of Cairo, using imported coke, processes iron ore mined near Aswan into sheets, bars, billets, plates, and blooms.

The petroleum industry accounts for approximately 40% of export earnings. Egypt is encouraging oil exploration, but natural gas is becoming the focus of the country's oil and gas industries. In 2005, the country's first liquefied gas export terminal began operations. A large natural gas field off the Mediterranean coast of the Egyptian city of Damietta was discovered in 2002. Natural gas reserves in the country were estimated at 66 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2005, based on new finds.

Egypt's industrial sector has undergone major reforms since World Bank adjustment programs went into effect during 1991, privatizing and restructuring state owned enterprises. Some of the companies in important non-oil industries are technically in the private sector, but control still remains with the government.


Founded in 1971, the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology in Cairo is the national body responsible for science and technology. Egypt also has 12 specialized learned societies in the fields of agriculture, medicine, science, and technology. The National Research Center, also in Cairo, carries out research in pure and applied sciences. The Ministry of Agriculture has 20 attached research institutes in Cairo and Giza. Twenty other institutes conduct research in medicine, science, and technology.

In 2000, (the latest year for which the following data is available) research and development (R&D) expenditures totaled $438.522 million or 0.19% of GDP. In 2002, high technology exports totaled $13 million, or 1% of manufactured exports. For the period 1990-01 there were 366 technicians and 493 researchers per million people actively engaged in R&D.

Located in Cairo are museums devoted to agriculture, geology, railways, and marine technology. In addition to polytechnic institutes in Cairo and Mansoura, Egypt in 1996 had 13 universities offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 12% of college and university enrollments.


Cairo and Alexandria are the most important commercial centers. Virtually all importers, exporters, and wholesalers have offices in one or both of these cities. Egypt's retail trade is dominated by a large number of small privately-owned shops and vendors. Government cooperatives with hundreds of outlets also combine wholesale and retail activities. The principal retail centers have general and specialized stores as well as large bazaars. Smaller bazaars and open markets are found in the towns and villages. There are large wholesaling markets for meat and produce in Cairo, Alexandria, and Mansoura. The franchising of fast food restaurants and retail chains continues to grow quickly, with both American- and Egyptian-based companies holding franchises.

Though most farms are privately owned, manufacturing is largely controlled by the public sector. Domestic industries include textiles (especially in cotton), food processing, and vehicle assembly. In 2001, about 51% of the work force was employed in the service sector, which also accounts for about 50% of GDP.

Government hours are 8 am to 2 pm, Saturday to Wednesday. Business hours vary widely. Typically, a business schedule in summer would be 8 am to 2 pm; in the winter, from 9 am to 1 pm and from 5 to 7 pm, Saturday through Wednesday. Friday is the Muslim holy day, and most people do not work on Thursdays. While the official language is Arabic, commercial firms frequently employ English or French for business correspondence. Haggling or in Arabic, momarsa (auction), is a standard business process for determining a fair price for goods and services in Egypt. The Cairo International Trade Fair, held every spring, has been an important promotional event for a number of years.


Before 1973, when Egypt was linked to the then-Soviet Union, 55% of its exports went to Soviet bloc countries, which supplied 30% of its imports. In 1999, the EU countries were the market for about 35% of Egypt's exports, and provided Egypt with 36% of its imports. The US provided some 14% of Egypt's imports and received

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 6,160.7 10,892.7 -4,732.0
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 757.7 537.8 219.9
Bunkers, ship stores 566.7 566.7
United States 520.9 1,272.9 -752.0
India 465.0 146.6 318.4
Free zones 384.9 1,529.7 -1,144.8
Spain 287.9 127.5 160.4
Netherlands 228.0 178.9 49.1
Saudi Arabia 185.3 252.8 -67.5
France-Monaco 166.5 448.7 -282.2
United Kingdom 147.0 262.4 -115.4
() data not available or not significant.

over 12% of its exports. Trade with Libya and Saudi Arabia has increased in recent years. Petroleum replaced cotton and cotton products as Egypt's principal export in 1976. Fuel exports accounted for 37% of Egypt's estimated $3.5 billion in merchandise exports in 1999. Other exports included textile yarn and cotton (7%), and fabric, and finished garments (7.9%).

In 2004, Egypt's major exports were: finished products (38.4% of all exports); petroleum and petroleum products (38.3%); semifinished products (7.1%); and cotton, textiles, and garments (4.1%). Major imports were intermediate goods (29.5% of all imports); investment goods (22%); petroleum and petroleum products (14.1%); and consumer goods (durables and nondurables, 14%).

Egypt's leading markets in 2004 were: the United States (35.7% of all exports); the EU (34.6%); Arab countries (12.3%); and Asia (8.7%). Leading suppliers that year were: the EU (30.5% of all imports); the United States (23.5%); Asia (14.7%); and Arab countries (7.9%).


Structural reforms instituted in the early 1990s have helped Egypt to slowly try to take care of its debt. Total outstanding debt stood at $33.75 billion in 2004. However, Egypt's annual trade deficit has increased steadily during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The structural trade deficit stood at $9.3 billion in 2004. Merchandise exports, which continue to be dominated by oil, rose strongly to $12.3 billion in 2004, from $9 billion in 2003. However, imports soared by more than 40% to $21.6 billion. The wider trade deficit was offset by a considerable strengthening of the services (fueled by tourism and Suez Canal revenues) and current transfers surpluses, leaving the current-account surplus little changed at 4.7% of GDP. The current-account surplus averaged 2.8% of GDP over the 200105 period.

The government has attempted in recent years to improve the balance of payments situation through monetary and foreign exchange

Current Account 3,743.0
     Balance on goods -4,201.0
         Imports -13,189.0
         Exports 8,987.0
     Balance on services 4,599.0
     Balance on income -254.0
     Current transfers 3,599.0
Capital Account
Financial Account -5,725.0
     Direct investment abroad -21.0
     Direct investment in Egypt 237.0
     Portfolio investment assets -25.0
     Portfolio investment liabilities -18.0
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -4,651.0
     Other investment liabilities -1,248.0
Net Errors and Omissions 1,575.0
Reserves and Related Items 407.0
() data not available or not significant.

policies that have kept interest rates high and made access to credit and foreign exchange for imports difficult. These policies, while improving the balance of payments situation, have had an overall negative impact on economic growth and the country's ability to encourage foreign investment.


The National Bank of Egypt, founded in 1898, had as a private institution the exclusive right to issue currency and act as the government's banker. In January 1961, although permitted to retain its commercial banking business, it was divested of its central banking function, which was given to the newly established Central Bank of Egypt. In 1957, when foreign banks refused to finance Egypt's cotton crop after the Suez Canal was nationalized, the government took over foreign banks and insurance companies. By the end of 1962, all banks had been nationalized. The number of registered banks dwindled to only four by 1971.

As of 1999, there were 69 banks operating in Egypt: 4 stateowned commercial banks; 29 commercial banks; 33 investment banks, and 7 specialized banks; including 20 foreign bank branches. The four state-owned commercial banks-the National Bank of Egypt, the Bank of Alexandria, the Banque du Caire, and the Banque Misr-dominate the sector due to their size in terms of assets, deposit base, and branches (an average of 200 branches each), accounting for 55% of the banking system's total assets. The Central Bank of Egypt supervises all banks in Egypt except for Misr African International Bank, the Arab International Bank, and the Egypt Export Development Bank. The national stronghold on the system becomes apparent when the public-sector banks' shares in joint-venture banks are taken into account, which reveals the big four to be holders of over 90% of the total assets of commercial banks. The dominance of the public sector is heightened if the National Investment Bank (NIB) is included. Holding the long-term resources mobilized by the social security system, the NIB possesses roughly 25% of total bank deposits. Private sector ownership accounted for less than 30% of the banking sector in 2002, while the total assets of Egypt's banks in the same year amounted to $72 billion.

In 1975, the public sector was allowed to perform transactions freely with all banks, which became largely free to exercise all banking functions. The government's "open door" policy toward banking permitted international banks of good standing to establish branches in Egypt and exempted those banks from regulations governing the control of foreign exchange. In 1991, foreign exchange rates were liberalized. In 1992 and 1993, laws were passed allowing foreign bank branches to deal in Egyptian currency. In order to bring the Egyptian banking sector into line with international banking norms, banking law 155 of 1998 established a legal basis for the privatization of the four public-sector banks, but by 2002 this process was just getting started.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $14.9 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $65.8 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 11%.

Egyptians habitually have invested their funds in real estate, in foreign countries, or in gold. In June 1992, a comprehensive Capital Markets Law was passed, sparking a revival of the Cairo and Alexandria exchanges that had been dormant since 1961 nationalization. In 1994, Egypt had one of the world's best-performing stock markets, but the primary stock market remained thin. Most investors preferred to establish closed companies and to resort to bank loans. Stock trading in the secondary market was also limited. Nevertheless, Egypt's first corporate bond since 1951, issued by the German-Egyptian Hoechst Orient in May 1994, was almost three times oversubscribed. In 2004, the Egyptian stock market's capitalization totaled $38.516 billion. In that same year, a combined total of 792 companies where listed on the Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchanges. Trading volume (by value) in 2004 totaled $5.608 billion, up from $3.278 billion in 2003.


Until the 1950s, insurance companies operating in Egypt were mostly branches of foreign institutions. In July 1961, Egypt promulgated laws nationalizing all insurance companies. From 1996, the insurance market was dominated by four public-sector insurance companies (one of which was a re-insurance company), although three private-sector companies existed. Two joint ventures with foreign firms operated in the free zones. The domestic insurance market was closed to foreign companies, although they were able to operate as minority partners in Egypt's eight free zones.

As part of its IMF agreement, the government pushed a new, if still restrictive, insurance law through the People's Assembly in early May 1995. This allowed foreign access to the domestic market on condition that the foreign company owned no more than a 49% stake in the insurance company, that the manager of the company was Egyptian, and that the company met the capitalization requirement of $9 million. By 1998, the Egyptian parliament had passed a law allowing 100% ownership by foreign insurance companies, and complete privatization of public-sector insurance companies, but little progress has been made towards these goals. In 1999, there were 12 national insurance companies practicing in Egypt, and by 2003 there was $566 million in direct insurance premiums written, with nonlife premiums accounting for $386 million. Misr was the country's top nonlife insurer, with gross nonlife written premiums of $139.2 million in 2003. Al Chark was the top life insurer in that same year, with gross life premiums written of $55.2 million.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Egypt's central government took in revenues of approximately $18 billion and had expenditures of $24.5 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$6.5 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 93.6% of GDP. Total external debt was $28.95 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were e£77,773 million and expenditures were e£100,739 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$17,283 million and expenditures $22,386 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of us$ = e£4.5000 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 35.7%; defense, 10.1%; public order and safety, 5.7%; economic affairs, 9.8%; housing and community amenities, 4.0%; health, 4.9%; recreation, culture, and religion, 9.6%; education, 19.2%; and social protection, 0.9%.


As of 2005, Egypt's standard corporate tax rate was 40%, although there was a reduced rate of 32% for industrial companies, and profits made through export operations. Branches of foreign companies are treated the same as domestic companies. Oil production and prospecting companies are subject to a 40.55% tax on their profits.

Personal income tax is assessed according to a progressive schedule with a top rate of 40%.

The main indirect tax is the general sales tax (GST), set at 10% for most products, and 25% on a few others. Services are taxed at lower rates of 5% and 10%. There are also stamp duties that range from ranging from e£100 to e£600 (roughly, $15 to $100).


Customs duties in Egypt serve not merely for protection but also for revenue. Under-invoicing is common, prompting customs officials to add 1030% of invoice value to calculate the true value. In September 2004, Egypt's president issued a decree that reduced administrative fees and tariffs on imported goods. Generally, primary foodstuffs and raw materials were subject to a 2% ad valorem duty, followed by a 5% duty on capital goods, a 12% duty on intermediate goods, a 22% duty on nondurable consumer goods, a 32% duty on nondurable consumer goods, a 32% duty on semidurable consumer goods, and a 40% duty on durable consumer goods. In addition, customs fees and tariffs on information technology machines, spare parts and equipment have been. However, items such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco and automobiles with engines larger than 2000 cc are subject to higher rates. Egypt assesses a 2% or 4% service fee on imports (depending on the customs

Revenue and Grants 77,773 100.0%
     Tax revenue 51,726 66.5%
     Social contributions
     Grants 3,713 4.8%
     Other revenue 22,334 28.7%
Expenditures 100,739 100.0%
     General public services 36,014 35.7%
     Defense 10,218 10.1%
     Public order and safety 5,759 5.7%
     Economic affairs 9,862 9.8%
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities 4,068 4.0%
     Health 4,915 4.9%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 9,709 9.6%
     Education 19,305 19.2%
     Social protection 889 0.9%
() data not available or not significant.

duty assigned to the commodity) and a 525% sales tax is added to the final customs value of imports.

Free zones have been established in Alexandria, Cairo (Nasr City), Port Said, Ismailia, Damietta, Safaga, Sohag, and Suez; these are exempt from customs duties.


Egypt has declared that foreign private capital is both desired and welcome and that foreign capital investment has a place in the country's economic development. Investors in approved enterprises are assured of facilities for transfer of profits, withdrawal of capital, and employment of necessary foreign personnel. In 1974, Egypt sought specifically to encourage capital investments from multinational corporations in the West, so new projects financed with foreign capital were protected, capital was freed for reexport within five years of its investment in Egypt, and investment profits earned within Egypt were allowed transfer abroad. In 1991, all foreign exchange transfer restrictions were lifted.

The main laws governing foreign investment are the Capital Market Law of 1992, as amended to increase stock market regulation in 1998; the Investment Incentives and Guarantees Law of 1997, establishing the regime for free trade zones (FTZs); and a series of laws in 1998 setting conditions for private (including foreign) participation in public banks, insurance, maritime transport, electricity distribution, and telecommunications.

Depending on their size, location, and other characteristics, new projects financed with foreign capital are exempt from taxation for five to ten years; in addition, payments of interest on foreign loans are not taxable and investors are exempt from certain customs duties. There is one basic condition for approval: the project must be on an approved list in the fields of industrialization, mining, energy, tourism, transportation, reclamation and cultivation of barren land, or animal husbandry. Applications must be made to the General Authority for Arab Investment and the Free Zones, which consists of the minister of state for Arab and foreign economic cooperation and seven other members. The bidding process for contracts has been made more transparent, but Egyptian bids have preference up to 15% above foreign bids. Since 1991, Egypt has liberalized its foreign trade by reducing the number of items on its list of banned imports. In 1990, the list covered 37% of all imports; in 1992, 11%; and in 1999, only apparel was banned. The use of other nontariff barriers on imports and export restrictions has also been reduced. Bureaucratic barriers, however, still hamper investment. FTZs offer exemption from import duties, sales taxes, and taxes and fees on capital goods. A 1% tax is charged on warehoused goods and on exports from assembly plants. Investments are often located in the free zones of Alexandria, Cairo (Nasr City), Port Said, Ismailia, Damietta, Safaga, Sohag, and Suez. In 2003, to deal with the chronic shortage in foreign exchange, a law was passed requiring that 75% of foreign exchange earnings be converted into local currency.

A new Ministry of Investment was created in July 2004 to oversee investment policy, coordinating among the various ministries with investment-related areas of responsibility.

From 1992, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was about $1 billion a year. As of 2005, FDI stock totaled $15$20 billion. Inflows of FDI peaked in 1999 at nearly $3 billion, but then fell to $1.2 billion in 2000, to $510 million in 2001, and to only $184 million in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2003/04. In terms of portfolio investment, the Egyptian stock market declined nearly 60% in 2001, and did not recover by 2004.

The United Kingdom is Egypt's largest foreign investor, followed by the United States; both countries are very active in investing in the oil and gas sector. Other major investing countries are France, Italy, and Arab countries.


At the time of the 1952 revolution, Egypt presented the familiar picture of a dual economy, having a small modern sector developed within a tradition-bound society. A rapidly expanding population was pressing hard on limited agricultural resources; there were severe problems of poverty, unemployment, unequal distribution of income and wealth, disease, political corruption, and illiteracy. Rapid industrialization was viewed as essential to economic improvement. The revolution was both a national revolution, Egyptianizing the economy by ridding it of foreign influence, and a social revolution, developing a "democratic, cooperative, socialist" society. The promised "socialism" was not at that time doctrinaire; it was pragmatically selective in its application. A major objective was the diversion of private investment from land into industry. In this earlier period, industrialization also was fostered through government creation and expansion of industrial firms.

In July 1961, in a major policy shift, socialist decrees brought virtually all economic activity under government ownership or control. The Charter for National Action, which elaborated the philosophy of Arab socialism, was approved by the National Congress of Popular Forces on 1 July 1962. It is clear that the Egyptian government had decided that industrialization and improvement of living standards could come only through central planning and direct government ownership and control of virtually the entire system of production and foreign trade.

Egypt inaugurated its first five-year development program in 1960. By the end of 1965, national income had increased in the five-year period by 39.6%; 171,000 new jobs had been created; and wages and salaries had increased by 54%. A second five-year development plan (196670) was canceled in 1967 because of the Arab-Israeli war, and annual plans were instituted. Shortly after the 1973 war, President Sadat introduced an "open door" economic development program that confirmed Egypt's socialist policy but decentralized decision making in the public sector, removed government constraints on the private sector, and attracted foreign private capital by liberalizing financial and trade regulations. As a result, most public-sector industries developed rapidly during the 197379 period. A five-year development plan (198084) was replaced in 1982 by the new plan for 198287, of which the public sector was allocated 76.5% of the total funds. Of fixed investments in development projects, the industrial and mining sector was to receive 26%, transport and communications 16%, agriculture 12%, housing 11%, and electric power 8%. By 1987/881991/92 investment allocation for the public sector dropped to 62% and to 42% in the 1992/931996/97 plan. It aimed at the privatization of several sectors by encouraging the private sector to invest more capital. Egypt at the end of the 1990s was able to attract more foreign investment, cut the inflation rate, and decrease budget deficits.

As of the early 2000s, the state still controlled virtually all heavy industry, although agriculture was in private hands, and has been deregulated, with the exception of the cotton and sugar sectors. This and other efforts at privatization have increased the growth of the economy. At the end of 2004, total public debt amounted to 102.74% of gross domestic product (GDP), and foreign debt amounted to $33.75 billion. A general sales tax was extended to the wholesale and retail levels of business in 2001. Increased spending on infrastructure projects in the early 2000s widened budget deficits once more. In 2003, after a series of currency devaluations, Egypt adopted a floating exchange rate mechanismthe Egyptian pound was no longer pegged to the dollar.

Although such events as the 1997 terrorist attacks at Luxor, the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dampened the growth of tourism in Egypt, which experienced below-average growth rates in this sector, tourist arrivals were 10 times higher than global averages over the 200003 period, and attracted some 25% of tourist arrivals to the Middle East. There were more than six million visitors to Egypt in 2003. This growth in arrivals generated $4.6 billion in tourism receipts, accounting for 22% of total exports of goods and services, and 39% of services exports, making tourism the largest foreign currency earner in Egypt. In 2004, tourism was estimated to generate some $6.1 billion in revenue, although terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula in 2004 and 2005 contributed to below-target tourist arrivals.


Employees pay 1013% of their wages toward old age, disability, and survivor pensions. Retirement is set at age 60. A death grant and a funeral grant is also available. Employed persons aged 18 or older are covered by work injury insurance, except for casual workers, domestic workers, and the self-employed. Unemployment legislation has been in place since 1959 and covers all employed persons in the public and private sectors. It is funded by contributions from employers with deficits covered by the government.

Equality of the sexes is provided by law, but many aspects of law and traditional practice discriminate against women. Under Egyptian law, only males can transmit citizenship to their children or spouses. Women have won employment opportunities in a number of fields, but Egyptian feminists fear these gains will be halted by resurgent Islamic fundamentalism. Muslim female heirs receive half of the amount of a male heir, and Christian widows of Muslims retain no inheritance rights. The government continues its efforts to eradicate the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Domestic abuse and violence is common. Because the concept of family integrity supersedes the well-being of the woman, few women seek redress from authorities.

Christian minorities in Egypt are often subject to discrimination and harassment. Extremists have attacked churches and have killed Christians. They sometimes face discrimination in obtaining higher education and employment. Muslim converts to Christianity have been subject to harassment by police and have been charged under the Penal Code.

Human rights abuses of torture, extrajudicial killings, and prolonged pretrial detentions are on the decline. Arbitrary arrest and detention continue, and prison conditions remain poor. The government restricts freedom of press, assembly, religion, and expression. Islamic extremists also engaged in terrorist attacks, killing civilians. Human rights organizations do not have legal recognition, but they do operate openly.


Nearly all Egyptians have access to health care. Between 1982 and 1987 (during the first five-year plan), the government established 14 public and central hospitals, 115 rural health units, and 39 rural hospitals. The total number of beds increased by 9,257 during this period (to a total in 1985 of 96,700). In 1987, 190 general and central hospitals were established (26,200 beds), as well as 2,082 rural health units, and 78 village hospitals. In 2000, 95% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 94% had adequate sanitation. As of 2004, there were an estimated 212 physicians, 276 nurses, 27 dentists, and 68 pharmacists per 100,000 people.

Serious diseases in Egypt include schistosomiasis, malaria, hookworm, trachoma, tuberculosis, dysentery, beriberi, and typhus. Although malaria and polio cases were small in number, nearly 1,444 measles cases were reported in 1994. In 1999, Egypt vaccinated children up to one year old against tuberculosis; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (94%); polio; and measles (95%). Of children under age five, 4% were malnourished as of 2000.

As of 2000, 56% of reproductive-age women practiced contraception. Abortion is legal only for medical reasons. The overall death rate was estimated at 7.6 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2002 and the infant mortality rate in 2005 was 32.59 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy in 2005 was 71 years.

A full 80% of all Egyptian women undergo female genital mutilation. There are no specific laws against this practice. Egypt planned to expand its health insurance, with the target of covering 75% of the population. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 3.8% of GDP.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 12,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 900 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Prior to 1952, most Egyptians lived in mud huts. Post revolutionary governments, however, have actively concerned themselves with housing. In order to encourage rural housing activities on unfertile soil, "extension areas" have been allocated for villages. Efforts have been made to provide low-rent housing in towns; the units were constructed in cooperation with the Reconstruction and Popular Dwellings Co., in which the government held a share. Assisted by the state, which grants long-term and low-interest loans, cooperative societies also engage in housing construction. The state affords facilities for cooperatives to acquire land from the religious foundations.

Despite these efforts, Egypt's housing shortage remains acute, with about one million units needed in urban areas. Housing construction was a major priority of development plans in the 1980s, but it was considered likely that it would take many years for Egypt's housing deficit to be met. The greatest shortage is in lowcost housing.

According to the 1996 census, there were about 9.6 million apartments and 4.5 million rural homes throughout the country. About 2.6 million units were built in the period 19811999. There were nearly 400 slum/squatter areas housing over seven million people. In 1998, government subsidies helped build about 63,000 housing units. The new housing demand has been estimated at about 750,000 per year. In 2004, only about 260,000 units were available for sale. About 1.8 million housing units are vacant, partly because tenants can not afford the cost of rent, but also because rent controls translate into low rents in some areas and landlords feel that the cost of maintenance would be higher than their return.


The Education Act of 1953 provided free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 6 and 15. The nine years of basic education is split into six years of primary education and three years of preparatory studies. Secondary schools cover threeyear programs in either general or technical studies. Some students opt for a five-year advanced technical studies program for secondary school. The curriculum was updated in 1995 and includes a greater emphasis on vocational training, as well as on physics and foreign languages. The general secondary education certificate entitles the holder to enter a university.

In 2001, about 13% of children between the ages of four and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 91% of age-eligible students. In 2001, secondary school enrollment was about 78% of age-eligible students; 80% for boys and 76% for girls. It is estimated that about 91% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 22:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 17:1.

A decree of 23 July 1962 provided free tuition at all Egyptian universities. The traditional center for religious education in the Muslim world is Al-Azhar in Cairo, which in 1983 celebrated 1,000 years of teaching as the oldest continuously operating school in the world. Al-Azhar offers instruction in three faculties and 14 affiliated institutes and maintains its own primary and secondary schools. There are a total of 13 universities, and numerous institutes of higher learning.

There is also the American University in Cairo, which offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as an American school in Cairo and one in Alexandria. The American Research Center in Cairo is supported by US universities and museums. It was established in 1948 to encourage the exchange of archaeologists and other researchers in almost all fields of interest.

Adult education, under the Ministry of Education, is increasingly important. Since 1993 the government conducted a campaign against illiteracy. Business firms are required to combat illiteracy among their employees. Recent university graduates are being hired to lead literacy classes, and armed forces recruits are also expected to teach. In addition, the government has set up 3,000 oneclass schools to teach a nontraditional study plan. These schools are aimed at girls who are unlikely to attend formal schooling, and as a result, are likely to remain illiterate. The schools provide vocational training and lessons on income generating businesses, in addition to the more traditional classes in Arabic, religion, sciences and arithmetic. In 2003, about 19% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 55.6%, with 67.2% for men and 43.6% for women. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.7% of GDP.


In 2003 the Bibliotheca Alexandria was established on the same site of the ancient library destroyed in a fire 2,000 years before. Bibliotheca Alexandria is the largest library in the Middle East and serves as a cultural center with exhibit areas, planetarium, and conference center. Egypt's other major libraries are the Egyptian National Library (2.5 million volumes), Alexandria University Library (with 15 collections, of which the largestbelonging to the Faculty of Artsnumbers 141,300 volumes), and the Cairo University Library (more than 1.4 million volumes). The National Library also functions as the main public library for the nation's capital and supervises 11 branch libraries located throughout the country. The Municipal Library in Alexandria contains one of the country's largest public library collections, with 23,390 Arabic and 35,400 European volumes.

One of the most important special libraries is the Scientific and Technical Documentation Division of the National Research Center at Cairo, which has the best collection of scientific and technical material in the Arab world. American University in Cairo sponsors a library system of nearly 400,000 volumes (primarily English language) and holds the Creswell Collection of Islamic art and architecture, comprising about 3,200 bound volumes. In all, Egyptian libraries affiliated with institutions of higher education hold over 35 million volumes. Assuit University sponsors 16 libraries with an approximate total of 177,274 Arabic volumes and 167,120 foreign books, as well as hundreds of periodicals.

The Egyptian National Museum, founded in 1902, contains unique exhibits from prehistoric times up to the 3rd century ad, and it also has a notable Department of Antiquities, established in 1835, which supervises excavations and administers archaeological museums. There are many specialized museums, including the Coptic Museum, devoted to the history of the old Christian Monophysites; the Museum of Islamic Art; the Greco-Roman Museum; the Agricultural Museum; the State Museum of Modern Art; the Islamic Archaeological Museum; the Railway Museum; and the Cotton Museum. There is a museum dedicated exclusively to the work of Mohmoud Mokhtar in Cairo. Several former royal palaces have been transformed into museums: the Al-Gawhara Palace in Cairo (a converted 19th-century Ottoman palace), Ras at-Tin Palace in Alexandria, and Al-Montazah Palace in Montazah-Alexandria.


Telephone, telegraph, radio, and television services are operated by the state-owned Telecommunication Organization. In 2003, there were an estimated 127 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 99,500 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 84 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

As of 1999, there were 42 AM and 14 FM radio stations and 42 television stations, broadcasting mostly in Arabic. In 2003, there were an estimated 339 radios and 229 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 21.9 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 39 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 28 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The two leading newspapers, with their estimated 2002 daily circulations, are Al-Ahram (The Pyramid ; 900,000) and Al-Akhbar (The News ; 780,000). Al-Jumhuriyah (The Republic ; 900,000) is the official publication of the government; Al-Ahram is the unofficial publication. The leading evening paper is Al-Misa'a (405,000). There is also an English-language newspaper, the Egyptian Gazette (40,000). Arev is a daily Armenian paper. There are two weekly Greek publications, Phos (20,000) and Tachydromos-Egyptos (2,000). Le Journal D'Egypte (weekly, 72,000) and La Reforme (daily) are the leading French publications.

On 23 May 1960, all Egyptian newspapers were nationalized and subjected to censorship. President Sadat ended formal press censorship in 1974, but the following year he set up a government council to supervise the newspapers. In 1981, President Mubarak revoked the ban on opposition newspapers, but the press remains sensitive to the wishes of the government. The Middle East News Agency is under the supervision of the information section of the Ministry of National Guidance. The constitution does provide for freedom of speech and press, though the government exercises control through media ownership, oversight, and a monopoly on resources such as newsprint.


Most organizations in Egypt serve occupational and professional (particularly agricultural) goals. The land reform law makes it compulsory for landholders who have obtained land under it to join cooperative societies (such as the Egyptian Seed Association) to help supply them with tested seeds, tools if available, and possibly markets. Several multinational organizations are based in Egypt, including the African Farmers Association and the Arab Labor Organization. The International Labour Organization has an office in Cairo. There are many chambers of commerce, representing various cities and various economic groups. The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce is in Cairo.

There are scholastic and archaeological, accounting, economic, historical, and other learned organizations. A national Academy of Scientific Research and Technology was established in 1971. The Egyptian Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are also several associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.

Egypt serves as a multinational center for many sports organizations, including Arab federations for boxing, fishing, basketball, judo, gymnastics, and fencing, to name a few. Many youth organizations are affiliated with religious institutions. Scouting programs are active, as are chapters of the YMCA/YWCA. The Egyptian Association of Women promotes higher education and professional training for women.

The multinational Arab Organization for Human Rights is based in Cairo. There are national chapters of the Red Crescent Society, CARE, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, UNICEF, and Caritas.


Passports and visas are required of tourists. Visitors arriving from most African, American, and Caribbean countries need either a certificate of vaccinations against yellow fever or a location certificate from the Sudanese government stating that they have not been in southern Sudan within the previous six days.

Tourism has been a major foreign exchange earner. It grew steadily after the end of the Iran-Iraq war. There were 6,044,160 foreign visitors in 2003, almost 69% of whom came from Europe. The 136,510 hotel rooms with 273,020 beds had an occupancy rate of 59%. Tourism receipts totaled $4.7 billion. The average length of stay that year was eight nights. Principal tourist attractions include the pyramids and Great Sphinx at Giza, the Abu Simbel temples south of Aswan, the Valley of the Kings at Luxor, and the Muhammad Ali Mosque in Cairo. Rides are available on fellucas, traditional sailing boats of the Nile. Popular pastimes among Egyptians include card playing, movie-going, and sports such as football (soccer), swimming, tennis, and horse racing.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Cairo at $239. Expenses in Alexandria were $242 per day.


Egypt's first recorded ruler, or pharaoh, was Menes (or Narmer, fl.3100? bc), who united the southern and northern kingdoms and founded the capital at Memphis. Notable successor pharaohs included Cheops (Khufu, fl.26th cent. bc), who built the Great Pyramid at Giza; Thutmose III (r.1504?1450 bc), who greatly extended the empire through conquest; Amenhotep III (r.14171379 bc), who ruled at the summit of ancient Egyptian civilization and built extensive monuments; his son Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten, or Ikhnaton, r.13791362 bc), who, with his queen, Nefertiti, instituted a brief period of monotheism; and Tutankhamen (r.13611352 bc), whose tomb containing valuable treasures was found practically intact in 1922. Cleopatra VII (6930 bc) was involved in the political conflicts of the Romans.

Philo Judaeus (13? bcad 50?) attempted to combine Greek philosophy with Judaism. Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus, fl.2d cent. ad) was the foremost astronomer of ancient times. Egyptian-born Plotinus (ad 205?270) was a neoplatonic philosopher in Rome.

The most notable of Egypt's rulers under the Muslim caliphate was Saladin (Salah ad-Din, 113893), sultan of Egypt and Syria and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. The founder of Egypt as a part of the Ottoman Empire was Muhammad 'Ali (17691849), of Albanian origin, the first of a dynasty that ended with the deposition of Faruk in 1952. 'Arabi Pasha (Ahmad 'Arabi, 1841?1911) led a popular uprising against British intervention in 1882 but was defeated. Later, the fiery political fight against British rule was waged by Sa'ad Zaghlul Pasha (1860?1927), a founder of the Nationalist Party, Wafd.

No one had greater influence on Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s than Gamal Abdel Nasser (Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir, 191870), the moving spirit of the army's revolt against the monarchy in 1952. As prime minister (195456) and president (195670), Nasser set Egypt on its socialist course and attempted to unify the Arab world through confederation. His successor as president, Anwar al-Sadat (as-Sadat, 191881), continued Nasser's policies but with important modifications, especially in relation to Israel; with Menachem Begin he shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 and negotiated the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979. Upon Sadat's assassination in 1981, Muhammad Hosni (Husni) Mubarak (b.1928), who had been air force chief of staff (196972) and vice-president (197581), became president of Egypt. Mohamed ElBaradei (b.1942) is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

The poet Sami al-Barudi (18391904) wrote popular and highly regarded verses about Islam's heroic early age. 'Abbas al-Aqqad (18891964) has been called the greatest contemporary Arab poet and the most original Arab writer. Involved in a political plot, he was jailed and composed an Arab "De Profundis" about his life in prison. Taha Husayn (18891973), the most widely known modern Egyptian intellectual leader, was minister of education from 1950 to 1952. The poet and essayist Malak Hifni Nasif (18861918) sought an improvement in the status of women. Ahmad Zaki Abu Shadi (18921955) was a renowned poet, essayist, and dramatist. Mahmud Taymur (18941973), a leading dramatist, wrote popular social satires and comedies. Um Kalthum (Fatma al-Zahraa Ibrahim, 1898?1975) was the most famous singer of the Arab world. Mohammed Hassanein Heikal (b.1923), journalist and author, was the outspoken editor of the influential newspaper Al-Ahram (195774) until he was forced by the government to resign. In 1988, Naguib Mahfouz (b.1912) won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Ahmed Hassan Zewail (b.1946) is an Egyptian-American chemist, and the winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on femtochemistry.


Egypt has no territories or colonies.


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Bunson, Margaret. Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York: Facts on File, 2002.

Goldschmidt, Arthur. Historical Dictionary of Egypt. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2003.

. Historical Dictionary of Egypt. [computer file] Boulder, Colo.: netLibrary, Inc., 2000.

Harik, Iliya F. Economic Policy Reform in Egypt. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997.

Rossellini, Ippolito. The Monuments of Egypt and Nubia. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2003.

Shaw, Ian (ed.). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Supples, Kevin. Egypt. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2002.

Weiss, Dieter. The Economics and Politics of Transition to an Open Market Economy: Egypt. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1998.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

Zuehlke, Jeffrey. Egypt in Pictures. Minneapolis: Lerner, 2003.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Arab Republic of Egypt
Region: Africa
Population: 68,359,979
Language(s): Arabic, English, French
Literacy Rate: 51.4%
Number of Primary Schools: 18,522
Compulsory Schooling: 8 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 4.8%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 6,726
Libraries: 187
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 7,499,303
  Secondary: 6,726,738
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 101%
  Secondary: 75%
  Higher: 20%
Teachers: Primary: 310,116
  Secondary: 424,586
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 23:1
  Secondary: 17:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 94%
  Secondary: 70%
  Higher: 16%

History & Background

The Arab Republic of Egypt is situated at the crossroads between Europe and the Orient and between North Africa and southwest Asia. Egypt controls both the Sinai Peninsula, the only land bridge between Africa and the remainder of the Eastern Hemisphere, and the Suez Canal, the shortest sea link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean forms the northern boundary, on the east is Israel and the Gaza strip, on the south is Sudan, and on the west is Libya.

Approximately the size of Texas and New Mexico combined, Egypt occupies 1,001,494 square kilometers with 995,450 square kilometers of land area and 6,000 square kilometers of water. The land is mostly a vast desert plateau interrupted by the narrow green ribbon of the Nile Valley and delta. The longest river in the world, the Nile, flows 1600 kilometers through Egypt northward from the Egypt-Sudanese border to the Mediterranean Sea.

Egyptian economy is based on its natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, and several minerals. There are no permanent pastures, forests, or woodlands. Dependence on food imports is heavy. Almost all large-scale industry is in the public domain. Manufacturing produces mainly consumer goods, but also some iron, steel, aluminum, and cement. Economic diversity began in 1960 with industrialization efforts, development of oil revenues, tourism, Suez Canal income, and remittances from expatriates working in various Arab countries.

The private sector, dominated by food processing and textiles, is comprised of 150,000 small and medium businesses. Most Egyptians work for mini-firms; nearly 100 percent of the non-agricultural private enterprises have fewer than 50 employees, most have fewer than 10 and many have fewer than 4. Egypt ranks fourth in the world on the list of countries implementing privatization programs. In 1999, the economic picture turned rosy with a sustained growth rate of five percent, inflation below four percent, a budget deficit of approximately one percent of GDP, and foreign revenues of 18 billion, covering about 14 months worth of imports.

Egypt is a (limited) multiparty socialist state based on Islamic law. Suffrage is universal and compulsory. Politically, Egypt is divided into governorates (provinces) each subdivided into districts, which are further subdivided into communes. The governors heading each governate administer the plans and operation of the schools. The Eastern Hamitic stock (Egyptians, Bedouins, and Berbers) comprises 99 percent of the population with Greeks, Nubians, Armenians, and other Europeans (primarily Italians and French) at less than one percent. The Hamitic people are descendents of the ancient Egyptians. Islam is the religion of 94 percent of Egyptians with Sunni Muslims in the majority; Coptic Christians and others make up the remaining six percent.

The population is concentrated in the Nile Valley and delta, an area roughly the size of Vermont, where approximately 95 percent of the population is packed into 5 percent of the country. Some 45.1 percent of Egyptians live in urban areas; approximately 2.3 million were living abroad in 1997. In 1995, the workforce numbered 16.9 million; in 1999, it had grown to 19.0 million. Approximately 40 percent of the labor force is engaged in agriculture, 38 percent in services, and 22 percent in industry. Unemployment is high; in 1999, the unemployment rate was estimated to be 11.8 percent. The population explosion is staggering. The population of 49 million in 1985 expanded beyond 68 million in 2000, an increase of more than 105,000 people per month. More than one-third of the population was under the age of 15 in 2000. The population growth rate has slowly declined from 2.8 percent in 1986 to 2.1 percent in 1999.

In 1992, an estimated 9 percent of the children under the age of five were malnourished. Estimates in the late 1990s reported that 52 percent of school children suffered from anemia and 20 percent from vitamin and protein deficiency. Poverty estimates vary; government statistics show 23 percent of Egyptian households to be below (the very low) poverty line in 1999. The consensus of independent observers is that the rate is closer to 35 percent. Arabic is the official language. Many variations of vernacular Arabic are spoken and the people in the Aswan region speak Nubian. The Coptic language spoken in the middle regions is the last stage of ancient Egyptianno longer spoken but still used in the Bohairic dialect for liturgical purposes.

Egyptian history dates back more than 7,000 years. In the period between 6000 and 2686 B.C., hunters and gatherers settled along the banks of the Nile and evolved into settled, subsistence agriculturists. Written language, religion, and institutions developed. The unification of Upper (Red Land) Egypt and Lower (Black Land) Egypt in the third millennium B.C. is considered by Egyptians to be the "First Time" or the creation of the universe. Unification marked the beginning of the Pharaonic Age. The monuments that remain give testimony to the administrative and religious structures developed in that era. Higher education in ancient Egypt took place in the temples where sciences such as physics, astronomy, solid geometry, geography, mathematics, measurements, and medicine were taught as well as ethics, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. Plato attended the University of "Eon" in Cairo.

The Pyramid Age lasted for five centuries and was followed by a long history of invasions. A Persian invasion overthrew the last Pharaoh in 525 B.C., and Persians ruled intermittently until 333 B.C. when Alexander the Great arrived, became the "king" of Egypt and founded Alexandria. Direct and exploitive Roman rule began in 30 B.C. upon the death of Cleopatra, lasting six centuries until 640 A.D. The Arab conquest of Egypt (639-641) eventually transformed a predominately Christian society into a Muslim country in which the Arabic language and culture were widely adopted. A number of dynasties ruled Egypt between 868 and 1260. In 1250, Turkish tribes crossed the borders eventually converting to Islam and controlling Egypt until 1517 when the Ottomans added Egypt to their empire. A dim period followed, lasting more than five centuries under the Mamluk and Turkish rules (1250 to 1798) and education, as with all aspects of life, stagnated and diminished. Napoleon's brief invasion (1798-1801) was accompanied by a commission of scholars and scientists sent to investigate every aspect of life in Egypt. Their report was later to become a valuable historic record. Ottoman pasha Muhammad Ali governed Egypt between 1805 and 1848 and initiated a dual system of education; one for children of the masses who attended traditional Islamic schools and the other for the elite civil servants and technicians who studied a broader range of subjects, generally of western origin.

Muhammad Ali established higher education military schools, a marine school, schools of medicine, pharmacology, veterinary medicine, engineering metallurgy, arts, irrigation, agriculture, industrial chemistry, gynecology and obstetrics, languages, accountancy, and administration during the first three decades of the 1800s. Turkey and other European countries forced Egypt to scale back education and military forces in 1841. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 highlighted Egypt's strategic geographic importance and paved the way for foreign intervention and domination. A 40-year British "protectorate," beginning in 1882 and lasting until 1922, continued the social and economic stratification of the society and the dual education system. Colonization brought with it the imposition of non-Egyptian models of schooling including education elitism. Education for the masses ("education for serfdom") was either nonexistent or limited to low-level subsistence activities. In the 25 years between 1882 and 1907, the Egyptian population grew from 7 to 11 million, but few new schools were founded. When independence came in 1922, more than 95 percent of the Egyptian population was illiterate.

Independence brought a monarchy with a multiparty parliamentary government system, but real power remained with the British and education remained elitist. It wasn't until Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in 1954 that serious efforts to expand Egyptian education began. Islamic values were a cornerstone of this education. The government began appointing the functionaries of mosques and Islamic religious schools while simultaneously expanding secular education. Five-year plans for 1961-1965 and 1966-1970 included as goals the education of the masses and guaranteed government employment for all higher education graduates. Hampered by three wars in 15 years, only modest educational gains were made. Nasser's era was one of socialism, planning, Arab nationalism, and the rise of Islamic radicalism. Upon Nasser's death, Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) moved to open and liberalize economic and political participation. His economic Open Door policy (infitah ) ended (de facto ) the college graduate hiring requirement and, by the mid-1980s, unemployment among university graduates was estimated to be as high as 30 percent. Sadat continued Nasser's educational patterns. Comprehensive national planning lapsed, but higher education was flooded with students, and more than a dozen universities or branches opened in the 1970s accompanied by mass migration of professors to higher salaries in other Arab countries.

Hosni Mubarak revived national planning. The developmental strategies of the first (1982-1987) plan included increasing manpower productivity through training and educational programs. Under this plan, student enrollments increased 27 percent; university enrollments, 6 percent; and the number of schools, 14 percent. A major goal of a 1988-1992 National Plan was to promote education, especially technical education, to produce the manpower resources needed for the expanding economy. The 1989 Educational Development Plan was designed to "equip the populace to value human rights, to grow mentally, physically, and spiritually, and to develop higher rational abilities; create a productive society by providing highly skilled and educated citizens; achieve the total development of individualseconomically, socially, and culturallyby integrating knowledge with attitudes and aspiration; and prepare a generation of scientists." The comprehensive plan proposed expansion of all educational levels, life-long education, and self education; educational reform, including coordination among educational sectors; eradication of illiteracy; continuous educational planning; educational research; variety in educational delivery systems; family participation in the education process; the separation of wages from college degrees; and improved dissemination of educational information and practices.

The succession of post-revolution leaders: Nasser (Arab Socialism), Sadat (Open Door), and Mubarak (Grand Revival) each established new national social and economic development goals, thereby requiring shifts in the direction of the educational system. The educational policies of the three national leaders, however, shared important common themesthey all supported universal education and the introduction of technological skills into society through the educational system.

The 1980s and 1990s saw Islamic acts of violence with assassinations of top government officials and security officers, members of the Coptic Christian minority, writers, and foreign tourists "in a relentless murderous cycle." The Society of the Muslim Brotherhood, established in 1928, became the major Islamic fundamentalist movement and has remained so. Essentially, the Brotherhood is an Islamic protest movement against change and modernity, government corruption, social and economic injustice, and foreign influence. With branches in other Arab countries, it comes close to being a transnational, pan-Islamic movement. In the mid-1990s, the government attempted to rid the educational system of Islamic influences by transferring hundreds of teachers to administrative posts, removing Islamic tracts from library shelves, and banning the imposition of veiling on young schoolgirls. The costs of three wars in fifteen years (1956 Suez War, 1967 Arab-Israeli Six Day War, and the 1969-1970 war of attrition) followed by world recession, drops in oil prices, and an exploding population strained resources for Egypt's massive educational efforts. The picture is reversing in the new millennium due to the rise of oil prices in 1999 and improved fiscal management.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Egyptian constitutions date back to 1923, 1956, 1958 (provisional), 1964 (provisional), and 1971 (significantly amended in 1980). The current constitution declares Egypt to be a democratic, socialist state and the Egyptian people to be part of the Arab nation. Islam is the state religion and Arabic the official language. Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation, and sovereignty is for the people alone. Political parties are regulated by law. Education, cultural, social, and health services are guaranteed. Every citizen has a constitutional guarantee to "choose the level and type of education that suit and agree with her/her talents, abilities and attitudes." Religious education is to be a principal subject in general education. Free education in the state educational institutions is guaranteed, and combating illiteracy is declared a national duty. Education Act No. 146/1981 grants educational authorities the power to require payments for "additional services" and for "insurance on the use of school equipment." A Ministry of Education decree in 1992 (No. 187) imposes such an annual fee (9 Egyptian pounds in primary school and 13.2 in elementary school). Still another decree (149/1986) imposes private group tuition of 2 Egyptian pounds monthly in primary school (3 pounds in preparatory school) for each course attended. Parent and teacher councils can double these fees.

The ambitious provisions of the 1989 Educational Development Plan were implemented by laws and decrees in the 1990s that:

  • changed the nine year compulsory education to eight years
  • increased the academic year from 30 to 38 weeks
  • established the General Organization for School Buildings to plan for school building needs
  • established a ten-year plan to eradicate illiteracy with emphasis on the education of women, the elderly, and rural populations
  • developed new training programs for teachers of learning-impaired children
  • allocated funds to establish one- or two-classroom schools
  • upgraded school quality at all levels with new curricula
  • coordinated university admission with secondary school diploma requirements
  • standardized teacher preparation
  • created a central division for educational planning within the Ministry of Education.

The 1990s were declared the National Decade of the Child and the National Decade for the Eradication of Illiteracy. The next educational plan, which covered the period from 1992 to 1997, contained corresponding programs for education. Program I, the promotion of education, planned for expanding and upgrading schools and universities and for expanding outside-of-school projects for dropouts and primary school non-enrollers. Program II planned for the eradication of illiteracy by the year 2000.

The plan set in motion the establishment of one-room rural schools for girls and community schools; upgrading the preparation of primary and preparatory teachers to the university level; initiation of a national program of in-service teacher training with in-county and overseas training; revision of primary and preparatory school curricula, textbooks, and teacher-guide books; expansion of modern technologies with laboratories, computer acquisition, remote teaching systems, video conferences for teacher training, and multimedia teaching materials; establishment of the National Center for Examinations and Educational Evaluation; transfer of kindergartens to the Ministry of Education; establishment of training for kindergarten teachers; and a center for developing kindergarten materials.

Educational SystemOverview

Current educational philosophy in Egypt is the product of three cultural heritages: British, secular (westernized) Egyptian, and Islamic (traditional) Egyptian. The British protectorate in Egypt left an exclusionary, state-controlled education system structured to serve elite (British) interests with little concern for the masses. The heritage was one of restricted opportunity, unenforced limited education (generally of poor quality), and higher education reserved mostly for the elite. Egyptians and non-English foreigners were left few options but to expand private and religious education.

Muhammad Ali, regarded as the father of modern Egypt and its education system, introduced a secular, modern, western educational philosophy complete with sciences. Egyptian leaders since the bloodless revolution that ended the monarchy in 1952 have espoused this approach, viewing it as essential to Egyptian development. Islamic education remained in place and, eventually, the traditional Islamic and the western educational tracks, with their differing orientations, created a dichotomized educational culture that persists to the present.

The Islamic heritage is an educational system, parallel to public education, that is basically a system of transmitting culture. From its founding in 972 until the modern period in the nineteenth century, Al-Azhar University mosque played a central role in shaping the country's religious, educational, and cultural life. At the bottom of the Islamic educational system were kuttabs (mosque or Quranic schools), the madrasas (religious schools), and the Sufi (mystical orders). Resting on memorization and recitation, the traditional methods for learning the Quran, this educational system does not stress experimentation, problem-solving analysis, or learningby-doing. Education is conceived as a process that involves the complete person, including rational, spiritual, and social dimensions. The Arab/Muslim heritage carries an orientation that transcends national boundaries to include all Arabs and Muslims. From 1922 on, Nasser offered free education, not only for Egyptians, but also for students from other Muslim countries. At the same time, Egypt sent teachers and administrators out to the rest of the Arab world where they set up and staffed schools and universities on a large scale.

Egypt's educational system both reflects and augments the socio-economic status of its own people. Historic conflicts between religious and secular leaders, between tradition and innovation, and between foreign and national interests all influence contemporary Egyptian education. Education in Egypt has political, social, and economic objectives, namely: education for strengthening democracy and comprehensive development as a continuous process, within the framework of Arab culture.

Political tides in Egypt are reflected in educational philosophy. In the early decades following independence, the political system was in a state of transformation and experimentation that resulted in confusing educational policies with fragmented development plans. In the era of economic concerns in the early 1960s, education became a tool to promote economic change. The social focus dominant in the later 1960s led schools to instruct strong Islamic values and democratic ideals. During the 1970s, which was a time of institutionalization, the educational system was bureaucratized.

The Egyptian government recognizes the tensions between Islam and western-generated science and attempts to develop educational goals facilitating both. Throughout the past 40 years, the strong autocratic government, rooted in the Islamic tradition of the protective father, sometimes conflicted with the democratization efforts in schools; nevertheless, the number of schools and technical schools increased even in times of economic downturns.

There is an abiding belief in education. It is viewed as vital to the transmission of cultural values and as a critical force in individual development and in national Egyptian development. Pre-university education reflects the dual secular and religious philosophies as it aims to develop the learner culturally, scientifically, and nationally at successive levels "with the aim of developing the Egyptian individual who is faithful to his God, his homeland, and to the values of good, truth, and humanity."

The public education system consists of three stages: the basic education stage for 4- to 14-year-olds (kindergarten for two years followed by primary school for five years and preparatory school for three years); the secondary school stage for three years, generally for ages 14 to 17; and the tertiary (university) stage. Education is compulsory for 8 years between the ages of 6 and 14. All levels of education are tuition-free at all government schools and institutions. In 1993, more than 13.8 million people were enrolled in state education at all levels. In five years, that figure grew by 5 million. Ninety-one percent of all school-age children were enrolled in school in 1991. When this figure is adjusted for school dropouts and students repeating grades, the enrollment figures drop to 84 percent. (Unofficial estimates place this figure at 70 percent). In 1996, the total official enrollment in primary, preparatory, and secondary schools topped 14 million, the equivalent of 88 percent of the school-age population (boys, 94 percent; girls, 82 percent). In 1998-1999, some 17 million students were enrolled.

Rural-urban inequities continue to persist; in 1991-1992, rural enrollments often did not exceed 50 percent of the appropriate age group and were as low as 10 percent in some regions. Gender inequities also persist; fewer female than male students are enrolled. Many girls drop out of school at the end of their basic compulsory program either to work or to marry. A law prohibiting girls from marrying prior to age 16 has slowly begun to affect the female dropout rates. The law is frequently ignored, however.

The planning process, especially at the basic education level, begins at the bottom as governate officials submit new project proposals (schools, classrooms, equipment, and teachers) and budget requests every year to the Ministry of Education.

Preprimary & Primary Education: Within the Ministry of Education, a Higher Council for Childhood supervises and coordinates preschool education with other concerned authorities. By ministerial decree, preschool education is intended to aid mental, physical, social, moral, and emotional development; develop language skills and numerical and technical abilities, especially creativity and imagination; raise children in a better environment; help children develop good personalities; and help children gradually accept formal school life and discipline.

In 1995-1996 there were 2,060 preschools staffed by 10,913 teachers, enrolling 266,502 students. Preschool enrollment included 80 percent of the children in the relevant age group (boys, 86 percent, and girls, 74 percent). There are no periods in the preschool day; days are filled with activities and experiences to help children develop their spiritual, moral, physical, social, and emotional domains. Homework or outside duties are strongly discouraged.

All preschool institutions, whether state run or privately operated, are under the Ministry of Education, educationally, technically, and administratively. The Ministry selects and distributes textbooks; the use of any additional textbooks is forbidden. Guidelines state that each class is to have two teachers and a helper in addition to a music teacher. The maximum class size is 45 students. No child less than 4-years-old is allowed in state preschool classes or schools. The private sector can accept children younger than 4, but not less than 3 years and 9 months.

Primary school is also concerned with physical, social, moral, and emotional development, as well as with giving children the knowledge and technical skills needed for a successful practical life. Students may attend non-government private schools, religious schools, or government schools. Primary schools enroll 60 percent of the total school population for all levels of schooling in Egypt. Approximately 45 percent of the primary students are girls, and the majority of primary teachers are women. English and French private schools are growing in popularity as bilingualism gives children social and academic privileges and later lucrative employment. Primary enrollments continue to climb. Primary schools served more than 1.0 million more students (7.5 million) in 1995-1996 (in more than 22,000 additional classrooms) than in 1990-1991. In 1995-1996, the Al-Azhar Moslem system served 704,446 students in 1,912 primary schools with another 147,762 students enrolled in 1,030 preparation (grades 6 through 8) schools.

Secondary Education: The second tier of compulsory education (grades 6 through 8) lasts for three years. Students completing the primary tier of basic education can complete the second tier in general preparation schools, in vocational training centers or schools, or in vocational preparatory classes. Completion of this tier earns the Basic Education Completion Certificate or the Certificate in Vocational Basic Education. An important function of preparatory education is to provide a safeguard against illiteracy as early school dropouts tend to lapse back into illiteracy. The enrollments in preparatory schools in the 1990s totaled 3,679,325, less than half that of the primary schools. Preparatory schools reflect the attrition occurring in the final primary year.

There are two types of public secondary education: general secondary education and technical secondary education. To enter general secondary education, students must pass a national exam given at the end of their preparatory stage. Secondary schools conduct examinations every month for the first two years, and students take a national exam in the final year. Those who pass receive the Certificate of General Secondary Education, a requirement for admission to the universities (accompanied by a strong academic record). A wide range of social, cultural, athletic, scientific, and artistic extra-curricular activities are available in secondary schools, usually sponsored by the teachers. Enrollment expanded significantly between 1990-1991 and 1994-1995 in secondary school (47 percent in general secondary and 85 percent in technical-vocational secondary). In 1994-1995, general secondary enrollment reached 894,400 students, while technical-vocational enrollment was more than twice as high at 1,893.800 students. In 1996 secondary school enrollment included 68 percent of the appropriate age group (boys, 71 percent; girls, 64 percent). In 1995-1996 there were 2,753 secondary schools with 6,142,651 students and 369,107 teachers.

The parallel Islamic educational system, also known as the Al-Azhar system, has a four-year primary stage, a three-year preparatory stage, and a four-year secondary stage. Girls and boys attend separate schools. In 1995-1996, the Al-Azhar Moslem system operated 57 secondary schools with 165,829 students. The curriculum is identical to the normal public curriculum with additional study of the Quran and Islamic sciences. Graduates are automatically accepted into Al-Azhar University.

Special Education: In 2000 approximately 10 to 12 percent of pre-university students were special education students. Responsibility for the physically challenged is shared by the Ministry of Education (concerned with the education of the blind and partially sighted, deaf and partially deaf, and mentally retarded), the Ministry of Social Affairs (provides rehabilitation services to all disabled persons), the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Manpower. By 1994-1995, a total of 25 schools for the blind, 95 schools for the hearing-impaired, and 107 schools for the mentally impaired students were operating. Special schools and classes are provided at all levels, serving a total of 22,043 students in 1996-1997.

English language study is part of the curricula in the preparatory stage of basic special education (seventh and eight grades for the deaf and fourth grade for the blind). Changes in the 1990s include a library class added to primary education for the blind and the deaf as well as a class in Arabic handwriting as a separate subject from the Arabic language. A kindergarten for deaf children, starting from age 4, was planned for 1995-1996. Special government departments are authorized for multi-handicapped children and for learning disabled children. Government-sponsored special education schools serve the gifted and talented and the mentally retarded, as well as the physically challenged. Plans to identify gifted students in the kindergarten stage and then to provide special learning experiences for them were developed in 1996. In 1994-1995, some 699 new classrooms were established for 20,790 gifted secondary students. The Ein Shams University School for the gifted was developed with 12 classes serving 261 children.

Other special schools include private schools in villages attached to mosques and private foreign schools where the language of instruction is often not Arabic. At the end of each month, all children in each grade are tested on the same monthly educational unit. In January, they are tested on all three units. The process is repeated in May. The examinations at grades three and five and in preparatory school are prepared and administered locally and considered to be uneven and poor in quality. Children scoring badly on the Grade 5 exam are placed in the least desirable preparatory schools; those scoring badly on the Grade 8 exam may only enter technical secondary schools. An extensive nationally-constructed testing system devised in the 1990s was never implemented. Regional authorities resented national intrusion and refused to cooperate; however, gentler means of improving testing have been introduced.

Higher Education: In the 27 years between 1951-1952 and 1978-1979, student enrollment in public universities grew nearly 1,400 percent. In 1989-1990, there were 14 public universities with a total enrollment of 700,000 students. Four private universities opened in 1996, and there were 612,844 students (231,065 women) and 33,100 academic staff by 1993-1994. By 2000, the universities generated 150,000 graduates a year.

A two-semester system for the school year was instituted in all universities in 1992. The university academic year is 30 working weeks. Arabic is the medium of instruction in humanities, social studies, education, law, commerce, economics and political sciences, information, social service, tourism and hotels. English is widely used in the faculties of medicine, pharmacology, dentistry science, and engineering.

Higher education includes non-university training in Egypt in engineering and technological education institutes, education institutes, private institutes, technical industrial institutes, and commercial and hotel institutes. Since the late 1970s, the government initiated policies to reorient postsecondary education toward technical training programs in agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other fields. Student subsidies were partially responsible for a 15 percent annual increase in enrollments in the country's five-year technical institutes. In 1993-1994, 49,703 students were enrolled in commerce institutes (24,906 women) and 31,259 in technical institutes (9,401 women). Universities, however, permitted graduates of secondary schools and technical institutes to enroll as "external students;" they could not attend classes, but could sit for examinations and earn degrees. The policy resulted in a flourishing clandestine trade in class notes and professors overburdened with additional examinations.

Literacy education began in the 1930s when the Ministry of Social Affairs opened a number of rural welfare centers in the governates offering limited health services and literacy education. Progress through the next decades was slow, and rural illiteracy remained high. President Mubarak launched a massive campaign for the eradication of illiteracy from 1993 to 2002. The General Agency for the Eradication of Illiteracy and Adult Education oversees the schedule for the literacy plan, which targets the 9,792,800 illiterates between the ages of 15 and 35. The literacy plan includes evaluation and rewriting of literacy curricula and educational materials, a collaborative effort between the Agency, UNICEF, and the Center for Curriculum Development and Educational Materials (three integrated books on Arabic, mathematics and general culture plus teachers guides were Completed by 2001), and training programs for leaders and supervisors (more than 13,389 teachers and supervisors have been trained). In addition, the plan includes training unemployed institute and university graduates for teaching literacy (in 1996 about 30,000 of these graduates were trained); using 10,000 military-enlisted personnel to identify learners and equip classrooms with materials; a publicity campaign; conferences and workshops on literacy; the development of a database and information system; and bilateral agreements with UNICEF, UNESCO, Arab organizations, and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations). Special literacy classes are provided for those with special needs.

Female literacy in 1927 was only 5 percent; fifty years later it was 38 percent (male literacy was 62 percent). The combined adult literacy rate was estimated at 44 percent in 1980, the lowest of 10 comparable lower-middle income countries. In 1995, UNESCO estimated the literacy rate to be 51.4 percent (males, 63.6; females, 38.8 percent). As of June 1996, more than 956,000 adult learners completed the literacy program, with more than 596,000 other students attending 27,225 classes. By 1998, adult literacy is believed to have increased to 62.2 percent as a direct result of the government initiatives. Government financial support for literacy education increased from slightly less than 6 million Egyptian pounds in 1992-1993 to nearly 79 million Egyptian pounds three years later. In addition, the Social Fund allocated 105 million Egyptian pounds to mobilize college and institute graduates to work in the project.

Technology & Instructional Materials: In the early 1990s, The Center for Educational Technology was established within the Ministry of Education. Technology equipment is considered "as a medium for developing scientific thinking, problem solving, new modes of learning, and training and communication." New technology planned for pre-university schools includes computers, projectors, television and video sets, and CDI sets. A five-year plan to equip 10,000 schools with this new technology was completed, and 2,000 computer instructors were appointed to secondary schools. Advanced science laboratories were developed in secondary schools (1,500 laboratories with 16,500 new computers). By the mid-1990s, about 200 pre-university schools were linked to the Internet with one pre-university school working on the Globe Project, which gathers environmentally-related global data for sharing with other schools. The Center, in collaboration with the General Department for Educational Aids, is implementing an integrated plan to enhance educational aids such as transparencies, colored slides, still films, models, and microscopic and biological samples; to produce laser CDs for various topics in the curriculum starting with the very early years; and to produce videotapes and audio tapesespecially in the language areas (Arabic, English, and French).

Training on the new equipment has been introduced in Cairo and will eventually take place in educational technology centers closer to schools. In collaboration with Egyptian Radio and Television, distance-training programs are being developed to assist teachers. Six training centers throughout the country are being connected through a fiber optic network to facilitate exchange of information and maximize the use of the technology. Multi-media laboratories, the Internet, and language and computer laboratories are being introduced in the colleges of education. The Egyptian University's Network (EUN) links university computer centers and research institutes throughout Egypt and is the Egyptian gateway to the Internet and Terena. Internet use is available to all universities, faculty members, and graduate students (with about 1300 users in the mid-1990s). More than 80 organizations throughout Egypt can also access it.

Foreign Influences: Extensive foreign influence is apparent throughout Egyptian education. Examples include UNESCO and Fulbright support of overseas teacher training, World Bank engagement in distance education and educational reform as part of loan programs, and technical and scientific education aid using expertise, facilities, and equipment from Americans, French, Germans, Italians, and Japanese. UNICEF aids in development of educational materials. Teachers are sent overseas to the United States, the United Kingdom, and France for training. The Egyptian-Swiss Fund for Development works to improve primary education. Pan Arabic conferences set the aims and goals of education in Egypt and other nations.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Early childhood education is rooted in Arabic culture. Egyptian nursery schools and kindergartens date back to the turn of the twentieth century. In the 1930s, the Child Guidance Clinic attached to the Higher Institute of Education (now Faculty of Education, Ain Shams University) was founded. The movement for out-of-home education grew as more women entered the workforce and as they formed Women's Associations. Childcare centers and homes accept infants as young as two months. These are primarily "child keepers," lacking educationally oriented services or intervention programs. Day care centers are regulated by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Nursery schools accept children as young as two years, but three is the most common minimum. Some nursery schools are attached to private regular schools (language schools and foreign schools) but are considered high cost. Others, sponsored by the Ministry of Social Affairs, are widespread and inexpensive, but lack resources and personnel. Some are sponsored by private organizations, especially women's societies, and some by mosques, churches, industrial factories and recreational clubs.

Kindergartens are primarily concerned with pre-academic orientation. Activities are designed for children to learn sound values of religion, social cooperation, and physical being. In 1977, a presidential decree bolstered the development of kindergartens through the establishment of a National Committee on the Welfare of Children. In the 1990s, the educational structure was revised to gradually include kindergarten into the basic education stage, although attendance is not compulsory. Enrollment doubled in the six-year period from 1990-1991 to 1996-1997. Kindergartens have many of the same sponsors as nursery schools. "Private for Profit" kindergartens have primarily middle class clientele because parents must pay. "Private Least Profit" kindergartens are frequently affiliated with educational institutions, humanitarian service organizations, or social associations. "Public Least Profit" kindergartens deliver services at very reduced costs to low-income families. The main objective is preparation for formal training with pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-arithmetic activities. A secondary objective is sensory-motor development and emotional-social development. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the time is spent in pre-academic and 30 to 40 percent in language-based activities (poetry, story listening and telling, environment, music, singing and rhythmic activities, and arts and crafts). Most activities are play-based.

The National Conference for the Development of Primary Education Curricula in 1993, maintained the dual aims of Islamic religious concerns and secular modern concerns when it identified as major goals for basic education:

  • "Preparing and developing Egyptian citizens in a manner that will assist them to adjust to the demands of a modern changing society and to face the renewable challenges, besides enabling them to comprehend the religious, national, and cultural dimensions of their identity."
  • "Providing the society with citizens who have mastered basic scientific skills, with special emphasis on skills of reading, writing, arithmetic, and the disciplines of future sciences (science, mathematics, and languages)."
  • "Providing citizens with the essential fundamental knowledge on health, nutrition, the environment, and the development-related issues."
  • "Preparing and assisting citizens to develop transferable skills, including analytical skills, critical thinking, scientific skills, and problem-solving skills that can enable them to respond to ongoing demands and adjust to scientific and technological progress."

The Ministry revised primary school curricula and teaching methods and increased the number of teachers in the 1990s. Primary education was redesigned into two levels. The first level includes grades 1 to 3 where the basic skills of reading, writing, and mathematics should be mastered (in addition to religious education). At the end of the second level, grades 4 and 5, children should be able to utilize these skills in everyday activities. Children are tested at the end of grades 3 and 5 in mathematics and Arabic, plus science and social studies at grade 5. Up to 70 percent of the curriculum is spent in acquiring skill in Arabic, although classes in English (for fourth grade) were introduced in 1994, as were French classes in 1995. In the 1990s, an experimental language school was established to teach French, and science clubs were established. Special classes and/or schools for the gifted and handicapped are also provided.

Recognizing the malnutrition of many children, the Ministry of Education has initiated a nutrition program of fortified snacks for students in full-day schools. In 1995-1996, some 5,814,067 children benefited from the nutrition program. In addition, health insurance is provided for all pre-university children.

There are three types of primary schools: public schools, subsidized private schools, and unsubsidized private schools. Public schools and subsidized private schools are, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable. Neither charges any tuition, and both types of schools follow the same centrally prescribed curriculum. Private (unsubsidized) schools account for less than 5 percent of all primary school enrollments in Egypt and are found almost entirely in urban areas. Private schools include language schools, "service classes," or "private schools with fees." The language schools are often the remnants of foreign and missionary schools. They are under the control of the Ministry of Education, although they do have some independence. They offer training in foreign language, primarily English and French, starting in early grades. "Service classes" are remedial classes for sixth graders who fail the primary certificate examination. Until 1968, promotional exams and repetition in primary schools were not allowed and the only criterion for promotion was 75 percent attendance in each school year. In 1968, the policy changedone repetition was permitted at the end of the fourth grade with automatic promotion to the fifth grade after the repetition. In 1972, a similar policy of repetition was extended to the second grade. Rural schools are plagued by high dropout rates and gender-related disparities in enrollment. To address these problems, three alternative school models attuned to the traditions of the local community were expanding in rural areas: elementary occupational schools, community schools, and one-room schools for girls.

Elementary occupational schools were designed for students who complete the five years of primary school but don't wish to enter preparatory school or who are dropouts or push-outs from primary school. They cannot enroll in occupational training centers before the age of 16. Completion of the Elementary Occupational program earns a certificate of occupational basic education and permits enrollment in occupational secondary schools.

Community Schools in Upper Egypt are developed through partnerships involving UNICEF, local NGOs, and the Ministry of Education. The communities select teachers and provide school buildings and general coordination. Learning is emphasized rather than teaching, and teachers are referred to as facilitators. In each "corner" of the classroom, a group of children is helped by a facilitator (and assistants) to plan their own learning. School hours are flexible. Facilitators train for several months in programs modeling the learning environments that they can create for the children. The syllabus is the equivalent of primary school's and includes basic elements of occupational training. Student achievement equals or betters that of government schools. In 1995, approximately 34 percent of girls in areas with community schools were attending them, 23 percent attended government schools, and 43 percent were not in school. By the end of 1996, some 112 schools had been established with 40 more added during 1997. Girls comprised 70 percent of the enrollment in 1995.

One-room schools grew out of the age-old Quranic kuttab schools. The lack of sufficient rural schools, absence of actual legal sanctions against parents not sending their children to primary school, child labor practices, and the distance to schools are countered by these schools with rural locations, flexible schedules, and mostly female teachers from the same rural area. The curriculum is confined to religion, Arabic, arithmetic, social studies, science, and English. There is no physical education, art, or music. One teacher teaches school subjects for the first three grades, another for the fourth and fifth grades, and one does the vocational practices and production projects for the five grades. Teaching is provided for three and a half hours daily, five days a week. Fridays and market days are excluded. The plan is to establish 3,000 schools in hamlets, villages, and isolated places. By 1996-1997, a total of 1,594 schools serving 24,144 girls were in operation.

The Ministry of Education reported in 1994 that approximately 25 percent of the students do not complete the five-year cycle of primary school. Due to grade repetition, the average child takes more than six years to complete primary school. Repetition is concentrated in grades 4 and 5 (approximately 20 percent for each grade). The majority of primary school non-attendees lived in rural areas where resource constraints are most severe. Dropouts generally occur after four and a half years. Dropouts, even in primary school, have real earnings possibilities, particularly in the agrarian part of the economy. Many children, however, do not enter the formal labor market after leaving school; instead, they tend to work in the home or on the family farm. Egyptian research indicates that children with greater ability and achievement are the most likely to stay in school, students of lesser ability tend to leave school early, and higher quality schools tend to retain more students than those of lesser quality.

The second tier (preparation cycle) of basic general education consists of a compulsory core curriculum of general study for the first two years with specialization occurring in the third year. The student selects a specialization in the arts, sciences, or mathematics. The curriculum centers around environmental, social, economic, and health topics considered relevant to the lives of the young. Admission to some preparatory schools, like language schools or sportive schools, requires preliminary exams. Vocational preparatory schools accept repeated failures from the fifth grade (as well as those who passed.) They also accept repeated failures of any grade of the preparatory schools when the child's abilities hinder his or her progress in such education. Children passing medical and ability tests are admitted in preparatory sportive schools, as are Egyptian students returning homeland and foreign students. Preparatory enrollment increased significantly in the late 1990s. The National Conference for the Development of Preparatory Education (1994) designated that the objectives of preparatory education are to:

  • eliminate the main sources of illiteracy
  • emphasize the components of values
  • foster social cooperation
  • equip the student with principles, values, and skills needed to work, adjust, and interact within a technological society
  • provide the student with essential fundamentals of knowledge
  • develop self-learning skills.

The curriculum for the second stage of basic (preparatory) education was revised in the 1990s. Textbooks and teaching materials were correspondingly revised. The last year exam is a major hurdle. Those failing this exam are essentially cut off from the remaining educational ladder, since schools are crowded and the chances for repeating the grade are limited by available space. As part of the educational reform of the 1990s, a 1993 conference laid the groundwork for undertaking comprehensive assessment, not limited to written examinations but including oral and scientific exams plus performance measures. The introduction of exams and repetitions led to the rise of private tutoring. In 1997, two-thirds of primary students and nearly all secondary students hired tutors.

Secondary Education

From the Ptolemaic Age (323-200 B.C.) through the rule of Mohamed Ali in the first half of the nineteenth century, secondary education in Egypt was intended to prepare students for higher education or for work in governmental departments. The three-year general secondary curriculum continues to prepare students for higher education.

Educational opportunities vary widely in Egypt, and many students engage private tutors during their third year in order to prepare for the national test (Thanawiyya Aama ). The exam is extremely difficult, covering all content areas throughout the secondary curriculum. Students are ranked for possible college application on the basis of their exam scores. The ranking is very important because exam scores determine if university admission is possible and to which major (faculty) the student will be assigned. Universities cannot accommodate all secondary level graduates, and poor scores remand students to applying to technical institutes.

Traditionally, failing in one subject in the national exam meant retaking all subjects. After studying secondary school certification in the United States, United Kingdom, and France, the system was changed in the 1990s by extending the examination, requiring testing in some compulsory subjects, providing a choice from different sets of subjects, and providing unlimited chances for retaking the examinations. The new system was phased in during the late 1990s; the new exam, however, was not upgraded to assess higher-order skills.

Technical education comprises industrial, agricultural, and commercial schools. Advanced technical schools offer a five-year program to train "Senior Technicians." Technical secondary schools provide a three-year program to train "Technicians," and vocational secondary schools offer a three-year program to train "Craftsmen." In the 1990s, the curriculum and texts were revised in industrial schools and new specializations were added, including: mechanical, marine, vehicles, architecture and building, decorative, textiles, metal work, medical aids, railways, printing, and electrical. The curriculum is intended to provide students with knowledge and skills required in practical work situations as well as a basic academic core of courses. Technical education saw the introduction of application-oriented courses, new specializations, new equipment, new secondary schools, and improvements in technical teacher training.

Different organizations, companies, philanthropic societies, and ministries also offer training with study programs below university level that extend for three years. Vocational schools award a technical diploma equivalent to that of the industrial secondary schools. Their curriculum and training methods differ from those of the Ministry of Education. Fields of study include health education, nursing and first aid, transportation, mining, industrial education, communication, electrical power, and construction and building. In 1994-1995, enrollments in technical secondary programs totaled about 1.75 million, more than twice the enrollments in general secondary education. In 1992, approximately 67 percent of all secondary students were enrolled in a technical program. Only one percent of these students advanced to university study. The labor market cannot absorb all those graduating from the technical schools, and many remain unemployed for four to six years after graduation. School dropouts reaching labor force age in 1989-1990 numbered 162,000. In 2000, it was reported that 500,000 students leave the Ministry of Education's commercial, industrial, and agricultural secondary schools every year400,000 as graduates and 100,00 as dropouts.

Higher Education

There are essentially three types of universities: those offering preparation for the world of work; those concerned with development of scientific research serving the community and contributing to the development of various fields; and those offering general cultural and intellectual activities. In 1994-1995 and 1995-1996, presidential decrees authorized 35 new institutions to be located in different areas of the country and to include new disciplines such as genetic engineering and new branches of existing disciplines such as colleges of education. In 1996 a presidential decree authorized the development of four new private universities: Egypt's International University, Egypt's Science and Technology University, October Six University, and The October University for the Arts and Contemporary Sciences. Higher education institutions expanded from 144 institutes and colleges in 1981 to 208 in 1996. Tuition is free at public universities for Egyptians; foreign students pay modest tuition fees. Tuition at the American University in Cairo was $10,000 in 1997. It differs from Egyptian universities in that it is based on the departmental and credit-hour system. In September 2000, plans were announced for a new British not-for-profit university to open as early as October 2002. The initial curriculum will focus on areas crucial to Egypt's long-term growth: engineering, management, and information technology.

A Central Orientation Bureau controls admission to undergraduate studies. The bureau matches student preferences with the availability of places and programs at the institutions. Admission requires a General Secondary Education Certificate. Some departments also require oral and/or written entrance exams and/or interviews or high grades in qualifying subjects. In 1991-1992, universities admitted 74,310 students. By 1996, admissions more than tripled, totaling 237,873. In 1991-1992, 11,899 students earned undergraduate degrees; by 1995-1996, this number had risen to 14,587. In 1991-1992, a total of 4,495 Masters degrees were awarded; in 1995-1996 this number was 6,097. In 1991-1992, some 2,128 doctorates were granted; the total rose to 2,818 in 1995-1996. In all, a total of 23,502 university degrees (at all levels) were awarded in 1995-1996 compared to 18,522 in 1991-1992.

While higher education is free for all Egyptians; foreign students pay modest tuition fees. Hostels are provided for Egyptian students from distant rural regions who need financial assistance. Separate hostels are available for males and females. Meals, medical care, and social services are also provided. Board and lodging are heavily subsidized. Fifty million Egyptian pounds have been allocated to upgrade university laboratories and relevant equipment. Ten million pounds have also been allocated for upgrading computer laboratories and computer instruction. An additional 50 million pounds are earmarked for upgrading university libraries. New undergraduate studies using English and French as the languages of instruction have been introduced in the colleges of commerce, economics, political science, and management. Plans for the "science of the future" specialized centers focusing on specialized disciplines such as genetic engineering, space, and analysis of new global trends, are to be introduced in all universities. The Genetic Engineering Center for Biological Technology was established at Menoufia and the Center for Futuristic studies at Assiut University. Computer education has been introduced, and colleges for computer science and information will be established at Cairo, Ein Shams, Mansoura, and Helwan Universities.

Several non-university advanced educational opportunities also exist. The National Institute for Higher Administration in Cairo provides training in administration for various levels of in-service personnel from all ministries and organizations. The English for Specific Purposes Center in Alexandria provides postgraduate study in linguistics and translation. Full-time students study for one year, while part-time students study for two years. Successful completion results in a diploma in linguistics or translation. The Higher Institute of Technology in Banha provides university-level education in various specializations in technological fields. The International Center for Inspection and Control Studies in Alexandria conducts training for university graduates from Egypt and Arab and African countries in a program lasting one year.

Schools of art and music include the Academy of Arts (Giza), Higher Institute of Ballet (Cairo with branches in Alexandria and Ismailia), Higher Institute of Cinema (Cairo), Higher Institute of Theatre Arts (Cairo), Higher Institute of Arab Music (Cairo), Higher Institute of Music (Cairo), Higher Institute of Folklore (Cairo), Higher Institute of Art Criticism (Cairo), and the Higher Institute of Child Arts (Cairo). The French University in Egypt (Cairo) offers a wide range of courses and hosts study-abroad students.

Postsecondary colleges and institutes were created to offer non-traditional disciplines and to respond rapidly to societal needs. Engineering and Technological Education Institutes, established in the 1990s, produce engineers who combine both theoretical and applied expertise. In 1995-1996, five institutes enrolled 3,854 students. Specialized Education Institutes offer training in music education, technical education, kindergarten education, home economics, educational technology, educational media, physical education, one-room school teaching, special education, and English. In 1995-1996, enrollment was 14,019 students. Private institutes offer training in areas such as computer technology, social work, tourism, hotel management, agricultural and management cooperatives, economics media, and language. Private junior institutes train in social work, secretarial skills and computers. In 1995-1996, some 43,766 students wereregistered. Technical Industrial Institutes produce graduates to fill the gap between expert engineers and technical laborers. In 1995-1996, some 22 institutes enrolled 56,491 students. Commercial and hotel institutes provide further education for graduates of commercial secondary high schools. In 1995-1996, some 65,721 students were registered. Health care, nutrition, housing and social care are heavily subsidized for students at institutes.

In 1995-1996, Egyptian universities and higher institutes hosted 3,493 foreign undergraduates and 1,299 postgraduate students. An additional 104 foreign students attended training centers. The Educational Center for Arabic language Instruction teaches Arabic to international students and has various clubs provide enriching experiences. Egypt participates in the American Project Hope (for nursing institutes), Fulbright educational exchanges, the German Corporation for Academic Exchange, and international university linkages for doctoral candidate supervision. Egyptian professors are sent to universities and organizations in other countries.

The university and college libraries are said to be very poor and, in many cases, outdated. They suffer from lack of funds; from poorly trained, poorly paid, uninterested librarians with limited English facility; and in some cases, from deteriorating facilities. The main gaps in holdings are in periodicals, reference books, bibliographies, abstracts, and indexes. Reasonable quantities of Arabic books and journals are available, as are audiocassettes and quantities of microfilmed journals from the 1960s and 1970s, donated by USAID. Even 1992 reports indicate that the typical Egyptian student is unlikely to have used a library before arriving at college and is even unlikely to use one during college, given the emphasis on rote learning and the unfamiliarity with independent learning. University libraries include Alexandria University Central Library (45,000 books, 1,000,000 microfiches and films, 1200 periodicals, 2,500 manuscripts, and 17,500 dissertations); Assiut University (250,000 volumes); Al-Azhar University (60,000 volumes and 20,000 manuscripts); the American University in Cairo (275,000 volumes); and Cairo University (1,407,000 volumes and 10,000 periodicals). Other libraries in Cairo include the Arab League Information Center (30,000 volumes and 250 periodicals); Central Library of the Agricultural Research Center (25,000 volumes); and the Center of Documentation and Studies on Ancient Egypt (scientific and documentary reference center for all Egyptian Pharaonic monuments with 4,500 volumes and 33,000 photographs). National libraries include the Library of the National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics; National Archives of Central Administration, National Assembly Library; and the National Information and Documentation Center. Many of the higher institutes of art and music also contain specialized libraries. School libraries, when they exist, even in the 1990s are likely to be a locked cupboard in the headmaster's office.

In the 1990s, Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the President, led a national campaign to build libraries for young people in Cairo and other major cities with children's areas, multimedia, trained librarians, children's programs, and locations in attractive surroundings in public parks or near recreational activities. The Ministry of Education developed plans for upgrading school libraries in 1993, and space for libraries is part of new school designs. Basic school library lists were prepared in the 1990s, and 2,975 tapes were provided for schools.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Government Agencies: Educational administration in Egypt is structured into four main levels. At the top is the Ministry of Education (MOE), headquartered in Cairo and headed by the Minister. The ministry contains nine functional areas of administrative support: finance, administrative development, statistics, education (technical, general, and basic), and service (extracurricular, instructional materials, and general). The MOE is charged with establishing plans, programs, procedures, and administrative support systems for carrying out national education policies established by the Higher Council for Pre-University Education, the highest educational policy body in the country. The MOE also oversees the Supreme Council of Universities. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs administers Al-Azhar University and associated schools.

The Supreme Council of Universities defines the general policies of university education and scientific research and determines admission numbers, fields of specialization, and equivalencies. The Supreme Council is comprised of the Minister of Education (Chair), presidents of various universities, experts, and the Secretary of the Supreme Council of Universities. In 1994, new councils were created to assist the Supreme Council: a Council for University Education and Student Affairs, A Council for Graduate Studies and Research, and a Council for Community Service and Environmental Development. The second main structural level is found in each of the regional governates. Since the 1970s, an incremental approach to decentralized decision-making has been taking place. An undersecretary or director general heads the educational system of each governate. Most of the regional planning, teacher appointments, evaluation, and training occur at this level. The third level is the district headed by a district director general. Finally, the fourth level is the director of the individual school, called a headmaster. The headmaster has minimal decisionmaking authority and functions basically as a teacher coordinator and identifier of problems that are sent up the hierarchy for others to solve. Except for the Minister, all administrators begin their careers in the classroom and work their way up a rigidly maintained seniority ladder.

The Ministry of Education supplies capital and operating expenses for public education through taxes, customs, and other general and local revenues. Additional revenue derives from examination fees, local levies, and donations. In some cases, local jurisdictions construct new schools and turn them over to the Ministry. Significant external funding has been provided by USAID, extensively supporting basic education, and UNESCO, supporting literacy and adult education. Teachers are allocated to schools on the basis of official enrollment levels and are paid out of the central budgets allocated to each educational zone. Books and most other student supplies are centrally purchased and distributed to the schools according to enrollments. The budgeting process provides a degree of regional participation in resource allocation: the governates propose their financial requirements based on formula-driven teacher/student/school ratios. The rigid formulas, however, limit flexibility. The Ministry of Education prioritizes the budget requests before sending the entire package to the Ministry of Finance where final decisions are made.

UNESCO reported that from 1975 to 1983, the percentage of GNP spent on education declined from 5 percent to 4.1 percent. In 1988, education in Egypt received 10.6 percent of the national budget. Of 23 comparable middle and lower middle-income nations reporting, only Turkey spent less on education (10 percent). Expenditures on education increased during the 1990s largely as a result of an extensive school building program and in 1998, reached 19 percent of total spending (between 6 and 7 percent of GDP). In the 1980s, public universitiesaccounting for roughly seven percent of total student enrollmentreceived more than one-fourth of the education budget. In 1984, budget and personnel figures painted a "top heavy" picture as they reported as much as 25 percent of personnel salaries earmarked for administration, an unusually high figure. For each primary school (grades 1 through 6), there were 2.2 headmasters and 1.9 vice-principals.

Educational Research: The National Center for Educational Research in the Central Ministry of Education coordinates educational policy with that of the National Specialized Councils, exchanges information with the institutions throughout the world, provides local and foreign documents on education, and publishes various works on education in Egypt and the Arab world. Critics complain that research at the Center is rarely directed toward guiding the future of education with analyses of economic and social trends in terms of occupational needs.

Most research occurs in isolated sectors of schools of education housed in Egypt's main universities. Egyptian educational research was originally designed according to statistical models and focused on answering questions relative to the effects of student and environmental characteristics on rates of learning. The research largely resulted in teacher education programs characterized by study of psychology, environmental factors, cultural values, experiential education, and the "Egyptianization of the Stanford Binet IQ test." In the 1990s, university-sponsored research projects within masters and doctoral programs aimed at increasing effective planning in the areas of educational economics, adult education, special education, and educational administration. Little coordination occurs however, between the university and government research to inform national policy.

Nonformal Education

Nontraditional Learning Environments: Science clubs are developing at the governorate level. By the mid-1990s, 12 such clubs had been established to provide activities in the field of electronics, environmental studies, computers, and science. A new interactive, hands-on science museum (The Exploratory Science and Technology Center) is developing at Nokrashi Secondary School. Technologically equipped trucks (mobile laboratories) provide a form of "Exploratory Education Center" to reach distant villages and towns. Also under development are Culture Museums using multimedia (a collaborative project between the Ministry of Education and the Supreme Council of Antiquities) and model schools of the future and schools for the gifted.

Adult education in rural areas is of vital importance in Egypt where in recent years, agricultural performance has seriously declined. Self-sufficiency in food production once at 94.5 percent declined by 1995 to only 52 percent. Illiteracy is high. Skill training in the agricultural sector is provided by extension educators as part of a Training and Visit system (T&V) linking farmers and agricultural research centers. Extension educators train farmers as adopter-leaders. The Agricultural Research Centers (ARC) operates eight research stations in different regions, each specializing in the main commodity of regional importance. In addition, agricultural faculties exist at 10 universities. Primary educational concerns center on how best to deliver educational and training programs.

Open university education assists with the process of Continuing Education to provide education for those who might have missed it or provide an opportunity for those who are already employed. In 1996, a total of 20,000 students participated in open education programs at the universities at Cairo, Alexandria, and Assiut. In addition "directed affiliation" programs, available at the colleges of Art, Law, Commerce, Social Work, Arabic Studies, and Colleges of Arts at the Women's colleges, expand opportunities for students. One hundred twenty-nine thousand students, representing about 17 percent of all university students, participated in these programs in 1996. Egypt's distance education initiatives include a regional communications network (RITSENE) implemented in 1995 and a Regional IT Institute, established in 1992. Current IT use is centered within a small, well-educated elite. The state-sponsored Regional Information Technology and Software Engineering Center (RITSEC) promotes networking, software development, and education of computer professionals through conferences, training programs and its web-accessible Information Technology Service (IDSC). Internet services are available through Cairo University and the American university. Egyptian specialists, students abroad, and the expatriate community supply more online information from outside the country than is provided within Egypt.

Nonformal education is also offered by NGOs registered with Egypt's Ministry of Social Affairs. Egypt's NGO sector, today numbering 14,000 to 15,000 private non-profit organizations, offers training, sewing classes, religious instruction, and tutoring for the middle and lower-middle classes, but rarely for the poor. Most rural areas have no NGOs, as geographic outreach is concentrated around the provincial cities. The Community Development Associations (CDAs) category of NGOs offer sewing classes for girls and women, and skills training for youth as well as health clinics. Private (NGO) and governmental (rural welfare) societies have joined forces to deal with the accelerating out-migration from villages to the cities. Coordination of all services became codified into law in 1945. Religious-based (Muslim and Christian) welfare associations offering general education and religious instruction for youth. Although public education is free, the cost of supplementary tutoring so essential for success on all-important examinations, is a heavy burden on middle and low-income families.

Muslim NGOs and rural CDAs are establishing religious (Al-Azhar) institutes with government funding in response to the critical shortage of public schools and classrooms. "Religious" projects are frequently an effective NGO strategy for circumventing bureaucratic obstacles and garnering private donations for multipurpose facilities. There are 1 to 24 international NGOs (e.g., CARE, Save the Children, Project Hope, Near East Foundation) in Egypt that provide training and technical assistance to local NGOs, but little information on their educational activities is available. The MOE reports in 2000 that Egypt has about 90 postsecondary educational agreements with other countries including faculty exchange, joint research, delegations, symposia, and periodical and book exchange programs. Egypt and Qatar, for example, have an agreement for 2000-2003 on educational and scientific research cooperation. Egypt's international programs involve both Arabic and western countries. The international programs primarily benefit the educated elite.

Teaching Profession

A conference on teacher preparation in 1996 proposed a new plan to upgrade the skills of teachers and expose them to alternative methods of education, new trends, and new technologies. One result was in-country and international training opportunities for teachers. President Mubarak in 1995-1996 authorized overseas training for 1,000 teachers per year. They are sent to U.S., U.K., and French universities for four months. By June 1996, 1,939 teachers had completed overseas training.

Preprimary teachers traditionally were women with little formal university training. Plans call for gradually replacing unqualified teachers with qualified ones. Pre-school teachers in 2000 must be university graduates, preferably with specialization in child development who study child development, development of disabled children and development of the gifted and talented. Candidates at universities are encouraged to choose an area of childhood such as media, children's theater/library, early child psychology, or children's literature and museum study.

In the case of a shortage of properly qualified teachers, the Ministry may accept university graduates with other majors after giving them an extra year to earn a Special diploma in Childhood Education. Kindergarten headmasters must hold a higher degree in Childhood Education plus five years experience, or preferably a higher degree such as an M.A. or Ph.D. in this field.

The preparation of both primary and preparatory teachers was upgraded to university levels in the early 1990s. Preparation now takes place at universities in 15 colleges of education. Enrollment in 1996-1997 was approximately 10,000 teachers. The position of the special education teacher is viewed as a less than desirable position, socially and economically, and many low-achieving students are urged to enter the field.

Teaching positions at public secondary schools require a university degree and the postgraduate General Diploma in Education. Teachers are educated at one of the university schools of education. Teacher candidates can also take specialized courses in skill areas offered by the technical institutes. University education programs are of two types: integrated preparation and continuing preparation. The integrated teacher preparation begins with two years of courses that include principles of education and psychology, principles of teaching, social and historical foundations of education, and basic culture courses. If students successfully pass an exam at the end of the second year, they can advance to the third and fourth years of the program. In these years, they take courses in methodology, educational psychology and technology, educational philosophy, comparative education, curriculum, and social psychology as well as specialized and cultural courses. After student teaching, candidates are qualified for a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.

The continuing teacher preparation is for graduates of non-education faculties who wish to become teachers. These candidates enroll in education courses full time for one year or part time for two years. Successful completion earns a General Diploma in Education. Technical schoolteachers are trained in special institutes. Teaching staff at the university level are generally required to hold the doctorate. Departments select faculty candidates subject to the approval of both a faculty board and a university council. An additional requirement is attendance in an educational training program on educational and psychological principles of teaching held annually for three weeks in the Faculty of Education. The teaching staff consists of lecturers, associate professors, and professors. Promotion to the rank above depends upon the originality and quality of research work and a minimum of five years in rank. The Permanent Scientific Committee affiliated with the Supreme Council of Universities administers university promotions.

Teacher-quality has been sacrificed by granting the General Diploma Program to non-education graduates, by requiring that university graduates performing poorly in technical fields become teachers, and by the lack of standard methods for qualifying teachers or standardizing their preparation. Additionally, pre-service teachers willingly work as expatriates in neighboring countries rather than assume Egyptian teaching jobs with lower salaries. In 1997, the average teacher's salary was less than $100 a month. Thus, some of the best teachers, those most able to handle content and develop a diverse repertoire of skills, are lost to Egyptian education programs. Further, few of the teachers received preparation in pedagogy. Their coursework is comprised of subject area classes and classes on teaching basic literacy. "They are products of the lecture-mode and don't adapt easily to the role of teacher-as-guide or instructional-manager"roles stipulated in the national curricula. To upgrade primary school teaching quality, the Ministry of Education in 1981 recommended that primary teachers be unilaterally enrolled in an ongoing education program sponsored by a university faculty of education. The courses are given after school hours and are part of a university degree program.

In the mid-1990s, 75 million Egyptian pounds, allocated to address the problem of occupational stagnation, resulted in the promotion of 53,422 teachers. Additional incentive awards totaled 27 million pounds. By the end of 1991-1992, allocations for additional awards reached 46.5 million pounds, a practice continued for the next five years. Other compensations of various types are given and headmaster remuneration increased in 1991-1992 to almost 100 percent over that of 1990-1991. In 1992, resources and pension funds increased for the teachers union (Teachers' Syndicate) including those for retired teachers. The Teachers' Collegial Fund increased by 5 million Egyptian pounds, resources for local teachers' hospitals by 500,000 Egyptian pounds, and Teachers' Cultural and Social Welfare Resources by 500,000 Egyptian pounds. The Teachers' Syndicate is the largest syndicate of teachers with the largest financial resources in Egypt and the Arab world. All teachers belong to the syndicate. The syndicate does not deal with national educational causes; the government excludes it from participating in decisions on national educational policies and in decisions made by advisory educational councils for technical training institutes.

A member of the Ministry of Education traditionally directs the syndicate and so does not represent the ideas or values of the rank-and-file teachers. After the revolution of the 1950s, political blocs were abolished to prevent organized workers in any field from striking or organizing opposition to the government. The Teachers' Syndicate remains however, but government intelligence personnel are assigned to keep an eye on syndicate meetings and activities.

Parents who want their children to have the best chance at national exams take advantage of the low pay and status accorded teachers and hire them as private tutors. Most citizens accept this arrangement as a means of having some control over their children's education. Tutoring grew to a $2 billion industry by 1997. Aside from the financial burden on parents and the increased income for teachers, tutoring impacts the educational system per se. Students begin to disregard ministry-designed curricula and replace them with tutor-recommended materials and lessons that have been successfully used as exam preparation tools. Too, abuses are not uncommon. Some teachers pressure students into private tutoring and for some, tutoring becomes a more important part of their workday than their official classroom duties and occupies after school time rather than in-service training.


The dawn of the 1990s found Egypt facing serious problems in educationproblems compounded by low literacy rates and an exploding population. Educational quality, particularly in basic education and in technical and vocational education, had seriously declined. Increasing numbers of graduates were unemployable and virtually untrainable. The curriculum was generally irrelevant to the students. School quality was uneven, with better quality schools in urban areas where the wealthy could pay for tutoring. Teachers lacked training in pedagogy. Learning, conducted with martial drills and physical punishment, encouraged rote memorization rather than critical thinking. For many Egyptian children, the result was fragmented information, "never to be ground into knowledge." In-service training, encumbered in bureaucracy and inconsistent funding, was shunned by many teachers in favor of tutoring for extra income. Pre-school assessment procedures did not exist. Required exams in primary and preparatory schools were often poorly designed. The national secondary final exam was fact-recall. Free education coupled with the population explosion led to burgeoning enrollments at all stages; an expansion beyond the capacities of the schools. Chronic teacher shortages, especially in rural primary schools, resulted from low prestige, low pay, and migration of teachers to better jobs in other countries.

In 1985-1986, nearly 155,000 primary and secondary teachers served 9.6 million people, a ratio of about 62 students per teacher. An over-abundance of administrators depleted salary budgets. Serious underfunding was reflected in deteriorating buildings, overcrowded schools and classrooms, poor or absent libraries, and lack of technology. Some city schools operated two and even three shifts daily. Crowded public classrooms held as many as 100 students in some Cairo schools, which was not the case in private schools. Only 31 percent of primary children attended a full-day school system. Most secondary schools lacked scientific laboratory and computer equipment.

Comprehensive educational planning tying educational programs and output to national needs was lacking. A serious mismatch between supply and demand produced incompetent degree-holders in unwanted subjects. Unemployment was high. Almost half of the students did not complete the basic school. Attendance was often poor and laws requiring primary school attendance were not enforced. Significant regional differences existed with nearly 90 percent of the urban children attending school, but that percentage was often far less than 50 percent for rural children. Dropout and grade repetition rates were high. Against this backdrop, massive changes began in the 1990s.

Egypt is in the midst of these changes as it implements a sweeping revision of its educational system; a revision aimed at upgrading and modernizing and transforming it into a coherent, continuous educational process. The primary and preparatory curricula were redesigned to be more relevant and more scientific with emphasis on experimentation and critical thinking. Texts and teaching manuals were revised. Kindergarten was designated as a part of the formal system and included in the comprehensive planning. Gender and rural/urban inequities and illiteracy are being addressed with special rural programs targeting girls, programs designed to be flexible and relevant to local needs.

To improve the quality and quantity of the teaching staff, pre-service and in-service training was revised and performance-related (merit) pay and changes in the technical standards of supervisors and inspectors instituted. Curriculum and texts are under revision in industrial schools with new specializations.

Medical insurance is provided for students in kindergarten and basic education, financed by charging the children four Egyptian pounds annually. (Private school students pay more.) These fees, plus fees for "additional services" and for taking primary and preparatory school exams, and the price of uniforms and tutoring costs (averaging 10 percent of family income per child in 1997) effectively removed the "free" from free education placing it out of reach for Egypt's poorest. No fees are charged however, in the rural community and one-classroom schools or to orphans whose fathers died in military or government service.

Education in Egypt will continue to face shortages of teachers, schools, and equipment unless the state makes a far greater financial commitment. Two decades of dropping birth rates means that the school-age population peaked in 1997 that should help to prevent shortages from worsening, but there is still a tremendous shortfall. The mechanistic learning of concepts and textbook-dependent learning and teaching are ingrained in the system. As long as testing is fact-dominated and doesn't cover higher order skills such as critical thinking and analysis of problems, teachers and tutors will continue to teach to the test and the lecture-rote system will persevere. In-service teacher training, distance learning, and technology may help, but so far they reach relatively few teachers. The rigid centralized bureaucracy clogged with excess seniority-promoted staff is cumbersome and slow moving and the highly centralized educational planning and policy-making tend to disenfranchise the very people at the local level who are entrusted with achieving its goals. Local districts need to be able to make adjustments suited to local needs.

Mindful of the lessons of Iran and Algeria, Egypt has so far curbed the violence and intrusion of the militant Islamic movement, something that is a concern for the future. Islamic militancy is the response to the grinding poverty, unemployment, and under-privilege of the masses and will continue so long as these conditions exist. The undercurrent of Islamic opposition to foreign ideas and western secular education still lurks however, and could ignite in the face of the sweeping educational changes aimed in that direction. Illiteracy is still extremely high, and eradication must continue to be a priority. The state's multi-pronged initiatives of the 1990s appear to be working and need to continue, as does the development of the rural alternative schools. Quality has not kept pace with quantity at the university level and there still appears to be a mismatch between university graduates and the fields of manpower needs and skill levels needs. Communication among agencies at the top educational levels is reported to be good. Vertical communication is poor however, as vividly illustrated by the attempt to impose national tests on the governates. Communication between policy-makers in national offices and regional and local implementers needs to be vastly improved.

Egypt recognizes the weaknesses and problems in its educational system and has gone to great lengths to address them, but there is a vast difference between idealized plans and implementation. A system short on resources, stifled by bureaucracy, and lacking in local expertise moves slowly. Only time will tell how well the comprehensive efforts of the 1990s to make education more relevant to national needs are working. Egypt has a long expensive road to travel given the enormity of illiteracy and vast educational shortages. The financial improvement at the millennium, stemming from rising oil revenues and better fiscal management, gives the education future a rosier glow than a decade ago.


Razik, Taher, and Diaa El-Din A. Zaher. "Egypt." In Issues and Problems in Teacher Education: An International Handbook, edited by Howard B. Leavitt, 91-108. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Richards. Alan. "Higher Education in Egypt." Education and Employment Working Papers (WPS), no. 862. Washington, DC: World Bank, 1992.

Shaw-Smith, Peter. "Egyptians Welcome British Initiative." Times (London) Higher Education Supplement, 27 October 2000.

Soliman, Azza Abdel-Aziz. The Current Status of Pre-University Education and Its Regional Disparity in Egypt. Cairo Demographic Center, 1994.

Swan, Michael K., and Ismail Abd El-Fattah Aly. "Rural Education and Training in Egypt." Agricultural Education Magazine 68, no. 4 (1995): 11-13.

Wise, Michael, and Anthony Olden, ed. Information and Libraries in the Arab World. London: Library Association, 1994.

The World of Learning 2001. 51st ed. London: Europa Publications, 2000.

M. June Allard and Pamela R. McKay

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Arab Republic of Egypt

Major Cities:
Cairo, Alexandria, Aswan

Other Cities:
Abu-simbel, Akhmim, Asyût, Beni Suef, Giza, Idfu, Ismailia, Luxor, Port Said, Suez, Tanta, Zagazig


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated May 1995. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Located at the crossroads of the Middle East and Africa, EGYPT has fascinated travelers for thousands of years. Its stone monuments are scaled to giants. Of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Giza pyramids alone endure. Superlatives continue to the present: Egypt has the highest dam, the largest textile mill, and the oldest university. Nowhere else are the masterpieces of Islamic art and architecture to be seen as in Cairo, the city of a thousand minarets, great "Mother of the World."

Egypt is the land of motion within the stillness of centuries. The silent white wing of a felucca sail on the ancient Nile co-exists with the cacophony of the street traffic's seemingly random chaos. The pounding noise of construction, the cries of street vendors, the braying of donkeys, the rhythm of an ever-expanding city is absorbed by the eternal quiet of the desert. The brooding figures there have seen 5,000 years of foreigners come and go, while Egypt remains Egypt. Egypt is a new land built upon layers of historyPharaonic, Coptic, and Islamic. It is a country with an ancient past that first began to govern itself in 1952. It is a people struggling to merge heritage, tradition, and contemporary life.

Egypt is a country that does not give up its secrets easily. It is an explorer's land, a place to find treasures, whether in spices, jewels, or copper in the bazaar; a restored 17th-century house in Old Cairo; or flowers blooming in the desert after a rain. Rewards for the traveler are rich. For those who stay to "drink the water of the Nile," the rewards are magnificent.



In 2000, Cairo had an estimated population of 10,772,000. The urban area stretches from Shubra in the north to Helwan in the south; from the Moqattam Hills in the east to Giza in the west. This megalopolis legally encompasses all of the Cairo governorate, most of the Giza governorate, and a small part of the Qalyubia governorate in the north.

Near two of the newest suburbs archeologists have found some of the area's oldest remains. West and south of Maadi, Neolithic communities flourished about 4000 B.C. Heliopolis was once home to an important religious and intellectual center. One of a pair of 22-meters high, pink granite obelisks, dating from the 12th Dynasty reign of Senusert I, circa 1950 B.C., remains. Another pair of obelisks, dating from the reign of Tuthmosis III, of the 18th Dynasty, circa 1450B.C., were later exported. One now stands in London, the other in Central Park in New York City.

From its seventh century origin, Cairo flourished as the "victorious city" under a series of Moslem rulers. Just one of its masterpieces of Islamic architecture would be the pride of a city, but Cairo has hundreds of outstanding mosques, madrassas (schools), and palaces. Inside the medieval walls, the Khan el-Khalili bazaar flourishes.

The foreign contingent of the population lives and works in many neighborhoods. Garden City, on the east bank of the Nile, where the Embassy is located, borders the modern downtown section, with shops, squares, hotels and markets. The island of Gezira has both Embassy-owned and leased housing in its Zamalek residential area. This island was once restricted to foreigners only, who lived and played by the fields of the Gezira Club.

On the west bank, Mohandessin, Agouza, Dokki and the Giza areas all have Mission residents. These downtown neighborhoods offer the excitement of big city living, with museums, shops and restaurants nearby, as well as proximity to the Embassy.

South, about 8 miles, is the suburb of Maadi, home of Cairo American College, the international school most American children attend. Its shaded streets and local shopping area contrast with Cairo's bustling atmosphere.


Egyptian cuisine features vegetables, fruits, grains and pastas. Locally grown vegetables include potatoes, onions, garlic, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, celery, green beans, beets, carrots, green and red cabbage, spinach, okra, radishes, turnips, eggplant, parsley, dill and mint. Local fruits include bananas, apples, citrus, mangoes, melons, dates, figs, grapes, papayas, strawberries, pears, coconuts, persimmons and pomegranates.

In the more traditional shops, poultry and seafood are sold every day of the week, but red meats are sold only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. For religious reasons, pork and products containing pork are sold only in special shops. But these customs are not observed in the newer supermarkets and neighborhoods with large foreign populations.

Popular beverages are hot tea, sweetened and often served in a glass, Turkish coffee and carbonated drinks. Local and imported bottled water, both still and sparkling, is available, as are locally produced wine and beer.


Men: Slacks and a short-sleeved shirt with tie is common dress during the summer months. Office attire is generally more relaxed than in Washington D.C. A dark suit is commonly worn for dinner parties or other evening functions.

Summer entertaining is frequently outdoors, and casual dress for summer evenings is common. Egyptians do not wear shorts in public. Clothes can be made to order at very reasonable cost. Tailors often stock their own fabrics but will also make clothes from fabric you supply. Several fine shirtmakers are available.

Women: Since Egypt is a Moslem country, discretion should be observed in clothing. Sleeveless and low-cut blouses and dresses, mini-skirts, tank tops and shorts will give offense to most Egyptians and should not be worn in public. You will feel more comfortable in below-the-knee skirts or slacks or pant-suits and find flat walking shoes more comfortable and safer.

Office clothing is the same as is worn in Washington D.C. Seasonal dresses are appropriate for teas, luncheons, and other daytime functions. Egyptians may wear far more ornate clothes than Americans.

Since the transitional seasons are not clearly defined, warm-weather clothing is suitable from April through October. Cottons and drip-dries are most popular during summer months for comfort. Wools, sweaters and light jackets are worn in winter. Warm dresses, suits, long-sleeved blouses and sweaters are all useful in Cairo. In winter, light-to-medium-weight coats are useful.

Sun hats and caps are worn on the beach and on desert outings. Although locally made handbags are attractive in design and price, shoes, whether readymade or made-to-order, are generally less satisfactory. Open-toe shoes are not advised.

Several boutiques carry ready-made clothing matching U.S. taste and quality expectations, but at expensive prices. Dress-makers are available, but quality varies. The many fine fabric stores in Cairo stock a good variety of Egyptian cotton and silk.

Children: Cairo American College's dress code for grades 6 to 12 expects students to wear what's appropriate both for a learning institution and the local culture: modest and neat. Specifically prohibited are: cut-offs, torn clothes, shorts shorter than 3" above the bend of the knee, shirts and blouses not covering the shoulders, tank tops and midriffs. Wearing hats and caps in class requires the classroom teacher's approval. Shoes or sandals should be worn at all times and clothing worn in P.E. classes should not be worn in other classes. Final judgment on acceptable appearances is reserved by the College's administration.

Locally manufactured sandals are available and inexpensive.

Supplies and Services

Supplies: Although the availability of supplies is improving greatly, selections are still limited, and imported items are expensive. But most things can be found after a persistent search.

Basic Services: Dry-cleaners, tailors, barbers, hairdressers and shoe repair services are easily found locally while the E-mart offers both laundry and drycleaning. Clothing repairs and reweaving are Cairene specialties.

Religious Activities

Five times a day, from thousands of minarets, muezzins call Moslems to prayer at the mosques, to reaffirm their faith in Islam. But non-Moslems must not enter a mosque during prayer time and should respect the sensitivity to their dress and behavior at all other times. Unless you are specifically invited to enter a neighborhood mosque, only the designated Tourist Sites are accessible to non-Muslims.

Cairo also offers a range of places of worship. The monthly magazine Egypt Today lists churches holding services in English.


Cairo American College (CAC), founded in 1945, is a private, coeducational day school serving students from 56 countries in kindergarten through 12th grade in a general, college-prep curriculum.

The address for official correspondence is: Superintendent, Cairo American College, Unit 64900 Box 21, APO AE 09839-4900.

On a campus of 11 acres in the Maadi Digla suburb, kindergarten through 2nd grade classes are housed in low buildings; 3rd, 4th and 5th grades are in a three-story building; grades 6 through 8 are together in a separate structure. Grades 9 through 12 are in the secondary school complex, which includes six science labs, the media center and rooms for computer and business education.

The industrial and the fine arts departments occupy separate buildings.

There is a 600-seat theater, a gymnasium, swimming pool, 400-meter track, soccer field, weight-training area and tennis, volleyball and basketball courts.

The school year runs from mid or late August to early June and includes 175 school days in two semesters and four quarters. Classes are held Sunday through Thursday.

To be eligible for a CAC high school diploma, students must complete 23 units, spending a minimum of four years in high school and their entire senior year at CAC. All the graduation requirements must be satisfied before their 20th birthday.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is offered. Students may participate by undertaking the full IB Diploma, taking a package of IB certificates or enrolling in IB courses without the external examinations.

Secondary school students enroll in seven classes daily. The curriculum includes English, social studies, science, math, physical education, foreign language (Arabic, French, Spanish) and English as a 2nd Language for grades 9 and 10. Electives include music, drama, art, computers, business and industrial arts courses.

Middle school (grades 6, 7 & 8) students enroll in eight classes daily, including English, social studies, science, math, physical education and elective courses in applied, fine and performing arts and foreign languages. English as a 2nd language is also offered.

Elementary school includes kindergarten through 5th grades. The program includes reading and language arts, science, math, social studies, physical education, music art and Arab culture. Foreign languages (Spanish, French or Arabic) are available to grades 3-5 and English as a 2nd language to grades 1-5.

The school buzzes with student activities including language clubs, concerts, plays, art exhibits, a model UN and athletic events. At the high school level, students involved in these various activities make trips to Europe and the Middle East for competitions.

Bus service is available to CAC from most areas of Cairo. Many children living in Maadi ride bicycles to the school but the roads are rough and a heavy-duty model is needed.

CAC requests you have the last school the child attended send transcripts and school records directly to the Office of the Registrar. For seniors, three years of records are required; two, for other grades. You may want to bring an extra copy of these transcripts if you'll be arriving near the beginning of the school year.

Three CAC medical forms also must be completed before admission, including a full report of a physical examination made no more than four months earlier.

Families with children having learning disabilities should carefully weigh the acceptance of an assignment in Cairo. CAC has a limited program for resource-room support but no self-contained classroom services. The school offers a maximum of one period for resource assistance per child per school day. You must confirm directly that they will be able to accept the child, given the learning disability and CAC's facilities. Before deciding, parents should write to the superintendent at the school's address given above and discuss their options with the Office of Overseas Schools in the Department of State.

CAC reserves the right to refuse admittance to any child not meeting its academic standards. Kindergarten students must be 5 years old prior to September 30.

Most textbooks are from U.S. publishers and are furnished by the school. Students must supply notebooks, paper and pencils, available at the school store. Lunch is not provided. A small cafeteria sells snacks and light lunches.

In addition to CAC, there is the U.S.-accredited American International School in Nasr City and other schools organized by French, German and British educators. Space availability fluctuates constantly, parents should seek current detailed information. There are often lengthy waiting lists for entrance to the non-American schools, particularly the British School in Zamalek.

Special Educational Opportunities

College Level Courses: The American University in Cairo (AUC) has undergraduate and graduate courses to audit or take for credit. Courses in Islamic Art and Egyptology are popular, as is the master's degree in teaching English as a foreign language. About 1,000 undergraduates pursue degrees in Arabic studies, English and comparative literature, political science/sociology and other fields. Master's degrees include economics, management and sociology/anthropology.

The AUC Center for Adult and Continuing Education has part-time courses for working professionals in computer science, engineering, travel and hotel service, translation and interpretation. A catalog is available from the public relations office in Ewart Hall or AUC's office at 866 United Nations Plaza, New York City, NY 10017. (Enclose $2.) The University of Maryland's European Division has been offering lower and upper level undergraduate courses since 1989. Five eight-week terms are scheduled per year and credits are transferable. The CLO has up-to-date information and catalogs.

Community Courses: In Maadi, the Community Services Association (CSA) offers a variety of daytime and evening classes and special programs on such subjects as Egyptology, personal development, various hobbies and other interests.

Instruction in art, music and dance is available. Pianos may be rented or purchased but it takes patience to find a good one.

Membership in the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) is tax-deductible and permits you to join their Archaeology Club, which sponsors at least one lecture and tour a month.

The Egyptian Exploration Society, sponsored by the British Council, has bimonthly lectures on ancient Egypt.


Sports activities include golf, tennis, softball, volleyball, soccer, swimming, horseback riding, squash, jogging, fishing, diving and hunting. For downtown residents there are private clubs. Membership is usually open to foreign residents and waivers and discounts on their annual fees are offered, but they are still relatively expensive.

The Gezira Club in Zamalek has two swimming pools, basketball, tennis and squash courts, a golf course, croquet lawn, a race course and a running track. Next door is a riding club while the Shooting Club in Dokki attracts skeet-shooters.

Several commercial riding stables are located near the Giza pyramids and used by many Embassy employees.

The yacht clubs may arrange for boating adventures but are restaurants, primarily. Feluccas can be hired, casually, at many places along the river, for as long as you want. A picnic or sunset cruise for six or eight people is a typical summer activity, with the north wind providing motion and coolness.

Soccer is the national sport with well-attended matches being played every weekend around the city.

The Cairo Divers meet once a month and organize trips to the Red Sea, one of the world's finest diving locations. Instruction in diving is offered through several sources.

Other energetic local groups are the Cairo Rugby Club and the Hash House Harriers, a non-competitive group holding pre-sundown fun runs on Fridays, which are for walkers, too. The Cairo Classic is an annual running and cycling event. Egypt Today magazine carries contact numbers in its listings.

Cairo American College has a 25-meter long pool and an active and varied swimming program for all ages, which runs throughout the year. This pool is open to the immediate family of students, at selected hours, for a fee.

CAC has two large playing fields and a children's play-ground. A circular 1/4 mile track is a popular site for jogging after hours and on weekends. Children's activities held on weekends include soccer and Little League baseball for ages 6-13.

The Maadi Club, a private organization, has two pools, croquet, tennis courts, stables and big crowds on weekends.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

In Egypt, one lives in the shadow of the pharaohs, the sultans, the caliphs and the emirs. The legacy they left can be seen today in the great monuments and buildings. A trip gives a unique opportunity to visit some of the outstanding sites of world history. You can go alone, with a guidebook, map and a few words of Arabic or join a group. Without leaving metropolitan Cairo, you can visit the walls of the citadel Saladin built to withstand the assault of the Crusaders, see medieval houses with harem windows, private gardens, mausoleums, mosques and palaces. You can wander down streets full of tent and saddlemakers or other traditional craftsmen, still at work.

In solitude the visitor can see the petrified forest just outside Maadi or, amidst crowds, spend time at the Zoo or the pyramids and the Sphinx at nearby Giza.

Many archeological sites are within a day's drive: Saqqara, Memphis, Maydoum and Hawara. Two villages, Harania and Kerdassa, are known for their fabrics, rugs and weaving.

With a few restrictions because of security considerations, many areas are accessible by car: Alexandria and other cities in the Delta; the Mediterranean beaches; the Suez Canal cities, Port Said and Ismailia and the Red Sea resort of Hurghada; Fayoum, the "land of roses" and other cities along the River Road to Aswan as well as much of the Sinai.

There are nine oases in the Western Desert. Since 1958 a project for agricultural development has been underway in these natural depression areas. Some are below sea level, all have artesian wells. Already they provide many economic benefits.

Siwa, isolated in the northwest, is famous for its Berber culture, bird migrations, dates, olives, Cleopatra's bath and Alexander's pilgrimage in 331 B.C., when he sought certification of his hereditary relationships with Zeus and Amun, the ram-headed god.

Mediterranean, Sinai and Red Sea resorts are also served by combined flights and bus tours. Luxury boat trips in Upper Egypt between Aswan and Luxor include such famed archaeological sites as Kom Ombo, Esna, Edfu and Abydos. Abu Simbel is accessible by air and road.

Local travel agents can plan and confirm trips. As prices vary with the seasons and the number of tourists, it is best to plan in advance and keep in touch for last minute changes. All flights must be recon-firmed before the return departure. Hotel reservations and boat charters need to be monitored but not paid in full in advance of your arrival.


Ballets, concerts, plays and dance troupes schedule performances all year. Theatrical productions are held at the Howard Theater, the New Theater and the Children's Theater at AUC. The Cairo Opera House has a year 'round program including touring ballet companies, musical programs, plays and exhibitions at reasonable prices. The Maadi Community Players, the Cairo Players and the Greek Theater Group at AUC all produce plays.

The Government of Egypt's Center for International Cultural Cooperation and the French, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish and U.S. Cultural Centers all present readings, lectures, concerts, plays, films and exhibits.

Feature films are shown at the American Cultural Center, Ewart Hall of AUC, the Maadi Club and at Maadi House.

A film festival brings a selection of foreign films to local screens each fall. Shown with Arabic subtitles, English-language films dominate the offerings, although many are not new releases.

Clubs throughout the city and at major hotels feature Nubian and Egyptian performers. The shows usually start around 11 p.m.

Cairo has a large number of restaurants, ranging from small, inexpensive, noisy neighborhood places serving local specialties through fast food franchises doing chicken and hamburgers, frozen yogurt, pizza and doughnuts to the luxury halls with European and Middle Eastern menus. The big hotels contain restaurants with a variety of price levels. River barges offer food with entertainment.

Social Activities

Among Americans: The Maadi House Recreational Center has activities for all ages in a homelike atmosphere. For tots, play groups under the super-vision of volunteers, are available. The garden is a pleasant social center with tennis courts and lawns for quiet repose by the pool. Karaoke nights, videos, exhibits and other events are organized by the manager.

The Women's Association and the Maadi Women's Guild have educational, philanthropic and social programs. The Petroleum Wives Group is open to the community and involved in activities. Cub Scout, Brownie and Girl and Boy Scouts are active.

Special interest groups include: bridge, yoga, the Choral Society and the CAC Parent Teacher Organization. Summer Circus and Awesome Adventures are summer vacation time programs of activities sponsored by CSA for children aged three to 13.

International Contacts: Some groups that meet are the CAC Women's International Club; the American Chamber of Commerce, which has a monthly luncheon; the All Nations Women's Group and the Baladi Association for the Preservation of Nature. The sports-minded can meet members of the international community at clubs and tournaments.


Alexandria (El Iskandariyah), with a population of 3,995,000 in 2000, is the second largest city in the country. It was founded in 33l B.C. by Alexander the Great and, for more than 1,000 years, was the capital of Egypt and a center of Hellenic culture rivaling even Athens. It was the site of the Pharos Lighthouse, one of the "Seven Wonders of the World", and of the magnificent Library of Alexandria, which housed the greatest collection of ancient times. Founded by Ptolemy I, the library was burned during Julius Caesar's invasion in 48 B.C. St. Mark introduced Christianity into Egypt early in the Christian era, and was martyred in Alexandria in the year 62.

In contrast to Cairo, Alexandria has a more outward looking and cosmopolitan air. It is a leading commercial center, the home of nearly half of Egypt's industry, and its chief port. Industries in Alexandria produce cotton textiles, paper, chocolate, processed foods, asphalt, and oil.

The city is built along 20 miles of low sand dunes between the Mediterranean and Lake Mareotis (Maryut). Its principal commercial area is close to the busy port, and stretches along the eastern harbor. Most Europeans and wealthy Egyptians live east of downtown, within a few blocks on either side of the main boulevard, Avenue Horreya.

With its mild climate and sandy beaches, Alexandria is a favorite summer resort for more than a million visitors each year, the bulk of whom are from within Egypt or the Arabian Peninsula. The weather at that time is pleasant and, although humidity is often high, there is normally a cooling breeze. In winter, homes are cold, but days are frequently sunny and bright. Alexandria receives about eight inches of rain a year, as well as some storms accompanied by strong gales. Flooding and power outages often occur.


The Schutz American School in Alexandria, which attracts students from many parts of the Middle East, provides classes from preschool through grade 12. Founded in 1924 as a Presbyterian school for children of missionaries in the Middle East, it has grown into an independent institution governed by a board of American and Egyptian directors, and supervised by an American headmaster.

The Schutz faculty and administration is composed mostly of Americans. The school has a capacity of 250 students. In addition to Americans, Schutz accepts foreign students from a variety of diplomatic and foreign business families.

Schutz's two campuses span a total of three acres. There are 20 classrooms, an auditorium/gymnasium, cafeteria, two infirmaries, a 20,000-volume library, tennis court, playing field, two science labs, a computer lab, and swimming pool.

The curriculum offers courses in science, math, English, social studies, and Middle Eastern cultural studies. Courses in Arabic and French are also taught at Schutz. Extracurricular activities include art, music, crafts, sewing, cooking, typing, photography, computer instruction, dance, drama, gymnastics, and various field trips. Schutz has an excellent record on college admissions. The academic year runs from September to June. The school is coeducational. Information on entrance requirements can be obtained by writing to Schutz School, P.O. Box 1000, Alexandria.

Alexandria also has two English-language nursery schools, an English Girls' College, Sacred Heart School, Nasr Boys' School, Victoria College, St. Marc (French), and a German Girl's School, offering primary and secondary education in Arabic and other languages. Few American children are enrolled in these establishments.

Recreation and Entertainment

Alexandria's weather and location on the Mediterranean provide opportunity for a varied sports life for the adventurous and the versatile. The coast around the city is good for rod and reel fishing. During winter, duck shooting is possible on Lakes Mareotis and Edko, and a variety of migratory game birds, quail, turtle dove, sand grouse, and bustard are found within easy reach of the city, on the fringes of the desert. Snorkeling and swimming are popular. Scuba diving is prevalent, mostly along the Sinai and Red Sea coasts.

Of the several recreational and social clubs in the city, the Alexandria Sporting Club, with almost 30,000 members, is the largest. Here are offered a large swimming pool, golf course, lawn croquet, bowling green, basketball and tennis courts, a gymnasium, physical therapy department, a race course, and a riding school. Another sports club, Smouha, has a golf course and a riding school. The Egyptian Yacht Club provides opportunities for sailing, rowing, swimming, and diving. Water skiing is possible, but rental skis are not available.

The Hunting and Shooting Club at Qait Bay has trap, skeet, and box pigeon shooting several times a week, and will help make arrangements for interested hunters and for its members on the lakes. The Alexandria Club is a popular, private downtown luncheon and supper club. Monthly dinner meetings by the Egyptian-American Friendship Association are held at this site. Membership in all organizations is composed of foreign residents and Egyptians, and annual fees are reasonable, varying slightly among the clubs.

As everywhere in Egypt, Alexandria has antiquities well worth visiting: Pompey's Pillar, a Roman amphitheater at Kom El Dekka, catacombs of Kom al-Shqafa, Al-Shatby Necropolis, the Tombs of Al-Anfushi, the Tombs of Mustafa Kamel, and the exhibits at the excellent Graeco-Roman Museum. A jewelry museum, large antique souk (bazaar), an Islamic fortress, historic mosques, and a wide variety of attractive urban architecture contribute to Alexandria's unique Mediterranean flavor.

The fortress of Qait Bay, overlooking the harbor, features an aquarium and a naval museum.

Alexandria also has an attractive zoo and botanical garden.

Memorials of the World War II battle at El Alamein, including cemeteries of the British, German, and Italian troops, are 65 miles west of Alexandria on the coast road. A war museum, with battlefield relics, maps, uniforms, and medals of the combatants, is also there. A well-attended commemoration is held each October.

Alexandria is widely known as a seaside resort. Many Egyptians and foreigners rent houses, apartments, or cabanas in the city, west in Agami and Sidi Abdel Rahman, or east in Montazah and Maamoura.

A number of social and cultural events are held here in winter. Several national cultural centers give language lessons and sponsor art exhibits, film showings, concerts, and guest performances. Every two years, the Fine Arts Museum presents the Biennale, a special display of art from Mediterranean countries. The city has some good film theaters. The American Cultural Center also screens and offers programs of interest to Egyptians and Americans.

Summer beach parties are popular among members of the foreign community in Alexandria. Informal dinners, cocktail parties, bridge parties, and other impromptu entertainment are common.


Aswan is located in southern Egypt on the right bank of the Nile, about 10 miles north of Lake Nasser. Its 2000 population was estimated at 219,000. Aswan is a popular winter health resort, an administrative and commercial center, and has a huge, fascinating bazaar. There are several industries in Aswan. These include a cement plant, a sugar refinery, a steel plant, and marble quarries.

In ancient times, the city was called Syene or Seveneh, and described in the Bible as the southern limit of Egypt. It is the site of the ruins of a temple built by Ptolemy Euergetes. Aswan has become an important industrial center since production of hydroelectricity began here in 1960. A chemical fertilizer plant is the largest of the new industries.

The creation of Lake Nasser and the construction of the Aswan High Dam (built 1960-1970, dedicated 1971) required the relocation of 90,000 people and many archaeological treasures. Under the auspices of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization UNESCO, the Nubian Temples at Abu-Simbel were moved (1963-1968) to a cliff above the old site. In return for financial assistance, the United States was given the Roman Temple of Dendur. It was disassembled, shipped to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and reconstructed.

Elephantine Island is a small piece of land, less than a mile long and a third of a mile at its widest point, situated in the Nile River within viewing distance of Aswan. It is a quiet spot, away from the big-city atmosphere of Cairo, and the perfect place for relaxation, especially from October through April when the weather is excellent. Passage to Elephantine Island is via a free, three-minute trip on one of two hotel ferries shaped like the ancient reed boats used by the pharaohs. The only hotel on the island is the Aswan Oberoi, considered one of the best in Egypt. All 150 rooms have balconies and excellent views, and are comparatively reasonable in price, even in the peak season. There are no cars on the island. The only motorized vehicles are the two vans used by the hotel to transport visitors from the ferry. Nightlife on Elephantine Island is practically nonexistent, although there is a belly dancer at the nightclub. During the day, a felucca (lateen-sailed boat) can be rented for a nominal fee to sail as far as the Nile's First Cataract. The island has ruins of temples built in the second century B.C., as well as a small museum which exhibits some of the local antiquities.


The village of ABU-SIMBEL , or Ipsambul, is located on the Nile about 20 miles from southern Egypt's border. It is the site of two temples hewn from rock cliffs, and of colossal statues of Ramses II, built during his reign, about 1250 B.C. The temples were raised 200 feet in 1966 to escape the advancing waters of Lake Nasser, which rose with the construction of the Aswan High Dam. UNESCO solicited funds from 52 nations to salvage the treasures. The statues of Ramses II and the temples were cut into 950 blocks, raised, and reassembled farther inland.

On the east bank of the Nile River, AKHMIM is almost 250 miles south of Cairo. Once an ancient Theban city, Akhmim now produces silk, sugar, and pottery. The city serves as a center for date, cotton, sugar-cane, and cereal processing. Industries such as clothing, brick, and textile manufacturing are represented here. Akhmim has a substantial number of Coptic Christians. The population estimated is over 70,000.

ASYÛT , located on the Nile, about 250 miles south of Cairo, is the largest commercial center in central Egypt. There are several ancient sites in the city, including the remains of a culture dating to 4500 B.C. Today, Asyût is known for its ivory carvings, pottery, and rugs. In addition, there are modern textile mills and a fertilizer plant. A teachers college and a university are located in Asyût. In 1996, the population was approaching 334,000.

BENI SUEF is 68 miles south of Cairo on the Nile River. The city has a marketplace for trading cereals, sugarcane, and cotton. Beni Suef's industries include cotton ginning, textile manufacturing, and flour milling. It is on the main rail line along the Nile. The population was estimated at 172,000 in 1996.

GIZA , also known as El-Giza or Al-Jizah, is a suburb of Cairo, situated on the left bank of the Nile. With a population of about 2,156,000 in 2000, it is a well-known resort that is also the center of Egypt's motion picture industry. Giza is an agricultural trade and manufacturing hub, producing cotton textiles, cigarettes, and footwear. Other industries produce iron products, wood products, cement, automobile parts, textiles, beer, and footwear. The University of Cairo and a center for research on schistosomiasis are located here. Other educational institutions in Giza include an ophthalmic research center, the Higher School of Applied Arts, and the Academy of the Arabic Language. Giza is best known, however, for the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx, which are located five miles west of the city. Ten miles to the south, a visitor can spend an entire day exploring the Step Pyramid (the first-built before 2000 B.C.) and necropolis in Saqqara (Sakkara). Between Giza and Saqqara lie the ruins of the Fifth Dynasty pyramids of Abu Sir. These can be seen on a three-hour safari by camel or Arabian horse, easily arranged by any hotel or travel agent in the Giza area.

IDFU lies on the west bank of the Nile in the southeastern region, 60 miles north of Aswan. The city is best known for the Temple of Horus, the sky god. Preserved intact, the temple was begun by Ptolemy III Euergetes in 237 B.C. and completed in 57 B.C. Idfu trades dates, cotton, and grain with nearby communities. It is linked to the Cairo-Aswan railway by a bridge across the Nile River.

ISMAILIA (in Arabic, Al Ismā'īlīyah is a halfway point on the Suez Canal, 65 miles northeast of Cairo. It is the seat of the Suez Canal administration. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the chief engineer for the construction of the canal, founded the city in 1863 and used it as a base of operations. Part of the population had to be evacuated and resettled elsewhere in Egypt during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israeli forces shelled the city. Today, Ismailia, with a burgeoning population of 254,000 (1996 est.), is an important commercial and rail center.

LUXOR , whose population was estimated at 1360,500 in 1996, lies on the Nile in central Egypt, about 110 miles north of Aswan and 310 miles south of Cairo. It is situated on part of the site of ancient Thebes. The greatest monument of antiquity in the city is the temple to Amon, built during the reign of Amenhotep III. The temple was altered by succeeding pharaohs, especially by Ramses II, who built many statues to him

self on the grounds. The temple was converted to a church in early Christian times; later, a shrine to a revered Muslim was constructed in the great hall. Beginning in 1883, the temple was restored. Other temples and burial grounds are also in the vicinity, including the Valley of the Kings and the famed Tomb of Tutankhamen (King Tut). Luxor is home to numerous churches and mosques. There is also an airport, railway station, and a ferry service. In recent years, a new museum and modern tourist facilities have been constructed.

PORT SAID , or Bur Sa'id, is a Mediterranean port at the entrance of the Suez Canal, just over 100 miles northeast of Cairo. The city was founded in 1859 by the builders of the canal. It is connected to Cairo by a railroad that was completed in 1904. During the Sinai War of 1956, the city was severely damaged by air attacks and invasion by French and British troops. During the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1967 and 1973, Port Said came under Israeli attack, and the harbor was closed to shipping for six years. Major industries include textiles, glass, automobile batteries and tires, watches, china, cosmetics, fishing and salt, which is produced by the commercial evaporation of sea water. Port Said is the fueling point for ships using the Suez Canal. The estimated population was 461,000 in 2000.

The city of SUEZ lies at the southern tip of the Suez Canal, about 80 miles east of Cairo. It was a small village throughout most of its history, becoming a major port only after the completion of the canal in 1869. The economy of the city suffered when the canal was closed during the Arab-Israeli Wars. Heavy damage was incurred in the 1973 war, and Israeli forces occupied parts of the city. Suez (or Al-Suweis), with an approximate population of 417,600 (1996), is a center for restoring and refining oil and for manufacturing petroleum products, paper, and fertilizers. A railroad links the city with Cairo and Ismailia. Suez is a departure point for pilgrims traveling to Mecca.

TANTA is in northern Egypt, in the Nile River Delta about 60 miles north of Cairo. This city of approximately 371,000 (1996 est.) is a cotton-ginning center as well as the main rail hub of the delta. Three annual festivals are held in Tanta in honor of Ahmad al-Badawi, a 13th century Muslim figure, who is buried here in a mosque. Traditionally a center for Arab learning, a branch of Al-Azhar University is located in the city. Tanta University opened in 1972 and another college opened in the early 1980s. Several industries are located in the city. These include cottonseed oil extracting, wool spinning, flour milling, petroleum refining, and the production of pasta and tobacco products.

The city of ZAGAZIG is 47 miles north of Cairo on the Nile Delta and the Ismailia Canal. The city, an important road and railway junction, has markets for cotton and grain. It is linked by rail or canal with Nile Delta cities. Zagazig is two miles southeast of the ruins of Bubastis, an ancient city (also called Tell Basta). The population was about 267,300 in 1996.


Geography and Climate

The Arab Republic of Egypt is located in northeast Africa and, with the Sinai Peninsula, extends into southwest Asia. It consists of 1,002,000 square kilometers of land. There are three land borders: Israel, Libya, and the Sudan, as well as four water barriers: the Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Suez, Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea. Most of the country is part of the band of desert stretching from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Middle East.

Geological changes have produced four distinct physical regions: the Nile River's Valley and Delta, where 95 percent of the population live; the Western Desert, with two-thirds of the country's total land area in barren limestone plateaus and depressions; the Eastern Desert, scored by gullies in rugged hills; and the Sinai Peninsula, geographically a barren part of the Asian Continent, separating slowly from Africa.

Only the Nile Valley and Delta and a few desert oases can support productive agriculture. The date palm is the most prevalent indigenous tree, though frequently seen are: eucalyptus, acacia, sycamore, juniper, jacaranda, and tamarind. Papyrus, once prevalent throughout Egypt, exists now only in botanical gardens.

According to reports written in the first century A.D., seven branches of the Nile ran through the Delta to the Mediterranean. Since then, nature and man have closed all but two outletsthe Damietta and the Rosetta. These channels are now supplemented by a network of canals, salt marshes, and lakes.

Lower Egypt is the area north of the 30th parallel of latitude, which passes through Cairo and Suez. Upper Egypt is everything south. The highest point in the country, Jebel Katrinah (Mount St. Catherine), is 8,600 feet above sea levela part of the red-colored Sinai terrain that gave the Red Sea its name. Nearby is Jebel Musa, the legendary site where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

The lowest point, the Qattarah Depression in the Western Desert, drops at places to 132 meters below sea level and covers an area the size of New Jersey.

What rainfall there is falls mostly in Alexandria, where 19 centimeters (about 7½ inches) is the yearly average. Two centimeters. (about ¾ inch) is the usual annual total in Cairo. There are seven regularly scheduled storms, supposedly. A northeasterly, named al-Muknisa, is expected to begin the season on November 20. The others are: al-Kassem, Ras al-Sana, al-Fayda, al-Kabira, al-Ghotas, and al-Karam, which ends it with 6 days of north-westerly wind and rains beginning on January 27.

From November to April, temperatures range in Cairo from 40° to 65°F and during the hot period, May to October, from 70° to 110°F. The Mediterranean coast is usually 10° cooler, while Upper Egypt is 10° to 20° warmer. Extreme temperatures during both seasons are moderated by the prevailing northerly winds. The exception is the hot, dry southerly Khamsin, named for the number 50 because it lasts about that many days, from April to June. With winds up to 90 miles an hour some years, the resulting sandstorms close down airports and roads.


Egypt's population was probably 2-3 million at the time Napoleon arrived in 1798. In 2000, Egypt's estimated population was 68,494,600. Within its limited habitable areas, more than 3,250 people per square mile make the Nile Valley one of the world's densest populated areas.

Although more than half still live in rural areas, this proportion is decreasing as jobs lure people to the urban centers. Cairo is now the largest city in Africa and the Arab World. The disparity between national resources and this ever-growing population is an obstacle facing the government's drive to raise living standards.

Because of its location, a heterogeneous population, blended from Hamitic-Armenoid and Arab stock, has developed. Today the majority are considered a single people, sharing a common ancestry and culture. Arabic is their common language. Colloquial Cairene is expressive and rich in words of Coptic, European, and Turkish origins. The written language differs from the spoken. Modern standard Arabic, based on the language of the Koran, is heard on radio and TV and in formal speeches. About 94 percent of Egyptians are Moslem, and Islam is the state religion. Most others are Christian, either Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Anglican Protestants. Indigenous minorities include 4-6 million Copts, Nubians, and Bedouin, and a small Jewish community. Coptic has remained the liturgical language of the Coptic Church. Dialects of Arabic include the Bedouin and some Sudanese-Hamitic, spoken in Upper Egypt, and a Berber language.

Public Institutions

In 1952, a group of Egyptian "Free Officers" overthrew the monarchy and exiled King Farouk, who had inherited the throne in 1935 from his father, King Fuad. A republic was established under a Revolutionary Command Council.

The revolution established the first purely Egyptian leadership since Pharaonic times. From the time of Alexander the Great, Egypt had been continuously under various foreign rulers. The "Free Officers" divested their military connections and sought to raise the standard of living while developing both military and economic strength.

In 1958, Egypt merged with Syria and formed the "United Arab Republic." In 1961, Syria separated from this union, but Egypt kept the name until 1971, when it was formally designated the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The Egyptian Constitution provides for a strong executive. Authority is vested in a President elected by the People's Assembly and confirmed by a popular referendum. The President appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet and may appoint a Vice President. President Hosni Mubarak was re-elected and confirmed for a third 6-year term in 1993.

The legislature is bicameral. The more active house, the People's Assembly, has 448 elected members and 10 appointed by the President. The 210 members of the National Consultative or "Shura" Council are known as the "Upper House." Seventy are appointed, 140 are elected.

The Council's functions are advisory rather than legislative. The governing National Democratic Party was established by President Anwar Sadat in 1978. There are five legal opposition parties, three of which are represented in the Assembly and the Consultative Council.

Egypt's judicial system is based on a combination of French and Islamic legal concepts and methods. The Supreme Court, with presidentially appointed judges, is the highest. Under President Mubarak, the judiciary has strongly maintained its independence from executive intervention. The principles of due process and judicial review are generally observed.

Politically, the government aims to preserve stability by gradually expanding and liberalizing democratic processes while attempting to improve the standard of living and quality of life.

Following the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979, most Arab States broke relations with Egypt. The value of the peace treaty was demonstrated by Egypt's regaining full control of the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 and by the freeing of its resources for development.

The Amman Arab Summit Conference in November 1987 paved the way for other Arab states to restore relations with Egypt and most have now done so. In spring 1989, Egypt was readmitted to the Arab League. Founded in 1948, it has 22 member nations, and covers 14 million square kilometers.

President Mubarak has maintained the peace treaty's commitments to Israel and worked to broaden the overall Arab-Israeli peace process in the Middle East.

Many international organizations maintain headquarters or field offices in Cairo, including CARE, FAO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, Project Hope, Catholic Relief Services, American Field Service International, American Friends of the Middle East, the Ford Foundation, and the Fulbright Commission.

Arts, Science, and Education

Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only the pyramids remain, still subject to speculation as to their purpose. The latest theory suggests a correlation between seven of them and the constellation Orion, with the Nile cast as the Milky Way.

Temples such as Karnak, Luxor, Philae and Abu Simbel span 5,000 years of history, beginning with the Pharaonic period 3,000-341 B.C., the Greek period 332-30 B.C. and the Roman and Byzantine period 30 B.C.-A.D. 638, which saw the rise of the Coptic Church. Then the Arab conquest introduced Islam and the Omayyads from Damascus, who remained until A.D. 750, when the Abbasids from Baghdad brought both violent change and their slaves, the Turkish Mamelukes, who would become the rulers and remain until Napoleon invaded in July 1798.

In September 1801, British and Ottoman forces drove the French out, only to come up against Mohammad Ali, an Albanian soldier serving in the Turkish Army. Leading his regiment in a rebellion over their lack of pay, subsequent conquests in Greece, Syria, Sudan, and on the Arabian peninsula led to his eventual control of the entire Ottoman Empire. This was passed on to his son and to his grandson, who sponsored the building of Egypt's railways and the Suez Canal. After them came the Pasha Ismail, who would open the Canal in 1869 and declare independence in 1873, but lose it all in 1879, a victim of foreign debts and international events. The British took control again and remained until 1952 while establishing a constitutional monarchy with an elected king, Fuad I, in 1922.

Each period brought new monuments and changes to the old.

Because of the preserving climate of Egypt and its unchanging nature, these ruins are world renowned. The most famous of all the extant treasures came from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen, who had reigned for only 9 years, 1361-1352 B.C. Discovered in A.D. 1922, virtually undisturbed in the Valley of the Kings, these tributes are now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The cultural capital of the Arab world, Cairo has two dozen museums. The Egyptian, Coptic and Islamic Arts Museums each present an array of masterpieces. More esoteric collections include the geologic, railway and post office, and agricultural, military and carriage museums. Fine art exhibitions are sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and many private organizations. In addition to four art museums, the Ministry administers four historic buildings, in which artists and artisans have studios.

The Cairo Opera House is a part of a $30 million cultural complex which includes the Museum of Modern Arts. It was opened in 1988 on Gezira Island, 17 years after a fire had destroyed its predecessor in the downtown Opera Square. Egyptian ballet, choir, dance, opera, and symphony performances in the three theaters alternate with offerings by touring companies and a puppet show. The latest season drew about 150,000 people to 462 performances.

The Academy of the Arabic Language and l'Institute d'Egypte, the latter established by the French administration in 1798, are both located in Cairo, as are newer research institutes and specialized libraries spanning all fields.

Egypt has over a dozen state-run universities. Five are in the Cairo area. The oldest university in the world, Al-Azhar, was founded in A.D. 970 in a mosque being built near the then-new eastern wall. It is still the center of Moslem theology.

Ayn Shams University was founded in 1950 in the Zafaran Palace in the Abbasiyya area. It took over a space vacated by the Egyptian University, which became Cairo University after it was reconstituted with 11 faculties in the Giza area.

The American University in Cairo is a private enterprise, close by the Embassy, on the east side of al-Tahrir Square.

The University of Maryland has an extension program offering a few evening courses in 8-week-long terms and a few shorter term seminars on Egyptian subjects.

Cairo American College, a private, co-educational day school in Maadi, serves students from kindergarten through grade 12 and is covered in detail in the Education section.

Commerce and Industry

The Government of Egypt is in the midst of a major economic reform program, contending with the legacy of a socialist past, when the state controlled internal and external trade and industry. Reforms initially began in the mid-1970's with President Anwar Sadat's "Open Door" policies. The pace of reform quickened in mid-1991 when, by agreements with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the donor nations, Egypt began implementing a comprehensive economic reform and structural adjustment program.

Significant progress in stabilizing the economy and encouraging private initiative has been made. The program is predicated on dismantling the inefficient public sector, with support in the form of international debt relief from the Paris Club donor community as well as substantial financial assistance.

By the end of 1993, the program showed striking results. Foreign reserves (which had been minimal) exceeded $16 billion, the equivalent of 1½ years of imports. Controlled government spending and new revenue measures reduced the budget deficit from double digits to 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Inflation dropped to 11 percent at the consumer level, and interest rates drifted downward. In recent years the country has seen inflation as low as 3 percent and has experienced annual growth near 5 percent.

Potentially Egypt is a large consumer market. Job creation is minimal for the half-million annual entrants to the labor market and is growing even less rapidly with problems such as material shortages, restrictive labor laws, and insufficient legal protection.

With good resources, a low-cost labor force and an ever-improving infrastructure of communication, transportation, and education, the Government of Egypt has begun to concentrate on such structural reform issues as privatization, deregulation coupled with the imposition of new, free enterprise-oriented regulations and trade/tariff liberalization.

About 29 percent of the labor force works in agriculture, 22 percent in industry and commerce, and 49 percent in services.

While one of the world's leading producers of high-quality, long-staple cotton, Egypt imports cotton for domestic purposes. Other important crops are rice, wheat, corn, cane and beet sugar, citrus fruits, and vegetables of all kinds. Also important are dairy and beef cattle, sheep, and a fishing industry.

Domestic industry ranges from food processing and textiles and light industry, which includes vehicle assembly, to heavy industry, including aluminum and steel. Phosphates, salt, iron, sulfur, gold, manganese and limestone are other natural resources.

Private-sector factories, particularly those in textiles, wearing apparel, foods and other consumer goods, are becoming increasingly important, both domestically and as exporters. The traditional pillars of foreign-exchange revenue have remained the same for decades: remittances from the 2.5 million Egyptians working abroad, Suez Canal fees, petroleum exports and tourism, which was the top source of foreign exchange until the sector was affected by global economic problems and terrorism.

The remittance from each overseas worker is estimated to amount to 2,000 LE ($600) annually.

The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, but only since 1957 has it been controlled by Egypt. Ships in transit paid $1.7 billion in fees in 2001.

In 1913, oil was discovered. The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation now controls the industry through 200 concession and revenue-sharing agreements covering 125,000 square kilometers. Crude oil reserves are estimated by the Ministry of Petroleum at 4.5 billion barrels. In 1993, the value of petroleum exports reached $1.8 billion, a 12.5 percent annualized growth rate over 1992.

Natural gas production is increasing as it becomes more widely used. Proven reserves are 15 trillion cubic feet with an equivalent amount estimated to be available. A developing a gas export market aids in current and future economic growth.

Tourists have come to Egypt for eons and the country is well served now by airlines and hotels. An extensive industry has developed to service both the energetic traveller, wanting sun, scuba dives and camel rides and the lethargic, settling for a floating hotel decorated in neo-Victorian fashion, considering Neolithic sites between Sybaritic meals.

Banking reforms now encourage foreign investments and further the goal of privatization.

Egypt is committed to economic cooperation with the U.S. and over 50 U.S. joint venture factories already exist. Others are planned. More than 200 U.S. firms have offices and at least 1,800 others have agents and distributors. "Free Zones" have been created in Nasr City, Port Said, Suez, Ismailia, Safaga, and Alexandria.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, established in 1983, has become the largest business interest group in the Middle East. It is a branch of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Imports from the U.S. were worth about $1.2 billion in 2000, down from $3 billion in 1992.

Egypt's exports to the U.S. were worth $608 million in 2000, up from recent years.

At the annual Cairo International Fair, the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service sponsors a Pavilion. It also offers the specialized "Gold Key" appointment/market consultation service and programs to introduce U.S. suppliers to potential customers and representatives.

Major USAID projects have modernized the telephone and power generation sectors, installed water and waste water systems in cities and developed agriculture and villages.

A current project concerns the Aswan High Dam, which has controlled the annual flood of the Nile since 1972 and reclaimed over 1 million acres of land. With 12 turbines, it can produce 2,100 megawatts of electricity a year and perennial irrigation. But it also restricts the downstream passage of crocodiles and the rich soil, which had been distributed to the delta area.



Using Cairo's black-and-white taxis effectively requires some basic Arabic phrases and practice as well as a fatalistic attitude. If going to an area you do not know well, a map may help both you and the driver, who won't have one.

During rush hours, a taxi may be shared, reducing an individual's fare. Negotiating the fare is best done before the trip. Although taxis have meters, the official rate is so low, the obligation to pay something realistic is clear. Other variables are your familiarity with the city, the driver's demeanor and the taxi's physical attributes. Its age and size count. While newer, larger taxis command higher fares, the cost is very reasonable, much less than in the U.S.

Persons under 18 years of age are not allowed to drive cars or motorcycles. Accidents involving unlicensed motorcyclists have caused problems in the past and strained relations. Bicycles can be used in the suburbs and may be shipped with household effects. The most practical and safest is a heavy-duty model with a horn, light, and reflectors.

The Cairo Metro is a light rail system, partly underground. One line is now running from al-Marg in the north through the center of the city to Maadi and on to Helwan. Future lines will cross the Nile to Giza and Imbaba and connect Shubra al-Kheima in the north with Salah Salim in the east. Although the Metro may be used between Maadi residences and the offices near el-Tahrir Square and outside of rush hours is perhaps the most relaxing way to get north or south, it has done little to ease traffic congestion. Though the traffic police are becoming more stern with both pedestrians and drivers, the streets remain chaotic. Getting across or along one becomes a test of nerve, wit and patience. Flocks of sheep, donkey carts, broken-down vehicles and horn-blasting buses, trucks, taxis and private cars are just some of the usual obstacles facing drivers and pedestrians. Broken or missing sidewalks encourage most people to walk in the streets. Other difficulties are nonexistent signs or signs written only in Arabic, confusing traffic patterns and undisciplined driving techniques.


Alexandria and Cairo are connected by both the Western Desert Highway, a high-speed toll road and the busier Delta Road. Buses take 31/2 hours, with a rest stop. A non-stop Turbino train takes just over 2 hours but the required seat reservations can only be made for the outbound trip. The return trip must be booked at the destination.

Travel by ship from Alexandria to Crete and Athens, Bari, and Venice by Adriatica liners was suspended in spring 1994, when advance bookings failed to materialize. This luxury passenger and car ferry service is expected to resume in more prosperous times.

Air Sinai, Egypt Air and ZAS Airlines serve these domestic destinations: Abu Simbel, Alexandria, Aswan, Hurghada, Luxor, the New Valley development at Kharga Oasis, and Sharm el Sheikh.


Telephone and Telegraph

With new equipment going into service, completing local calls is becoming more routine. But in many areas pulse-style telephones are still required and Touch Tone signals ignored.

Most large hotels have business centers open to the public. The country code for direct dialing Egypt is 20. The city code for Cairo is 2, for Alexandria, 3.

Radio and TV

The Voice of America and the BBC's World Service programming are carried periodically on a variety of radio frequencies while CNN International, MTV and NBC's Super Channel programming are available 24 hours daily with cable service, available at prices comparable to U.S. rates.

Cairo has three government-controlled TV channels, which operate in color at varying times during the day and evening. Although most programs are in Arabic, newscasts are presented daily in English and French. A satellite ground station transmits live coverage of events from around the world. Some American TV series and old movies are shown in English, with Arabic subtitles.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

The E-Mart sells the Stars and Stripes, Federal Times, and USA Today newspapers and a variety of periodicals, ranging from comic books to Foreign Affairs journals, plus paperbacks and travel guides.

The International Herald Tribune is available at local outlets 1-4 days after its publication date.

Local newsletters include the Maadi Messenger ; Cairo American College's monthly, Cairo-Glyphics and the HelioScope.

Publications in English and other languages are sold at hotels and from street kiosks. Egypt Today is a glossy monthly magazine, whose articles, ads and listings may be useful. The bookstores of the American University in Cairo (AUC) carry English-language fiction and non-fiction titles and put them on sale twice a year, including photo books. But prices are high, more like Europe than the U.S. To save money, you may wish to subscribe to magazines and order books via clubs or through a publisher's mail order service.

Many of the books published in the Arab world come from Egypt's major publishing houses. The AUC Press represents Naguib Mahfouz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. Born in Cairo in 1911, he was cited for his "Arabic narrative art."

Cairo has four major Arabic-language daily newspapers and two in English: The Egyptian Mail and The Egyptian Gazette. The AlAhram Weekly, an English language off-shoot of a major Arabic daily, appears every Thursday.


The American Cultural Center at 4 Ahmed Ragheb Street in the Garden City area is a U.S. Information Service facility. The library and the film and video programs are intended to help foreign nationals plan trips to the U.S.

The Development Information Center Library is located at Cairo Center, on the sixth floor of the building where USAID has its offices. Managed by the Program Project Support Directorate, there are more than 9,000 documents in hard copy format and over 80,000 microfiched works, emphasizing development activities.

The American Research Center's (ARCE) library is close by, at 2 Midan Qasr el-Dubaraji (also known as Simon Bolivar Square). The library of the American University in Cairo has over 100,000 volumes, but not for circulation.

The British Council's library is at 192 Sharia el-Nil, on the west bank of the river, in Agouza. Since economics forced the focus to change from cultural activities to technology tutoring at a fee, public access, acquisitions, and services have been curtailed, and this traditional resource in foreign capitals seems headed for extinction.

Maadi residents may use the libraries of the Cairo American College and the Community Services Association, closer to home.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Emergency and some elective cases can be handled locally. The As-Salam International Hospital on the Corniche el-Nil, between downtown and Maadi, is recommended for emergencies.

While there are many physicians, surgeons, dentists and a variety of medical specialists in Cairo, the quality of care provided varies greatly.

Community Health

Standards of health and cleanliness in Cairo are well below those in the U.S. Tuberculosis, rabies and such waterborne diseases as bacillary dysentery, hepatitis A, and schistosomiasis are prevalent.

Preventive Measures

Staying healthy means taking precautions and considering preventive measures. Cairo's high level of dust and air pollution, worsened by the continuing use of leaded gas, can play havoc with an individual's bronchial system. Persons prone to asthmatic and respiratory diseases, animal and dust allergies, and hay fever may experience difficulties. Bring medications which work for you and consider getting an air purifier.

The high concentration of airborne particles may lead to eye irritation for those who wear contact lenses. It is prudent to bring a backup pair of regular eye glasses and an extra pair as the opticians are expensive. Limited supplies of contact lens treatments are available.

Flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects are prevalent, but controllable with screened windows and insect repellent. Garbage and trash, often uncollected, attract numerous flies. This fact, combined with inadequate refrigeration, requires careful preparation of meals in the home and discretion in selecting restaurants.

Cairo's water supply is considered safe only when it first leaves filtration plants. The distribution system is antiquated and many possibilities for contamination exist. To avoid possible infection, all water should be boiled and filtered, including that used for ice cubes. Water filters are provided in government-owned and-leased housing.

Locally bottled water is generally safe but fresh dairy products are not, because pasteurization is not a uniform process locally. Long-life and powdered milks are sold at some local stores.

All immunizations recommended by the Department of State should be taken prior to arrival. These include typhoid, polio, gamma globulin, tetanus-diphtheria, hepatitis B, yellow fever and the usual childhood vacci-nations: measles, mumps and rubella. In addition, the pre-expo-sure rabies vaccination series (diploid cell immunization) should be taken, if possible, before arrival at post. Meningococcal meningitis vaccine is also recommended.

If you have a medical problem requiring special or long-term medications, bring your own supply.

Traffic accidents are probably the biggest danger you face. Violent crimes are rare but pickpockets, working at the tourist attractions, including the mosques, can cause injuries. Sports-related accidents also happen. Baseball games and horseback riding on rock-strewn trails have produced some serious ones.


Each traveler must have a valid diplomatic or official passport, Egyptian visa and international immunization certificate. Everyone must show evidence of a valid cholera immunization at least five days, but not more than six months, before arrival. Travelers from yellow fever areas must have had yellow fever shots at least eight days before arrival. These rules are enforced and anyone arriving without proper immunization records may be quarantined.

Egypt has no quarantine restrictions for pets. Dogs and cats entering the country must have proof of a valid rabies shot given within the year and a certificate of good health authorized by a licensed veterinarian within the two weeks before arrival. These documents should accompany the pet which, ideally, accompanies you. Ask about preferential airline rates for accompanied pets.

The currency denomination is the Egyptian Pound (marked L.E.), which is comprised of 100 piasters (PT). A piaster contains 10 millemes, which are rarely quoted and physically extinct. The dollar was worth about L.E. 3.84 in January 2001.

Five and ten-piasters coins are in use although change in those amounts is not always given. An old 20-piasters coin is occasionally seen. A new coin, with a distinctive hole in the middle, is beginning to replace the short-lived 25-piaster banknotes. Coins are replacing the 50-piaster and the one-pound banknotes. New fifty and hundred L.E. banknotes have been introduced to accompany the fives, tens and twenties.

In Egypt the metric system of weights and measures is used. Land is measured by the feddan, which is 1.038 acres or 45,215.28 sq. ft. or .4152 hectares. The Nile flows from south to north across 1030 kilometers or 640 miles.

Egypt is in the Greenwich Mean Time +2 hours zone, seven hours ahead of the U.S. Eastern Standard Time zone. Summer time, GMT+3, is observed from May 1st until October 1st.


Jan. 7 Christmas (Coptic)

Mar. 8 Revolution of Mar. 8

Apr/May Easter*

Apr/May Sham al Nessim (first day of Spring/Easter Monday)*

Apr. 26 Sinai Liberation Day

May 1 Labor Day

June 18 Evacuation Day

July 23 National Revolution Day

Aug. Wafa'a el Nil (the flooding of the Nile)*

Sept. 11/12 Coptic New Year*

Oct. 6 Armed Forces Day

Oct. 24 Popular Resistance Day


Id al-Fitr*

Id al-Adha*


Mawlid al Nabi*

Waqf al-Arafa*



These titles are provided as an indication of the range of material recently published on Egypt. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.


Berlitz Travel Guide: Egypt. New York: Macmillan, 1989.

Blue Guide: Egypt. Veronica Seton-Williams and Peter Stocks. A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd.: London. 3rd edition, 1993.

Egypt & the Sudan. Scott Wayne and Damien Simonis. Lonely Planet Publications: Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. 3rd ed., 1994.

Egyptian Museum, The Cairo: A Brief Description of the Principal Monuments. Egyptian Antiquities Organization: Cairo, 1992.

Fodor's Egypt 1991. New York:McKay, 1990.

Reader's Guide to Egypt, A. School of Area Studies, Foreign Service Institute, Department of State: Washington DC, 1992.

Yellow Pages: Cairo Classified (Advertising) Business Directory. Egypt Yellow Pages Ltd., a Bell Canada Co.: New Maadi, 1993.


Bauval, Robert and Gilbert, Adrian. The Orion Mystery. Heinemann: London, 1994.

Bohm, Dorothy. Egypt. New York:Thames Hudson, 1989.

Bruun, Bertel and Baha el Din, Sherif. Common Birds of Egypt. AUC Press: Revised, illustrated edition. Cairo, 1990.

Bunson, Margaret. The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York: Facts on File, 1991.

Canby, Courtlandt. Guide to the Archaeological Sites of Israel, Egypt & North Africa. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

Cultural Guide to Egypt. Cincinnati, OH: Seven Hills Book Distributors, 1990.

David, A. Rosalie. The Egyptian Kingdoms. New York: P. Bedrick Books, 1990.

Egypt. Visitors Guides Series. Edison, NJ: Hunter Pub NY, 1990.

El Mahdy, Christine. The World of the Pharaohs: A Complete Guide to Ancient Egypt. New York: Thames Hudson, 1989.

Essential Egypt. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., 1990.

Glubb, John Bagot. Soldiers of Fortune: The Story of the Mamelukes. Hodder: London, 1972.

Goldschmidt, Arthur, Jr. Modern Egypt: The Formation of a Nation State. New York: Westview Press, 1988.

Grant, Neil. How They Lived: The Egyptians. New York: BDD Promotional Book Co., 1990.

Greenberg, Michael and Jerry. Red Sea Fishwatcher's Field Guide. Seahawk Press: Miami, 1982.

Hewison, R. Neil. The Fayoum: a Practical Guide. AUC Press: Revised edition. Cairo, 1986.

Hobson, Christine. Exploring the World of the Pharaohs: a guide to ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson: London, reprinted 1991.

Humphries, Andrew. Cairo Walks. The Palm Press: Cairo, 1994.

Lamb, David. The Arabs: Journeys Beyond the Mirage. Random House: New York, 1987.

Lane, Mary Ellen. Guide to the Antiquities of the Fayoum. AUC Press, Cairo, 1985.

Lorenz, Joseph P. Egypt & the Arabs: Foreign Policy & the Search for National Identity. New York: Westview Press, 1990.

Mahfouz, Naguib. The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street. AUC Press, Cairo, 1990-1992.

Makar, Ragal N. Egypt. World Bibliographical Series, no. 86. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1988.

Miller, E. Willard, and Ruby M. Miller. The Third WorldEgypt: A Bibliography. Monticello, IL: Vance Biblios, 1990.

Moorehead, Alan. The Blue Nile. Reprinted with illustrations. Penguin Books: London, 1983. (also see: The While Nile )

Morkot, Robert. Egypt. Secaucus, NJ: Book Sales Inc., 1989.

Parker, Richard B. and Robin Sabin. The Islamic Monuments of Cairo. Revised by Caroline Williams. AUC Press: Cairo, 1985.

Odijk, Pamela. The Egyptians. Ancient World Series. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1989.

Oliphant, Margaret. The Egyptian World. New York: Watts, 1989.

Patai, Raphael. The Arab Mind. Macmillan: New York, revised 1983.

Peters, Elizabeth. The Mummy Case. A Tor Book: New York, 1986. (also see: Crocodile on the Sandbank, Curse of the Pharaohs and The Last Camel Died at Noon.

Porter, Eliot. Monuments of Egypt. Albuquerque, NM: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Rodenbeck, Max and Rossi, Guido Alberto. Egypt from the Air. Thames and Hudson: London, 1991. (Photographs)

Rubin, Barry. Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Spence, Lewis. Ancient Egyptian Myths and Legends. Dover Books: New York, 1990.

Spence, Lewis. Ancient Egyptian Myths and Legends. Dover Books: New York, 1990.

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Arab Republic of Egypt
Jumhuriat Misr al-'Arabiyah



The Arab Republic of Egypt is located in North Africa, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Libya to the west, the Gaza Strip to the east, and Sudan to the south. With an area of 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,659 square miles) and a coastline of 2,450 kilometers (1,522 miles), Egypt is slightly more than 3 times the size of New Mexico. Egypt's capital city, Cairo, is located in the north of the country.


The population of Egypt was estimated at 69,359,979 in July of 2000, an increase of 17,115,079 from the 1990 population of 52,244,000. In 2000, Egypt's birth rate stood at 25.38 per 1,000, while the death rate was reported at 7.83 per 1,000. With a projected annual growth rate of 1.5 percent between 2000 and 2015, the population is expected to reach 92 million by the year 2030.

Egypt's population is the largest in the Arab world, and is generally young, with 35 percent below age 14 and just 4 percent older than 65. Almost 50 percent of the population is below 20 years of age and 39 percent under 15, presenting a real challenge to government in creating job opportunities. The vast majority of the population94 percentis Sunni Muslim. Coptic Christians, and other smaller religious groups represent 6 percent of the population, while smaller minoritiesprimarily Nubians, Armenians, and other Europeansmake up approximately 1 percent of the population.

A large number of Egyptians44.9 percent in 1998live in urban areas. The capital city of Cairo and its suburbs is home to the largest concentration of Egyptians, with a population of almost 7 million. Other major cities include Alexandria, which has a population of 3.3 million, and Port Said, with 469,000 inhabitants. Migration from rural to urban areas presents a serious problem for policy planners due to the heavy stress it places on services in major cities. Egypt is over-populated and continuing population growth places a major strain on land and resources alike. Most Egyptians are concentrated in the Valley and Delta of the Nile River, areas that account for only one-third of the entire land surface of Egypt. The rest of the country is largely uninhabited desert.

Family planning policies were first adopted in the 1950s, but it was not until the mid-1980s that a government family planning body, the National Population Council (NPC), was established. The country's population policy has addressed multiple issues, focusing on the promotion of primary health care, encouragement of family planning in rural areas, and the reduction of infant and maternal mortality. The annual population growth rate has dropped dramatically in recent years, reaching 1.9 percent in 1998. The drop can be credited to carefully designed and well-financed family planning policies adopted since the mid-1990s by the government of President Mubarak. In 1995, the Family Planning Association (FPA) was formed to complement government health services and to provide family planning services through its clinics and voluntary organizations. In conjunction with the ministries of health and social affairs, the FPA also carries out programs to educate the general public about reproductive issues.


Egypt's economy improved dramatically in the 1990s as a result of several arrangements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the move by several, mainly Arab, countries to relieve a large proportion of its debts. These decisions were primarily to reward Egypt for its stand with the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq in the 1990-91 Gulf War. Since that time, Egypt has managed to maintain positive growth rates. Inflation has been kept down, the country's budget deficit decreased, and its foreign reserves increased, while gross domestic product (GDP) has averaged annual growth of 4-5 percent. Despite the slow pace of privatization and new business law enactment mandated by the IMF reform program, the country has succeeded in attracting foreign investment by moving towards a market-based economy. Having successfully stabilized the economy since 1995, the government embarked on a privatization plan in 1997 aimed at expanding the role of the private sector .

In spite of this considerable economic progress, the Egyptian government continues to face serious challenges. Egypt's economic growth has slowed down since 1998, partly due to the economic crisis in Asia, but also as a result of huge government investment in large-scale infrastructure projects. The recession that affected Gulf economies in 1998 and 1999 also impacted Egypt's economy, with lower oil prices causing a drop in remittances traditionally a major source of foreign currencysent home by Egyptian workers in the Gulf region. Tourism receipts also fell in reaction to the wave of terrorist acts waged by Islamic militants in Egypt, thus causing a further decline in the levels of foreign exchange. The government's reluctance to relinquish its shares in state enterprises has further contributed to the slowdown in the Egyptian economy since 1998. Little progress has been made in deregulating the largely state-run economy, or in bringing about legislative reforms and structural overhaul, ranging from tariff reduction to wholesale reform of the collapsing education system.

Egypt entered the twentieth century as a British protectorate, heavily dependent on agriculturemainly cotton productionwhich accounted for 90 percent of its exports in 1914. The British fostered the development of a small industrial base, mainly concerned with processing raw materials, but further industrial development was stifled by a British trade policy that focused on selling British products at the expense of local goods. Although Egypt was granted independence in 1922, Britain continued to control the country in an alliance with the Egyptian monarchy until 1952, when a group of young army officers overthrew King Farouk. In 1954, Gamal Abdel Nasser ousted the first president Muhammad Maguib and became a popular and influential leader.

Since gaining independence from Britain, Egypt has struggled to rid itself of the feudal economic system left behind by the British and to create an independent economy capable of standing on its own. By the end of the twentieth century, Egypt had not yet achieved a vibrant economy and remained heavily dependent on foreign aid and imported goods.

Today, Egypt is primarily a free-market economy with some state control. Despite occasional outbreaks of political violence, it has a reasonably stable multiparty system and is strongly supported by the United States and the European Union. The economy's main exports are crude oil and petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metal products, and chemicals. Agriculture today accounts for 17 percent of GDP, industry for another 32 percent, while the services sector provides 51 percent.

Egypt is the world's largest exporter of cotton and its textile industry is large. Other industries include the production of cement, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizers, rubber products, refined sugar, tobacco, canned foods, cottonseed oil, small metal products, shoes, and furniture. Although the agriculture sector continues to employ almost one-third of the workforce , most of the arable land is used to cultivate cotton, and Egypt must import about half of its food requirements. Unemployment in 1998 was reported at 20 percent, and the income disparity between the highest and lowest strata of society remains high. By contrast, unemployment in the United States in 1999 was just 4.2 percent.

Since the 1950s, foreign aid has played a major role in Egypt's development processes. As a socialist country, Egypt received much financial and military assistance from the former Soviet Union between 1952 and 1970, but this ended in the 1970s after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel. Following Egypt's defeat in the 1967 war with Israel, the Arab states of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Libya provided Egypt with US$221 million annually, increasing to a total of US$1 billion annually between 1973-1979. Arab support, mainly from the Gulf states, was frozen in 1979 because of Arab opposition to Egypt's 1978 peace treaty with Israel.

From 1979, the United States emerged as Egypt's main source of economic aid. This was seen, in large part, as a reward for Egypt's warmer attitude toward Israel, as well as to assist the country in meeting the demands of the extreme economic and political challenges it was facing. Between 1979 and 1998, Egypt received US$815 million annually from the United States. Since 1999, the level of U.S. aid has gradually decreased, reaching US$727 million in 2000 and US$695 million in 2001. Aid levels are expected to decrease further, to US$400 million over a 10-year period. U.S. aid to Egypt has come in the form of development assistance for infrastructure programs, job creation, education, democracy and governance, and in incentives for enlarging the private sector.

Arab aid to Egypt resumed in 1987 with the restoration of diplomatic relations. In 1990, Egypt was rewarded for its pro-Kuwait stand during the Gulf War with the write-off of its US$7 billion in debt to the United States. Although support from Arab sources has declined since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, U.S. and European aid has increased in support of the Euro-Med free-trade zone , to be set up by the year 2010.

According to the U.S. State Department Country Commercial Guide for 2001, government bureaucracy is a major impediment to the conduct of business in Egypt. Red tape permeates all government ministries and the commercial court system. Corruption is also widespread at all levels of the public sector , largely as a result of low wages and difficult living conditions.


Egypt has had 3 presidents since the 1954 revolution that brought popular president Gamal Abdel Nasser to power. Between 1954 and 1970, Nasser attempted to institute socialist economic principles on the Soviet model, and actively sought to industrialize an agriculture-based economy. Internally, Nasser dismantled the political and economic power of the landed class by nationalizing land previously owned by rich feudal landlords and distributing it to the poor. During those years, the government spearheaded a campaign to improve the lot of the working class and the peasants, who were offered free education and employment opportunities. Although the economy grew at an acceptable rate in the initial years, the failure of Nasser's socialist policies became evident toward the end of his rule, especially after the 1967 war in which Egypt lost parts of the Sinai desert to Israel. Military expenditure consumed about 25 percent of gross national product (GNP) under Nasser, while a rapidly growing population began to place additional pressures on the state.

Under President Anwar Sadat (1970-81), Egypt began its move toward a market-based economy. In April 1974, Sadat announced a new economic policy that came to be known as "infitah," or open-door policy. This policy brought the relaxation of currency regulations and led to a remarkable increase in foreign investment and a larger economic role for the private sector. In 1977, acting on the advice of the World Bank, Sadat lifted subsidies on flour, rice, and cooking oil and canceled bonuses and pay increases. These actions, in the face of growing disillusionment at the infitah policy, which allowed only a handful of people to accumulate wealth, led to a wave of popular protest across the country on 17 January 1977. As a result of the 2-day clashes in which 800 people were killed and several thousands more wounded, the government was forced to back down on the price increases while retaining 10 percent wage increases and other benefits for public sector employees.

In 1981, President Sadat was assassinated by fundamentalists of the Islamic Jihad group, who disagreed violently with his policies. He was succeeded by his vice-president, Hosni Mubarak, who was still holding office in 2001. The threat of growing popular dissatisfaction explains the economic reforms chosen by the Egyptian government since 1990. In 1991, Islamic groups began pressing for a strict Islamic state that would shun Western values and lifestyles. Their quest to overthrow the government includes demands for restrictions on freedom of expression, liberal education, and secular laws. These groups have resorted to violent means to overthrow the government, and have mostly targeted government installations and the tourism sector. The government has cracked down hard on the Islamists since 1994 but, although the threat from many of these groups has abated since 1998, they nevertheless have continued to be a source of much concern to the government and a serious impediment to foreign investment.

Since taking office in 1981, President Mubarak has demonstrated commitment to the program of economic reform that President Sadat charted for the country in the mid-1970s. At the time Mubarak came to power, the economy was faltering under the weight of massive foreign debt . Unable to meet its payments, the Mubarak government was forced to reschedule US$6.5 billion in debts to the IMF and the Paris Club (an informal group of official creditors comprising the world's largest countries) in 1987. It was not, however, until 1991 that the government, faced with a growing Islamic threat, began concentrating all its efforts on economic reform. The results of the reform program have been promising. According to the U.S. State Department Country Commercial Guide for 2000, the public debt has fallen from $40 billion to $30 billion, the Egyptian pound is stable, and inflation is under control. Further, foreign reserves reached an all-time high in 1997 and the budget deficit was slashed. Egypt's heavy debt burden accumulated during the 1980s had been reduced from $31 billion to $19 billion by 1998.

Politically, Mubarak allowed parliamentary elections in 1984. However, for most of the last 25 years, Egypt has been governed by a single party, the National Democratic Party. Although the national constitution describes Egypt as a "democratic, socialist state," in reality it is not much of either. While it is not a dictatorship, the government is an authoritarian one, given legitimacy by being elected. Egyptian voters elect a 448-member Majlis al-Sha'ab (People's Assembly), which, in turn, elects a president who wields wide powers during a 6-year term. The president appoints the vice-president and all ministers, and can be re-elected for additional terms. However, given that emergency powersfirst put into effect shortly after the assassination of President Anwar Sadatwere extended for a further 3 years in February 2000, the current regime and the security forces behind it have far more power than the constitution allows.

There are a total of 13 legal political parties, the most important of which include the New Wafd (Delegation) Party, the Socialist Labor Party, the Umma Party, and the Socialist Liberal Party. However, since its creation by Sadat in 1978, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has maintained an unequaled nationwide party machine and an iron grip on the Assembly, and thus on the presidency. The ruling NDP won an overwhelming majority in the 1996 and 2000 parliamentary elections, as well as in the April 1997 local and municipal elections, although opposition candidates and many foreign observers alleged vote rigging and intimidation at the ballot boxes.

Since the late 1990s, the Islamic movement known as the Ikhwan al-Muslimin (The Muslim Brotherhood) has made substantial inroads into the political establishment, but is largely held at bay by the NDP. The Brotherhood is officially banned by Egyptian law, which prohibits political parties founded on a religious basis. However, Islamist candidates do campaign under the auspices of legal opposition parties, such as the Socialist Labor Party, a practice quietly sanctioned by the government. Although the official presence of the Brotherhood is still minor, it maintains a powerful grassroots movement and has captured control of nearly every professional organization in the country, including the influential Lawyers' Association.

The judicial system in Egypt has been fairly independent from the executive branch of government. Although freedom of expression is to some extent tolerated, the mediaincluding newspapers, magazines, and periodicalsare subject to censorship. The government owns all domestic television and radio stations.

Between 1952 and the mid-1970s, the military emerged as the strongest institution in Egypt and, as a result, played a major role in its politics and economy. Egypt's large professional army, which numbers 450,000 personnel, was created in the 1950s as a deterrent force against Israel and today represents 1 percent of the population. However, unlike other developing countries, the military's role in Egypt has not been politically disruptive. Its political role, in fact, greatly diminished over the last 2 decades of the twentieth century, particularly as the country moved toward political liberalization in the mid-1980s. Although the military has opted to stay out of the government's confrontation with Islamic militants opposing the state, it continues to form the backbone of the regime and enjoys great privileges. Since the early 1990s, however, the military's economic involvement has expanded into 4 major areas: military industries and arms production, civilian industries, agriculture, and national infrastructure.

Taxes are a major source of state revenue, contributing approximately one-third of the government budget, and 16.6 percent of GDP. Taxes come in a variety of forms, including income tax , which accounts for 22 percent of the total tax revenue, and taxes on goods and services, which account for another 17 percent. Tax increases are expected in the coming years, but, aware of the potentially disruptive political implications of such a course, the government has been reluctant to burden the Egyptian populace with further taxes.


Egypt's infrastructure is relatively underdeveloped. The country is serviced by a network of over 64,000 kilometers (39,769 miles) of primary and secondary roads, 49,984 kilometers (31,060 miles) of which are paved. Despite the modernization of the road system in the 1980s, most roads remain in poor condition or under construction. With growing numbers of licensed automobiles in the 1990s, the road system, especially in urban areas, has become highly congested, and is a major safety concern. According to the EIU Country Profile, "Egypt reports the highest incidence of traffic fatalities in the world: 44.1 deaths per 100,000 kilometers driven in 1994." Egypt's aging state-owned railway system, which has 9,400 kilometers of tracks (5,841 miles) is old by regional standards and in need of upgrade. The sector is slated for privatization. Cairo's new metro system, opened in 1987, is one of the most heavily used systems in the world, carrying some 1.4 million passengers a day.

Egypt has a total of 90 airports. Egypt Air, the country's official airline, carries some 4.6 million passengers, roughly 25 percent of international air traffic, and an estimated total of 87,240 metric tons of freight annually, but has a poor service record and is generally unreliable. Egypt has 3 major ports, at Alexandria, Port Said, and Suez, and 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of waterways, divided between the Nile and the canals.

Electrical power is supplied to Egyptians by the state-owned Egyptian Electricity Authority (EEA), which

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Egypt 40 324 122 N/A 1 0.5 9.1 0.28 200
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Saudi Arabia 57 321 262 N/A 31 N/A 49.6 1.17 300
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

has the capacity to produce 15,000 megawatts of power, 80 percent of which are from natural gas. Plans are underway to expand power production by an additional 1,950 megawatts by 2002. Power consumption has been growing at the rate of 5.6 percent year, and EEA plans to invest some US$4.5 billion in the coming years to boost the country's power generation capacity.

Telecommunication services in Egypt are thoroughly modern. Telephone service is provided by the state-owned Telecom Egypt. According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000/2001, the country has some 6.5 million lines, and has been adding new ones at the rate of 1 million per year. In 2000, Egypt had over 60 local Internet service providers.


Egypt's economy is the second largest in the Arab world (after Saudi Arabia) and its economic sectors reflect its size. The service sector is by the far the largest and fastest-growing economic sector and accounts for almost 51 percent of GDP. Tourism, trade, banking, and shipping services on the Suez Canal constitute the main sources of service sector revenue. Both tourism and the Suez Canal were hit hard by Islamic violence in the 1990s, with tourism in particular suffering badly after the 1997 Luxor attack, in which 58 foreigners were killed by Islamic militants. The massacre is estimated to have cost the tourism sector 50 percent of its annual US$3.7 billion revenues in 1998, when foreign visitors stayed away from the country. The government has moved to aggressive promotion of domestic tourism to compensate for the loss of foreign tourism, and managed to restore more than 60 percent of the pre-1997 tourist traffic by late 1999. The sector's performance improved dramatically in the first 2 quarters of 2000, growing by 43 percent on the previous year. The prospects of recovery in the Suez Canal sector, however, have been less promising, with growth in that area rather slow, despite government plans to revive it.

Industry is the second-largest economic sector in Egypt, and accounted for 32 percent of GDP in 1999. Some 13 percent of the total labor force is employed in industrial activity, which is concentrated in Cairo and the Nile delta. Major industries include the production of petroleum and petroleum products, accounting for roughly 7 percent of GDP and providing a major source of foreign currency. The sector's contribution is heavily dependent on the performance of the world's oil markets, and fluctuates accordingly. The growth in domestic energy demands in the 1990s has placed constraints on Egypt's petroleum exports, leading to a downturn in net revenues. The construction industry has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, thanks in large part to huge government infrastructure and modernization projects. Overall, the industrial sector's contribution has increased as a result of the government's efforts towards privatization.

Even though arable land accounts for only 3 percent of the country's overall land area, agriculture remains one of the most important sectors of the economy, employing roughly 40 percent of the labor force. However, agriculture's contribution to GDP declined from 20 percent in 1986-87 to 17 percent in 1999, and the number of workers in the sector decreased steadily during the 1990s.


Even though its contribution to GDP has declined considerably in the last 15 years, from 25.6 percent in 1985-86 to 17 percent in 1999, agriculture remains a significant contributor to Egypt's economy, accounting for 20 percent of commodity exports. In 1998, according to the CIA World Factbook for 2000, 40 percent of the labor force was employed in the agriculture sector.

Cotton has been the country's largest agricultural export product for many years. The proportion of land cultivated with cotton has dropped significantly over the last 4 decades, from 924,000 hectares in 1962 to 227,000 hectares in 2000-01. For most of the century, cotton has been heavily subsidized by the government. These subsidies, however, were lifted in the mid-1990s and, as a result of higher cultivation costs, cotton exports have dropped from 121,500 metric tons in 1993-94 to only 45,000 metric tons in 1996-97.

In an attempt to reverse this trend, the government moved to raise the purchase price of cotton above international market levels. This was coupled with a move to import lower-grade cotton in March 1996 to allow for the export of better-quality cotton, and the full liberalization of the cotton trade in 1998-99. Higher price incentives have led to increased production and higher export deliveries, but the cotton trade is threatened by dwindling acreage.

Wheat and rice outputs have grown dramatically since the early 1990s, particularly since 1994 when all subsidies for fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides were lifted. The result has been self-sufficiency in several important commodities. Today, 95 percent of the wheat and rice crops are used to satisfy domestic consumption but, despite increased output, Egypt continues to be a large importer of food, especially agricultural products. Imports of wheat rose by 8 percent in 1996-97 and have generally accounted for more than a quarter of total imports.

Egypt's agricultural sector remains one of the most productive in the world, despite the small area of arable land and irregular and insufficient water supplies. Farmers do not have to pay for water used in irrigation. Since the construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile river, the sector's development has been hindered by the problems of waterlogged soil and soil with a high salt content. Drainage efforts have proved insufficient to counter the harmful effects of these 2 factors to the sector's performance. Since the mid-1980s, the government has attempted to reclaim the desert for cultivation, and has managed to successfully reclaim some 1 million acres of desert. Plans are underway to reclaim an additional 3.5 million acres by the year 2017 with the South Valley Development project near Lake Nasser. These efforts, however, are countered by the fast pace of urban and industrial expansion, which has been claiming an average of 31,000 acres a year.



Egypt's main mining activity revolves around the extraction of crude oil. The country is not a major producer of oil, and its reserves are small by regional standards. According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000-01, oil reserves were estimated at around 3.8 billion barrels in July 2000; in comparison, Saudi Arabia has over 260 billion barrels of proven and unproven reserves. Until 1998, Egypt produced an average of 880,000 barrels a day of crude oil, the majority of which was refined domestically, but production has steadily declined since 1998, mainly due to the depletion of the main oil fields. In July 1998, production reached 840,000 barrels a day, but had declined to 787,660 barrels a day in 1999.

Despite declining production, however, oil remains a significant source of government revenue and export earnings. The decline in crude oil exports in recent years has been mainly due to rising domestic demand and depressed world oil prices in 1998. As a result, crude oil exports, which accounted for 55 percent of overall export earnings in 1992-93, accounted for only one-quarter of overall export earnings in 1998-99.

Most oil production is concentrated in the Gulf of Suez, which produces 79 percent of Egypt's oil. Oil exploration activity is also taking place in the Western Desert near the Libyan border, offshore in the Mediterranean, and in the Sinai Desert. Unlike their neighboring Arab countries, where the state maintains full control of the oil industry, Egypt's oil production is dominated by foreign companies, working in conjunction with the state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation. The bulk of oil exploration activity is undertaken by large foreign companies, mainly British Petroleum and the Italian company AGIP. In recent years, the government has awarded exploration rights to a number of small local companies, but their presence is minimal in comparison to the foreign giants.

According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000-01, Egypt is one of the largest producers of refined oil goods in Africa, producing 35 million tons of refined goods annually. Refineries are based in Suez and Sidi Keir. Output in the sector has increased since 1994, when the private sector was allowed to enter the refineries business.

In addition to the extraction of crude oil, Egypt has natural gas reserves estimated at 45 trillion cubic feet, while potential reserves were estimated at a further 75 trillion cubic feet in year 2000. So as to increase oil exports, the government has adopted a policy of promoting the use of natural gas for domestic consumption. Gas production is mostly concentrated in the Nile delta region and the Western Desert, and is mostly used for power generation. Natural gas production is expected to rise in the coming years as the government concludes several agreements with its neighbors, mainly Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. In July 2000, the government signed an agreement with the Spanish electricity company Union Fenosa to supply almost 25 percent of Spain's annual natural gas consumption.

Most of Egypt's coal reserves are located in Sinai and are estimated at 50 million tons. Egyptian coal, however, is of poor quality, and previous plans to increase production have been abandoned due to the sector's lack of economic viability. Egypt also produces limestone and phosphates, which are mined near Bur Safaga and Quseir on the Red Sea, and iron ore is extracted at the Baharia oasis in the Western Desert. Other minerals, such as manganese, gold, zinc, tin, lead, copper, potash, sulphur, and uranium, can also be found in Egypt, but their mining is limited because of the high cost involved in their exploitation and transportation.


The manufacturing sector is an important and growing contributor to the Egyptian economy, with production dominated by large state-owned enterprises. Industrial activity grew rapidly in the 1970s and early 1980s as a result of the oil boom in the Gulf and the influx of large Arab investments in Egypt, recording an annual growth rate of 10 percent or more. Growth, however, has since slowed down, although the private sector has expanded since 1996, and its contribution has increased dramatically as a result of economic liberalization. By contrast, growth in the public sector's industrial production has declined sharply, mainly thanks to the legacy of centralization and inefficiency that characterizes state-controlled manufacturing industries. One example is textile manufacturing, once one of the largest industries in Egypt. The sector, which continues under state monopoly , has been largely inefficient, and beset by problems ranging from the lack of modern machinery to over-employment of workers. By contrast, the privately owned ready-made garment industry has been booming.

Egyptian companies produce a wide range of goods. Textiles and food processing account for the largest share of Egypt's manufacturing revenue. Other manufactured goods include furniture, ceramics, and pharmaceuticals. The termination of public sector monopoly over the production of automobiles in 1991 has led to a considerable growth in the car assembly sector. Egypt has a fledgling computer software industry that the government has encouraged. Heavy industries, including iron and steel production, are based in Helwan, outside Cairo, and in Dikheila, near Alexandria. Aluminum production is based in Nag Hammadi, while the production of chemicals is concentrated in Aswan. Since the 1970s, the government has attempted to encourage industrial production in non-agrarian regions in order to relieve the congestion in the main cities. As a result, 7 free zones (areas within which goods are received and stored without payment of duty ) have been established throughout the country, and industrial production in those areas is subject only to minimal regulations.

The country's large defense industry employs around 75,000 workers. The sector assembles arms for export, mainly to the United States, and manufactures industrial goods for consumption in the civilian sector. Egypt has attempted to capitalize on one commodity where it maintains a significant advantage: cheap labor. The government has moved in recent years to develop an information technology industry, which has been growing at the rate of 35 percent annually. Plans were underway in 2001 to train software engineers and programmers to increase the fledgling industry's potential and to boost computer software export over a 3-year period from US$15 million to US$1 billion.


The construction sector is a major contributor to the Egyptian economy and one of its fastest-growing sectors. This growth, estimated at an average of 20 to 22 percent annually since the 1980s, is fueled by the ever-increasing demand for housing and by the state's large infrastructure projects. Among these projects are the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project, considered one of the largest sewerage developments in the world, and the US$88.5 billion South Valley Development project, which aims to create an alternative delta along the Nile and relocate urban communities so as to ease the severe congestion in the major cities.

Most of the material required for the construction sector is produced locally. Local cement production, amounting to 24 million tons annually and meeting more than 70 percent of domestic demand, is expected to increase over the coming decade due to heavy government investment in the sector. Private companies have also been allowed to compete in the production of cement, which continues to be dominated by state-owned companies. The construction industry is expected to continue its upward trend in the coming years as a result of continued government and private business expenditure, anticipated to reach 20 billion Egyptian pounds annually.



Despite the drop in revenue as a consequence of political violence, tourism remains a significant contributor to Egypt's economy and the premier source of its foreign exchange earnings. The sector has huge potential, owing to the country's rich archeological heritage, such as the pyramids and other major attractions, as well as attractive tourist destinations on the Red Sea. The majority of visitors to Egypt, almost 61 percent, come from Western and Southern Europe. Tourists from other parts of the Middle East, especially from the Arab Gulf region, account for 19 percent of the total number, while Americans and Eastern Europeans each represent 6 percent of the total, and Asian visitors make up 5 percent.

The sector's growth has been stifled by periodic Islamic political violence, the absence of adequate facilities, and poor government management of state-owned tourist enterprises. The tourism industry suffered a sharp decline from October 1992, when the militant Islamic movements waged their war to discredit the state. The sector began to recover in 1995, with a record 4 million tourists visiting the country in 1996-97 and generating some US$3.7 billion in tourist receipts. This upward trend was reversed after the November 1997 massacre in which 58 tourists were killed while visiting the Luxor archeological site. The sector has managed to recover quickly, with some 4.8 million tourists visiting the country in 1999, spending some US$4 billion. According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000-01, tourism revenue is believed to have risen by 33 percent in 1999-2000, generating a record US$4.3 billion. Plans are underway to achieve a 12 percent growth in the tourism sector by the year 2005 by attracting some 9.5 million tourists annually over the next 5 years. The sector employs some 2.3 million people.

Major international hotels have a presence in Egypt. These include the Four Seasons, Sheraton, Hilton, and Marriott chains, among others, and there are major resort complexes, especially on the Red Sea. The most visible growth area of the tourist industry is the operation of Nile cruises. Dozens of cruise ships, many owned and operated by foreign companies, and particularly popular with British visitors, ply the river between Aswan and Luxor, stopping to take visitors ashore to the major cultural sites of Ancient Egypt. These cruises are accompanied by teams of licensed and highly qualified Egyptian guides.


The other major component of Egypt's service industry is the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. The canal generates revenue from fees charged for shipping to pass through the canal. Some 13,490 ships passed through the Suez Canal in 1999. Twenty-five percent of the tankers that pass through the canal carry petroleum and petroleum products from the Gulf region to the United States, while the remaining 75 percent carry dry goods. According to the EIU Country Report for 2000, revenue from the canal has declined steadily since 1994, down to US$1.7 billion in 1998, from US$2.1 billion in 1994. Despite the government's efforts to promote the Suez Canal, receipts have remained sluggish, largely due to competition from alternative routes and the effects of the economic slowdown in Asia. The government is currently attempting to deepen the canal to accommodate huge tankers, and has changed its pricing policies to make usage of the canal more lucrative to international traffic.


For an economy of its size, Egypt's banking system is underdeveloped. Most of the services provided by the banking sector remain basic, with the majority of transactions in the country still conducted using cash. Regulatory controls are inefficient, and the banking sector in general is not only overstaffed, but also suffers from a lack of well-trained or experienced employees. State-owned banks suffer from low capitalization and a high percentage of poorly performing loans.

The roots of the banking sector's inefficiency can be found in the nationalization policy implemented by President Nasser between 1957 and 1974. In that period, private banking was banned and only state banks were allowed to operate. State-owned banks still dominate the banking market, even though private banks were once again allowed to operate in 1974. In 1992, foreign banks were allowed to engage in local operations, reversing a policy that had restricted them to foreign currency business since 1974. But it was not until 1995 that foreign banks were allowed a majority ownership in local banks, a right denied them under the previous 1974 regulations. Efforts to reform banking and raise it to international standards are ongoing, with reform focused on improving the regulatory and institutional aspects of the sector. The government, however, has thus far been reluctant to cede control of the financial sector for both financial and political reasons. The privatization of the 4 state-owned commercial banks has been delayed on the pretext of popular opposition to such a move. The commercial banks provide banking and credit services to remote areas, and are profitable partners in the government's large development projects.

The banking sector is controlled by the Central Bank of Egypt, which sets banking and monetary policies through the control of interest rates, liquidity , and reserve ratios . The central bank also sets fees charged for the various transactions conducted in the sector. According to the EIU Country Report for 2000-01, there are currently 81 banks operating in Egypt, including 28 commercial banks, 32 investment banks, 2 real estate banks, 18 agricultural banks, and 3 specialized banks. The commercial banks are by far the most important, providing more than 75 percent of loans and accounting for more than 90 percent of deposits. As a result of the excessively large number of banks operating in the market, the Central Bank has placed a ceiling on the entrance of new banks, both Egyptian and foreign, into the market. The banking sector has been hit by a liquidity crisis that has affected the market since 1998, mainly as a result of indirect pressure from the government to limit credit to importers in order to control currency fluctuation. Interest rates have, as a result, remained high, averaging over 10 percent in the first 6 months of 2000.

Egypt has one of the oldest stock markets in the Middle East. Established in 1906, the Cairo and Alexandria stock exchanges were forced to close in 1961 as a consequence of President Nasser's nationalization drive. The 2 markets re-opened in 1986 in line with President Mubarak's privatization program. A 1992 law paved the way for the reorganization of the stock markets in Egypt, granting the Capital Markets Authority wider regulatory powers. A 2 percent capital gains tax was abolished in 1996 to encourage investment in the stock market. The 2 markets are now open to foreign investors, but interest in trading has declined over the last few years as a result of government mismanagement and eroding confidence in the country's political environment. According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000-01, the market grew by 157.9 percent in 1994, following the passage of the Capital Markets Law. The market's inconsistent performance since 1994 has been largely determined by the pace of the government privatization program.


Egypt has a large domestic insurance market, dominated by 4 state-owned companies that control almost 90 percent of the insurance market. Since May 1995, the lifting of restrictions that prevented foreign companies from being majority holders in domestic insurance companies has encouraged foreign activity in the Egyptian insurance market. The government is currently reviewing the viability of privatizing the 4 state-owned companies.


The absence of large commercial centers other than Cairo and Alexandria has resulted in a poorly developed retail sector. While Cairo and Alexandria are home to a variety of retail stores, including fast food franchises such as KFC and McDonald's, the majority of towns in the interior of the country rely on small family-owned shops, farmer's markets, and temporary roadside stands.


Egypt has grown increasingly reliant on imports over a very long period of time, and has, as a result, maintained an external trade deficit for most of the past 6 decades. The deficit, however, grew considerably between 1974 and 1984 as a result of President Sadat's open-door policy that encouraged imports, and reached US$4.86 billion in 1980. This sharp rise was fueled by the infusion of large amounts of foreign aid following the signing of the Camp David peace accords with Israel in 1978 and the rise in oil revenue. Imports dropped for a brief period between 1984 and 1986, due to the shortage of foreign exchange coupled with debt repayments. Since 1986, imports have been on the rise, increasing from US$11.74 billion in 1995 to US$15.8 billion in 1999,

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Egypt
Exports Imports
1975 1.402 3.751
1980 3.046 4.860
1985 1.838 5.495
1990 2.585 9.216
1995 3.435 11.739
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

when exports totaled US$4.6 billion. Thus, with exports remaining steady at around US$4.5 billion, Egypt has continued to maintain its trade deficit. Since 1998, the government has attempted to discourage imports by tightening trade financing and controlling the amounts of foreign currency in the country. Coupled with higher oil prices, the policy of lowering imports succeeded in reducing the deficit in 2000. However, imports are likely to continue outpacing exports due to the widespread lack of most raw materials, especially those needed by the construction and industrial sectors.

Egypt imports a wide variety of goods, especially capital goods such as machinery and equipment, necessary for its economic and infrastructure development. Food has traditionally accounted for 20 percent of Egypt's imports, but chemicals, wood products, and fuels are also imported. Before 1973, one-third of Egypt's imports came from the former Eastern European bloc, or Comecon countries, as part of Egypt's alliance with the Soviet Union. After the signing of the Camp David accords, Egypt's new pro-Western orientation was coupled with a shift in trading partners. Today, the European Union, especially Germany, Italy, and France, supplies more than 40 percent of Egypt's imports, while the United States accounts for 15-20 percent of total imports.

Between 1960 and 1980, agricultural products made up the bulk of exports, accounting for 71 percent of the total. That percentage dropped significantly in the 1990s, reaching 20 percent of total exports in 1995, according to the EIU. On the other hand, the export of fuel, minerals, and metal rose sharply over that same period, from 8 percent in 1960 to 41 percent in 1995. The export of manufactured goods has also risen since the 1990s, from US$2.9 million in 1993 to US$3.4 million in 1998. This increase has been mainly the result of the growth in clothing and textile production, which accounted for 14 percent of total exports in 1998. The value of exports has been steady since 1997, reaching US$4.6 billion in 1999. The failure to expand exports has been blamed on a number of factors: state bureaucracy and red tape, lack of competitiveness in the exchange rate market, the shortage of modern technology, and low industrial capacity. Additionally, the inadequate marketing experience of Egyptian exporters has left them ill-equipped to compete successfully in the export business.

Egypt's main export partners are the European Unionchiefly Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germanyand the United States. Before 1973, Egypt exported some 55 percent of its goods to communist countries then in the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union. Since the early 1990s, Egypt has gradually regained its influential role in the region, which it had lost after the signing of the 1978 Camp David Accords, and its exports to neighboring Arab countries have increased.

Egypt has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995. The effects of the implementation of membership requirements remain unclear. While the agreement secures better access to developing markets, there is rising concern about its impact on the protected sectors of the economy, namely the industrial and agricultural sectors. The lifting of state protection might make these sectors more competitive, but could also lead to a huge increase in the country's import bill.


The value of the Egyptian pound has been fairly stable since 1991, thanks to the government's efforts to maintain a stable exchange rate against the U.S. dollar. Traditionally, the government's policy has rested on the principle of defending the Egyptian pound against the U.S. dollar and increasing the country's foreign reserves. However, since 1998, a policy designed to keep the supply of U.S. dollars tight by removing them from the market led to a 10-12 percent devaluation of the Egyptian pound against the dollar in the last 6 months of the year 2000. This setback occurred despite government assurances that the pound would not be devalued. As a result, the Egyptian pound's exchange rate has fluctuated since the beginning of 2000, moving from EP 3.4 to the dollar in January 2000 to EP 3.8 to the dollar by the end of the year.

Exchange rates: Egypt
Egyptian pounds per US$1
Jan 2001 3.8400
2000 3.6900
1999 3.4050
1998 3.3880
1997 3.3880
1996 3.3880
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

The banking sector is expected to continue suffering from foreign currency shortages in 2001, as the supply of U.S. dollars remains tight. For the time being, the government appears to have allowed market forces to determine the exchange rate of the pound as a means of relieving the pressure caused by tight foreign currency supplies. The government is hoping that in the longer term, the tight foreign currency supply will be offset by a rise in foreign currency receipts from the tourism sector, a lower budget deficit, and decreased imports.


Living standards in Egypt are low by international standards, and have declined consistently since 1990. According to United Nations figures, some 20 to 30 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Despite widespread poverty, however, uneven development has led to the emergence of an affluent class that controls most of the country's wealth and enjoys an elevated standard of living that includes shopping at centers that feature the best imported goods. Living in such Cairo suburbs as Garden City, al-Zamalek, and Nasr New City, the wealthy send their children to private schools and to universities abroad. Yet not far from these affluent neighborhoods, a significant number of poor Egyptians live in squalor, with poor and overcrowded housing, limited food supply, and inadequate access to clean water, good quality health care, or education. The extremes are reflected in the country's distribution of income: in 1996, the wealthiest 20 percent of Egyptians controlled 39 percent of the country's wealth, while the poorest 20 percent controlled only 9.8 percent of wealth.

Uneven development in Egypt has not only affected the urban population. Inequality in the distribution of wealth is dictated by geographical regions. Historically, the north of Egypt has been more prosperous and received more government attention than the predominantly rural south, which stretches from Beni Suef, 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Cairo to the border with Sudan. The central government, which retains great power over the country, has always been based in the north, and has

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Egypt 516 731 890 971 1,146
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Saudi Arabia 9,658 11,553 7,437 7,100 6,516
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Egypt
Lowest 10% 4.4
Lowest 20% 9.8
Second 20% 13.2
Third 20% 16.6
Fourth 20% 21.4
Highest 20% 39.0
Highest 10% 25.0
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

therefore based major economic activity in that area. According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000-01, almost one-half of economic and social establishments in the country are based in the northern cities of Cairo and Alexandria. This uneven development has fueled a cycle of rural-urban migration from south to north that has only started to abate since the mid-1990s. Migration has only served to aggravate the state of underdevelopment prevailing in the south.

The economic reforms launched by the Egyptian government in the early 1990s have been double-edged, severely affecting the lower classes and threatening to further erode popular support for the government. Both the rural and urban poor have suffered from the long decline in the quality of social services provided to Egyptians. A lack of adequate resources for schools and hospitals has meant that these services have declined in quality over the years. Despite this deterioration, 93 percent of primary level students are enrolled in schools, and a government-funded health-care system ensures that all Egyptians have access to some form of health care.

As a result of high inflation, which, at its peak, reached 28.5 percent in 1989, the middle and lower classes have seen their living standards erode since the 1980s. The problem has been compounded by the government's reduction of subsidies on basic foodstuffs and certain budget controls on public services since 1991. The government's awareness of the political implications of the complete lifting of subsidies has slowed down the implementation of IMF-mandated price deregulation. In 1991, to soften the impact of these measures on the poor and those affected by privatization, the government established the Social Fund for Development, a US$613 million project funded by the European Union, the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The fund is a job creation project aimed at training and finding jobs for workers displaced as a result of privatization. However, poverty remains endemic in Egypt despite these efforts.


Since the 1970s, the Egyptian labor force has been growing at the rapid rate of 500,000 (2.7 percent) per year. In 2000, Egypt's labor force stood at 19 million. The official unemployment rate for 1999 was 7.4 percent. However, Egypt's unemployment rate is believed to be higher than the official figures. Independent estimates put unemployment at about 10 percent. Almost one-third to one-half of the labor force is believed to be under-employed.

Egypt's labor force generally lacks secondary education and proper job training, which explains why much of the younger workforce cannot expect high pay. Despite higher rates of school enrollment since the 1960s, illiteracy is still high, at 35 percent for men and 58 percent for women. The educational sector remains overburdened and understaffed, and shortages in technical skills are viewed as a major impediment to business operations.

Unemployment remains especially high among women and workers under 20 years of age. The government is hard-pressed to meet its commitment to create

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Egypt 44 9 7 3 17 3 17
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Saudi Arabia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Nigeria 51 5 31 2 8 2 2
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

jobs for the thousands of university graduates entering the workforce every year, a major challenge since the 1980s. The average waiting period for a job in the public sector is estimated to be 11 years.

Egypt has a long tradition of trade unions. Workers' unions have existed in Egypt since the British mandate and, although repressed by the British government, workers routinely organized strikes to protest working conditions. By 2001, the workers' movement was less effective. Workers have the right to join trade unions, but are not required to do so by law. Some 27 percent of union members are state employees. There are 23 general industrial unions and some 1,855 local trade unions; all of them are required by law to be members of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). Although semi-independent, the ETUF maintains close ties with the ruling National Democratic Party and has traditionally avoided confrontations with the government. The close connection between the ETUF and the ruling party has meant less protection for state-sector employees, but the federation has been far more successful in bargaining on behalf of private sector employees.

The Egyptian government supports workers' rights promoted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and has set conditions governing industrial and human relations and established minimum-wage standards. The 6-day, 42-hour working week is the standard. The government-mandated minimum wage in the public sector is approximately US$33 a month, although the actual income a worker takes home is triple that amount, due to a complex system of added benefits and bonuses. The minimum-wage law is also observed in the private sector. In addition, the government provides social security benefits that include a retirement pension and compensation for on-the-job injuries. Wages have increased steadily over the last few years and are expected to increase again, since the 2001-02 budget has allocated US$10 billion for public sector workers' salaries and bonuses. However, it is only recently that the rate of increase in public wages has exceeded the rate of inflation.

Egypt has had a history of child labor problems. Poverty has driven many children younger than the minimum working age of 14, to join the labor force. Official estimates indicate that children under the age of 14 make up 1.5 percent of the total labor force. The number, however, is believed to be much higher, and it remains difficult to gauge the real extent of the child labor problem. The majority of working children (78 percent) work in agriculture. Children are also employed in craft shops, as domestic servants, and in the construction industry. The problem of child labor is worsened by poor enforcement of the law and the inadequacy of the education system.

The current labor laws make it difficult for employers to dismiss workers. Despite the protection offered by unions and the labor laws, however, working conditions are not ideal. Workers do not have the right to strike, and although strikes occur, they are considered illegal. The abundance of available labor has meant that workers are generally underpaid and are usually forced to work in overcrowded and often unsafe conditions. Government health and safety standards are rarely enforced, resulting in many workers seeking extra income through a second job or work in the informal sector , perhaps as street vendors. Thousands of Egyptians also seek employment opportunities in other countries, mainly in the Arab Gulf region. According to the latest census by the Egyptian government, 1.9 million Egyptians live and work abroad, and their remittances are a major source of foreign currency.


1798. The Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte invades and occupies Egypt, bringing Western influences to the country for the first time in its very long history, during which it has been variously under the rule of Greeks (Alexander the Great, 332 B.C.), Macedonians, Persians, Romans, Mamelukes, and Turks.

1801. An alliance of British and Turkish Ottoman Empire forces invades Egypt and expels the French. Ottoman army officer Muhammed Ali takes over control of the country, organizing the economy, the military, and the educational system according to Western standards.

1854. French engineer Count Ferdinand de Lesseps is granted the right by the Egyptian government of Mohammed Said to dig the Suez Canal, which will become one of the world's most strategically significant waterways.

1869. The Suez Canal is opened under the reign of the Khedive Ismail. Khedive enters into agreements with Britain which pave the way for British control of Egypt.

1882. Egypt enters a long period of British rule, and becomes dependent on imports of British manufactured goods and exports of Egyptian cotton.

1914. Egypt is formally incorporated into the British Empire as a protectorate during World War I.

1922. Egypt gains independence from Britain under monarch King Fuad.

1935. Fuad's son, King Farouk, assumes the Egyptian throne and signs the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty allowing the British to retain rights to the Suez Canal Zone.

1947. Egypt joins a joint Arab invasion of the newly created State of Israel, but Israel wins the war.

1952. Clashes break out between Egyptians and British in the Suez zone. Revolutionaries led by army officers Gamal Abdel Nasser and Muhammad Naguib lead an insurrection that forces the abdication and exile of King Farouk.

1953. Egypt is declared a republic in June, with Maguib as president. Nasser takes over as president in 1954 and ushers in an era of Socialism, during which Egypt allies itself with the Soviet sphere of influence.

1956. Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal in July. In October, the Suez War breaks out as Britain, France, and Israel attempt unsuccessfully to seize control of the Canal.

1967. Egypt loses the Six-Day war against Israel.

1970. President Nasser dies and is succeeded by Anwar Sadat.

1973. Syria launches an attack on Israel, leading to the October War between Israel and an alliance of Arab States, including Egypt. Israel triumphs.

1974. President Sadat introduces his "infitah," or open-door economic policy, but the lifting of subsidies on basic foodstuffs leads to countrywide rioting.

1978. Sadat pays a historic visit to Jerusalem, and Israel's prime minister Menachem Begin pays a reciprocal visit to Cairo. In the United States in September, the 2 leaders meet for peace discussions brokered by President Jimmy Carter and sign the Camp David Accord, under which the Sinai, captured by Israel in the war, is returned to Egypt.

1981. Sadat is assassinated by Islamic extremists. He is succeeded by President Hosni Mubarak, who introduces new economic policies emphasizing the free market. The first parliamentary elections take place, and the government launches a program of economic reform.

1990-91. Egypt allies itself with the United States and Great Britain in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The United States rewards Egypt's support by canceling its massive debt.

1997. Mubarak's government begins a program of privatization, but the economy is badly affected when 58 foreign tourists are massacred by Islamic terrorists at the Luxor tourist site.


Egypt entered the 21st century under a cloud of economic uncertainty. For much of the 20th century, Egypt's experiments with socialism left the economy in a shambles. The open-door policy, begun in the 1970s, set the stage for partial economic recovery, but it was not until the 1990s that the government embarked on a real reform and privatization program to address the country's woes. The economic reform program has been successful, with Egypt's business climate continuing to improve. The government appears committed to the path of reform started in the early 1990s, and if the longer-term structural reforms, especially privatization, are accelerated and fully implemented, then Egypt will be able to position itself as a leading economy in Africa and the Middle East.

Despite major reform efforts, however, economic growth has slowed down considerably since 1998. The public sector continues to be a major force in the economy. According to the EIU Economic Profile for 2000-01, the Egyptian government today accounts for one-third of total GDP, two-thirds of non-agricultural GDP, and two-thirds of manufacturing. In addition to the need to reduce its dominant role in the economy, the government is hard-pressed to meet several serious challenges that are crucial to the success of its economic reform program and, more importantly, its long-term political stability. These include addressing the unemployment problem and achieving social stability. To achieve that goal, Egypt will have to sustain a real GDP growth of about 6 percent, which would require dealing with the low levels of domestic savings and investment, increasing competition in the domestic economy, and stimulating export performance, as well as reducing dependence on foreign sources of income, primarily remittances and foreign assistance. Although aware of the possible political repercussions associated with its economic program, the government has done little to alleviate its impact on the majority of Egyptians, whose living standards have continuously deteriorated over the last decades. And it remains to be seen whether popular support for the government's economic reforms will outlast Egypt's enduring economic difficulties.


Egypt has no territories or colonies.


Bush, Ray. Economic Crisis and the Politics of Reform in Egypt. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1999.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Egypt, 2000-01 .London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Handy, Howard, et al. Egypt: Beyond Stabilization, Toward a Dynamic Market Economy. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 1998.

Marr, Phebe, ed. Egypt at the Crossroads: Domestic Stablity and Regional Role. Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1999.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed July 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Egypt. < guides/2001/nea/index.html>. Accessed July 2001.

Waterbury, John. The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Economy of Two Regimes. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983.

Reem Nuseibeh




Egyptian Pound. One hundred piastres equals one Egyptian pound. Notes are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pounds, and coins in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 25, and 50 piastres.


Crude oil and petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metal products, and chemicals.


Machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, wood products, and fuels.


US$200 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$4.6 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$15.8 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.).

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Egypt (ē´jĬpt), Arab. Misr, biblical Mizraim, officially Arab Republic of Egypt, republic (2005 est. pop. 77,506,000), 386,659 sq mi (1,001,449 sq km), NE Africa and SW Asia. It borders on the Mediterranean Sea in the north, Israel and the Red Sea in the east, Sudan in the south, and Libya in the west. Egypt's capital and largest city is Cairo. In addition to the capital, major cities include Alexandria, Port Said, Suez, Tanta, and Aswan.


The great mass of Egypt is located in Africa; the Sinai peninsula is the only portion situated in Asia and is separated from the rest of the country by the Suez Canal. Egypt N of Cairo is often called Lower Egypt and S of Cairo, Upper Egypt. The principal physiographic feature of the country is the Nile River, which flows from south to north through E Egypt for c.900 mi (1,450 km). In the far south is Lake Nasser, a vast artificial lake impounded by the Aswan High Dam (built 1960–70), and in the north, below Cairo, is the great Nile delta (c.8,500 sq mi/22,000 sq km). Bordering the Nile between Aswan and Cairo are narrow strips (on the average 5 mi/8 km wide) of cultivated land; there are broad regions of tilled land in the delta.

West of the Nile is the extremely arid Libyan (or Western) Desert, a generally low-lying region (maximum alt. c.1,000 ft/300 m), largely covered with sand dunes or barren rocky plains. The desert contains a few oases, notably Siwah, Farafra, and Kharga. In SW Egypt the desert rises to the Jilf al-Kabir plateau. East of the Nile is the Arabian (or Eastern) Desert, a dissected highland area (rising to c.7,150 ft/2,180 m) that is mostly barren and virtually uninhabited except for a few settlements along the Red Sea coast.

The Sinai peninsula is a plateau broken by deep valleys; Mount Catherine, or Jabal Katrinah (8,652 ft/2,637 m), Egypt's loftiest point, and Mount Sinai, or Jabal Musa (7,497 ft/2,285 m), are located in the south. Northern Sinai, largely a sandy desert, contains most of the peninsula's small population, which lives mainly in towns built around wells.


The vast majority of Egypt's inhabitants live in the Nile valley and delta, and the rest of the country (about 96% of Egypt's total land area) is sparsely populated. Most modern Egyptians are of a complex ethnic mixture, being descended from the ancient Egyptians, Berbers, sub-Saharan Africans, Arabs, Greeks, and Turks. Arabic is the official language; many educated Egyptians also speak English and French. About 90% of the people are Sunni Muslims, and most of the rest are Coptic Christians (see Copts).


Economic growth in Egypt has been held back by a severely limited amount of arable land (less than 5% of the total area) as well as a large and rapidly growing population. After 1945, a large proportion of funds and energy were devoted to preparing the country for warfare with Israel and later to rebuilding after the destruction incurred in the Arab-Israeli Wars. The country's industrial base increased considerably in the 20th cent., especially after 1952. The state owns much of the economy and plays a decisive role in its planning; however, in recent years Egypt has moved toward a more decentralized, market-oriented economy, and there has been an increase in foreign investment.

The country's farmland is intensively cultivated (usually two, and sometimes three, crops are produced annually) and yields-per-acre are extremely high. Control of the Nile waters by the Aswan High Dam brought considerable additional land into cultivation, but the needs of the growing population have prevented the accumulation of significant agricultural surpluses. Most farms in Egypt are small and labor-intensive. Nonetheless, about a third of Egypt's workers are employed in farming. The principal crop is cotton; rice, corn, wheat, beans, tomatoes, sugarcane, citrus fruit, and dates are also produced. Cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, and donkeys are raised, and there is a fishing industry.

Petroleum and natural gas (found mainly in the Gulf of Suez) are produced; the principal minerals are iron ore, phosphates, salt, manganese, limestone, gypsum, and gold. Cairo and Alexandria are the main industrial centers; major manufacturing plants are also located in the other cities of the Nile valley and delta and at Port Said and Suez. The leading manufactures are refined petroleum, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbons, construction materials, and metals. Food processing and tourism are also important industries, and navigation transit fees from the Suez Canal are another important source of foreign exchange. The country's rail and road networks are largely found along the Mediterranean coast and in the Nile valley.

The principal exports are crude and refined petroleum, cotton, textiles, metal products, and chemicals. Leading imports include machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, wood products, fuels, and consumer goods. The chief trade partners are the United States, Italy, Germany, France, and Saudi Arabia.

Since the 1970s billions of dollars in economic aid have poured into Egypt from the United States, Arab neighbors, and European nations. However, the country's inefficient state-run industries, its bloated public sector, and its large military investments resulted in inflation, unemployment, a severe trade deficit, and heavy public debt. A series of economic and fiscal reforms undertaken in the 1990s, with support from the International Monetary Fund, appear to be having a positive effect on the country's overall economy.


The Ancient Empire of the Nile

The valley of the "long river between the deserts," with the annual floods, deposits of life-giving silt, and year-long growing season, was the seat of one of the earliest civilizations built by humankind. The antiquity of this civilization is almost staggering, and whereas the history of other lands is measured in centuries, that of ancient Egypt is measured in millennia. Much is known of the period even before the actual historic records began. Those records are abundant and, because of Egypt's dry climate, have been well preserved. Inscriptions have unlocked a wealth of information; for example, the existing fragments of the Palermo stone are engraved with the records of the kings of the first five dynasties. The great papyrus dumps offer an enormous amount of information, especially on the later periods of ancient Egyptian history.

Among the many problems encountered in Egyptology, one of the most controversial is that of dating events. The following dates have a margin of plus or minus 100 years for the time prior to 3000 BC Fairly precise dates are possible beginning with the Persian conquest (525 BC) of Egypt. The division of Egyptian history into 30 dynasties up to the time of Alexander the Great (a system worked out by Manetho) is a convenient frame upon which to hang the succession of the kings and a record of events. In the table entitled Dynasties of Ancient Egypt, the numbers of the dynasties are given in Roman numerals, and the numeral is followed by the dates of the dynasty and a notation of famous monarchs of the era (each of whom has a separate article in the encyclopedia). Since there are many gaps and periods without well-known rulers (occasionally without known rulers at all), those are given simply with dates or are combined with better-recorded periods.

The Old and Middle Kingdoms

A high culture developed early, and the Old Kingdom is notable for artistic and intellectual achievements (see Egyptian architecture; Egyptian art; Egyptian religion). From the beginning there was a concept of the divinity or quasi-divinity of the king (pharaoh), which lasted from the time that Egypt was first united (c.3200 BC) under one ruler until the ultimate fall of Egypt to the Romans. According to tradition, it was Menes (or Narmer) who as king of Upper Egypt conquered the rival kingdom of Lower Egypt in the Nile delta, thus forming the single kingdom of Egypt. In the unified and centralized state created by Menes, the memory of the two ancient kingdoms was preserved in formalities of administration. Trade flourished, and the kings of the I dynasty appear to have sent trading expeditions under military escort to Sinai to obtain copper. Indications show that under the II dynasty, trade existed with areas as far north as the Black Sea.

The III dynasty was one of the landmarks of Egyptian history, the time during which sun-worship, a new form of religion that later became the religion of the upper classes, was introduced. At the same time mummification and the building of stone monuments began. The kings of the IV dynasty (which may be said to begin the Old Kingdom proper) were the builders of the great pyramids at Giza. The great pyramid of Khufu is a monument not only to the king but also to the unified organization of ancient Egyptian society. The V to the VII dynasties are remarkable for their records of trading expeditions with armed escorts. Although Egypt flourished culturally and commercially during this period, it started to become less centralized and weaker politically. The priests of the sun-god at Heliopolis gained increasing power; the office of provincial rulers became hereditary, and their local influence was thereafter always a threat to the state.

In the 23d cent. BC the Old Kingdom, after a long and flourishing existence, fell apart. The local rulers became dominant, and the records, kept by the central government, tended to disappear. Some order was restored by the IX dynasty, but it was not until 2134 BC that power was again centralized, this time at Thebes. That city was to be the capital for most of the next millennium.

The Middle Kingdom, founded at the end of the XI dynasty, reached its zenith under the XII. The Pharaoh, however, was not then an absolute monarch but rather a feudal lord, and his vassals held their land in their own power. The XII dynasty advanced the border up the Nile to the Second Cataract. Order was preserved, the draining of El Faiyum was begun (adding a new and fertile province), a uniform system of writing was adopted, and civilization reached a new peak. After 214 years the XII dynasty came to an end in 1786 BC In the dimly known period that followed, Egypt passed for more than a century under the Hyksos (the so-called shepherd kings), who were apparently Semites from Syria. They were expelled from Egypt by Amasis I (Ahmose I), founder of the XVIII dynasty, and the New Kingdom was established.

The New Kingdom

The XVIII dynasty is the most important and the best-recorded period in Egyptian history. The local governors generally opposed both the Hyksos and the new dynasty; those who survived were now made mere administrators, their lands passing to the crown. Ancient Egypt reached its height. Its boundaries were extended into Asia, with a foreign province reaching the Euphrates (see Thutmose I). Letters known as the Tell el Amarna tablets are dated to this dynasty and furnish the details of the reigns of Amenhotep III and his son, Ikhnaton. As Ikhnaton neglected his rule in the pursuit of religion, letters from local rulers became increasingly urgent in begging help, especially against the Hittites. Of the rulers following Ikhnaton in this dynasty, Tutankhamen is important for his law code and his enforcement of those laws through the courts. Architecture was at its zenith with the enormous and impressive buildings at and around Thebes.

Egyptian civilization seems to have worn out rapidly after conflicts with the Hittites under the XIX dynasty and with sea raiders under the XX dynasty. With a succession of weak kings, the Theban priesthood practically ruled the country and continued to maintain a sort of theocracy for 450 years. In the delta the Libyan element had been growing, and with the disappearance of the weak XXI dynasty, which had governed from Tanis, a Libyan dynasty came to power. This was succeeded by the alien rule of Nubians, black Africans who advanced from the south to the delta under Piankhi and later conquered the land. The rising power of Assyria threatened Egypt by absorbing the petty states of Syria and Palestine, and Assyrian kings had reached the borders of Egypt several times before Esar-Haddon actually invaded (673 BC) the land of the Nile.

Assyrian rule was, however, short-lived; by 650 BC, under Psamtik, Egypt was once more independent and orderly. Greek traders became important, and their city of Naucratis, founded by Amasis II, thrived. Attempts to reestablish Egyptian power in Asia were turned back (605 BC) by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, and Egypt fell easy prey (525 BC) to the armies of Cambyses of Persia. Despite occasional troubles, the Persians maintained their hegemony until 405 BC New dynasties were then established, but they did not regain the old splendor. The Persians again became dominant in 341 BC Egypt, rich and ill-defended, fell to Alexander the Great without resistance in 332 BC

When Alexander's brief empire faded, Egypt in the wars of his successors (the Diadochi) fell to his general Ptolemy, who became king as Ptolemy I. All the succeeding kings of the dynasty were also named Ptolemy. The great city of Alexandria became the intellectual center and fountainhead of the Hellenistic world. The Ptolemies maintained a formidable empire for more than two centuries and exercised great power in the E Mediterranean. The Jewish population was large—perhaps as much as a seventh of the total population—and even the Palestinian Jews looked to the Alexandrian Jews for guidance.

The rising power of Rome soon overshadowed Egypt, but it was not until Ptolemy XII sought Roman aid through Pompey to regain his throne that Rome actually obtained (58 BC) a foothold in Egypt itself. Cleopatra, the daughter of Ptolemy XII, tried to win back power for Egypt, especially through Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) actually annexed Egypt to Rome, putting to death Cleopatra's son, Ptolemy XV, who was the last of the Ptolemies. Egypt became a granary for Rome; the emperors from Augustus to Hadrian raised the irrigation system to great efficiency, and Trajan reopened the ancient Nile–Red Sea canal. In the 2d cent. AD, strife between Jews and Greeks in Alexandria brought massacres.

Christianity was welcomed in Egypt, and several of the most celebrated Doctors of the Church, notably St. Athanasius, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and Origen, were Egyptians. Egypt gave rise to the Arian and Nestorian heresies, and Gnosticism flourished there for a time. The patriarch of Alexandria was probably the most important figure in Egypt. After St. Cyril, Monophysitism became the national faith; out of this arose the Coptic Church. The hostility of the people to the Orthodox Byzantine emperors and officials probably helped Khosru II of Persia to gain Egypt in 616. It was recovered (c.628) by Heraclius, but the Persian invasion proved to be only a forerunner of the more serious Arabian invasion.

Islamic Egypt

The Arab conquest of Egypt (639–42), only some 20 years after the rise of Islam, made the country an integral part of the Muslim world. Until the 19th cent., Egyptian history was intimately involved with the general political development of Islam, whether unified or divided into warring states. Under the Umayyad caliphate many of the people continued their adherence to Coptic Christianity despite the special tax exacted from infidels. Eventually, the settling of colonists from Arabia and the increased conversion of peoples to Islam reduced the Christian population to a small minority. The Greek and Coptic languages went out of use, and Arabic became the predominant language.

The Abbasid caliphate (founded c.750) at first held Egypt under complete subjection, but the unwieldiness of its vast domain encouraged provincial governors to revolt and to assert their own rule. In the 10th cent., Egypt fell to the Fatimid claimants to the caliphate, who invaded from the west. The Fatimids founded (969) Cairo as their capital, and with the establishment (972) there of the Mosque of Al-Azhar as a great (and still active) Muslim university, they further emphasized the change of Egypt from an outpost of Islam to one of its centers.

The strain of the Crusades and internal political disorder led to the fall of the Fatimids and to the founding by Saladin of the Ayyubid dynasty. The strategic position of Egypt made it a logical target of the Crusaders, who twice (1219–21, 1249–50) held Damietta, then the chief Mediterranean port, but could advance no farther.

The later Ayyubid rulers came excessively under the control of their slave soldiers and advisers, the Mamluks, who in 1250 seized the country. Until 1517, when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, the Mamluks maintained their turbulent rule, with frequent revolts and extremely short tenures for most of the sultans. Nevertheless, they built many great architectural monuments. Their importance by no means disappeared with the establishment of Ottoman power, for the Egyptian pasha (governor) was compelled to consult the Mamluk beys (princes), who continued in control of the provinces.

Ottoman control had become almost nominal by the administration (1768–73) of Ali Bey, who termed himself sultan. The Ottoman Turks, however, continually attempted to assert power over the unruly beys. On the pretext of establishing order there, Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I) undertook the French occupation of Egypt (1798–1801); yet his real object was to cut off British trade lines and, eventually, to detach India from the British Empire. All his efforts were bent to establishing French power in the region. The Ottoman Turks, however, ultimately joined the British in forcing out the French.

The French withdrawal was followed by the rise of Muhammad Ali, a former commander, who was appointed (1805) Egyptian pasha by the Ottoman emperor. He permanently destroyed (1811) the Mamluks' power by massacring their leaders. Using Europe as a model, Muhammad Ali laid the foundations of the modern Egyptian state. He introduced political, social, and educational reforms and developed an effective bureaucracy; he also undertook massive economic development by expanding and modernizing agriculture and by starting large-scale industry. Under his rule the empire eventually extended from Sudan in the south to Arabia in the east and Syria in the northeast. Abbas I (reigned 1848–54), Muhammad Ali's successor, undid some of his reforms and was followed by Muhammad Said Pasha.

European Domination

In 1854, Said granted Ferdinand de Lesseps a concession for the construction of the Suez Canal, a project that put Egypt into deep financial debt and robbed it of its thriving transit-trade on the Alexandria-Cairo railroad. In addition, the strategic nature of the canal, which opened in 1867, shifted Great Britain's focus in the Middle East from Constantinople to Cairo and opened the door to British intervention in Egyptian affairs. Said was followed by Khedive (viceroy) Ismail Pasha, whose rule was characterized by accelerated economic development, Westernization, and the establishment of Egyptian autonomy. The cost of Said's reforms, of the construction of the Suez Canal, and of his conquests in Africa, however, put Egypt deep into debt and forced Ismail to sell (1875) his Suez Canal shares to the British. Egypt's financial problems led to further subordination of the country to great-power interests. Ismail was forced to accept the establishment of a French-British Debt Commission.

In 1879, Ismail was compelled to abdicate in favor of his son Tewfik Pasha, who was confronted with financial and political chaos; his situation was complicated by the outbreak of a nationalist and military revolt (1881–82) under Arabi Pasha. The British reacted to the revolt with a naval bombardment of Alexandria in July, 1882, and by landing British troops, who defeated Arabi Pasha at the battle of Tell el Kabir and went on to occupy Cairo.

The British consolidated their control during the period (1883–1907) when Lord Cromer was consul general and de facto ruler. By 1904 the governments of France, Austria, and Italy agreed not to obstruct Britain in its intention to stay in Egypt indefinitely. During World War I, after Turkey joined the Central Powers, Great Britain declared Egypt a British protectorate and deposed Abbas II, the allegedly pro-German khedive, substituting Husein Kamil (1914–17), a member of his family. After the war Egyptian nationalists of the Wafd party, led by Zaghlul Pasha, were especially vigorous in their demands for freedom.


Under the rule of Ahmad Fuad (who later became Fuad I), a treaty providing for Egypt's independence was concluded (1922). It went into effect in 1923 following the proclamation of a constitution that made Egypt a kingdom under Fuad and established a parliament. Great Britain, however, retained the right to station troops in Egypt and refused to consider Egyptian claims to the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (see Sudan). The British protectorate was maintained until the promulgation of a new treaty in 1936, which made the two countries allies and promised the eventual withdrawal of British troops. Fuad was succeeded by his son Farouk. In 1937 a further step toward sovereignty was accomplished by an agreement (which went into effect in 1949) to end extraterritoriality in Egypt.

In the postindependence years, Egypt's internal political life was largely a struggle for power between the Wafd party and the throne. The constitution was suspended in 1930, and Egypt was under a virtual royal dictatorship until the Wafdists forced the readoption of the constitution in 1935. During World War II, Egypt remained officially neutral. However, Egyptian facilities were put at the disposal of the British and several battles were fought on Egyptian soil (for details of the military engagements, see North Africa, campaigns in).

After the war, demands were made for a revision of the treaty of 1936. Repeated talks failed because of Egyptian insistence that Great Britain allow incorporation of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan into Egypt. An Egyptian appeal (1947) on this subject to the Security Council of the United Nations was also in vain. Egypt actively opposed the UN partition of Palestine in 1948 and, joining its forces with the other members of the Arab League, sent troops into the S Negev. Israeli forces, however, repelled the Egyptians in bitter fighting (see Arab-Israeli Wars).

In domestic politics, the Wafd acquired a majority in 1950 and formed a one-party cabinet. The struggle between King Farouk and the Wafdist government intensified, and several political uprisings led to violence. On July 23, 1952, the military, headed by Gen. Muhammad Naguib, took power by coup. Farouk abdicated in favor of his infant son, Ahmad Fuad II, but in 1953 the monarchy was abolished and a republic was declared. Naguib assumed the presidency, but, in his attempts to move toward a parliamentary republic, he met with opposition from other members of the Revolutionary Command Committee (RCC). Increasing difficulties led to the extension of martial law. Col. Gamal Abdal Nasser emerged as a rival to Naguib, and in Feb., 1954, Naguib resigned.

Egypt under Nasser

Nasser took full power in Nov., 1954. Under the new constitution, he was elected president for a six-year term. The long-standing dispute over Sudan was ended on Jan. 1, 1956, when Sudan announced its independence, recognized by both Egypt and Great Britain. British troops, by previous agreement (July, 1954), completed their evacuation of the Suez Canal Zone in June, 1956. Tension increased in July, 1956, when, after the United States and Great Britain withdrew their pledges of financial aid for the building of the Aswan High Dam, the Soviet Union stepped in to finance the dam. Nasser then nationalized the Suez Canal and expelled British oil and embassy officials from Egypt.

On Oct. 29, Israel, barred from the canal and antagonized by continued guerrilla attacks from Gaza, invaded Gaza and the Sinai peninsula in joint arrangement with Britain and France, who attacked Egypt by air on Oct. 31. Within a week Great Britain, France, and Israel yielded to international political pressure, especially that of the United States, and a cease-fire was pronounced. A UN emergency force then occupied the Canal Zone in Dec., 1956. Israeli troops evacuated Egyptian territory in the spring of 1957.

In Feb., 1958, Syria and Egypt merged as the United Arab Republic. They were joined by Yemen in March, creating the United Arab States. The union was soon torn by personal and political differences, and a Syrian revolt (1961) led to its virtual dissolution.

Egypt embarked on a program of industrialization, chiefly through Soviet technical and economic aid. Both industry and agriculture were almost completely nationalized by 1962. In the early 1960s, Nasser strove to make Egypt the undisputed leader of a united Arab world; his chief and most effective rallying cry for Arab unity remained his denunciation of Israel and his call for that country's extinction. From 1962 to 1967, Egyptian forces provided the chief strength of the republican government in Yemen, where the royalists were backed by Saudi Arabia. Heavy losses finally moved Egypt to withdraw, and the republicans ultimately gained control. Egyptian military might continued to increase with the acquisition of powerful modern weapons, many of which were supplied by the USSR. In 1965 and 1966 two anti-Nasser plots were discovered and crushed. Nasser assumed near absolute control in 1967 by taking over the premiership and the leadership of the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), the country's sole political party.

In the spring of 1967, Egyptian troops were ordered to positions on the Israeli border, and Nasser demanded that the UN peacekeeping force stationed on the Egyptian side of the border since 1956 be withdrawn. Following the UN evacuation, Arab troops massed on the frontier, and Nasser announced (May 22) that the Gulf of Aqaba was closed to Israeli shipping. Other Arab states rallied to Egypt's support.

On June 5, Israel launched air and ground attacks against Arab positions and after six days achieved a rapid and decisive victory despite the Arab superiority in numbers and armaments. When the UN cease-fire went into effect, Israel held the Sinai peninsula, Gaza, and the east bank of the Suez Canal. After the war, Egypt received a massive infusion of Soviet military and economic aid in a program designed to rebuild its armed forces and economy, both shattered by the war. Egypt's postwar policy was based on two principles: no direct negotiations with Israel and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which, in part, called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories.

After Nasser's sudden death in Sept., 1970, Vice President Anwar al-Sadat succeeded him as president. An abortive coup took place in May, 1971, but Sadat emerged in control. A new constitution was ratified in Sept., 1971, when the country changed its name to the Arab Republic of Egypt. Sadat modified somewhat Nasser's hard line toward Israel but continued to demand Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and threatened to renew the war in order to regain the lands. In 1972, Sadat ousted all Soviet military personnel stationed in Egypt and placed Soviet bases and equipment under Egyptian control, thus reversing a 20-year trend of increasing dependence on the USSR. Unrest in 1973 led to the forced resignation of the governmental cabinet and to Sadat's assumption of the premiership.

The 1973 War

Another war with Israel broke out on Oct. 6, 1973, when Egyptian forces attacked Israel on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Israeli forces were caught off guard as Egyptian units progressed into the Sinai, and fighting broke out between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights. The fighting escalated both on the ground and in the air.

After Israel had stabilized the Syrian front, its troops crossed the Suez Canal and toward the end of the war were in control of some 475 sq mi (1,230 sq km) on the west bank of the canal between Ismailia and Adabiya, surrounding the city of Suez and trapping Egypt's Third Army on the east side of the canal. Sadat called for a cease-fire coupled with the withdrawal of Israel from territories it had occupied since 1967. At the same time, Arab countries, by reducing—and later stopping—oil exports to selected countries supporting Israel, put pressure on the United States to get Israel to pull back from the occupied lands.

On Oct. 22 the United States and the USSR submitted a joint resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire and the beginning of peace negotiations. The Security Council voted to establish a UN emergency force made up of troops from the smaller nations to supervise the cease-fire. Through the mediation efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, Egypt and Israel agreed to face-to-face negotiations on implementing the cease-fire. On Nov. 9, Israel accepted a proposal, worked out by Kissinger and Sadat.

Peace and Internal Unrest

A result of the intense U.S. effort to secure a settlement was the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Egypt, which had been severed since the 1967 war. This marked the beginning of closer relations with the West. After regaining both banks of the Suez Canal as a result of the postwar agreement, Egypt, with U.S. assistance, began to clear the canal of mines and sunken ships left from the 1967 war. In 1974, following a visit to Egypt by U.S. President Richard Nixon, a treaty was signed providing U.S. aid to Egypt of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

In 1977, Sadat surprised the world with his visit to Jerusalem and plans for peace with Israel. On Mar. 26, 1979, Egypt signed a formal peace treaty with Israel in Washington, D.C. By 1982, Israel had withdrawn from nearly all the Sinai. Egypt was suspended from the Arab League as a result of the peace treaty. A boycott by Arab countries was imposed on Egypt, and Libya, which had cut ties with Egypt in 1977, provoked border clashes.

Domestic unrest between Muslims and Christians in 1981 led to a crackdown by the government. Tensions heightened, and Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981, by Muslim extemists. He was succeeded by Vice President Hosni Mubarak, who faced growing economic problems as well as continued opposition from militant Muslim fundamentalists. A state of emergency, imposed after Sadat's murder, was ultimately extended by Egypt's parliament throughout Mubarak's presidency, finally lapsing in mid-2012.

President Mubarak continued amicable relations with Israel and the United States and remained active in the Middle East peace process. In 1989, Israel returned the last portion of the Sinai that it held, the Taba Strip, to Egypt. Relations with the rest of the Arab world improved, and Egypt was readmitted into the Arab League in 1989.

In return for Egypt's anti-Iraq stance and its sending of troops in the Persian Gulf War (1991), the United States dismissed $7 billion in Egyptian debt. Participation in the war strengthened Western ties and enhanced Egypt's regional leadership role but was not popular domestically. Opposition from Islamic fundamentalists heightened during the 1990s; from 1992 to 1997, more than 1,200 people, mostly Egyptian Christians, were killed in terrorist violence. A 1997 attack on tourists visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut at Luxor claimed some 70 lives. During the same period, an estimated 26,000 Islamic militants were jailed and dozens were sentenced to death.

In 1999, Mubarak was returned to office for a fourth six-year term. Poverty is the nation's most pressing problem, but the government has failed to undertake significant economic reforms; social inequities have heightened societal tensions, and authoritarian rule has fostered corruption. Islamic militancy and terrorism, most dramatically demonstrated in recent years by the Oct., 2004, July, 2005, and Apr., 2006, bombings of several Sinai resorts, also remain challenges to Egypt's government, as do liberal reformers who have become more vocal and move visible in calling for constitutional reform.

In Feb., 2005, Mubarak called for a constitutional amendment to permit the direct election of the president from among a multiparty slate, but the restrictions in the amendment on who might run prevent the contest from being open to all challengers. After passage by parliament, the amendment was approved (May) in a referendum whose results were denounced as fraudulent by the opposition. At the same time, however, the government was trying Ayman Nour, a leading opposition figure, on charges that his lawyers claimed were fabricated in an attempt to derail his presidential candidacy. In the election in September, Mubarak was reelected and Nour placed second. Observers said that the election was marred by irregularities but also that they would not have affected the result; the turnout was only 23% of the nation's voters.

In the subsequent (November–December) parliamentary elections the government secured a more than two thirds of the seats, but candidates aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood won roughly a fifth of the seats a record number. The voting was marred by violence and intimidation that seemed clearly directed by the government at opposition voters. In Dec., 2005, Nour was convicted on charges related to the forgery of signatures on electoral petitions, which most nongovernment observers regarded as improbable, and was sentenced to five years; he was released for health reasons in Feb., 2009. In 2006 there was increasingly vocal public support for establishment of a truly independent judiciary, as protestors rallied in in May support of two judges who had called for reform and faced dismissal for having criticized the presidential election. the police violently suppressed the rallies, however, and the reforms that were passed in June were widely criticized as inadequate.

In Mar., 2007, a referendum approved amendments to the constitution, earlier approved by parliament, that were generally regarded as antidemocratic (one of the amendments replaced judicial supervision of elections with an electoral committee, another banned religious-based parties). The government claimed that roughly a quarter of the electorate voted, but several independent groups estimated the turnout at roughly 5%, and they and opposition groups accused the government of vote rigging. The following month Amnesty International accused Egypt of systematic human-rights abuses and as acting as an international center for abusive interrogation and prolonged detention in the "war on terror."

Elections in June, 2007, for seats in parliament's upper house, which the governing party, the National Democratic party (NDP), handily won, were marred by police interference and vote rigging. Subsequently in 2007 the government launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The 2010 upper house (June) and subsequent lower house (November–December) elections were also marred by electoral abuses and irregularities; most of the seats were won by the NDP, and nearly all opposition parties called for a boycott of the second round of the lower house elections.

In early 2011, young Egyptians, inspired by events in Tunisia that led to the ouster of its entrenched president, mounted massive nonviolent anti-Mubarak demonstrations, most prominently in Cairo but also in other cities. Over 18 days the protesters won the support of major opposition figures and groups while surviving a number of government moves against them, including violence that killed more than 800 people and injured several thousand. The army largely remained on the sidelines and, in the face of growing protests, finally forced Mubarak to resign.

An interim military government headed by Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, and promised constitutional and political reforms prior to new elections in six months. In March a number of constitutional changes, including limits on the number of years a president may serve, were approved in a referendum. The changes were supported by the NDP and the Muslim Brotherhood, but a number of prodemocracy groups opposed them as insufficient. In April the Egyptian courts ordered the dissolution of the NDP.

Slow progress toward reforms and a new government—elections were ultimately scheduled for Nov., 2011–Feb., 2012—and concerns about the military government, led at times in the second half of 2011 to significant new protests in Cairo and other cities. In August, Mubarak was put on trial on charges of corruption and of ordering the killing of protesters. The elections for the lower house of parliament resulted in a significant victory for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party (FJP), which won the largest bloc of seats; the hardline Islamist party Al Nour placed second. In March, the assembly to write a new constitution was elected by parliament; it also was dominated by Islamists.

Mubarak and his former interior minister were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in June, 2012, for being accessories to murder (for having failed to stop the killing of protesters), but other security officials more directly responsible for the police involved in the killings were acquitted. At the same time, the judge dismissed corruption charges against Mubarak and his sons on technical grounds. The verdicts led to a public outcry in Egypt, but a number of other former government officials were subsequently convicted of or charged with various offenses mainly relating to corruption. In Jan., 2013, a retrial was ordered for Mubarak, his sons, and the former interior minister; the case ended in 2014 with the dismissal of or acquittal on all charges against them. (A 2014 conviction of Mubarak and his sons for embezzlement was confirmed in a 2015 retrial.)

Mohamed Morsi, the FJP candidate, was elected president after a runoff in late June, 2012. Before the runoff, however, the supreme court ruled that the newly elected parliament had to be dissolved because many members had been elected illegally, and the military government subsequently declared a new interim constitution that severely restricted the president's powers and reserved legislative powers to the military government until after a new parliament was elected. In July, President Morsi decreed that parliament be recalled, but the supreme court overturned his decree. In August a new government, consisting mainly of Islamists and technocrats, was appointed by Morsi. Morsi also ordered the retirement of Tantawi and the army chief of staff, ended the restriction on presidential powers, and assumed legislative powers.

In November a new presidential decree gave Morsi essentially unchecked power, sparking demonstrations against him by liberals and others who saw him as a new dictator and clashes between them and Morsi's supporters; parts of the decree were later rescinded. The constitution was pushed through the assembly in December after most liberals and Copts withdrew, and quickly adopted in a referendum in which only a third of all voters participated; the document largely was based on the existing constitution, and in the main preserved the military's powers and influence. Until new elections for the lower house of parliament were held, due within two months, the upper house assumed legislative powers.

Jan., 2013, was marked by violent protests, and the following month Morsi called for parliamentary elections in April. Meanwhile, the constitutional court rejected parts of the election law, and then the secular parties announced a boycott of the vote. In March, however, the elections were canceled as a result of a court decision that returned the election law to the constitutional court for review. In April, Islamists sought to force the retirement of older members of the judiciary, who were seen as opponents of Islamist rule; this led to new protests and tensions.

The constitutional court ruled in June that the interim parliament and the constitutional assembly had been illegally elected, but it left the constitution in effect. Massive demonstrations against Morsi in late June and early July, and clashes between Morsi opponents and supporters, led to a military ultimatum calling for the government and opposition to resolve the crisis; subsequently the president was ousted by the military. The military appointed an interim government, headed by Adly Mansour, the chief justice of the constitutional court; Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the armed forces chief and defense minister, also became deputy prime minister.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters protested Morsi's overthrow, leading to recurring clashes with security forces that continued on a smaller scale into 2014; in Aug., 2013, hundreds died and several thousand were injured when two pro-Morsi protest camps were stormed. Muslim Brotherhood leaders were arrested and charged with inciting violence; the organization was later banned, and subsequently (2014) the FJP was dissolved by the courts. Islamist militant attacks on security forces and on Coptic churches also increased in the aftermath of Morsi's ouster. A number of prodemocracy activists were also arrested and jailed. By 2014 some 16,000 people had been arrested, including some 3,000 Muslim Brotherhood officials. In several, sometimes brief mass trials in 2014 and 2015 that targeted primarily members of the Muslim Brotherhood, hundreds of Egyptians were sentenced to death or imprisonment on murder, arson, and other charges arising from the aftermath of the military coup.

A new constitution, which was drafted in Dec., 2013, and again preserved the military's powers and independence, was approved by voters in Jan., 2014; the turnout was somewhat larger (38.6%) but nearly all votes (98%) were in favor of the constitution. In Mar., 2014, Sisi resigned from the army and the cabinet in order to run for president. He overwhelmingly won the May election against weak opposition, but many Islamists and liberal and secular activists boycotted the vote.


Ancient Egypt

See W. S. Smith, Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (1958); Pierre Montet, Lives of the Pharaohs (1968); W. M. F. Petrie, History of Egypt (6 vol., 1898–1905, repr. 1972); H. I. Bell, Egypt from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest (1949, repr. 1977); W. E. Budge, The Dwellers on the Nile (1977); Nigel Strudwick, The Administration of Egypt in the Old Kingdom (1985); C. P. Ingraham, The Legendary History of Ancient Egypt (2 vol., 1986); N. Lewis, Life in Egypt Under Roman Rule (1986); T. Wilkinson, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt (2011).

Modern Egypt

See C. Issawi, Egypt at Mid-Century (1954); M. Zayid, Egypt's Struggle for Independence (1965); P. M. Holt, Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, 1566–1922 (1966); J. Berque, Egypt (1972); E. Kedourie and S. G. Haim, ed., Modern Egypt (1980); I. Gersheni, The Emergence of Pan-Arabism in Egypt (1981); C. Harris, Nationalism and Revolution in Egypt: The Role of the Muslim Brotherhood (1964, repr. 1987); J. Beinin and Z. Lockman, Workers on the Nile (1988); P. J. Vatikiotis, The History of Modern Egypt (4th ed. 1991); G. Amin, Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak, 1981–2011 (2011); S. A. Cook, The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square (2011); J. Brownlee, Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance (2012); T. Cambanis, Once upon a Revolution (2015).

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To people throughout history, Egypt has seemed the very birthplace of magic. In Egypt the peoples of the ancient world found a magical system more sophisticated than any other that was known. The emphasis on death and the care of the human corpse, central to Egyptian religion, seemed to other cultures to be suggestive of magic practice. As with all other systems, the Egyptians' magic consisted of two different kinds: that which was supposed to benefit either the living or the dead; and, that which has been known throughout the ages as black magic or necromancy.

The contents of the Westcar Papyrus show that as early as the fourth dynasty the working of magic was a recognized art in Egypt, while evidence suggests Egyptian magic practice began in neolithic times. Egyptians used magic for numerous purposes, including exorcizing storms and protecting themselves and their loved ones against wild beasts, poison, disease, wounds, and the ghosts of the dead. Throughout the centuries, the practice varied considerably evan as the principal means of operation remained the same: amulets; spells; magic books, pictures, and formulas; magical names and ceremonies; and the general apparatus of the occult sciences. The use of amulets was one of the most potent methods of guarding against any misfortune.

Not all ornaments or objects discovered on the mummy related to magical potency. These were frequently the possession of the ka or double, necessary to its comfort in a future existence. The small crowns, scepters, and emblems of Osiris, usually done in glazed earthenware or pottery, were placed beside the dead person. This ensured that he could wear them when he became one with the god Osiris, and consequently a king. The scarab, made in the likeness of a scarabaeus beetle, symbolized resurrection. The dad symbolized the human skeleton, and, possibly, the dead and dismembered Osiris. This was thought to have an influence on the restoration of the deceased. The uza, or eye, signified the health necessary to the dead person's soul.

The so-called palettes, originally thought to be used for the mixing of paint, are now known to have been amulets inscribed with words of power and placed on the breasts of the dead in neolithic times. The menat was worn, or held, with the sistrum (a musical instrument) by gods, kings, and priests and was supposed to bring joy and health to the wearer. It represented the vigor of the two sexes.

The simplest type of magic spell used in Egypt was that in which the exorcist threatened the evil principle, or assured it that he could injure it. In general, the magician requested the assistance of the gods, or pretended that he was a god. Invocations, when written, were usually accompanied by a note to the effect that the formula had once been employed successfully by a godperhaps by a deified priest.

An incomprehensible and mysterious jargon was employed that was supposed to conceal the name of a certain deity. This deity was thus compelled to do the will of the sorcerer. These gods were usually the gods of foreign nations. The invocations themselves appear to be attempts at various foreign idioms, likely employed because they sounded more mysterious than the native speech. Great stress was laid upon the proper pronunciation of these names. Misprounciation was accountable for failure in all cases. The Book of the Dead contains many such "words of power." These were intended to assist the dead in their journey in the underworld of Amenti.

People believed that all supernatural beings, good and evil, possessed a hidden name. If a person knew the name he could compel that being to do his will. The name was as much a part of the man as his body or soul. The traveler through Amenti not only had to tell the divine gods their names. They also had to prove that he knew the names of a number of the supposedly inanimate objects in the dreary underworld.

Many books of magic in Egypt contained spells and other formulas for exorcism and necromantic practice. The priestly caste who compiled those necromantic works was known as Kerheb, or "scribes of the divine writings" Even the sons of pharaohs did not disdain to enter their ranks.

The Ritual of Egyptian Magic

The ritual of Egyptian magic possessed many strong similarities to the ceremonial practices of other systems and countries. Wax figures were used to represent the bodies of persons to be bewitched or harmed. Models of all kinds indicated the belief that the physical force directed against them might injure the person or animal they represented.

But the principal rite in which ceremonial magic was employed was the very elaborate one of mummification. As each bandage was laid in its exact position, certain words of power were uttered that were supposed to help preserve the part swathed. After evisceration, the priest uttered an invocation to the deceased and then took a vase of liquid containing ten perfumes. He smeared the perfumed liquid twice over the body, head to foot, taking special care to anoint the head thoroughly. The internal organs were then placed on the body, and the backbone immersed in holy oil, supposed to be an emanation from the gods Shu and Seb. Certain precious stones were then laid on the mummy, each of which with magical significance. Crystal, for instance, lightened his face; and cornelian strengthened his steps.

A priest who personified the jackal-headed god Anubis then advanced, performed certain symbolic ceremonies on the head of the mummy, and laid certain bandages upon it. After a further anointing with oil the deceased was declared to have "received his head." The mummy's left hand was filled with 36 substances used in embalming, symbolic of the 36 forms of the god Osiris. The body was then rubbed with holy oil, the toes wrapped in linen, and after an appropriate address the ceremony was completed.


The art of procuring dreams and their interpretation was widely practiced in Egypt. The Egyptian magician procured dreams for his clients by drawing magic pictures and reciting magic words. The following formulas for producing a dream are taken from British Museum Papyrus, no. 122, lines 64ff and 359ff:

"To obtain a vision from the god Bes: Make a drawing of Bes, as shewn below, on your left hand, and envelope your hand in a strip of black cloth that has been consecrated to Isis and lie down to sleep without speaking a word, even in answer to a question. Wind the remainder of the cloth round your neck. The ink with which you write must be composed of the blood of a cow, the blood of a white dove, fresh frankincense, myrrh, black writing ink, cinnabar, mulberry juice, rain-water, and the juice of wormwood and vetch. With this write your petition before the setting sun, saying, 'Send the truthful seer out of the holy shrine, I beseech thee Lampsuer, Sumarta, Baribas, Dardalam, Iorlex: O Lord send the sacred deity Anuth, Anuth, Salbana, Chambré, Breith, now, now, quickly, quickly. Come in this very night.'

"To procure dreams: Take a clean linen bag and write upon it the names given below. Fold it up and make it into a lamp-wick, and set it alight, pouring pure oil over it. The word to be written is this: "Armiuth, Lailamchouch, Arsenophrephren, Phtha, Archentechtha." Then in the evening, when you are going to bed, which you must do without touching food (or, pure from all defilement), do thus: Approach the lamp and repeat seven times the formula given below: then extinguish it and lie down to sleep. The formula is this: "Sachmuepaema Ligotereench: the Aeon, the Thunderer, Thou that hast swallowed the snake and dost exhaust the moon, and dost raise up the orb of the sun in his season, Chthetho is the name; I require, O lords of the gods, Seth, Chreps, give me the information that I desire."

Medical Magic

Magic played a big part in Egyptian medicine. On this point, A. Wiedemann stated:

"The Egyptians were not great physicians: their methods were purely empirical and their remedies of very doubtful value, but the riskiness of their practice arose chiefly from their utter inability to diagnose because of their ignorance of anatomy. That the popular respect for the human body was great we may gather from the fact that the Paraskhistai who opened the body for embalmment were persecuted and stoned as having committed a sinful although necessary deed. The prescribed operations in preparing a body for embalmment were never departed from, and taught but little anatomy, so that until Greek times the Egyptians had only the most imperfect and inaccurate ideas of the human organism. They understood nothing about most internal diseases, and especially nothing about diseases of the brain, never suspecting them to be the result of organic changes, but assuming them to be caused by demons who had entered into the sick. Under these circumstances medicines might be used to cause the disappearance of the symptoms, but the cure was the expulsion of the demon. Hence the Egyptian physician must also practise magic.

"According to late accounts, his functions were comparatively simple, for the human body had been divided into thirty-six parts, each presided over by a certain demon, and it sufficed to invoke the demon of the part affected in order to bring about its curea view of matters fundamentally Egyptian. In the Book of the Dead we find that different divinities were responsible for the well-being of the bodies of the blessed; thus Nu had charge of the hair, Râ of the face, Hathor of the eyes, Apuat of the ears, Anubis of the lips, while Thoth was guardian of all parts of the body together. This doctrine was subsequently applied to the living body, with the difference that for the great gods named in the Book of the Dead there were substituted as gods of healing the presiding deities of the thirty-six decani, the thirty-six divisions of the Egyptian zodiac, as we learn from the names given to them by Celsus and preserved by Origen. In earlier times it was not so easy to be determined which god was to be invoked, for the selection depended not only on the part affected but also on the illness and symptoms and remedies to be used, etc.

"Several Egyptian medical papyri which have come down to us contain formulas to be spoken against the demons of disease as well as prescriptions for the remedies to be used in specified cases of illness. In papyri of older date these conjurations are comparatively rare, but the further the art of medicine advanced, or rather, receded, the more numerous they became.

"It was not always enough to speak the formulas once; even their repeated recitation might not be successful, and in that case recourse must be had to other expedients: secret passes were made, various rites were performed, the formulas were written upon papyrus, which the sick person had to swallow, etc. But amulets were in general found to be most efficacious, and the personal intervention of a god called up, if necessary, by prayers or sorcery."

Magic Figures

As already confirmed, the Egyptians believed that it was possible to transmit to the image of any person or animal the soul of the being that it represented. The Westcar Papyrus related how a soldier who had fallen in love with a governor's wife was swallowed by a crocodile when bathing, the saurian being a magical replica of a waxen one made by the lady's husband. In the official account of a conspiracy against Rameses III (1200B.C.E.) the conspirators obtained access to a magical papyrus in the royal library and employed its instructions against the king with disastrous effects to themselves. Others made waxen figures of gods and of the king for the purpose of slaying the latter.


The Egyptians were fatalists and believed that a man's destiny was decided before birth. The people therefore had re-course to astrologers. The well-known Egyptologist Sir E. A. Wallis Budge stated:

"In magical papyri we are often told not to perform certain magical ceremonies on such and such days, the idea being that on these days hostile powers will make them to be powerless, and that gods mightier than those to which the petitioner would appeal will be in the ascendant. There have come down to us fortunately, papyri containing copies of the Egyptian calendar, in which each third of every day for three hundred and sixty days of the year is marked lucky or unlucky, and we know from other papyri why certain days were lucky or unlucky, and why others were only partly so."

In the life of Alexander the Great by Pseudo-Callisthenes it is noted that the Egyptians were skilled in the art of casting horoscopes. Nectanebus had a tablet made of gold and silver and acacia wood, with three belts attached to it, just for that. Zeus was on the outer belt with the 36 decani surrounding him; representations of the 12 signs of the zodiac were on the second; and the third the sun and moon were on the third. He set the tablet on a tripod, and emptied out of a small box with models of the seven stars that were in the belts, and put eight precious stones into the middle belt. He arranged these in the places where he figured the depicted planets would be at the time of the birth of Olympias. He then told her fortune from them.

It should be noted that the use of the horoscope is much older than the time of Alexander the Great. A Greek horoscope in the British Museum is attached to "an introductory letter from some master of the art of astrology to his pupil, named Hermon, urging him to be very exact and careful in his application of the laws which the ancient Egyptians, with their laborious devotion to the art, had discovered and handed down to posterity."


The notion that the ka or double of man wandered about after death added to the Egyptian belief in ghosts. E. A. Wallis Budge observed as follows:

"According to them a man consisted of a physical body, a shadow, a double, a soul, a heart, a spirit called the khu, a power, a name, and a spiritual body. When the body died the shadow departed from it, and could only be brought back to it by the performance of a mystical ceremony; the double lived in the tomb with the body, and was there visited by the soul whose habitation was in heaven. The soul was, from one aspect, a material thing, and like the ka, or double, was believed to partake of the funeral offerings which were brought to the tomb; one of the chief objects of sepulchral offerings of meat and drink was to keep the double in the tomb and to do away with the necessity of its wandering about outside the tomb in search of food. It is clear from many texts that, unless the double was supplied with sufficient food, it would wander from the tomb and eat any kind of offal and drink any kind of dirty water which it might find in its path. But besides the shadow, and the double, and the soul, the spirit of the deceased, which usually had its abode in heaven, was sometimes to be found in the tomb. There is, however, good reason for stating that the immortal part of man which lived in the tomb and had its special abode in the statue of the deceased was the 'double.' This is proved by the fact that a special part of the tomb was reserved for the ka, or double, which was called the 'house of the ka, ' and that a priest, called the 'priest of the ka, ' was specially appointed to minister the therein."

Esoteric Knowledge of the Priesthood

The esoteric knowledge of the Egyptian priesthood is believed to have been similar to the one for which the Indian medicine man is credited, with the addition of a philosophy close to that of ancient India. W. H. Davenport Adams observed as follows:

"To impose upon the common people, the priesthood professed to lead lives of peculiar sanctity. They despised the outer senses, as sources of evil and temptation. They kept themselves apart from the profanium vulgus, and, says Iamblicus, 'occupied themselves only with the knowledge of God, of themselves, and of wisdom; they desired no vain honours in their sacred practice, and never yielded to the influence of the imagination.' Therefore they formed a world within a world, fenced round by a singular awe and wonder, apparently abstracted from the things of earth, and devoted to the constant contemplation of divine mysteries. They admitted few strangers into their order, and wrapt up their doctrines in a hieroglyphical language, which was only intelligible to the initiated. To these various precautions was added the solemnity of a terrible oath, whose breach was invariably punished with death.

"The Egyptian priests preserved the remaining relics of the former wisdom of nature. These were not imparted as the sciences are, in our age, but to all appearances they were neither learned nor taught; but as a reflection of the old revelations of nature, the perception must arise like an inspiration in the scholar's mind. From this cause appear to have arisen those numerous preparations and purifications the severity of which deterred many from initiation into the Egyptian priesthood; in fact, not infrequently resulted in the scholar's death. Long fasting, and the greatest abstinence, appear to have been particularly necessary: besides this, the body was rendered insensible through great exertions, and even through voluntary inflicted pain, and therefore open to the influence of the mind. The imagination was excited by representations of the mysteries; and the inner sense was more impressed by the whole thanas is the case with usinstructed by an explanation of simple facts. In this manner the dead body of science was not given over to the initiated, and left to chance whether it would become animated or not, but the living soul of wisdom was breathed into them.

"From this fact, that the contents of the mysteries were rather revealed than taughtwere received more from inward inspiration and mental intoxication, than outwardly through endless teaching, it was necessary to conceal them from the mass of the people."

Commenting on the same subject the egyptologist W. Schu-bart stated:

"The way to every innovation was closed, and outward knowledge and science could certainly not rise to a high degree of external perfectionThey imparted their secret and divine sciences to no one who did not belong to their caste, and it was long impossible for foreigners to learn anything; it was only in later times that a few strangers were permitted to enter the initiation after many severe preparations and trials. Besides this, their functions were hereditary, and the son followed the footsteps of his fatherfor to the uninitiated the entrance was forbidden, and the initiated kept their vows."

Modern Views of Egyptian Magic

Beginning in the nineteenth century, scholarship removed much of the mystery surrounding ancient Egyptian magic. It also made magic an object of increasing occult and magic exploration. Modern work on Egypt really began in 1822, after J. F. Champollion (1790-1832) successfully deciphered the hieroglyphics through his work on the Rosetta Stone, opening the way to understanding ancient Egyptian inscriptions on monuments and papyrus. Champollion's basic work was supplemented by other philologists including, Richard Lepsius (1810-1884), Heinrich Brugsch (1827-1894), and Adolf Erman (1854-1916). Other renowned egyptologists included Sir Gaston Maspero (1846-1916), Sir E. A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934), J. H. Breasted (1865-1935), and Sir William Flinder Petrie (1853-1942). Popular interest in ancient Egypt rose with the discovery and excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun (d. ca. 1352 B.C.E.) by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter. (See also Tutankhamun Curse )

Modern Egyptian magical practice was largely initiated by Aleister Crowley who in 1904 in Cairo received a supposedly channeled book, The Book of the Law. He later proclaimed its reception as the beginning of a new era, the Aeon of Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child. Since that time, ritual magicians have been poring over the Western translations of Egyptian texts to ferret out their modern implications. The Church of Eternal Source, headquartered in Burbank, California, is one prominent revivalist Egyptian magic religion, founded in the 1960s. The Rosicrucian Society has constructed an elaborate museum, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, in San Jose, California, also building on the ongiong fascination with the aura and magic of ancient Egypt. The elaborate museum and gardens also embodies sections that display ancient writing tablets from Babylonia and Assyria.

Much speculation has also revolved around the Great Pyramid of Giza (built in the reign of Cheops of the Fourth Dynasty). Ever since Col. Howard Vyse forced an entry into the pyramid and took measurements, an eccentric school of pyramidology focused upon speculation concerning pyramids in general, and Egyptian pyramids in particular has grown up. It drew the most interest in its association of various pyramid measurements with biblical prophecies (see pyramids and pyramidology ). Other writers, most recently the devotees of the ancient astronauts hypothesis, have attempted to perpetuate the myth that the remarkable engineering achievements of pyramid building were the product of a long-lost occult secret (or ancient science) by which great blocks of stone could be levitated into position by the magical power of sound vibration. Such romantic speculations can be made only by ignoring archaeological and hieroglyphical evidence. The restoration work being completed on the Great Pyramids at the end of the 1990s continued to spark the interest of people all over the world. Tourism was hampered somewhat with threats of terrorism on foreign, particularly American, visitors.

Modern day Egypt continues to reveal an interest in the mystical. On April 2, 1968, two Moslem workers thought they saw a nun in white standing near the dome of St. Mary's Church of Zeitoun, one of Cairo's poorer districts. The church was a Coptic rite (a Middle Eastern rite of Roman Catholicism) testimony to the Christian converts in the midst of the Moslem country. The apparitions continued throughout April and May of that year, the brilliant figure radiating out of light over the dome of the church, as well as being visible in front of the church, walking on the roof and saluting the workersoften offering the sign of blessings on them. The apparitions declined to only a dozen in 1969, a few less in 1970, and disappearing altogether by 1971. These appearances were witnessed by thousands of people, both Christian and Moslem. The phenomenon was even photographed. According to Arthur and Joyce Berger in their 1991 Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research, "The spectacular event is of enormous interest to parapsychology as an evidential case. There is ample reason to think that the apparition was seen by people numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The impressive photographs taken of the figure suggest an authentic phenomenon." The story of St. Mary's Church indicated that was built in 1925 due to a dream in which Mary appeared and requested it. In another dream she reportedly had promised to return to the church. While Catholics believe it to be "simply" a miracle, some noted parapsychologists offered another explanation. They thought that perhaps the appearances were thought-forms physically objectified by crowds who knew her promise. That it happened, too, in light of Joseph and Mary fleeing with the infant Jesus away from the slaughter ordered by King Herod, right to the same place, adds further to the idea that the energy of the people actually created the phenomenon. The theory continues to be investigated.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Breasted, James. A History of Egypt: From the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest. New York: Charles S. Scribner's Sons, 1919.

Brunton, Paul. A Search in Secret Egypt. London, 1935. Re-print, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970.

Budge, E. A. Wallis. The Book of the Dead. London, 1898. Re-print, New York: Dover, 1967. Reprint, New York: Causeway, 1974.

. Egyptian Magic. London, 1899.

. The Gods of the Egyptians. 2 vols. London, 1898.

. A History of Egypt. 8 vols. London, 1902. 4 vols. Re-print, The Netherlands: Anthropological Publications.

. The Mummy. London, 1925.

de Camp, Sprague. The Ancient Engineers. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960. Reprint, New York: Ballantine, 1974.

Erman, Adolf. Life in Ancient Egypt. London, 1894. Reprint, New York: Dover, 1971.

Ghalioungui, Paul. The House of Life: Magic and Medical Sciences in Ancient Egypt. Rev. ed., New York: Wittenborn, 1975.

Hornung, Erik. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982.

Knight, Alfred E. Amentet: An Account of the Gods, Amulets and Scarabs of the Ancient Egyptians. London: Longmans, Green, 1915.

Massey, Gerald. Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World. 2 vols. London, 1907. Reprint, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1974.

Rosicrucian Society. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, 2000. June 26, 2000.

Seiss, Joseph. The Great Pyramid: A Miracle in Stone. Blauvelt, N.Y.: Multimedia (Steiner Books), 1972.

Spence, Lewis. Mysteries of Egypt. London, 1929. Reprint, Baluvelt, N.Y.: Multimedia (Steiner Books), 1972.

Tompkins, Peter. Secrets of the Great Pyramid. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

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Arab country controlling northeastern Africa and the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the north, Sudan on the south, the Red Sea on the east, and Libya on the west. It consists of three regions: (1) the Nile Valley and Delta (less than 4% of the total area), extending from Sudan north to the Mediterranean; (2) the Eastern DesertSinai Peninsula (28%), extending from the Nile Valley to the Gulf of Aqaba and the border with Israel; and (3) the Western Desert (68%), stretching from the Nile Valley west to Libya.

Egypt's geographic position makes the country easy to control and rule. Its society and polity are characterized by central rule and the absence of long-standing regional allegiances. Dependence on the Nile River for irrigation has called for central administration and enabled the government to extend its authority to the distant parts of the land. Because most of the territory is desert, 96 percent of the Egyptian people live on less than 5 percent of the country's total land area, despite a massive land reclamation project that is starting to irrigate parts of the Western Desert.

Population and Social Structure

Egypt is one of the oldest continuously settled lands in the world. Egyptians, except for a few Nubians, speak Arabic. About 90 percent of the people are Muslim, and Islam is the state religion. The Copts are the largest non-Muslim religious group. Estimates of their numbers vary between six million and nine million. In 2003, the total population of Egypt was seventy million and was increasing by one million every ten months. The birth rate in 2002 was 24.4 per thousand and the death rate was 7.6 per thousand; the natural rate of population increase was 16.8 (the world average for the period in question was 13.5).

Half of the Egyptian people are under twenty years of age; two-thirds are under thirty. The number of dependent children supported by working adults is high, a situation that severely strains the economy. Egypt's government and economy are increasingly unable to meet the demands for food, shelter, education, and jobs. Some three million Egyptians have migrated to other Arab countries, particularly the oil-producing states, in search of work. Their remittances to their families constitute a major source of Egypt's hard currency and help to offset the difference between the country's imports and exports.

In contrast to many developing countries, Egypt has a high degree of social and national integration. Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser (19541970), Anwar al-Sadat (19701981), and Husni Mubarak (1981) have all spoken proudly about Egypt's national unity, by which they mean the peaceful coexistence between the country's Muslims and Copts. This unity has been tested when Muslim extremists attacked, robbed, and occasionally murdered Copts. The Copts also began to fear growing pressure to apply Islamic law in Egypt, which could weaken their position relative to the Muslim majority.

Population growth has limited Egypt's development efforts by aggravating unemployment, increasing the ratio of mouths eating to hands working, spurring rural migration to urban centers, and diverting resources from investment to consumption. Population rises by almost 2 percent annually, a rate that exceeds the increase of arable land and is far beyond Egypt's educational and industrial development. Although the cropped area almost doubled between 1882 and 1970, the population growth absorbed and exceeded the increase. Once the breadbasket of the ancient world, modern Egypt has had to import cereal grains, making it more dependent on the outside world and vulnerable to the fluctuations of food prices.


Economic factors have played a crucial role in Egypt's politics. In 1991, inflation was nearly 21.3 percent a year, the national debt was US$25 billion, the gross national product (GNP) per capita was US$600, and the country agreed to a major restructuring program. Indeed, since World War II, Egypt has had a balance-of-payments deficit that has had to be made up from other sources. From 1945 to 1958 it simply drew down existing reserves, which had accumulated during World War II. From 1958 to 1964, Egypt received foreign aid from Eastern and Western sources; from 1965 to 1971, the former Soviet Union paid for most of the deficit; from 1971 to 1977, the aid was primarily from Arab states; and since 1978, support has come from the United States and other Western nations. The rate of inflation in 2001 was 2.3 percent, the national debt was US$29 billion, and the GNP per capita reached US$3,600. The economy declined slightly during the period from 2001 to 2003 and the Egyptian pound has been allowed to float against the U.S. dollar; it lost half its value between 1997 and 2003.

In 1974 Sadat inaugurated his Infitah, or open-door economic policy, to attract foreign investment. He justified it on the following grounds: (1) the failure of Nasser's socialist policies; (2) the availability of capital from Arab oil-producing countries; and (3) the superpowers' détente. From an economic standpoint, the Infitah 's main purposes were twofold: to attract export-oriented foreign enterprises by setting up duty-free zones and to attract foreign capital through a liberal investment policy. Its ultimate goal was to develop Egypt's economy through joint ventures and projects, combining Egyptian labor, Arab capital, and Western technology and entrepreneurship.

Egypt's policy of liberal reform led to a restructuring of its economy. In 1991 the government implemented financial stabilization (unifying the rate of exchange, reducing subsidies) and started a program of structural adjustment (privatization and trade liberalization). The economy grew rapidly during the 1990s but stagnated in the early twenty-first century. Per capita GDP skyrocketed, and imports exceeded exports in value by a factor of three to one, but the deficit was made up by remittances, Suez Canal tolls, pipeline fees, and tourism. After the terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Center in September 2001, most of these sources diminished. The trade deficit in the first quarter of 2002 was US$1.6 billion. In addition, the gap between rich and poor Egyptians widened perceptibly as a result of both Sadat's Infitah policy and the economic restructuring. In 2000 it was estimated that the top tenth of Egyptians enjoyed 25 percent of the national income, while the bottom tenth earned only 4.4 percent.

History and Politics

On 1 July 1798 the people of Alexandria watched some 400 French ships in the Mediterranean bring 34,000 soldiers and 16,000 sailors to Egypt. Led by Napoléon Bonaparte, this expedition subjected Egypt, then a part of the Ottoman Empire, to direct confrontation with European expansionism. The occupation was harsh and stirred up popular resistance in Cairo, but it took a joint Anglo-Ottoman expeditionary force to expel the French in 1801. Following France's withdrawal, a popular uprising in Cairo forced the Ottoman government to name Muhammad Ali as governor of Egypt. Ruling from 1805 to 1848, Muhammad Ali modernized Egypt's administrative, economic, and military structures by introducing Western methods and technologies on a large scale.

In 1854, during the reign of his son, Saʿid Pasha, a French diplomat secured permission to build a maritime canal across the Isthmus of Suez. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 greatly increased Egypt's strategic importance to the European powers and helped attract large numbers of Europeans to settle in Egypt's main cities. The Egyptian government also borrowed large sums of money from European banks at ruinous rates of interest, resulting in a state debt of 100 million Egyptian pounds by the end of the reign of Muhammad Ali's grandson, Ismaʿil ibn Ibrahim, in 1879. Egypt's European creditors established the Caisse de la Dette Publique (Fund for the Public Debt) to supervise the collection and disbursement of government revenues in 1876, followed later in that same year by the Office of Dual Financial Control. By 1881, the government was frantically cutting its expenditures to avert bankruptcy, contributing to the rise of a reformist movement led by Ahmad Urabi. The British intervened to suppress the revolt, bombarding Alexandria on 11 July 1882 and occupying Cairo nine weeks later, marking the start of an occupation that would last for seventy-four years. Initially British rule took the form of a veiled protectorate, honoring Ottoman suzerainty and the authority of the khedive (Egyptian ruler) and his ministers, although in reality Egypt was governed by Sir Evelyn Baring (later Lord Cromer) and his successors. In December 1914, following the Ottoman entry into World War I on the German side, the British government proclaimed a formal protectorate over Egypt.

Following the war, a nationwide revolution, led by Saʿd Zaghlul, broke out. His movement, known as the Wafd, achieved success on 28 February 1922, when Britain formally terminated the protectorate, proclaimed Egypt a sovereign, independent kingdom, and reserved four issues for future negotiations: (1) imperial communications, (2) defense, (3) minorities, and (4) the Sudan. On 15 March 1922 Ahmad Fuʾad was proclaimed king, and a constitution was issued on 9 April 1923. Free elections were held in two stages, resulting in a large parliamentary majority for the Wafd, which reconstituted itself as a political party.

From 1923 to 1936, negotiations took place on the four reserved points. The 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty settled most of the issues between the two countries. Britain's troops remained in Alexandria, Cairo, and the Suez Canal Zone. The treaty was opposed, however, by a number of political forces, including the popular Muslim Brotherhood. On 15 October 1951, Egypt's government unilaterally abrogated the treaty and Egyptian commandos attacked British soldiers and installations in the Canal Zone. Egypt's military defeat in the Arab-Israel War of 1948 coincided with social and political instability that had begun in the early 1940s as a result of increasing class disparities, uncontrolled urbanization, and labor unrest.

Egypt's government failed to respond to these conditions, nor did it respect the will of the people. The monarchy violated or suspended the 1923 constitution and dissolved parliaments whenever its power was threatened. The Wafd, the political party that won every election that was not rigged, held power less than eight years altogether and was dismissed from office on four separate occasions. Between 1923 and 1952, no popularly elected Egyptian parliament ever completed its term, and the average life of a cabinet was less than eighteen months.

These tensions led to frequent demonstrations, widespread political alienation, and the growth of revolutionary movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Young Egypt Party, Communist organizations, and the Free Officers. The insistence of the palace on absolute rule, the opposition of the ruling class to reform, and Britain's rigid refusal to withdraw from the Suez Canal Zone led the Egyptians to believe that only revolution could bring about reform. On 23 July 1952, the army seized control; three days later King Farouk abdicated in favor of his infant son. In June 1953, the monarchy was terminated and a republic was declared. All political parties, including the Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood, were abolished.

From 1952 to 1970, the basic characteristics of Egypt's government under Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser were military dictatorship, concentration of power, emphasis on mobilization rather than participation, and the supremacy of the executive branch. In the absence of political parties, three successive organizations became vehicles for political mobilization: the Liberation Rally (19531956), the National Union (19561962), and the Arab Socialist Union (19621977). An imbalance clearly existed between politics and administration. The bureaucracy, police, and army far eclipsed interest groups and political organizations. Whenever possible, the government attempted to penetrate and dominate groups such as trade unions, professional societies, and religious institutions. During the same period, the state took control of the economy in order to achieve rapid development and social justice, a policy known as Arab Socialism.

After Nasser's death in 1970, Egypt's political system began to change. The ruling elite became increasingly civilianized, and a pluralistic political culture began to emerge. Anwar al-Sadat professionalized the army, disengaged it from politics, and appointed more civilians to high posts. For the first time since 1952, civilians held the posts of vice president and prime minister. The gradual democratization of the political structure led in 1977 to the formation of a controlled multiparty system. Domestically, Sadat was eager to establish his legitimacy apart from Nasser's. Most Egyptians acknowledged that the Arab Socialist Union had failed as an instrument of popular mobilization, and intellectuals and professional associations came to advocate political pluralism. Sadat often called for popular plebiscites to ratify his policies, such as the peace treaty with Israel. Externally, Sadat's rapprochement with the United States and his desire to make Egypt seem more democratic reinforced these trends. Although Sadat was assassinated by Islamist militants in 1981, his successor, Husni Mubarak, has cautiously allowed the democratization process to continue by holding multiparty parliamentary elections at regular intervals.

The judiciary, an independent and respected institution, referees many issues, including the formation of new political parties. Applications for new parties must be submitted to a government committee whose decisions are subject to judicial review. Since the committee was established in 1977, it has never approved any applications, but its rejections have been reversed by court verdicts, thus allowing new parties to form.

In 2002, Egypt had fourteen political parties. The most important were the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), headed by President Husni Mubarak and claiming 85 percent of all parliamentary seats; the Socialist Labor Party, led by Ibrahim Shukri, which adheres to Islamist ideology and formerly had a coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood; and the leftist National Progressive Unionist Party, also called Tajammu, led by Khalid Muhyi al-Din. The other parties are the New Wafd, Socialist Labor, Umma, Socialists, Greens, Social Justice, Democratic Union, Nasserist Arab Democrats, Misr al-Fatat (Young Egypt), Democratic Peoples, and Takaful (Solidarity). Few of these parties play any meaningful role in parliament, and only the NDP actually takes part in Egypt's government. Islamist movements, no matter how many Egyptians support them, are not recognized as political parties.

Since 1977, Egypt's political life has been dominated by the NDP, which has not become a credible political force. All of Egypt's political parties suffer from lack of a strong organization and a coherent ideology. Opposition parties have been reluctant to compromise and have failed to master coalition politics. Ideological cleavages, historical legacies, and leadership rivalries have kept them from working together to challenge the NDP. In the 2000 elections, the ruling party won 388 of the 444 seats in Egypt's parliament.

Egypt has not succeeded in integrating Islamist groups into the political process. The Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to make the shariʿa the law for the country, had approximately fifty members in parliament in 19871990. Their boycott of the 1990 parliamentary elections and their opposition to the government during the Gulf War weakened their position, yet they remain the most influential Islamist group. Members of the parliament elected in 2000 who were listed as independent were mainly Muslim Brothers. Smaller but more militant Islamist groups, such as al-Jihad and al-Jamiʿa al-Islamiyya, have resorted to violence against government officials, foreign tourists, and Copts, especially between 1992 and 1997. By 1992, Islamist groups controlled most university student unions and professors' associations, as well as a number of professional societies (e.g., of engineers, physicians, pharmacists, and lawyers), and the state passed laws in 1995 to limit their influence. The Egyptian government's efforts to weaken the militant groups have curbed terrorism, but at grave cost to human rights and its own legitimacy. Thousands of Islamists languish in Egyptian prisons, often without having been tried and convicted of any crime. The Islamist newspapers and magazines were closed after Sadat's assassination and have not been allowed to reopen. Mosque sermons are monitored, and any expression of Islamist militancy is suppressed. It is noteworthy that four of the nineteen men implicated in the 11 September 2001 attack against the United States were Egyptians.

Both Islamists and the Egyptian government have stifled the growth of a civil society. For publishing scholarly articles critiquing early Arabic literature, Nasr Abu Zayd, a Cairo University professor, was obliged to leave Egypt after a secular court, inspired by Islamists, asked his wife to divorce him for allegedly renouncing Islam. Saʿd alDin Ibrahim, a respected sociologist, was tried and condemned to hard labor by a military court for defaming Egypt, accepting foreign money for his research center without government authorization, embezzlement, and bribing public officials. After a widespread public outcry, he was released, retried by a civilian court, and set free. Neither case speaks well for the independence of Egypt's judiciary.

What is the balance sheet for the democratization process in Egypt? On the positive side are a liberal tradition, a strong sense of national identity, and a complex civil society. Another positive element is a middle class that has organized itself into a growing network of business associations, trade unions, and professional syndicates, thus helping to form a civil society outside the political process. On the negative side, Egypt has a tradition of authoritarianism. The ruling elite has grown up with and worked within a single-party system. The ruling and opposition parties have little internal democracy. Many parties espouse ideologies that are incompatible with democratic institutions. The government uses the armed forces and the police to stifle dissent, creating an atmosphere of fear and leading to either apathy or conspiracies against public order. Ultimately, Egypt's democracy and political stability will rest on its ability to increase economic production and to narrow the yawning gap between the few rich and the many poor.

See also Alexandria; ArabIsrael War (1948); Arab Socialist Union; Baring, Evelyn; Bonaparte, NapolÉon; Cairo; Communism in the Middle East; Copts; Farouk; Free Officers, Egypt; Fuʾad; Infitah; Islam; Ismaʿil ibn Ibrahim; Jamiʿa al-Islamiyya, al-; Liberation Rally; Ottoman Empire; Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar; Mubarak, Husni; Muhyi al-Din, Khalid; Muslim Brotherhood; Naguib, Muhammad; Nasser, Gamal Abdel; National Progressive Unionist Party; National Union (Egypt); New Wafd; Nile River; Sadat, Anwar al-; Shariʿa; Suez Canal; Wafd; World War I; World War II; Young Egypt; Zaghlul, Saʿd.


Amin, Galal. Whatever Happened to the Egyptians?: Changes in Egyptian Society from 1950 to the Present. New York; Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2000.

Fahmy, Ninette. The Politics of Egypt: State-Society Relationship. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Goldschmidt, Arthur, Jr. Modern Egypt: The Formation of a Nation-State. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1988.

Hopwood, Derek. Egypt: Politics and Society, 19451990, 3d edition. New York; London: HarperCollins, 1991.

Kienle, Eberhard. A Grand Delusion: Democracy and Economic Reform in Egypt. New York; London: I.B. Tauris, 2001.

Vatikiotis, P. J. The History of Modern Egypt from Muhammad Ali to Mubarak, 4th edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Waterbury, John. The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Economy of Two Regimes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.

Weaver, Mary Anne. A Portrait of Egypt: A Journey through the World of Militant Islam. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999.

ali e. hillal dessouki updated by arthur goldschmidt

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For most contemporary Egyptians, the family remains the central and most important institution in their everyday lives. Few individuals live independently from their immediate family or kin, and single-person households are almost unheard of. Individuals of all classes constantly articulate and defend the importance of family within the community and the nation. Issues relating to family relations, gender roles, and authority are pervasive throughout the society, as evidenced by conversations in homes, on the street, and in the media. Further, the proper functioning of families is part of a religious dialogue that is increasingly heard in all sectors of the society.

Egypt's estimated population in 1999 was 66,050,004, with 36.1 percent of the population under age fifteen, 60 percent between ages fifteen and sixty-five, and 3.7 over age sixty-five. Ninety-five percent of the country's population is Muslim, and approximately 5 percent is Coptic. Approximately 98 percent of the population between twenty-five and sixty-five is or has been married, indicating the continuing primacy of founding a family through marriage for Egyptians of all classes.

Defining Family in Egypt

Linguistic issues. In Egypt, the widely recognized importance of family stands in direct contrast to the ambiguity of linguistic terms dealing with the institution. When referring to their families, Egyptians tend to use the Arabic word ahl, a broad term that encompasses various relationships, including immediate family related through blood ties, members of the household, and individuals related through marriage, and can, therefore, refer to up to 100 to 200 people. Another term, a'ila, is also commonly used, and can refer to either a nuclear or extended group of people, depending on context. The term a'ila carries with it the connotation of close relationship and mutual obligation.

The smallest family unit specified by Egyptian terminology is the word bait, which means "house." Bait is used to specify the actual residence of a family or the group of people who live under the same roof most of the time. Although this usually refers to the nuclear family, it can also include a spinster aunt, a widowed parent, or any other member of the extended family who is a part of the residential group. Egyptian family terms seem to be even more ambiguous than those of other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, for example, where individuals have a stronger sense of specificity of genealogy (Rugh 1984).

The Egyptian linguistic ambiguity about kinship terms allows individuals to manipulate the concept of family to fit the context and situation. Constant references to family and family name allow individuals to place one another within the society and to identify important ties and reciprocal obligations. The honor, social standing, and wealth of a family are all interconnected, making the identification with family a primary social marker for every Egyptian.

Social class and family. Class divisions within society play a vital role in Egyptian life. Egyptians have an incredibly fine-tuned sense of class, and this plays a part in every aspect of an individual's life. Primarily, these divisions are based on family, wealth, education, and experiences and/or education abroad. In addition, reputation, religious piety, and foreign ancestry (for example, having a Turkish mother, grandmother, etc.) may raise a family's social status in the eyes of others. The division by class is a distinctive but complex dividing line in the society that is constantly reflected in the written and oral media.

Furthermore, even though the major cities of Cairo and Alexandria are divided into newer and older, as well as richer and poorer sections, it is not customary for Egyptians to move, even if their financial situation improves substantially. As a result, older, well-to-do Egyptians are often found living in sections of the city that are considered middle class or, at times, even lower-middle class. Among these families, it is common for the older generation to buy apartments in their buildings for their children as they marry, thereby keeping them close. Among low-income communities, all family members routinely continue to live in the same apartment, and as the children marry, their spouses move in with the extended families. Among this group, individuals rely even more heavily on their families because they have fewer ties to other structures of power in the society.

The role of the natal family. In Cairo, the importance of family for women and men in all arenas can hardly be overestimated. Although women, upon marriage, become incorporated into the household of their husbands, they remain members of their natal families. They retain their fathers' family names after marriage and, in case of divorce or widowhood, are expected to move back to their natal home. Men bear the financial responsibility of caring for all single women in their families, even if these women have been previously married. Thus, women are brought up with the expectation that their primary ties and ultimate sources of economic security will be in their relationships to their fathers, brothers, and sons. These relationships with both female and male members of the immediate family remain the strongest links in women's lives.

The role of extended families. Some version of the extended family is the ideal among all classes, and living in the same building or neighborhood as fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, or cousins is still considered the best situation (Macleod 1991). The extended families that are often found in Egypt do not follow the traditional patterns in which genealogically related persons of two generations live together or in which married siblings form one household. Rather, extended families are based on the incorporation of unmarried relatives into a family. Widows, divorcees (especially those with no children), and bachelors do not live separately and would be stigmatized should they make this choice. Further, unmarried sons or daughters live with their parents until marriage, regardless of age. After divorce or the death of a spouse, both men and women, especially if they do not have children, are expected to return to their parents if they are still alive; otherwise, they are supposed to live with a brother, sister, or other relative. Another popular extended family pattern is the one in which a child is "borrowed" by a relative with no children of his or her own. Among lower-class people, one tends to find this phenomenon more often among grandparents who need the assistance of a child for housework. Among more well-to-do families, an uncle or aunt will offer to take care of a siblings' children for an extended time period, primarily for sentimental reasons or because the biological parents already have other pressing obligations such as an extended leave abroad.

Another common middle- and lower-class family pattern found in Egypt is the incorporation of nonrelatives, such as apprentices and work assistants, into a particular household. Such individuals have a special position, because although not all of them sleep in the house of their employer, their food and laundry is part of the household. Upper-middle and upper-class families employ domestic servants who may or may not live in the household. Often a domestic live-in servant will come from the family's natal village, even if the family has not lived there in several generations.

Migrants, a group often ignored, exhibit an alternative family pattern: they do not usually bring their families when they first enter the city from the countryside. When they arrive in the city, they tend to live in the same neighborhoods as others from their natal village. Each will live with other relatives in the local neighborhood until he becomes established and acquires a house of his own.

The continuing primacy of extended families can be explained by the fact that for most Egyptians, family provides a sense of place, a congenial setting, and a social network for financial and personal support. People often mention that life in the West, with its emphasis on individual needs and pursuits, looks very lonely and self-centered. Although the actual composition of a household may vary widely within the same class level or within a larger extended family, the structure and ideology of family remains crucial for the network of resources and sense of identity that it continues to provide.

Gender and Family

Egyptian society is organized on the principle that men and women simply have different natures, talents, and inherent tendencies. This becomes most apparent in the realm of the family where each gender has a different part to play. Men are created for going out in the world and are responsible for providing financially for the family. Women are suited for remaining within family boundaries, caring for the home, the children, and the husband. Further, women's inherent sexuality is believed to be constantly endangering the social harmony of society (specifically, men) and is, therefore, best controlled through women's modesty and women remaining as much as possible within the private sphere of the family. This belief is reinforced through cultural and religious norms that are increasingly advocating that family roles of both women and men are fundamental in maintaining societal structure; dominant gender constructions therefore support keeping women in the home and oppose women working and abandoning their primary roles (Macleod 1991). Nonetheless, contemporary images of women as economic assets and providers are rapidly coming into conflict with what are perceived as divinely inspired roles.

Gender roles in Egypt derive much of their legitimacy from the Qur'an. In particular, women are often the focus of quotes that supposedly refer to the appropriate roles and behaviors of women. At the same time, references to the role of women are scattered broadly throughout the Qur'an and are subject to interpretation.

Existing side by side and sometimes in contradiction to the reality of women's daily struggles in Egypt is the cultural and religious ideal of complementarity between the sexes. Within this concept, women are not devalued as persons, somehow considered to be inherently less valuable than men, or thought to be lacking in abilities. Instead, Egyptians tend to emphasize that everyone—men, women, and children—is thought to be part of an interrelated community, and that gender complementarity is part of the message of the religion. This concept of gender complementarity, particularly in the realm of the family, is an integral part of understanding the social structure of Egyptian society.

Marriage and Family

Marriage remains at the center of contemporary Egyptian social life. It is the primary focal point in the lives of both women and men, followed only by the birth of a child. The rights and obligations of husband and wife are defined by Islamic law, the division of labor by gender, and Egyptian cultural practice.

A Muslim marriage gives a wife the unconditional right to economic support from her husband regardless of her own financial resources. She also remains in control of her property, including inheritance or earned income. However, in case of divorce, the ex-wife is only entitled to three months' alimony and to those possessions that she brought with her at the beginning of her marriage or those that she acquired with her own income, as well as any portion of her mahr that is due her. Mahr is a sum of money or durable property that, according to Islamic practice, a husband agrees to pay to his bride at any time prior to or during the marriage or upon divorce.

In return for the unconditional economic support of his family, a husband has certain rights within the marriage, the most important of which is the right to restrict his wife's physical mobility, which is often interpreted as the right of a husband to prevent his wife from working outside the home. He also has the unilateral right to end the marriage without the consent of his wife. And in case of divorce, the husband legally receives custody of the children after they have reached the age of seven. It is, however, customary for girls to remain with their mothers after a divorce. Recently, changes in the law in favor of women have curtailed some of husbands' rights. Primarily, women are now able to file for divorce, especially in cases of domestic violence, and men must now legally file for divorce and cannot divorce a woman simply by uttering "I divorce thee" three times, as is permitted by the Qur'an. Cultural practices, such as cross-cousin marriages and sizable sums of money through the mahr, have evolved to protect women and counterbalance the unequal rights in cases of divorce. However, the relatively low incidence of divorce in Egypt (according to the last census at 2%), particularly after children are born, suggests that marriage is a stable institution.

The Marriage Negotiation

All Muslim Egyptian marriages are characterized by a formalized set of negotiations that begin once the suitability of the marriage partners has been determined. The prelude to the marriage contract is the betrothal, which is the request by the man for the hand of a certain woman in marriage. It is at this point that the man will approach her family with the view of describing his status and negotiating with them the marriage contract and their respective demands. For the betrothal to be valid, both parties should be aware of the circumstances of the other and should know the potential spouse's character and behavior. This information is obtained through inquiries, investigations, and the direct contact of the couple in the presence of a chaperon. Once the man's offer is accepted by the woman, or by those who are legally entitled to act on her behalf, the betrothal will have taken place. It is usual at the point of betrothal that the man offers his future bride a gift, which in Egypt is referred to as the shabka. In some instances, particularly if the man does not know the bride's family through previous contacts, or if he wants to make an extremely favorable impression on the young woman, the man will offer her the shabka before the khutba, thereby showing his good will, his good intentions, and, perhaps his good financial standing. The shabka is, by middle-class American standards, a very expensive gift of jewelry. Betrothal does not, however, constitute a marriage contract: It is merely a mutual promise of marriage between the two parties, and it is not legally binding for either. In practice, the khutba is easily dissolved.

Among Egyptians, the betrothal becomes a public acknowledgment of the couple's right to spend chaperoned time together. It is a general rule that now the prospective bridegroom will join the woman's family for dinner regularly, giving the couple an opportunity to get to know each other in the presence of others. In addition, other members of the two families will start visiting one another. In particular, the man's mother and sisters or female cousins will begin spending long periods of time with the prospective bride

The Islamic Marriage Contract

The key to understanding any Islamic marriage (and 95% of all marriages in Egypt are Islamic) is the contract that is formed by the two parties. From a legal standpoint, the marriage contract establishes a series of rights and obligations between a couple that have a long-lasting effect on many aspects of their lives. In all schools of Islamic law, marriage is seen as a contract, the main function of which is to make sexual relations between a man and a woman licit. A valid and effective marriage contract outlines certain respective legal rights and duties for wife and husband, together with other rights and duties common to both of them. This contract, however, represents more than a mere exchange of money or material goods. It is a form of social exchange and is thus a legal, religious, economic, and symbolic transaction. The contract is attended to with utmost seriousness and is preceded by a set of lengthy negotiations, almost all of which center around the material protection of the woman and her unborn children once she enters the state of matrimony. Nevertheless, the marriage contract may include conditions that are advantageous for either or both spouses. Conditions that are specified in the contract range from the woman's right to dissolve the marriage, to an agreement that neither party may leave the town they agree to live in, and even that the husband may not marry another woman. The contract, as a matter of course, also acts as a medium for bringing the various members of the two families together and provides them with the opportunity to discuss in detail the preliminary workings of the marriage. Most important, the marriage contract symbolizes the public acknowledgement of the formation of a lawful sexual partnership that will be sanctioned both religiously and socially, and that marks the beginning of a family and the care and upbringing of children. Marriage remains the focal point for channeling sexuality, founding a family, and joining two extended families into a reciprocal relationship of obligations.

Changing economic conditions and new perceptions of the relative value of education and of wage employment have led to new configurations of family strategies among all classes of Egyptian families. Today, even in the most patriarchal family contexts, decisions concerning education, employment, and spending are to a large extent collectively reached. Further, economic circumstances force many Egyptian families to depend on the earnings and contributions of women and children as well as adult males. Access to new opportunities in Egypt and abroad have been distributed unequally and have led to perceptions of relative economic disadvantage. Nevertheless, not all families, even those within a single class, have experienced these shifts in identical ways. Family strategies reflect this range of experience.

See also:Islam; Kinship


abdel kader, s. (1992). the situation analysis of women in egypt. cairo: central agency for population, moblization and statistics (capmas) and unicef.

CAPMAS. (1986). National Census, Cairo.

capmas. (1990). labour force sample survey (lfss),cairo.

capmas and unicef. (1991). women's participation in the labour force. cairo.

el-nashif, h. (1994). basic education and femaleliteracy in egypt. cairo: third world forum, middle east office.

macleod, a. e. (1991). accommodating protest: workingwomen, and the new veiling in cairo. new haven, ct: yale university press.

rugh, a. (1984). family in contemporary egypt. syracuse,ny: syracuse university press.

unicef (1993). report on the state of women and children in egypt. cairo.

bahira sherif

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Ful Mudammas (Broad Beans in Sauce)..................... 132
Koushari (Lentils, Macaroni, Rice, and Chickpeas)...... 133
Shai (Mint Tea) and Baklava ...................................... 134
Lemon and Garlic Potato Salad ................................. 135
Gebna Makleyah (Oven-Fried Cheese) ...................... 135
Bamia (Sweet and Sour Okra).................................... 137
'Irea (Cinnamon Beverage)........................................ 138
Khoshaf..................................................................... 138
Lettuce Salad ............................................................ 138
Spinach with Garlic ................................................... 139


The Arab Republic of Egypt is located in the northeastern region of the African continent, bordering both the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The climate is arid and dry and most of the country receives less than one inch of rainfall each year. The Mediterranean may offer Egypt's northern coastline up to eight inches of rainfall each year, and keeps year-round temperatures cooler than the inland deserts. The widespread lack of rainfall makes it extremely difficult to grow crops. Egypt has no forests and only 2 percent of the land is arable (land that can be farmed).

The well-known Nile River, the longest river in the world, runs north and south through eastern Egypt and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile River Valley, which includes the capital city of Cairo, is the most fertile land in Egypt. Approximately 95 percent of the country's population lives alongside the Nile River. However, overcrowding in this region is threatening Egypt's wildlife and endangering the Nile's water supply.


Thousands of years ago, ancient Egyptians left evidence of their love for food. Well-preserved wall paintings and carvings have been discovered on tombs and temples, depicting large feasts and a variety of foods. Many of these ancient foods are still eaten in Egyptian households today. Peas, beans, cucumbers, dates, figs, and grapes were popular fruits and vegetables in ancient times. Wheat and barley, ancient staple crops, were used to make bread and beer. Fish and poultry were also popular. Dried fish was prepared by cleaning the fish, coating the pieces with salt, and placing them the sun to dry. Fasieekh (salted, dried fish) remained a popular meal in Egypt as of 2000.

The unique Egyptian cuisine has been influenced throughout history, particularly by its neighbors from the Middle East. Persians (modern-day Iraqis), Greeks, Romans (modern-day Italians), Arabs, and Ottomans (from modern-day Turkey) first influenced Egyptian cuisine thousands of years ago. More recently, the foods of other Arabic people in the Middle East such as the Lebanese, Palestinians, Syrians, as well as some foods from Europe, have affected the Egyptian diet. However, Egyptian cuisine maintains its uniqueness. After thousands of years, rice and bread remain staple foods, and molokhiyya (a spinach-like vegetable) and ful mudammas (cooked, creamy fava beans), a national dish, are nearly as popular as long ago.

Ful Mudammas (Broad Beans in Sauce)


  • 2 cans (15-ounce each) cooked fava beans
  • 6 cloves garlic, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1½ Tablespoons parsley, minced
  • Garnish, such as radishes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped scallions, pita bread (toasted and cut into wedges)


  1. Press the garlic cloves through a garlic press into a medium bowl.
  2. Mash the garlic and salt together.
  3. Next, add the lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley to the garlic mixture and combine thoroughly.
  4. Drain the beans well, rinse, and put beans into a large pot over low heat.
  5. Add garlic mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine thoroughly.
  6. Serve warm with the garnishes arranged on a platter.
  7. Each person is served a plateful of Ful Mudammas and adds the garnishes of his or her choice.

Serves 4 to 6.


Egypt has a variety of national dishes. Ful (pronounced "fool," bean paste), tahini (sesame paste), koushari (lentils, macaroni, rice, and chickpeas), aish baladi (a pita-like bread), kofta (spicy, minced lamb), and kebab (grilled lamb pieces) are the most popular.

Koushari (Lentils, Macaroni, Rice, and Chickpeas)


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 can (15-ounce) chickpeas (also called ceci)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil


  • 1 cup canned tomato puree
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 1 garlic clove, or to taste


  1. Prepare lentils: Place the lentils in a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Place them in a large saucepan with 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt.
  2. Heat until the water begins to boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for about 1 hour until lentils are tender. Drain and set the lentils aside.
  3. Prepare the macaroni: Fill the same saucepan with water (add salt if desired). Heat until the water begins to boil.
  4. Add the macaroni and boil about 12 to 15 minutes, until macaroni is tender. Drain and set the macaroni aside. (It is okay to combine the macaroni and lentils.)
  5. Prepare the rice: Heat the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in the same saucepan. Add the rice and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, thoroughly coating the rice with oil.
  6. Add 2 cups of water and heat until the water begins to boil. Cover the saucepan and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
  8. Assemble koushari: Drain chickpeas and rinse. Add chickpeas, lentils, and macaroni to cooked rice and toss very gently with a fork.
  9. Make sauce: Peel the onions and cut them in half lengthwise. Slice each half crosswise into thin slices.
  10. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a skillet. Add onions and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until onions are golden brown.
  11. Add garlic clove and cook 1 or 2 more minutes. Stir in tomato puree and heat until bubbly.
  12. Now pour the sauce over the lentil mixture and heat over very low heat for about 5 minutes, until completely warm.
  13. Serve with pita bread.

Serves 4 to 6.

Aish, the Arabic name for bread, means "life." It accompanies most meals and is served in various forms. The most common bread is pita, usually made with whole wheat (or sometimes white) flour. Long, skinny French-style loaves of bread are also widely eaten throughout the country. Traditional Egyptian cheeses, as well as feta imported from neighboring Greece, are frequently served alongside bread at meals.

Despite the country's dry climate and shortage of arable land (land that can be farmed), Egypt grows a variety of fresh fruits. Mohz (bananas), balah (dates), burtu'aan (oranges), battiikh (melon), khukh (peaches), berkuk (plums), and 'anub (grapes) are commonly grown.

Ful (creamy bean paste made from fava beans), one of the country's several national dishes, is a typical breakfast meal. It is often served in a spicy sauce, topped with an egg. Lunch, normally served between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., usually includes meat or fish, rice, bread, and seasonal vegetables. Salad (mezza, or mezze if more than one is served), topped with typical Middle Eastern fare such as olives, cheese, and nuts, may also be eaten. Meat (usually lamb, chicken, fish, rabbit, or pigeon), vegetables, and bread make up a typical dinner in Egypt. Tea and a dessert, such as baklava (honey pastry), basbousa (cream-filled cake), or konafa (cooked batter stuffed with nuts), are familiar after-dinner treats.

Tea and coffee are widely consumed. Egypt's numerous coffee and teahouses brew very strong coffee and tea (often mint tea), usually offering both full of sugar. Coffeehouses are typically filled with men who gather to play dominoes or backgammon. Coffee is served saada or "bitter" (no sugar) or ziyada or "very sweet." Egyptians also enjoy a drink called sahleb, made from wheat, milk, and chopped nuts.

For a typical dessert, Egyptians may serve mint tea with sugar and a sweet, flaky pastry called baklava.

Shai (Mint Tea) and Baklava


  • 1 package mint tea (loose or in tea bags)
  • Sugar
  • 4 to 6 cups water (depending on how many people are being served)


  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. If using loose tea, measure 1 teaspoon of tea leaves into a teapot for each person being served.
  3. Otherwise, place one tea bag per person into the teapot.
  4. Pour boiling water over tea.
  5. Allow to steep (soak) for about 3 minutes.
  6. Pour tea into cups. (In Egypt, small glass tumblers are used.)
  7. If loose tea is used, allow the tea leaves to settle to the bottom of the pot, and pour carefully to avoid disturbing them.
  8. Add 4 or 5 teaspoonsful of sugar to each cup.
  9. Enjoy with a piece of baklava, purchased from a bakery.

Serves 4 to 6.

Lemon and Garlic Potato Salad


  • 2 pounds of red potatoes, scrubbed but with skin left on
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1½ lemons
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Boil potatoes until tender (½ hour to 1 hour, or until a fork can easily pierce the skin) and let cool.
  2. Add parsley, garlic cloves, lemon juice, oil, and salt and pepper; mix well.
  3. Chill and serve.

Serves 4.

Gebna Makleyah (Oven-Fried Cheese)


  • 1 cup firm feta cheese, crumbled, or traditional Egyptian cheese such as labna or gebna
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon wedges and pita bread cut into triangles, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the cheese, flour, egg, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well with very clean hands.
  3. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.
  4. If the mixture seems too loose to hold the ball shape, add a little more flour.
  5. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit of lemon juice, vinegar, or water.
  6. Pour 2 or 3 Tablespoons olive oil onto a cookie sheet to grease.
  7. Arrange the cheese balls on the cookie sheet, rolling them around to coat thoroughly with the oil.
  8. Bake 5 minutes.
  9. Wearing an oven mitt, open the oven door and shake the cookie sheet to prevent cheese balls from sticking and to turn them.
  10. Bake 5 more minutes, until golden brown.
  11. Remove with a spatula and drain on absorbent paper.
  12. Serve warm with lemon wedges and triangles of pita bread.

Serves 4 to 6.


Approximately 90 percent of Egyptians are Muslims, which means they practice the religion of Islam. The most important time of the year for Muslims is a monthlong holiday called Ramadan. During the month of Ramadan (the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, usually November or December), Muslims fast (do not eat or drink) from sunrise to sunset, and think about people around the world who do not have enough food. Muslim families will often come together to prepare hearty meals, including a variety of sweets, after sunset. Muslims end Ramadan with a three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr.

Eid al-Adha, a three-day long "great feast," is another important holiday for Muslims. In recognition of the Bible story of Abraham's sacrifice of his son, Jacob, families will sacrifice (kill) a sheep or a lamb. The animal is slaughtered and cooked whole on a spit over an open fire, and some of the meat is usually given to poorer families. These animals are also sacrificed on other important occasions, such as births, deaths, or marriages.

Throughout the year, several moulids may take place. A moulid is a day (or as long as a week) celebrating the birthday of a local saint or holy person. Several events take place during this time. Food stands decorating the town's streets are usually set up near the holy person's tomb. Cairo, the capital of Egypt, celebrates at least three moulids every year. The largest moulid, Moulid el Nabit, commemorates the birthday of Muhammad and takes place in Cairo in early August.

Just under 10 percent of Egypt's population are Christians, whose most important holiday is Easter, falling in either March or April. It is common for families to come together to share a hearty meal, much as Christians worldwide do. Egyptian Christians observe the Orthodox calendar, which places Christmas on January 7 each year.

Bamia (Sweet and Sour Okra)


  • 1 pound small okra pods
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ½ cup water


  1. Wash the okra and pat it dry with paper towels.
  2. Discard any blemished or hard pods.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and sauté the okra in the oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning each pod once.
  4. Add the honey, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and water. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, adding more water if necessary.
  5. Serve hot.

Serves 4 to 6.

'Irea (Cinnamon Beverage)


  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
  • 1 cup cold water
  • Mixed nuts


  1. Place the cinnamon and sugar in a small saucepan with the cold water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, or until it is brownish.
  3. Remove the cinnamon sticks and pour the drink into a cup.
  4. Serve with mixed nuts sprinkled into the cup.

Makes 1 cup.



  • 1 cup dried prunes
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup dried small figs, halved
  • 1½ cups raisins
  • 1 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 2½ cups boiling water


  1. Place all the fruits in a bowl and mix together gently.
  2. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the dried fruits.
  3. Carefully pour the boiling water into the bowl, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Refrigerate for several hours, or overnight if possible. (Khoshaf is best when allowed to marinate overnight or for several hours before serving.)

Serves 4.

Lettuce Salad


  • 1 small head of lettuce, shredded
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1½ teaspoons pepper, or to taste


  1. Toss lettuce with orange juice.
  2. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Dining customs vary throughout the country and between different religions. When guests are in the presence of Muslims (who make up approximately 90 percent of Egypt's population), there are some general guidelines one should follow. The left hand is considered unclean and should not be used for eating, feet should always been tucked under the table, and alcohol and pork should not be requested.

When invited to be a guest in an Egyptian household, it is polite for guests to bring a small gift to the host, such as flowers or chocolate, to show their appreciation for the meal. Before dinner, cocktails (often nonalcoholic) are frequently served. This is a time for socializing and becoming acquainted. Mezze (salads and dips) would also be served at this time. When dinner is ready, usually between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., guests seat themselves and food is placed in the middle of the table. Bread will almost always accompany meals, which may include vegetables, rice dishes, soups, and meat dishes. Following dinner, guests will move into another room and enjoy coffee or mint tea. Guests should always compliment the cook.

Most Egyptian peasants cannot afford a large meal. Their diet includes vegetables, lentils, and beans. Meat, which is more costly, is eaten on special occasions. Most middle-class families eat a similar diet, but add more expensive ingredients when they can afford to. All social classes, however, enjoy quick bites at Egyptian cafes or street vendors. Traditional teahouses will serve tea in tall glasses (rather than teacups) and cafes normally offer strong, sweet Turkish coffee. Street vendors sell a variety of inexpensive foods, including ful (fava beans) and koushari (a macaroni, rice, and lentil dish) as a lunchtime favorite. Vendors also sell a variety of asiir (fresh-squeezed juices) made from fruits like banana, guava, mango, pomegranate, strawberry, from sugar cane, and even hibiscus flowers.

Spinach with Garlic


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 can (15-ounce) tomato sauce
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups cooked rice


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet.
  2. Add onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until onions are softened.
  3. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat.
  6. Add the spinach and water, and heat to a boil again.
  7. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
  8. Serve warm over cooked rice.

Serves 4.


In 1999, agriculture made up approximately 16 percent of Egypt's economy, employing about one-third of all Egyptians. However, Egypt's agriculture is also contributing to the slowing of economic growth. A shortage of arable land (land that can be farmed) has become a serious problem. The lack of farmable land has caused Egyptian farmers to move to other countries.

Irrigation necessary to grow its major crops, such as sugar cane, barley, wheat, corn, cotton, and rice, is also a growing problem. The Nile River is Egypt's main water source for both drinking and irrigation, and overuse could risk the country's delicate water supply. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote: "Egypt is the gift of the Nile." Without the Nile River, Egypt would be virtually dry and crops to prevent hunger and malnutrition could not grow. Much in part to the irrigation from the Nile River, Egypt has one of the lowest childhood malnourishment rates on the continent. About 9 percent of children younger than five were considered malnourished.



APA Productions. Insight Guide: Egypt. New York: Langenscheidt Publishers, 1999.

Balkwill, Richard. Food and Feasts in Ancient Egypt. New York: New Discovery, 1994.

Haag, Michael. Cadogan Guide to Egypt. London: Cadogan Books, 1998.

Hachten, Harva. Best of Regional African Cooking. New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1998.

Imeme, Sally-Anne, and Stefan Cucos, eds. Odyssey Guides: Egypt. Chicago: Passport Books, 1997.

Lonely Planet: Egypt. 5th ed. Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd., 1999.

Mallos, Tess. The Complete Middle East Cookbook. Boston: Tuttle, 1993.

Web Sites

Recipes for Food and Cuisine in Egypt. [Online] Available (accessed January 28, 2001).

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Official name : Arab Republic of Egypt

Area: 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,599 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Catherine (2,629 meters/8,625 feet)

Lowest point on land: Qattara Depression (133 meters/439 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,572 kilometers (997 miles) from southeast to northwest; 1,196 kilometers (743 miles) from northeast to southwest

Land boundaries: 2,689 kilometers (1,667 miles) total boundary length; Israel 266 kilometers (165 miles includes Gaza Strip, 11 kilometers/7 miles); Libya 1,150 kilometers (713 miles); Sudan 1,273 kilometers (789 miles)

Coastline: 2,450 kilometers (1,522 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Located in the northeast corner of Africa, Egypt is east of Libya, north of Sudan, west of the Red Sea, and south of the Mediterranean Sea. The country extends into the Sinai Peninsula in Asia, where it shares a border with Israel. Covering a total area of about 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,599 square miles), it is slightly larger than three times the size of the state of New Mexico. Egypt is divided into twenty-six governorates.


Egypt has no territories or dependencies.


Egypt experiences mild winters (November to April) and hot summers (May to October). In Alexandria, located in the north on the Mediterranean coast, the average temperature ranges from 13°C (56°F) in December and January to 26°C (79°F) in July and August. Cairo, farther to the south, posts average lows of 14°C (57°F) in January and average highs of 28°C (82°F) in July. Aswan, located in the southern region, is considerably warmer with average temperatures of 16°C (60°F) in January and 34°C (93°F) in July, although highs exceeding 50°C (120°F) are not uncommon.

Except for the areas along the Mediterranean coast, where winter rains are frequent, rainfall in Egypt's harsh desert climate is scarce to nonexistent. During the summer months, even the coast receives little or no rain. As a result, droughts and windstorms (called khamsin ) occur often. The country also experiences frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.


The entire country lies within the wide band of the Sahara Desert. Therefore, most of Egypt's terrain is hot, dry desert, which covers about 96 percent of the country's surface. Most of the population finds shelter and food in the remaining territorythe long, narrow, Nile Valley and its deltaan area of only about 38,850 square kilometers (15,000 square miles).

The four major regional divisions in the country are the Nile Valley and Delta, the Western Desert, the Arabian Desert (Eastern Desert) and Red Sea Highlands, and the Sinai Peninsula. The desert areas provide a habitat for many species of snakes and scorpions, fennec (desert foxes), and camelsboth the two-humped Bactrian camel and the one-humped dromedary. The Nile River provides a habitat for the Nile crocodile and many water bird species, including the ibis.

Although most of Egypt lies on the African Tectonic Plate, the Sinai Peninsula lies on the Arabian Plate.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Egypt lies between the Red Sea to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.

The Red Sea is a narrow, landlocked sea that separates Africa from the Arabian Peninsula. It links to the Mediterranean through the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal. In the south, the sea links to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea through the strait of Bab el Mandeb.

The Mediterranean Sea is a larger land-locked sea that links to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Two noteworthy inlets along the Mediterranean shore are the Gulf of Salûm, near the Libyan border, and the Al-Arab Gulf, west of the Nile Delta. The Gulf of Aqaba is east of the Sinai Peninsula. The Gulf of Suez is west of the Sinai Peninsula; it is separated from the open sea by the Strait of Jūbāl.

Islands and Archipelagos

Two small islands situated off the coast of Egypt in the Red Sea, the Brother Islands, are actually the tops of two massive reef pillars that extend up from the bottom of the sea. These islands have become popular sites for divers exploring the surrounding coral reefs.

About 144 small permanent islands line the course of the Nile River, and about 216 seasonal islands appear and disappear depending on the water level. The Egyptian government plans to designate these islands as natural preserves.

Coastal Features

Although undeveloped and relatively unpopulated, miles of white sand beaches cover the Egyptian coast along the Mediterranean Sea. The azure water is warm in summer and cold in winter.

The Sinai Peninsula projects into the northern end of the Red Sea. Its terrain is mainly covered by sand desert, punctuated by mountains that reach elevations as high as 2,637 meters (8,652 feet); these include Mt. Sinai, at 2,285 meters (7,498 feet).

The shoreline of the Red Sea is regular, with the exception of the small Ras Banâs peninsula in the south and the associated Foul Bay.


In the north near the coast, the Nile Delta surrounds a series of lakes, including: Maryut, Idku, Burullus, and Manzala. The Great Bitter Lake forms a part of the Suez Canal. Birket Qārūn is a salt lake in the El Faiyum depression.


The Nile River (Al-Bahr) extends across Egypt from south to north for roughly 1,600 kilometers (992 miles). With a total length of 6,693 kilometers (4,160 miles), the Nile is the longest river in the world, although other rivers carry more water. The Egyptian Nile is a combination of the White Nile, originating in Lake Victoria in Uganda and Tanzania, and the Blue Nile, originating in Ethiopia. These rivers meet in Sudan. Throughout its length in Egypt no other tributary streams enter the Nile. It enters Egypt in the form of Lake Nasser.

North of the capital city of Cairo, the Nile branches out into a delta. Historically there were as many as seven channels to the delta, but now only two remain, the Rosetta in the west and the Damietta in the east. Between and around these channels are many small streams, irrigation canals, ponds, lakes, and marshes, growing saltier as one approaches the sea.

The Nile was once famous for its floods. These floods were due to heavy seasonal rainfall in Ethiopia, which caused the flow of the Blue Nile and Atbara to fluctuate. The floods were unpredictable and could be destructive, but also provided vast amounts of fresh, fertile, soil. The great Nile floods are now controlled by the Aswān High Dam.

The topographic channel through which the Nile flows across the Sahara causes an interruption in the desert so that the contrast between the Nile Valley and the rest of the country is abrupt and dramatic.


Egypt lies completely within the region of the Sahara Desert, but two separate desert divisions are made within the country.

The Western Desert accounts for almost three-fourths of the total land area of Egypt. To the west of the Nile this immense desert spans the area from the Mediterranean south to the Sudanese border. It is a barren region of rock and sand, with occasional ridges or depressions but very little vegetation.

There are seven important depressions in the Western Desert, and all are considered oases except the largest, Qattara, which contains only salt water. The remaining oases depressions have fresh water provided either by the Nile waters or from local groundwater sources.


The Sahara Desert, which covers an area of 9,065,000 square kilometers (3,500,000 square miles), is the largest desert in the world. It blankets the entire region of North Africa, from the Atlantic coast in the west to the Red Sea in the east. The Sahara borders the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlas Mountains in the north, extending south into the Sudan and a region known as the Sahel. Scientists believe that during the Ice Age (about fifty thousand to one hundred thousand years ago), the Sahara was covered with shallow lakes that provided water for large areas of lush vegetation.

The Qattara Depression is located in the northwest, halfway between the Nile and the Libyan border and 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Mediterranean coast. It is a desolate area of badlands, salt marshes, and brackish lakes, lying mostly below sea level. The Siwa Oasis, close to the Libyan border and west of Qattara, is isolated from the rest of the country, but has sustained life since ancient times. The El Faiyum Oasis, sometimes called the Faiyum Depression, is 64 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Cairo. Around 3,600 years ago a canal was constructed from the Nile to the El Faiyum Oasis, probably to divert excessive floodwaters there. Over time this has produced an irrigated area of over 1,813 square kilometers (700 square miles).

On the floors of the remaining depressions, artesian water is available to support limited populations. The Bahariya Oasis lies 338 kilometers (210 miles) southwest of Cairo and the Farafra Oasis, larger but sparsely populated, lies directly south. The Dakhla and Khārga oases complete the chain to the south.

The Arabian Desert, east of the Nile, is quite dissimilar from the Western Desert. While equally arid, it is more elevated and rugged, with the Red Sea Highlands along the shoreline.


There are no significant plains or prairie regions in Egypt.

The Nile Valley and its delta is a long narrow strip of fertile land created by the Nile's never-ending supply of fresh water and sediment. It is in effect the world's largest oasis, and makes up virtually all of Egypt's fertile land. The delta is roughly 250 kilometers (155 miles) wide at the seaward base and about 160 kilometers (100 miles) long from north to south. Once a broad estuary, it was gradually filled by the Nile's sediment to become rich farmland.


The Red Sea Highlands run along the coast of the sea for which they are named. It is a region of hills and rugged mountains that is extremely arid. Notable peaks include Mt. Shāīyb al-Banāt (2,186 meters/7,173 feet) and Mt. Hamātah (1,977 meters/6,485 feet).

The Al-Ajmah Mountains on the Sinai Peninsula are an extension of the Red Sea Highlands. They run through the southern part of the peninsula. Egypt's highest peak, Mt. Catherine (Gebel Katherina; 2,629 meters/8,625 feet), is located there.


The Cave of Swimmers is located in an area called Wadi Sora, which lies in southwest Egypt near the western edge of the Gilf Kebir plateau. It was discovered during an expedition by László Almásy in 1933. The name of the cave comes from the rock paintings found there, which seem to resemble people swimming. When Almásy published his discovery, he set forth the theory that these paintings depicted scenes from the real life of the ancient inhabitants, thus supporting the idea that this now desert area was once a valley that contained a river (as the term "wadi" suggests).

Also in Wadi Sora is Giraffe Gave, which was discovered by P.A. Clayton in 1931. This cave gets its name from the engravings of giraffes found within it.


The Gilf Kebir rises out of the desert near the southwest boundary with Libya. It has an altitude of over 914 meters (3,000 feet), an exception to the otherwise flat terrain of western Egypt.

The Arabian Desert rises abruptly from the Nile Valley, sloping upwards in a plateau of sand, before giving way to the rocky hills and mountains of the Red Sea Highlands.


The Aswan High Dam on the Nile River is one of the world's largest dams. The dam system essentially regulates the flow of the Nile. Although it ended the annual floods of the river, it also prevented fertile silt from being carried further downstream. When the dam was completed in 1970, it created Lake Nasser.

Lake Nasser, the largest lake in the country, covers an area of about 3,942 square kilometers (1,522 square miles). The lake extends south from the dam about 322 kilometers (200 miles), to the border with Sudan, and continues another 99 miles (159 kilometers) into that neighboring country.

The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez. The canal travels a length of 163 kilometers (101 miles), with a minimum width of 55 meters (179 feet) and a depth of at least 12 meters (40 feet). The canal has been one of the world's most important waterways since its completion in 1869.


Constructed between 2700 and 2500 b.c., the pyramids are the last surviving structures of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The largest of the Egyptian pyramids, which rises over 137 meters (450 feet), was built as a tomb to house the body of Pharaoh Khufu. Historians believe that it must have taken one hundred thousand slave laborers over twenty years to complete it.

Another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, built at about 270 b.c., was one of the tallest buildings of its time. Standing over 122 meters (400 feet) high, it was located on the small island of Pharos just off the coast. King Ptolemy II ordered its construction to help guide sailors through the harbor to the shores of Alexandria. At night, a fire served as the lighthouse's signal. During the day, sunlight was reflected from a mirror built into the top. The reflected light could be seen up to 50 kilometers (35 miles) away.



Carpenter, Allan. Egypt. Chicago: Children's Press, 1972.

Manley, Bill. The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

Manley, Deborah, ed. The Nile: A Traveler's Anthology. London: Cassell, 1996.

Roberts, Paul William. River in the Desert: Modern Travels in Ancient Egypt. New York: Random House, 1993.

Web Sites

GeographiaSinai Egypt. (accessed June 13, 2003).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Arab Republic of Egypt
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 69,536,644
Language(s): Arabic (official), English and French
Literacy rate: 51.4%
Area: 1,001,450 sq km
GDP: 98,725 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 98
Number of Television Sets: 7,700,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 110.7
Number of Cable Subscribers: 3,180,800
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 49.7
Number of Radio Stations: 59
Number of Radio Receivers: 20,500,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 294.8
Number of Individuals with Computers: 1,400,000
Computers per 1,000: 20.1
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 450,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 6.5

Background & General Characteristics

Egypt is one of the most pivotal of the nations of the western nations called the Middle East, which is actually an incorrect term, but is more popularly recognized by journalists and the media. It is pivotal because it is in the heart of a realm that extends over 6,000 miles longitudinally and 4,000 miles in latitude. The placement of Egypt in this realm is even more important because it is the most stable country in this regioneconomically, socially, culturally, and as a tourist destination.

The population of nearly 70 million Egyptians is 94 percent Muslim with the primary ethnic group being Eastern Hamitic stock (Egyptians, Bedouins, and Berbers). Only half of Egypt's citizens are literate with less than 40 percent of that number being women.

Egypt is home to the Nile River. It is by the northern end of the Red Sea, the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and located in the northeastern corner of Africa across from Turkey to the north and Saudi Arabia to the east, adjacent to Israel, Islamic Sudan and militant Libya. Egypt's geographic location could condemn it, but it does not. Egypt has played host to a variety of frequent conferences, meetings and discussions that are held in Cairo, Egypt's capitol, to discuss what needs to be done to create peace in Southwest Asia, a more appropriate title for "the Middle East." However, Egypt still controls the stability in the region and therefore commands a good deal of media attention.

In the fifth century BCE (BC), the Greek scholar Herodotus described Egypt as the "gift of the Nile," but Egypt was also a product of natural protection in the ancient world. The Egyptian civilization was indeed the gift of the Nile, but the Nile itself produced a gift each year when it flooded; it deposited good, fertile soil that could grow crops that Egypt could trade. The Nile was navigable, and therefore the Nile River has been a source of life for Egypt to this day. However, control of the water is a topic that can be found in the state-controlled press of Egypt and throughout the world.

Egypt's medial landscape is defined with a simple question: for or against. Over the past few years, the system has increasingly been challenged by a growing generation of independent publications. Loyal to the idea of investigative journalism and providing information not framed by specific party lines, there are currently over 200 independent media sources in Egypt today; most of them are published off shore and brought back into the Egyptian state. Most of Egypt's media is government owned through the State Information Service of Egypt. Printed media can be divided into four categories: state owned, party owned, domestic licensed independent, and foreign licensed independent. Therefore, printed media is generally overseen by the state in Egypt and is considered not to be free; again, the State Information Service would see a great deal of what is in print in Egypt.

News Media

Overall there are 18 primary newspapers and periodicals within Egypt. Some of these include:

  • Akhbar al-Adab.
  • Akher Sa'a.
  • Al-Ahali.
  • Al-Ahram al-Arabit
  • Al-Ahram Hebdo
  • Al-Gumhuriya
  • Al-Shaab

The Egyptian government owns a controlling stock in three major daily Egyptian newspapers: Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar, and Al-Gumhuriya. The editors of these dailies are appointed by the president, and as appointees, they enjoy little censorship by the government. But because they are appointed and working in a state-owned newspaper, it is understood that their loyalties remain with the state. They are also given substantial leeway, given they avoid certain "taboos"meaning government criticism is avoided since it selects and compensates them. The largest of these newspapers is the Al-Ahram, and it is the largest Arabic newspaper in the world; the Al Ahram Regional Press Institute has now been established, which helps Egyptian and Arabic journalists learn more current trends in journalism as well as graphic arts and legal issues associated with this practice, according to the International Journalists' Network.

Party-owned media, until recently the only true competitor for state-owned media, was the Party Press whose leaders also enjoyed limited censorship. Fourteen of Egypt's political parties have the right to publish their own newspapers, receiving a small subsidy from the government and sometimes receiving foreign interest as well. However, if they are receiving small subsidies and they enjoy very little censorship, again state domination has made its presence well known. Most party newspapers are weekly, although the main opposition, parties Al-Wafd and Al-Ahrar, maintain dailies. Al-Shaab, an Islamic-oriented Socialist labor party, maintains a semi-weekly publication.

Domestic-licensed independents are very rarely licensed in Egypt; hence, there are very few newspapers which fit into this category. Part of that rarity is due to the fact that it is extremely expensive and one must be cleared by all main security and intelligence agencies in order to receive a state licensure. Here again the State Information Service has control. Most of these publications are rare and done off shore, so domestic independents are few and far between. With education being questionable at best in Egypt, what specific audiences those publications would reach remains uncertain.

Offshore independents often circumvent certain constitutional rules, such as the restriction of the establishment of newspapers to legal entities, corporate bodies or political parties; many Egyptian-owned publications register in other nearby countries. Over 200 titles register abroad, mostly in Cyprus, and bring their publications back into Egyptian borders. Many owners seek licensure to print within the country, but it is too expensive and too much trouble, as indicated previously. Offshore publication prevents state intervention, but this does not mean these publications are not screened. In fact, these publications are screened very carefully to maintain the stability of the region.

Nearly all magazines and newspapers are printed by one of seven government-owned printing houses. It is believed the government uses its control of the region's publishing to limit the output, access, and influence of opposition groups observable by the International Journalists' Network. They seem to be very clear in establishing an overview of the Egyptian press. If one looks at the overall picture, the Egyptian press is very state-controlled. The retention of three laws makes it increasingly easier for the government to find fault with the offshore publications. The press law, the publications law, and the penal code govern press issues and stipulate fines or imprisonment for criticizing the president, members of the government, or any foreign head of state. If the government finds something ambiguous, or if it does not screen through security properly, these media laws make it difficult for anything to bypass government screening.

Broadcast & ELECTRONIC News Media

Egyptians own over 20 million radios and nearly 8 million televisions. There are 98 television stations and 42 AM and 14 FM radio stations. The Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) works in affiliation with the Ministry of Information to operate all eight government-owned TV stations in Egypt, as well as two satellite stations and 19 local and regional stations. Egypt launched NileSat, the Arab world's first broadcast satellite, to carry Egyptian TV and radio from North Africa to the Persian Gulf.

NileSat is helping stimulate change in the area. Women are interested in seeing how other women are dressed on TV. Muslim womenwho were traditionally "covered up" with their clothingare now moving toward a modern, "western"namely Americanstyle of dress. The media has influenced the women's movement, but the Egyptian government, oddly enough, is not censoring them on this issue.

In November 2001 a second privately-owned satellite network was also launched called DreamTV.

Egypt has made relatively good progress in making Internet access available to its people, particularly in comparison to other African countries. There are 50 Internet service providers for about 300,000 users who are able to view many of the country's newspapers online.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). World Factbook 2001. Directorate of Intelligence, 2002. Available from

Committee to Protect Journalists. Middle East and North Africa Country Report: Egypt. 2001. Available from

De Blij, H.J., and Peter O. Muller. Geography: Realms, Regions and Concepts. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2002.

"Egypt." BBC News. Available from

IJNet: International Journalists' Network. Available from

"The Press in Egypt." Available from

Pamela M. Gross

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Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt is one of the most studied and best known of the early civilizations. With its great pyramids and temples that have survived to the present day, and with the fascinating mummies found in tombs filled with riches and lined with hieroglyphs, or picture drawings, ancient Egypt provides a fascinating historical record. Tracing its roots to about 4000 b.c.e., the civilizations that we know as ancient Egypt existed for nearly four thousand years before they broke up and came under the control of the Roman Empire. During its peak, from about 2700 b.c.e. to about 750 b.c.e., ancient Egypt developed a complex and powerful civilization and also created fascinating customs surrounding dress and body ornamentation.

The power of the pharaohs

The first Egyptian cultures formed along the banks of the Nile River in northern Africa sometime before 4000 b.c.e. Ever since that time, the Nile has been at the center of Egyptian culture. One of earth's great rivers, the Nile's waters allowed for the development of agriculture in a dry land, and communities formed along its banks. The Nile flows north from Lake Victoria in present-day Uganda through Sudan and into Egypt and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient times Egypt had been divided into Upper Egypt to the south and Lower Egypt to the north. In about 3100 b.c.e. the two cultures were united under King Menes. (Some believe, however, the king who united the two Egypts was named King Narmer.) He became the first pharaoh, the Egyptian name for the ultimate ruler, and he wore the pschent, a crown that symbolized the union of the two regions of Egypt.

From the time of Menes on, Egypt was ruled by pharaohs whose reign was known as a dynasty. The pharaohs were thought to be directly related to the gods. In fact, Egyptians believed that the pharaohs were gods. The pharaohs had ultimate power in Egypt and were the head of the religion and the government; any decision that they made was accepted without question. The society that they ruled over fully accepted the power of the pharaoh, and Egypt was long protected from foreign attack by the vast deserts that lay to the west and the Red Sea that lay to the east. For these reasons Egyptian society was very stable. Pharaoh succeeded pharaoh for nearly three thousand years, and many elements of Egyptian culture stayed the same throughout this time, including many of their clothing traditions.

Egyptian timeline

The history of ancient Egypt is broken into several periods or eras. There are stretches of time in Egyptian society that we know more about than others. During the well-known periods, Egyptians left enduring records of their society in the form of buildings and hieroglyphs that describe the period. These times were the most stable, with peaceful succession of rulers. From the lesser-known periods, few records remain. Out of the well-known periods there are three that are extensively studied: the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. The Old Kingdom period, which lasted from about 2700 b.c.e. to about 2000 b.c.e., saw the construction of the first great monuments of Egyptian architecture: the great stone pyramids at Giza on the west bank of the Nile near the current Egyptian capital of Cairo. During the Old Kingdom Egyptians developed an accurate solar calendar much like the one we use today, and they made great achievements in art and culture. The Middle Kingdom period lasted from about 2000 b.c.e. to about 1500 b.c.e. It is known for achievements made in literature and for the increasing contacts that Egyptians made with surrounding cultures in the greater Middle East. Egyptians borrowed customs from other cultures and incorporated them into their lives.

The New Kingdom period lasted from about 1500 b.c.e. to about 750 b.c.e. During this time Egypt truly became an empire. It conquered its neighbors to the south and expanded its control into other parts of Africa. Egypt became very rich during the New Kingdom, and it displayed its wealth in lavish temples and more highly decorated clothes. Egyptian society began to break down after about 1000 b.c.e., and it was conquered by Macedonian leader Alexander the Great (356323 b.c.e.) in 332 b.c.e. From that point on the stable and distinctive culture of ancient Egypt slowly disappeared.

Distinctive Egyptian culture

Though ancient Egyptian culture existed for nearly thirty centuries, many elements of the culture stayed quite similar over this vast span of time. Religion remained very important to the Egyptians. Religious rituals accompanied every part of Egyptian daily life. One key belief held by Egyptians was that of eternal life. They believed that life would go on after death, so they preserved dead bodies very well. Those people who could afford it had their bodies made into mummies, or bodies that were preserved and wrapped in cloth. Nobles, or high officials, and pharaohs were always well preserved and their bodies were kept in tombs that were filled with goods that they might need in the afterlife. The great pyramids and temples were the greatest of these tombs but were frequently ransacked by robbers over the ages, destroying many preserved treasures. The only pharaoh's tomb to be found intact belonged to King Tutankhamun, the young king who ruled in the fourteenth century b.c.e. His solid gold coffin and the many riches found nearby, which were discovered in 1922, show how rich the lives of these pharaohs must have been. The great pyramids of ancient Egypt, which survive to this day as a marvel of human engineering, show how seriously Egyptians took preparations for the afterlife.

The other great source of stability in ancient Egypt was the Nile River. While religion and the pharaohs controlled one aspect of life in Egypt, the Nilethe longest river in the worldcontrolled other aspects. Its seasonal floods richened the soil that provided the basis for Egypt's agricultural economy. Egyptians grew a variety of grains, such as wheat and flax. They also grew vegetables. All of the major settlements in Egypt were built along the Nile, for much of the rest of the area was desert. Egyptians lived in small towns, and they built homes from mud bricks which helped keep the walls cool in the hot temperatures.

In the contemporary world fashions change all the time. But in ancient Egypt certain kinds of clothing were worn by generation after generation of people with very little change. For Egyptians, this stability was not a problem but rather a symbol of the secure nature of their society.


Batterberry, Michael, and Ariane Batterberry. Fashion: The Mirror of History. New York: Greenwich House, 1977.

Chrisp, Peter. Ancient Egypt Revealed. New York: DK Publishing, 2002.

Contini, Mila. Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. Edited by James Laver. New York: Odyssey Press, 1965.

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Donoughue, Carol. The Mystery of the Hieroglyphs: The Story of the Rosetta Stone and the Race to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Kinnaer, Jacques. The Ancient Egypt Site. (accessed on July 24, 2003).

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Shuter, Jane. The Ancient Egyptians. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2000.

Unraveling the Mystery of Hieroglyphs
Egyptian Clothing
Egyptian Headwear
Egyptian Body Decorations
Egyptian Footwear

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1,001,450sq km (386,660 sq mi)



capital (population):

Cairo (7,764,700)



ethnic groups:

Egyptian 99%


Arabic (official), French, English


Islam (Sunni Muslim 94%), Christianity (mainly Coptic Christian 6%)


Pound = 100 piastres

Republic in ne Africa. Egypt is Africa's second most populous country (after Nigeria), and its capital, Cairo, is Africa's largest city. Alexandria is Egypt's largest port. Most of Egypt is desert and almost all the people live either in the Nile valley and its fertile delta, or along the Suez Canal, a vital artificial waterway between the Mediterranean and Red seas. The region n of Cairo is often called Lower Egypt; s of Cairo, Upper Egypt. On the Sudanese border, s of the Aswan High Dam, lies Lake Nasser.

Egypt has three other, largely uninhabited, regions: the Western (Libyan) and Eastern (Arabian) deserts (parts of the Sahara), and the Sinai Peninsula, which contains Egypt's highest peak, Gebel Katherina, at 2637m (8650ft).

Climate and Vegetation

Egypt is a dry country, and sparse rainfall occurs in winter. It has mild winters and hot summers. The Nile valley forms a long, green ribbon of fertile farmland. Dry landscape covers 90% of Egypt; the Western Desert alone covers c.75%.

History and Politics

The Egyptian state was formed (c.3100 bc). The Old Kingdom saw the building of the pyramids at Giza. The ruins of the Middle Kingdom's capital at Luxor bear testament to Egypt's imperial power (see Egypt, ancient). In 332 bc, it was conquered by Alexander the Great and the capital moved to Alexandria. After Cleopatra, the Roman empire was dominant. In ad 642, Egypt was conquered by the Umayyad dynasty, who were supplanted by the Abbasids. Arabic became the official language and Islam the dominant religion. Under the Fatimids, Cairo became a centre of Shi'ite culture. Saladin's rule (1169–93) was notable for the defeat of the Crusades. His dynasty was overthrown (1250) by Mameluke soldier slaves.

In 1517, Egypt was conquered by the Ottomans, who ruled for nearly three centuries. Egypt was occupied (1798–1801) by Napoleon I. France was expelled by Muhammad Ali, who established the modern Egyptian state. The construction of the Suez Canal (1867) encouraged British imperial ambitions. Britain subdued Cairo (1882) and the British army remained even after Egypt became an independent monarchy under Fuad I (1922). Fuad was succeeded by Farouk (1936–52). The creation of Israel (1948) saw the involvement of Egypt in the first of the Arab-Israeli Wars. In 1953 the monarchy fell, and Gamal Abdal Nasser led (1954–70) the new republic. Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal (1956) was briefly contested by Israel, Britain and France. In 1958, Egypt, Syria and Yemen formed the short-lived United Arab Republic. Nasser promoted Egypt as leader of the Arab world. Egypt was defeated by Israel in the Six-Day War (1967). Nasser was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. After defeat in the Yom Kippur War (1973), Sadat signed the Camp David Accord (1979) with Israel. Israel withdrew from Sinai (1982). Egypt was expelled from the Arab League and Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists.

Hosni Mubarak became president (1981– ). A state of emergency has been in force since 1981. Mubarak led Egypt back into the Arab League (1989) and improved relations with the West. In 1992, Muslim fundamentalists re-launched an armed struggle. Terrorist attacks included the massacre of 58 tourists in Luxor (1997), damaging the vital tourist industry.


Egypt is Africa's second most industrialized country (after South Africa), but remains a poor developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$3600). In return for rescheduling its foreign debt, Egypt has undertaken privatizations. Farming employs 34% of the workforce. Egypt is the world's second-largest producer of dates. Buffalo and cotton are also important. Textiles are the second most valuable export (after oil).

Political map

Physical map


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Egypt. British interest in Egypt arose from concern to protect the route to India. Napoleon's occupation of Egypt in 1798 was terminated by the peace of Amiens three years later, when control of the country was restored to the Ottoman empire. The opening of the Suez canal in 1869 increased the strategic importance of Egypt to Britain, and British troops occupied the country in 1882 when Anglo-French attempts to sort out the government's debts had led to a revolt by the heavily taxed peasantry. A British protectorate was declared in 1914 when Germany's alliance with the Ottoman empire in the First World War posed a new threat to British interests. Nominal independence, under a constitutional monarch, was restored in 1922, but Britain maintained a military base to control the Suez canal until Gamal Abdel Nasser seized power in 1952 and nationalized the canal.

Kenneth Ingham

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Culture Name

Egyptian; Arab Egyptian; Arab

Alternative Names

Official name: Arab Republic of Egypt

Previously: The United Arab Republic. Before 1952: The Egyptian Kingdom


Identification. Egypt is the internationally used name but not the name used by the people of the country. It derives from the Greek Aegyptos, which in turn probably comes from ancient Egyptian words referring to the land ( Hut-ka-ptah, or "house of the essence [ka] of Ptah," a local god). Western names derive from this, as does the word "Copt" (in Arabic, qibt ). "Copt" can be taken to mean "Egyptian" in general, but now commonly means an Egyptian Christian, technically one belonging to the majority Coptic Church.

In Arabic, the name is Misr. This name is older than the Muslim conquest, but is attested to in the Koran. It can refer to either the whole country or the capital city. The name itself is an icon, spoken, written, or sung.

The population of Egypt is relatively homogeneous. The overwhelming majority (over 90 percent) are Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims. About 6 percent are Christians, who are indistinguishable in other respects from the Muslims. Most of the Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, the historic church of Egypt, but minorities within the minority are Catholic or Protestant, or derive from the churches of the Levant (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic). There are a few small linguistic minorities, of which the largest is the Nubians, who speak two Nubian languages (Kenuz and Mahas) related to the Nilo-Saharan languages of the Sudan. They represent less than 1 percent of Egypt's population, and are concentrated around Aswan. Other linguistic minorities include a few thousand Berber speakers in Siwa oasis, the easternmost outpost of Berber speech, and the small population of Beja (Ababda and Bisharin) in the eastern desert east of Aswan. All these groups are Muslim. There are also urban linguistic enclaves of Armenians, Greeks, Italians, and others. Another urban enclave was the Jews, now largely emigrated, who spoke either Arabic or various European languages. The urban minorities were much larger before the middle of the twentieth century.

Location and Geography. Egypt has an area of 385,229 square miles (1,001,000 square kilometers). The country is separated from its neighbors by either ocean or sparsely populated desert. To the north is the Mediterranean Sea, and to the east the Red Sea. Egypt is separated from Libya and North Africa by the western desert, from Palestine and Israel by the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, and from the centers of population in the Sudan by desert except along the narrow Nile River. Among the major geographical features of Egypt are the Nile River and the Suez Canal, which joins the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and also separates Egypt proper from Sinai. The highest point is Mount Catherine in the Sinai, at 8,743 feet (2,665 meters).

Egypt is the gift of the Nile. Rainfall is not adequate to sustain agriculture or a settled population, and water instead comes from the Nile. The Nile rises far to the south of Egypt, in Ethiopia and in the drainage basin of Lake Victoria. It reaches Egypt in Lake Nasser, behind the Aswān High Dam. After the dam, the Nile continues to flow north in a single channel paralleled by irrigation canals until it reaches Cairo, 550 miles (860 kilometers) away. North of Cairo, the Nile Delta begins. The Nile breaks into two main channels, the western Rosetta branch and the eastern Damietta branch, for the final 120 miles (200 kilometers) before the water reaches the Mediterranean. The two main regions of Egypt are thus the Valley, or Sa'id, in the south, and the Delta in the north, separated by Cairo at the apex of the Delta.

The Nile receives about 85 percent of its water from the Ethiopian highlands. Before the construction of dams and barrages, floodwaters would spill out of the river's banks and, channeled by sluices and dikes, cover most of the agricultural land. Egyptians then practiced a form of recession agriculture, planting winter crops in the mud left behind by the receding river.

In the twentieth century, people have increased their control of the river. This culminated in the construction of the Aswān High Dam, completed in 1971 but which first held back the floodwaters in 1964. Control of the Nile has made it possible to cultivate year round. On average, there are two crops a year.

About 96 percent of Egypt's population lives in the Nile Valley, which comprises about 4 percent of the area of the country; most of the economic and social activity occurs there. The rest of the country is desert. This includes the scrub desert along the Mediterranean coast between the Nile Delta and Libya, and along the north coast of the Sinai Peninsula; the mountainous desert between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea; and the western desert west of the Nile Valley. Rainfall in these areas is rare to nonexistent. Only the Mediterranean coast has rain that is reliable enough to support marginal human activity, with some agriculture and animal husbandry. The Western Desert has five oases that support a settled population and serve as communication centers (Khārga, Dakhla, Farafra, Baharīya, and Siwa). There are smaller oases in the Sinai peninsula (Firan), and even in the arid Eastern desert there are occasional springs, two of which provide water to Christian monasteries.

It is an article of faith in contemporary Egypt that agriculture and settled life should spread beyond the confines of the Nile Valley. Major efforts have been made to "reclaim" land on the fringes of the Nile Valley, particularly east and west of the Delta. Over a million acres have been reclaimed since the middle of the twentieth century. Recent discovery of fossil underground water in the extreme southwest corner of Egypt is leading to the development of irrigated agriculture in that area.

Demography. At the end of 1996, the total population of Egypt was 65,200,000, of whom about 1,900,000 were considered to be living abroad temporarily, presumably mostly in the oil countries of the Arab Gulf but also including some in the West. The 1996 population represented a 21.7 percent increase over the 1986 population. The annual growth rate was calculated at 2.1 percent, down from 2.8 percent in the period of 19761986. The lower growth rate was also reflected in the figure for those under 15 years of age, which was 35 percent of the overall population in 1996 as against 38.8 percent in 1986. Egypt's population is predicted to double between 1996 and 2029. According to the Egyptian Human Development Report 1997-98 , life expectancy at birth in Egypt was 66.7 years, up from 55 in 1976. Infant mortality was 29 per 1,000 live births in 1996. The total fertility rate was 3.3 in 1997, with urban areas quite a bit lower than rural areas. Just over one-third of the population was below a poverty line based on consumption needs, calculated by the Egyptian government.

Males were 51.2 percent of the total population, contrary to the demographic norm that postulates more women than men. Egypt is part of a broad band of countries, extending east to Korea, where there are "missing women."

The level of education is increasing; those over the age of ten who were literate increased from 50.4 percent in 1986 to 61.4 percent in 1996. Figures for graduates from different levels of education also grewthose holding a higher education degree increased from 4.3 percent in 1986 to 7.3 percent in 1996. The rural population was 57 percent in 1996, compared to 56 percent in 1986, but this includes some people living in settlements of 20,000 or more. A settlement is defined as urban according to its administrative function.

Linguistic Affiliation. Egypt is part of the Arabic speech community of about 250 million people, spread from Morocco to Oman. Arabic is a branch of the Semitic languages, which in turn belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family together with Berber, Ancient Egyptian, Chadic, and Cushitic. Egypt became Arabic-speaking as a result of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, though the full replacement of the earlier languages took several centuries. In Egypt, as elsewhere in the Arab world, the Arabic language is characterized by diglossia. That is, there is a substantial difference between the written language, influenced by the Koran, and the spoken language. There are some regional dialects in Egypt, notably the speech of Upper Egypt, but nothing that prevents understanding.

Radio and television impose the Cairo-spoken language as the standard dialect of Egypt. Egyptian cultural influence is transmitted to the rest of the Arabic-speaking world in the Cairo dialect. English is the most common foreign language spoken in Egypt, followed by French.

Symbolism. The dominant symbols in the formal and semiformal sphere derive mainly from aspects of Egypt's history, especially the Pharaonic and Islamic periods.

The three Giza pyramids (sometimes together with the Great Sphinx) represent the most important and obvious visual symbol of the Egyptian nation. It is the most widespread "postcard" image, and also the title of the major daily newspaper Al-Ahram (with the three pyramids on the top of the front page). The symbol of Egypt Air, the national airline, is Horus, a figure from ancient Egyptian religion represented as a falcon.

Other symbols derive from the country's Islamic heritage. The nineteenth-century Mohammed Ali mosque built on top of a medieval citadel is visible from different parts of Cairo. Of more architectural significance are the Ibn Tulun and Sultan Hassan mosques in Cairo and the Qaitbey mausoleum and school in the northern cemetery.

One important symbol is derived from the country's geography: the Nile River. The Nile is invoked in different contexts, each representing a facet of the country's identity or prevalent themes of the culture. It is associated with immortality, romance, or glory (the construction of the high dam). In recent years, Nile cruises have become a favored tourist attraction, and "cleaning up the Nile" has become an environmental slogan.

The flag is an abstract tricolor, with black standing for the past of oppression, red for sacrifice, and white for the future. A centerpiece of a falcon completes the design. Reflecting a sense of Arab unity, the flags of several other Arab countries have the same colors. The current national anthem is the music of the song "Biladi" (meaning "My Country"), a patriotic song that was popular during the 1919 uprising against the British occupation.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The land of Egypt has a distinctiveness within the region because of the development of major civilizations in the Nile Valley, sometimes phrased as seven thousand years of civilization. After the Pharaonic and Greco-Roman periods, Christianity came to Egypt. For several centuries Egypt was essentially a Christian country. The Muslim conquest in the seventh century C . E . brought a new force, but it was some time before there was a Muslim majority in Egypt. In the sixteenth century, Egypt became part of the Ottoman Empire, ruled from Constantinople (now Istanbul). On the eve of modernization, Napoleon and the French army conquered Egypt in 1798, and remained through 1801. Many writers identify this period of three years as a major turning point in Egyptian cultural history, while others argue that the process began earlier and lasted longer.

Shortly after the British expelled the French from Egypt in 1801, the Ottoman military leader Muhammad 'Alī Pasha and his troops took over in 1805. Muhammad 'Alī Pasha remained the ruler of Egypt until his death in 1849, and his descendants continued as the rulers until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952.

The British occupied Egypt in 1882, working under the nominal authority of the descendants of Muhammad 'Alī Pasha. In 1919, in the aftermath of World War I, unrest aiming at Egyptian independence began. The main nationalist political party, the Wafd, was created that year. The agitation resulted in the recognition of Egypt's independence in 1922 and the establishment of a constitution in 1923. This amounted to internal self-government under King Fu'ād, with an elected parliament and a prime minister. In 1936 and 1937 further treaties with the United Kingdom led to international recognition of Egypt's independence, and it joined the League of Nations in 1937. Egypt was the scene of major battles in World War II, and the country formally joined the war in its last year, 1945. At this time, Egypt also joined the United Nations and helped found the Arab League.

In 1952 the "Free Officers" from the Egyptian army forced King Farouk, son of King Fu'ād, to abdicate. A year later the monarchy was abolished and a republic established. Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser emerged as the strongman of the new regime, and he became president in 1954. The new regime initiated many new social policies in Egypt. This was a genuine revolution that shared power and wealth more equally with all elements of the population and encouraged education for the masses. From a cultural point of view, the new regime released Egyptians from the feeling of oppression due to foreign rule, and allowed for the flowering of an unencumbered Egyptian identity, making it possible to be both modern and Egyptian. This was also the period of maximum Egyptian involvement in warfare. The most devastating moment came with the defeat of Egypt by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967; the Israeli army overran the remainder of Palestine and occupied the Sinai Peninsula.

Anwar el-Sadat became president after Nasser died in 1970. After the fourth war against Israel in 1973, Sadat moved to make peace and to recover the Sinai. Under Sadat, too, many of the social reforms of the Nasser period were frozen or reversed. Sadat was assassinated in 1981 and was succeeded by his vice president, Hosni Mubarak, who was elected for a fourth six-year term in September 1999. To date, all four of Egypt's presidents have been military men.

National Identity. Unlike many third-world countries, Egypt does not have a clear moment when it became "independent." Instead there was a process beginning with the anti-British movement of 1919 and the constitution of 1923, and continuing through international recognition in 1937 and the departure of the last British soldier in 1956. Arguably the process continues still, as Egypt deals with the meaning of an Egyptian identity and national independence in a globalizing world dominated economically and culturally by the United States.

Ethnic Relations. The main issue in ethnic identity arises not within the nation, but in terms of the nation being part of the wider Arab world. People debate whether being Egyptian or being Arab is more important. The Arab world is tied together by shared language and culture, including shared Islamic values and practices, and by a sense of shared political problemseven when countries and people take different positions, they focus on the same problems. Arab unity is concretized in the Arab League, whose headquarters is in Cairo.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Villages and cities are the two major settlement types. There has been, however, an increasing overlap in social and economic functions which, in turn, manifests itself in an increasing blurring of distinctions regarding architectural features of both city and village.

Villages consist of a core residential area surrounded by fields, and agricultural land. The core consists of contiguous one-story mud-brick houses built along narrow dirt roads. The houses incorporate a stable for the farm animals. Owning a cow or a water buffalo represents a high investment, and since animal theft is feared, farmers are keen to keep their animals closely supervised. Rooftops are used for storage of dung cakes or straw, for ovens and mud granaries, or to keep chickens or rabbits.

Since the mid-1970s the mud-brick houses have progressively been replaced by houses made of fired bricks, and growing population and prosperity have led to an expansion of the built-up surface of the village. Red-brick houses are healthier, provide more amenities, and are more practical for modern life, though they are more expensive and less adapted to the climate. People can build them several stories high, which uses less of the scarce agricultural land.

The money earned by migrants to oil-rich countries was mainly used to build new houses based on urban models. Urban Egyptians generally decried this transformation of the village-scape as a blind emulation of urban lifestyles, and a change for the worse in the peasant character. This alarmed reaction from urban middle-class voices underscores an important aspect of rural-urban relations and perceptions where the "traditional village" is seen as the locus of authenticity and reservoir of tradition of the Egyptian nation.

Each village has at least one mosque. The mosque is communal and public for men. Many of the mosques are collectively built by the villagers themselves. Another public space is the guest house, which is usually a large hall built and used collectively by an extended family. Here mourners receive condolences, and well-wishers extend congratulations for returning pilgrims. Again, guest houses represent mainly male space. Churches often include a space for social gatherings of a family or religious nature. Both women and men actively participate in the marketplace. Weekly markets in big villages or district towns are both a place where commodities are traded and an important social arena where people exchange news and maintain social relationships.

The urban character of the national culture is most apparent in the two major cities: Cairo and Alexandria. One aspect of the political culture is a centralized bureaucracy. This feature manifests itself in a huge government building that dominates Cairo's main square. This building houses various government departments that handle bureaucratic dealings with the public from all over the country. Government buildings are more functional than beautiful.

The architecture and layout of Cairo reflect the various epochs of its history. Very roughly, old Cairo is the medieval part, the heart of popular Cairo, and also where the Islamic and Coptic monuments are. The modern city center was built in the nineteenth century and was modeled after Paris.

Cairo is a continuously expanding city, and numerous squatter settlements are built on the outskirts. These squatter areas have poor water and sewage connections, and lack services such as schools, clinics, and police.

Urban Egyptians usually live in rented apartments. Individual houses are rare. One of the reforms of socialism was to establish a form of rent control that kept rentals low. Newer apartments, however, are not under rent control, and rents are much higher. Some people own apartments in a condominium-like arrangement. Occasionally an extended family may own an entire building and make the apartments available to its members. In the 1980s and 1990s living conditions in urban areas improved, albeit unequally, and such amenities as telephones, television, and air conditioning became more common. Nationwide 73.5 percent of households are connected to the potable water system, and 95.7 percent to the electrical system.

Egypt is crowded. The built-up areas of villages have very high population densities. People have largely accommodated to this forced proximity. In older parts of Cairo the streets are sinuous with many dead ends, while in newer parts, where the building pattern follows the lines of long narrow fields, the streets are themselves long and narrow. Despite or because of the crowding, there is segregation by gender. For example, there are often two different queues for men and for women, and often separate cars for women on trains.

Residential and urban areas, as well as agricultural zones, are spreading into the desert. There has been considerable increase in the use of the coastline, initially by foreign tourists and now increasingly as a vacation area for the Egyptian elite. The tradition of going to the Mediterranean towns in the summer is older, but now some people are exploring areas further afield, particularly along the Sinai coast and on the western shore of the Red Sea.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Eating is an important social activity, and is central to marking special events and ceremonial occasions.

The most important food item in daily life is the bread loaf. In rural areas, bread is usually baked by women in mud ovens at home. In cities, bread is sold in bakeries. The standard loaf is strictly regulated by the government in terms of weight and price, and is one of the very few items that still receives a state subsidy.

The indigenous cuisine relies heavily on legumes. The main national dish is foul . This is a dish of fava beans cooked slowly over low heat and seasoned with salt, lemon, cumin, and oil. It is usually eaten for breakfast. Another common dish is tamiyya or falafel which is made from crushed fava beans mixed with onions and leeks and fried in oil. Also popular is koshari , a mixture of rice, black lentils, and macaroni covered with tomato sauce and garnished with fried onions. These dishes are prepared at home, but are also sold in stalls all over Cairo.

The level of consumption of animal protein depends almost entirely on wealth (and is itself a sign of wealth). Well-to-do households eat animal protein (beef, lamb, poultry, or fish) every day. Muslims do not eat pork. Less-affluent families eat animal protein once a week or even once a month.

Restaurants are widespread all over the country. They vary from stalls selling traditional street food to posh restaurants serving international cuisine.

One main distinction between traditional, usually rural, and urban middle-class eating habits concerns the seating and service of food. In villages, people sit on a carpet, and food is placed on a very low round wooden table. Each person has a spoon, and everyone eats directly from the service dish. In cities, people sit on chairs around Western-style dining tables. Each person has his or her own plate, spoon, fork, and knife. In rural areas, the main meal is after dark; in the urban areas it is often in late afternoon after office workers return home.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Several Muslim feasts are marked by special meals. The 'Id al-Adha, which celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son (who is then miraculously turned into a ram), requires those who can afford it to sacrifice a ram. Part of the animal is distributed to the poor and part consumed by members of the household.

The 'Id al-Fitr after the fast of Ramadan is celebrated by baking special cookies ( kahk ) which are later sprinkled with powdered sugar. These cookies are usually offered to guests who bring the greetings of the feast.

The Prophet's Birthday, which marks the birth of the prophet Muhammad, is celebrated by the consumption of halawet al-mulid, which is a variety of sweets cooked with different types of nuts. Children are given dolls (girls) or horses (boys) made entirely of sugar and decorated with colored paper.

On the eve of both Christmas day and Easter day, Orthodox Copts break their fast with a variety of dishes made of beef and poultry. One of the main food items that marks the feast are cookies similar to those prepared for the 'Id al-Fitr. Sham al-Nassim (Easter Monday) is mainly marked by a breakfast of salted fish, spring onion, lettuce, and colored eggs, which is consumed outdoors in gardens and open areas. This festival is celebrated nationwide in practically all regions and by all social classes. It is the ancient Egyptian spring and harvest festival.

Fasting is seen as a spiritual exercise by both Muslims and Christians. The Muslim fast entails abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sundown, notably during the lunar month of Ramadan (either twenty-nine or thirty days). Some particularly devout Muslims also fast on other days in the Islamic calendar, such as the days celebrating the birth of the prophet Muhammad or his miraculous "Night Journey," the days representing the middle of the lunar month (days thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen), or each Monday and Thursday. The result is that nearly half the days in the year can be considered fasting days by some. Virtually all Egyptian Muslims fast during Ramadan, while the voluntary fasts are followed by a smaller number.

The number of days that Egyptian Christians can theoretically fast is even larger. The number is variable, but it includes over 200 days a year, mostly in the periods leading up to Christmas and Easter, plus the Wednesdays and Fridays of each week outside the fasting periods. Christian fasting means avoiding meat, fish, eggs, milk, butter, and cheese. In the Christian tradition, one theme of fasting is the domination of the body and of emotions by the mind in order to reach a greater purity.

Basic Economy. About 25 percent of the gross domestic product comes from industry and about 18 percent from agriculture. The remaining 57 percent includes all other activities, primarily services, including tourism, and the "informal sector" (small-scale enterprises that often escape government supervision). There is also an extensive network of banks and a major construction industry. A stock market on which about thirty stocks are traded emerged in the 1990s.

Egypt is a rich agricultural country, with some of the highest yields per unit of land in the world. The main crops are cotton, sugarcane, wheat, maize, and fava beans with substantial areas given over to fruit orchards (primarily citrus) and to vegetables. Livestock (cattle, water buffalo, sheep, and goats) is also important and some land is used to grow fodder crops for these animals. There are two crops a year on average. Individual farmers try to be self-sufficient in certain crops such as wheat, but on the whole they market what they grow and procure their own food also from the market.

Elaborate market networks composed of small-scale traders purchase food crops and trade them into the urban areas, or sometimes between rural areas. On the whole, the marketing sector is characterized by a plethora of small units, although a few large-scale trading companies operate. Being too small to bargain on price, farmers have to accept the trader's offer.

The main inputs to agriculture are land, water, and labor. Land is generally owned by private individuals in small holdings, with an average of about 2.5 acres (1 hectare). From 1952 to 1997 tenancies were guaranteed (those renting farmland could not be expelled except under rare conditions), but this guarantee was repealed in 1997. By that year, rented land covered about one-sixth of the farmland, and tenants tended to be poorer than farmers who were also owners. Nevertheless, tenants had learned to treat farmland as if they owned it, and after 1997 had to adjust to higher rents or the loss of the land.

Irrigation is central to Egyptian agriculture, and water is supplied by the government to the farmer through a network of canals. Payment for water is indirect, through the land tax paid by the larger farmers. Water is perceived to be free, and the government continues to support the policy that water should be provided free to farmers. Since farmers must lift the water from the canals to their fields they do incur a cost.

Farm labor is primarily family labor, based on the rural family household. The head of this household mobilizes labor from his family, but may also hire outside labor from time to time, particularly for tasks that require a large group working together. Egyptian agriculture tends to be labor-intensive and indeed could better be described as gardening.

Many members of these rural households work as agricultural laborers or outside agriculture, and it is probable that many of these households would not survive without the income from this work. The most common off-farm sources of income are government work (as teachers, clerks, or guards), private business (trucking agricultural goods or trading), and factory work.

In Egyptian agriculture, the tasks that can be done by a tractor (e.g., plowing, hauling) or a water pump are mechanized. Other tasks (e.g., planting, weeding, harvesting) are still done by hand. Since most farmers cannot afford to own machinery, they rent it as they need it. On the whole, tractors and pumps are owned by the richer farmers who rent out their excess capacity.

Major Industries. Egypt is a relatively industrialized country, especially in textiles and garment manufacture, cement, metal works of various kinds, and armaments. Various makes of automobile are assembled in Egypt. In the second half of the twentieth century, many of these industries were government-owned. At the end of the twentieth century, they were in the process of being privatized. There are also many small private workshops producing shoes, door frames, furniture, clothing, aluminum pots, and similar items for local consumption.

Trade. Egypt tends to import more than it exports. Imports include consumer goods, including food, and raw material for industry; exports are largely agricultural products and services. A major Egyptian export consists of workers who labor outside the country but who send money back home.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. In Egypt there is an enormous gap between the very wealthy and the very poor. The culture also encourages deference of the weak, poor, or subaltern to the rich and powerful, in terms of speech, posture, and acquiescence. The differences among individuals and families in Egypt can be represented by income level or source of income. They can also be represented in choices of consumption stylehousing, transport, dress, language, education, music, and the like. Marriage negotiations bring all these differences of taste and income to the forefront. What is less evident in Egypt is a strong class consciousness that might turn potential classes into real ones. One finds only broad and loose categories that are the subject of much public discussion.

The increasing prosperity of Egypt means that the middle class is increasing in relative size, while the gap between the top and the bottom is increasing. One-third of the population is below a poverty line established by the Egyptian government. The growing middle class aspires to a home, a car, and marriage and family life, and increasingly is able to achieve this.

Political Life

Government. Egypt has had a republican form of government since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952. The government is headed by a president elected for six years. The president designates a prime minister and a council of ministers. The Parliament is elected for five years from 222 constituencies, each of which elects one person to represent workers and peasants and one other. In addition, the president nominates up to ten others to provide representation to groups that might not otherwise be represented in Parliament. In recent years this has allowed the president to nominate leaders of parties that did not win any seats; Christians, who are rarely elected; and women. In addition, there is a kind of upper house, the Consultative Council, which is two-thirds elected and one-third appointed, and which is supposed to provide for more reflective debate on fundamental issues. Through the minister of interior, the president also names governors for the twenty-six governorates of Egypt. Elected councils function at the local level.

Egypt is a "dominant party" system in which one party regularly controls an enormous majority in Parliament. This dominant party is the National Democratic Party (NDP), which represents the political establishment. There are fourteen other parties, only a few of which have ever been represented in Parliament. These include the Wafd party, heir to the tradition of the struggle for national independence in the 1920s and 1930s, and with a procapitalist orientation; the Socialist Labor Party, heavily dominated by Islamic-oriented leaders; the Progressive Party, heir to the Egyptian leftist tradition; and the Liberal Party.

Relatively few women are elected to Parliament, though there are always some. In the late 1970s seats were set aside for women, and this increased their number, but this provision was later ruled unconstitutional. Usually there are a few women ministers. One of the key roles for women in the current political system is the role of the wife of the president. The current "first lady" has taken on a role of organizing campaigns for literacy and health in support of the government's policies.

The extraparliamentary opposition is the Islamic movement, which is not a single movement. Since specifically religious parties, Muslim or Christian, are prohibited, politically active Muslim militants must either join another party, which many do, or remain outside the formal process, which others do. There is a sense in which the main political struggle in Egypt is between the secularists of the NDP, linked to the world of business and the high administration, and the values represented by one or another version of the Islamic trend, representing the "opposition."

In villages and urban neighborhoods there are elected councils that manage zoning, garbage collection, and some public-interest construction, such as a new water system. These local councils work in tandem with local representatives of the different ministries (such as interior, health, or agriculture) to carry out their tasks.

Social Problems and Control. Street crime is relatively rare in Egypt. Most crimes reported in the press are either family dramas or con games of one kind or another. Drugs are illegal, though present, in Egypt, and the users tend to be discreet.

Despite the visible presence of traffic police and police guards in areas where there are foreigners, there are also large areas of Cairo, and many villages, with no police presence at all. People are thus thrown back on their own resources to settle disputes, and there are well-known techniques of intervention (to break up fistfights) and of mediation for more complicated disputes. Even the police often act as mediators rather than prosecutors. In rural Upper Egypt in particular, disputes between extended families over property and power can develop into feuds.

Social control appears to be maintained by a combination of strong values, expressed as Islamic, and by the constant presence of witnesses due to crowded streets and apartments. Anonymity in large Egyptian cities, let alone in villages, is nearly impossible. Perhaps another way to express the same point is to say that Cairo is a village of fifteen million people.

Military Activity. Egypt fought many wars in the second half of the twentieth century, mostly with Israel: around the creation of Israel in 19471949; over the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company and the "tripartite aggression" of Israel, France, and the United Kingdom in 1956; the Six-Day War in 1967; the war of attrition in the early 1970s; and the October War of 1973. In addition, Egypt was involved in the Yemeni civil war in the 1960s, when Saudi Arabia was involved on the other side, and contributed troops to the allies who confronted Iraq over the invasion of Kuwait in 19901991. Egypt suffered considerable loss of life in the wars with Israel between 1947 and 1973, so the situation since then seems more peaceful.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Egyptian citizens are entitled to free education and health care, in addition to employment guarantees for graduates. Services are poor, however, and there are many hidden costs, such as time spent waiting. The transition from socialism to the market system has left the majority of the population without a real safety net. Part of the social policy includes efforts to restructure welfare, and to help unemployed youth set up their own businesses. Attempts are underway to establish national health insurance and social security systems.

Nongovernment efforts in the area of welfare are sporadic. There is an increasing return to philanthropy in a traditional sense of charity and patronage, in addition to some community-based foundations and associations that provide services.

Islamist groups have been active in providing services in poor areas, particularly in health care and educational services. This was the main source for their popularity in the past decade. With government restrictions on Islamist groups, however, such activity has been considerably curtailed.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Egypt has a long tradition of voluntary associations. Currently there are over fourteen thousand associations, most of which are devoted to charitable purposes. They are mostly small and local, and none has a mass membership. After 1964, the associations were governed by a law that stipulated fairly close governmental control. A new law allowing somewhat more flexibility was passed in 1999 but was declared unconstitutional a year later, so the older law continues to apply. This law was contested by many environmental and human rights associations, because it appeared to prevent them from taking political positions.

The main national associations are the professional syndicates for doctors, lawyers, teachers, agricultural officials, and others. They lobby for their members, and also sometimes play a role on the political scene. Their internal politics tends to be a reflection of national politics, with the main competition between the NDP and the Islamists. The professional syndicates are also governed by restrictive laws, and are periodically suspended by the government for infringing these restrictions.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Household work and child rearing are almost exclusively women's responsibility. Women also contribute significantly to productive work outside the home, especially in cities. But since the majority of women work in the informal sector, the size of their contribution is often underestimated. In rural areas, women work in the fields in most regions. In addition, women's household responsibilities in villages involve many productive and profitable activities, although they are not generally recognized as "work." These activities include caring for animals and processing dairy products. Women may also take part in some stages of preparing crops for market.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. In general, men and women have equal legal rights. But equality is not determined only by law. For example, the principle of equal pay applies only in the formal sector. Women working in the informal sector are often paid less than men. Women do not have the same legal rights as men in the domain of personal status (marriage, divorce, child custody). Only Egyptian men have the right to pass on Egyptian nationality to their children. Various feminist and human rights groups, however, are active in promoting legal change in areas of discrimination against women.

At home men have more power than women, and are supposed to make the major decisions. Nevertheless, women have much influence and informal power.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. One of the critical decisions a woman can make is the choice of marriage partner. The pattern here is one of negotiation among the members of her family about whom she will marry. She is a participant, and must in some sense agree, but many others are involved, including matchmakers. Similarly a young man may find constraints on his choice of marriage partner.

The trend is for marriage partners to be increasingly more like one another in age and level of education. The old hierarchical marriage is giving way to a companionate marriage, especially in the urban middle classes. Marriage to cousins, however, remains frequent, accounting for 39 percent of marriages in a 1995 sample. Since premarital sex is rare, the pressure to marry is high, and almost everyone marries.

The actual marriage ceremony is distinct from the legal contract of marriage. It is a major event in the lives of all involved. The young couple must prepare a place to live, while at the same time seeing that the often considerable costs of the ceremony are covered. People spend as much as they can, if not more, on a marriage, and in the upper classes, the sky is the limit.

Polygyny (having more than one wife) among Muslims is rare, and declining. Around 5 percent of Muslim men have more than one wife, and most of them only two. A polygynous man usually maintains two households. Divorce is formally easy though families try to reconcile the partners. The rate of divorce is declining, while the absolute number is increasing. When a divorced couple has children, the mother retains custody only while they are young. The father may then claim them. Copts recognize neither polygyny nor divorce.

An important signal of family identity is the personal name. Egyptians frequently do not have "family" names in the current Western sense of a last name that is shared by all members of an extended family. Instead, each person has a given name, followed by the given names of his or her father, grandfather, and so on. For legal purposes one's name is usually "given name, father's name, grandfather's name," resulting in three given names (e.g., Hassan Ali Abdallah). Thus one carries one's paternal lineage and one's status in one's name. In certain parts of rural Egypt, where genealogy is important, people learn to recite a long list of paternal ancestors. Muslim men are likely to have religious names but some have secular names. Christians may carry the names of saints, or may be given names that are Arabic rather than religious. Women also have religious names but sometimes have more fanciful ones, including names of foreign origin. Women often do not change their names upon marriage.

Domestic Unit. Although most households now are organized around a nuclear family, there are some extended family households. Marriage was historically patrilocal (brides moved to the household of the husband), though in cities the young couple often establishes a new residence, at least after a couple of years. Even when residence is not shared, extensive kin ties are maintained through frequent family gatherings. Authority tends to be patriarchal, with the senior male in the household generally given the last word and otherwise expecting deference. Wives, for instance, often are reluctant to assert that they have any serious independent power to make decisions.

Inheritance. Islamic law requires partible inheritance. The property of a dead person must be divided among the heirs, usually children and surviving spouse. Male heirs are favored over female heirs by receiving a share that is twice as large. Moreover, any group of heirs should include a male, even if that means tracking down a distant cousin. A person may not dispose of more than one-third of his or her estate by will, and may not even use this provision to favor one legal heir over another. In other words, a person cannot will this one-third to one son at the expense of another, but could will it to a charity or a nonrelative. Use of this provision is rare, as people accept the Islamic rules and prefer to keep property in the family. Arrangements among heirs, particularly brothers and sisters, however, may result in a different outcome. For instance, a father may set up his daughter in marriage in lieu of an eventual inheritance.

Kin Groups. Egyptian kinship is patrilineal, with individuals tracing their descent through their fathers.


Child Rearing and Education. In all parts of Egypt and among all social classes, having children is considered the greatest blessing of all. Caring for children is primarily the women's responsibility. Many Egyptian women (both Copt and Muslim) abide by the Koranic directive to breast-feed children for two years. Grandparents and other members of the extended family play an active role in bringing up children.

There is a general preference for boys over girls, although in infancy and early childhood children of both sexes are treated with equal love and care. The preference to have at least one son is related to the desire to have an heir, and so provide continuity from father to son.

Education is highly valued in Egypt, and families invest a lot in that area. Even low-income families try to educate their children as much as possible. Education, especially having a university degree, is considered an important avenue for social mobility. But many families cannot afford to educate their children beyond the elementary level. In addition, many children have to work at an early age to help support their families.


Public modesty in dress and deportment is highly valued in Egypt. There is a form of dress code that affects women more than men, and that requires clothing that covers all the body but the hands and face. For women, this most visibly means wearing a head scarf that covers the hair and ears and is pinned under the chin, though there are many other styles ranging from simply covering the hair to covering the entire face. This is the sense in which veiling exists in Egypt, but the situation is volatile, with a good deal of variety. Many women do not veil at all. What is proper, or required, or necessary, is hotly debated in contemporary Egypt. The motivations for veiling are numerous, and range from those who accept that this is a requirement of Islam to those who cover themselves essentially to satisfy their relatives, male and female. Men are also enjoined to dress modestly, but the changes are not as striking, involving for instance loose trousers and long sleeves. For both men and women, the principle is that clothes should disguise the shape of the body.

Another rule of etiquette is that greetings must precede all forms of social interaction. A person joining any kind of group, even of strangers, is expected to greet those already present. In less anonymous situations handshakes are due. Embracing is also common as a form of greeting, usually among members of the same sex.

People are generally addressed by their given name, often preceded by a title of some kind (' am, or uncle, is the all-purpose title for men; others include hajj for a pilgrim returned from Mecca or simply for an older man, duktor for a person with a doctorate, and muhandis for an engineer). To address someone by name alone is impolite.

One important rule of etiquette is to treat guests cordially and hospitably. An offering, usually tea or a soft drink, is the least a visitor expects. The first drink is sometimes called a "greeting." Cigarettes are often also offered as hospitality. In rural areas, some people avoid visiting those they consider to be of lower status than themselves. From this point of view, visits are always "up," and hospitality is always "down," i.e., the higher-status host provides hospitality for the lower-status guest.

In general, young defer to old and women to men. Members of the younger generation are expected to show signs of respect and not to challenge their seniors and must use the special terms of address for aunts, uncles, and grandparents, as well as for older nonrelatives. Juniors should not raise their voices to elders, nor should they remain seated while an older person is standing up. With increasing disparities between classes and the spread of patronage ties, there is an inflation in deferential terms of address. This includes the resurgence in the use of terms that were previously official titles but were abolished after 1952, such as Pasha and Bey.


Religious Beliefs. Egypt is a country of "everyday piety." The central belief in Islam is in the oneness of God, whose truths were revealed through the prophet Muhammad. The statement of this basic profession of faith is one of the five pillars of the religion. The other four are the Ramadan fast, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the five daily prayers, and the giving of alms. For many Muslims these five pillars sum up the belief system and indicate the practices. Egyptians frequently invoke the notion of God and his power. Any statement about the future, for instance, is likely to contain the injunction, "God willing," showing that the ultimate determination of the intention is up to God.

In Egypt, there are other possible elaborations. For some, who focus on God as all-powerful, religious practice involves seeking God's help in over-coming problems and seeking favorable outcomes, for instance, with regard to recovery from disease or misfortune. Around this notion has grown up a series of practices involving visits to shrines, often where individuals believed to be beloved of God are buried, to seek their intercession with God. Foremost among these shrines are those in Cairo associated with the family of the prophet Muhammad. But every village and town has such shrines, whose importance varies. This form of religion is often attacked by religious purists who argue that to give such importance to these "saints" undercuts the oneness of God.

Also very common in Egypt are associations of mystics (Sufi brotherhoods). These male-dominated groups are under the leadership of a shaykh , or a hierarchy of shaykhs, devoted to helping their members attain a mystical experience of union with God. This mystical experience is often attained through collective rituals, proper to each order, called zikr. There are nearly one hundred officially recognized associations, plus numerous unrecognized ones, and they claim around six million members (about one third of the adult male population).

Current mainstream practice in Egypt is to focus on the core beliefs of Islam, and to be concerned with learning the "law" of Islam, the particular details of everyday life that believing Muslims must follow to be in accord with God's will as interpreted by specialists. The authority here is the word of God as found in the Koran. The prayer leader (imam) can be anyone in religious good standing, although established mosques usually have a regular imam. The Friday sermon is said by a khatib, many of whom are trained in religious institutes. There have been debates over whether women can play these roles, especially that of a teacher of religion to women and girls.

The two top religious leaders in Egyptian Islam are the Shaykh al-Azhar, who heads the religious bureaucracy, and the Grand Mufti, who offers authoritative interpretations of the Koran. The individuals in these posts have been known to take different positions on some issues.

The two main Muslim religious holidays are the feast following Ramadan, the fasting month, and 'Id al-Adha, which corresponds to the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. The Ramadan holiday comes after a month of fasting and family visits and people usually just rest. The 'Id al-Adha celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, who then miraculously turned into a ram, so that most families try to sacrifice a ram on this day. Other religious holidays include Moulid an-Nabi, commemorating the birth of the prophet Muhammad, which is especially important for sufis; and Islamic New Year, the first day of the month of Moharram.

In Islam, Friday is the day of the main congregational prayer, and marks a break in the workweek without being a "day of rest" in the formal sense. In contemporary Egypt, the two-day weekend is Friday and Saturday. The regular work and school week is thus Sunday through Thursday, although some also work on Saturday. Christians who work on this schedule attend church in the evenings, and make use of Friday for major gatherings.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the descendant of the churches associated with the early Christian Patriarchate of Alexandria. It is the main Christian church in Egypt. Its theology is monophysite, holding that in Jesus Christ there is only one nature, both human and divine. The Coptic church is headed by a patriarch and supported by bishops and parish priests. Monasticism is also central to the Coptic church, and the patriarch comes from the ranks of the monks rather than the priests. When a patriarch dies, his successor is chosen by lot (i.e., by God) from a small number of candidates who have survived a vetting process. The monasteries also serve as pilgrimage and retreat centers for Copts. Currently the Virgin Mary is revered, and many churches are dedicated to her.

The two main Christian holidays are the Christmas season and the Easter season. Minor holidays include some that are extensions of these seasons such as 'Id al-Ghattas (Epiphany), the baptism of Christ, Palm Sunday, and some associated with the Virgin Mary (Ascension, in mid-August, is a main one).

In most aspects of life apart from religion, Egyptian Muslims and Christians are indistinguishable. Everyday devotion is common among both, and many religious values are shared at a general level. The attentive observer can sometimes note marks of distinction: "Islamic" dress marks Muslim women; both men and women among Christians may have a cross tattooed on the inside of the right wrist; names are often but not always indicative. For most people, most of the time, the distinction is not relevant. But every so often there are individuals on one side or the other who stress the difference and claim or practice some form of discrimination or injustice. Such speech rarely leads to more violent action. Nonetheless, the boundary is maintained and both groups discourage or prohibit intermarriage and conversion. Muslims and Christians are not residentially segregated; instead, there are clusters of Christians scattered among a Muslim majority. In modern times, the presence of both Muslims and Christians has impeded the drive to define Egypt as a Muslim country and thus at least indirectly has favored secularism.

Rituals and Holy Places. Rituals marking the different stages of life are also an important area of religious practice, and one that is largely shared by Muslims and Christians. Egyptians celebrate a naming ceremony normally one week after a baby's birth; this is a mixture of Islamic (or Coptic) and "traditional" elements, and is basically a family celebration to incorporate the newborn into the family. All boys are circumcised, generally as infants, and girls are usually also "circumcised" before they reach puberty. (Although the form of female genital mutilation varies, surveys suggest that about 97 percent of Egyptian females, both Christians and Muslims, are affected.) Marriage is a major focus of Egyptian culture. For Muslims it is considered a contract the signing of which is later followed by a family celebration; for Christians the sacrament takes place in a church, usually followed the same day by a family celebration.

Death and the Afterlife. After a death, both Muslims and Christians try to bury the body the same day. Condolences are paid immediately, and again after forty days and after a year. The Islamic condolence sessions are often marked by Koran reading. Both Muslims and Christians believe in the soul, distinguishing it from other noncorporeal aspects of the person such as the double, the brother/sister, and the ghost. The "soul" exists before birth and after death, while some of the other aspects disappear with death or only appear at death.

Medicine and Health Care

Health care in Egypt occupies a central place both in people's concerns and in state priorities. There is an extensive network of public hospitals in major towns and cities all over the country. There is a health unit offering basic medical services in practically every village. The standard of the medical service is variable, however, and people often find they have to obtain treatment in private hospitals and clinics. Among more affluent sectors of urban Egypt, people seek out alternative treatments such as homeopathy.

Egyptians tend to combine the modern health system with traditional practices. In villages, the midwife, for example, plays a key role not just during childbirth and the related ceremonial activities, but also in providing general medical advice to women. There are other traditional health practitioners, such as seers and spirit healers. The zar ceremony marks a form of spirit possession cult that establishes a relationship between an afflicted person and the spirits afflicting him or her. This relationship must be periodically reaffirmed, with the help of specialists.

Secular Celebrations

The main public holidays are: 25 April, Sinai Liberation Day, which marks the recovery of the Sinai Peninsula in 1982; 1 May, International Labor Day; 23 July, which commemorates the revolution of 1952; and 6 October, Armed Forces Day, which marks the day in 1973 when the Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal, surprising the Israeli army and scoring a minor military victory that, through later diplomacy, would lead to the return of Sinai to Egypt.

Labor Day in Egypt as elsewhere is used to salute the working class. The others mark important events in the recent political history of the country. All are official affairs, with little popular celebration.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz (b. 1911) is the best known of the many novelists, poets, and short-story writers whose works have been widely read and translated. Folk tales and folk epics survive but are not robust.

Graphic Arts. Painters are largely self-supporting through the sale of their paintings. There are many art galleries mostly concentrated in Cairo, and the acquisition of paintings has always been a sign of good taste and distinction among members of affluent social groups. Folk painting of house walls is well-known in rural Egypt.

Performance Arts. The Egyptian film industry is one of the oldest in the world. Film production is at once an art, an industry, and a trade. Egyptian films and television dramas are avidly consumed not just in Egypt but all over the Arab world. They range from tacky melodramas to internationally acclaimed, award-winning films of high artistic value. Film production is now almost exclusively in the private sector.

The most famous Egyptian singer was Umm Kalthum (d. 1975), whose songs are still broadcast all over the Arab world. Some more recent singers have also had considerable popularity inside and outside the country. There is also a Cairo Symphony Orchestra, a Cairo Opera Ballet, and other troupes producing classical music and dance.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

There are thirteen government universities, some of which have multiple branches, enrolling about one million students. The much smaller American University in Cairo is an old private university, and there are several new ones.

In general, the physical and social sciences are confined to academic departments of the various universities, and to state-sponsored research centers. There is now an increasing tendency to link scientific knowledge to social and economic demands, by emphasizing the "relevance" of such knowledge. Thus, the new Mubarak City for Scientists, which contains one institute for information technology and another for genetics, caters to the demands of industry. The need for research and development is accepted but the realization is more difficult.

The main university subjects took shape at Cairo University in the 1920s. Economics is probably the best developed of the social sciences, and political science and psychology are making progress. Sociology was founded at Cairo in 1925 and is now found in most universities.

The main centers for anthropology are Alexandria and the American University in Cairo. Anthropology is dominated by efforts to come to grips with contemporary patterns of change, often under the heading of development. The main thrust of anthropology in Egypt is not to improve cross-cultural understanding but instead to foster Egyptian development. There are few positions in anthropology, so most trained anthropologists gradually become generalists in development.


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Egypt the ancient kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were ruled successively by thirty-one dynasties, which may be divided into the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. Egypt was a centre of Hellenistic culture and then a Roman province before coming under Islamic rule and then becoming part of the Ottoman Empire (modern Egypt became independent in 1922).

Gypsies derive their name from the popular belief that they originated in Egypt, and St Mary of Egypt was sometimes referred to informally as Mary Gypsy.
spoil the Egyptians profit from the wealth or belongings of another (spoil here means plunder or despoil); with biblical allusion to Exodus 12:37.

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The people of Egypt are known as Egyptians. They trace their origin to the intermarriages of ancient Egyptians with invaders over many centuries from Asia and Africa. Several tribes of Bedouins or Bedu (nomads) live in the deserts and the Sinai Peninsula. See the chapter on Saudi Arabia in Volume 8 for more information on the Bedu.

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Egyptadapt, apt, enrapt, rapt, unmapped, untapped •periapt • snow-capped •accept, crept, except, incept, inept, intercept, kept, leapt, overleaped, sept, slept, swept, upswept, wept, yclept •adept • housekept • transept •precept • concept • percept •rainswept • windswept • undraped •pearshaped •conscript, crypt, encrypt, harelipped, hipped, script, unequipped, unwhipped •Egypt • eucalypt • transcript •nondescript • typescript • manuscript •subscript •adopt, co-opt, Copt, opt •unhoped •abrupt, corrupt, disrupt, erupt, interrupt, irrupt •bankrupt •underdeveloped, undeveloped •excerpt • sculpt

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Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt

Type of Government

Except for occasional periods of turmoil as dynasties changed, ancient Egypt was ruled by absolute, deified monarchs for nearly three thousand years. Roughly equivalent in size and location to today’s Arab Republic of Egypt, the ancient kingdom featured a centralized administration, an influential priesthood, and, most distinctively, the powerful position of vizier (chief administrator).


The lush fertility of the Nile River valley stands in sharp contrast to the desert that surrounds it. Therefore, it is not surprising that it has attracted settlement since the Paleolithic (Old Stone) Age. Because the fertile area extends for only a few miles on each side of the river, population density has always been high, and this proved a major factor in speeding the development of centralized government. The Egyptians themselves credit Menes (fl. c. 2925 BC) as the first unifier of Upper (southern, or upstream) and Lower (northern, or downstream) Egypt and as the first king of this consolidated state. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to identify a core of fact in this largely mythical tale. However, archaeological evidence does indicate the existence of a monarchy as early as 3000 BC. Historians are not certain of the name of the first historical king, but later Egyptians identified him as Aha or Athothis, the founder of the First Dynasty. Historian consensus puts the number of dynasties from Aha to the second Persian period (c. 343–c. 333 BC) at thirty, with the Third Dynasty (2670–2600 BC) generally considered the beginning of the so-called Old Kingdom. A Middle Kingdom began with the Twelfth Dynasty (c. 1938–c. 1759 BC) and a New Kingdom with the Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1539–c. 1292 BC). Periods of turmoil and conflict often intervened between dynasties. Many historians consider the Eighteenth Dynasty to have been Egypt’s golden age.

Government Structure

Ancient Egypt was a conservative society with a deep reverence for the past. Once established, its institutions were difficult to change. The most resistant of all may well have been the monarchy. A pharaoh (king) of the Twenty-first Dynasty ruled much the way his predecessors had a thousand years earlier.

A pharaoh was considered divine and therefore above the routine business of government and daily life. He rarely met the common people, and even visitors of the highest rank were compelled to prostrate themselves on the ground when entering his presence. Between the masses and their king stood an enormous bureaucracy of skilled and unskilled slaves, craftsmen, soldiers, scribes, priests, and specialists. The size of this retinue is apparent in the hundreds of small tombs that surround each of the royal pyramids at Giza. When servants of the pharaoh died, they were buried close to his tomb to facilitate future service in the afterlife.

Only a few of the pharaoh’s servants ever had any personal contact with him. One of the most prominent of these was the court magician, in part because he was assumed to have, and often did have, a deep understanding of astronomy, anatomy, and the physical world. However, even the power of the court magician paled beside that of the pharaoh’s two viziers, one for Upper Egypt and one for Lower Egypt. At times the same man held both posts. Viziers acted as paymasters, secretaries, and advisers; some may also have held the post of treasurer. As such, they were responsible for most of the government’s daily operations. A venal or corrupt vizier could quickly bring ruin.

Pharaohs ruled by issuing edicts, often through the viziers. If the edict had implications beyond the walls of the palace, it was transmitted to provincial governors called nomearchs . As the nomearchs served as the pharaoh’s primary representatives in the countryside, they shouldered much of the administrative burden, particularly in the collection of taxes. The stewards of the many royal estates and temple properties scattered throughout the country were also major figures.

The throne usually passed from father to son, with the latter often serving as a co-regent first. Co-regency provided an opportunity to train the young successor in positions of increasing responsibility; it also served as a public expression of favor. A would-be usurper had little credibility if he challenged the succession of someone handpicked by the deceased. When a pharaoh died suddenly or without heirs, however, a period of violent turmoil often followed as rivals vied for the throne.

Not all Egyptian rulers were men, and queens presided over some of the most stable, prosperous periods. Most served, at least nominally, as regents or co-regents for their children. All were assisted by a political culture that valued membership in the royal family more than gender and by a socioeconomic system that allowed women to own property and conduct business in their own right. One of the most prominent queens was Hatshepsut (sixteenth to fifteenth centuries BC), who initially rose to power as the regent for her stepson Thutmose III (d. 1450 BC), then a minor. In 1503 BC, however, she crowned herself pharaoh, declaring it the will of heaven that she rule even after her stepson came of age. The fiction of corule with Thutmose III was never abandoned, but his service in the priesthood of Amon, an assignment Hatshepsut undoubtedly arranged, effectively removed him from power until her death. In concert with her talented, handpicked subordinates, she concentrated on economic development and trade, and under her rule Egypt’s wealth grew steadily.

Political Parties and Factions

By far the most powerful of the palace factions were the priests, particularly the priests of Amon, who was the sun god, the patron of the royal capital of Thebes, and the traditional favorite of the pharaohs. The power of his priests is dramatically illustrated by the rise and fall of the pharaoh Akhenaton (fourteenth century BC). Whether by personal inclination, circumstance, or, most likely, both, Akhenaton developed an antipathy toward Amon soon after taking the throne. Demanding an immediate end to the ancient cult, he closed temples, smashed statues, moved the capital away from Thebes, and found a replacement in Aten, a hitherto minor deity who was also a sun god. Threatened with the loss of their privileges and substantial income, the priests retaliated, publicizing unfavorable oracles and making alliances with military officers and other dissatisfied groups. The pressure was too much for the young pharaoh. He withdrew his demands, increased the income and privileges due Amon, modified his uncompromising theology, and died soon thereafter.

By Akhenaton’s time many of the troops were foreign mercenaries. Mercenaries could be useful in foreign campaigns, but they were disastrous as a domestic police force, because they usually lacked a native’s respect for the king and because their services were always available to a higher bidder. After incurring the army’s wrath, Akhenaton was fortunate to have retained his throne and his life.

Major Events

Akhenaton’s unpopularity among his soldiers was probably due to his failure to go abroad on campaigns, as this deprived them of the chance for booty. Egypt’s military power was formidable, and its foreign possessions stretched from northern Sudan to northern Syria. Reverses, however, were common and sometimes catastrophic. The powerful Hittites of Anatolia (modern Turkey) posed a constant threat to the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, though an uneasy stalemate usually prevented full-scale conflict. Then, in 1208 BC, a mysterious group known to its opponents as the Sea Peoples swept down from the Black Sea and plundered the eastern Mediterranean. Before turning to Egypt, they made an alliance with Libyan tribes to the west, thus threatening the kingdom from two sides. Only after a long and costly war were the forces of the pharaoh Merneptah (thirteenth century BC) able to defeat the invaders. In the eighth century BC the rulers of the African kingdom of Kush, a longtime rival to the south, took advantage of chaotic conditions to reunify Egypt under their command. The dynasty they created—the twenty-fifth, sometimes called the Ethiopian dynasty—was a prosperous one, but it was cut short by yet another invasion, this time by the Assyrians in 670 BC. It is a testament to the strength of the Egyptian economy and the allure of its culture that these invasions did not overwhelm native traditions or political structures. Successful invaders, such as the Kushites, left native institutions in place and adapted themselves to the new environment.


Around 525 BC the Persian emperor Cambyses II (d. 522 BC), continuing the expansionary campaigns of his father, Cyrus II (c. 585–c. 529 BC), defeated the pharaoh Psamtik III (sixth century BC) and turned Egypt into a satrapy (province) of his empire. Persian satraps (governors) ruled until 404 BC; historians often refer to this first period of Persian dominance as the Twenty-seventh Dynasty, because the satraps were careful to adopt the outer trappings of the pharaohs. After the death of the emperor Darius II Ochus (d. 404 BC), Persian efforts were directed elsewhere, and a successful rebellion led to a brief resurgence under the twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth dynasties. In 343 BC the Persians again asserted their dominance, only to be defeated in turn by the Greek-speaking forces of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC). Amid great turmoil, one of Alexander’s generals, Ptolemy I (c. 366–c. 283 BC), seized power, thus inaugurating the so-called Ptolemaic period. The Ptolemies were Greek speakers who became increasingly attached to Egyptian culture. The most famous Ptolemy is probably Cleopatra VII (69–30 BC), whose death coincided with the beginning of Roman rule.

Hornung, Erik. History of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction . Translated by David Lorton. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999.

Kemp, Barry J. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization . New York: Routledge, 2006.

Wilkinson, Toby A. H. Early Dynastic Egypt . New York: Routledge, 1999.

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This article covers the history of Egypt to the present day, including the broadly defined periods of (1) Prehistory (2) Pharaonic Egypt, (3) Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine Egypt, (4) Medieval Egypt and (5) Modern Egypt.


A short account of the geography and natural resources of Egypt is preceded here by an explanation of the various names that have been used to designate this land.

Names. The name Egypt is derived, through the Latin Aegyptus, from the Greek Aιγυπτος, an inexact reproduction of the Egyptian term Hi (t)-Ka-Ptah [Temple of the soul of (the god) Ptah], which was one of the ancient designations for the capital city Memphis (biblical Noph). In Pharaonic times Egyptians called their country "The Two Lands" (from the natural division into Upper and Lower Egypt) and "The Black Land" (from the color of the fertile soil of the Nile Valley in contrast to the "red" land of the surrounding desert). In the Hebrew Bible Egypt is called misraim, of uncertain derivation but related to the Akkadian name Misir (Musur) and the Arabic name Misr used for Egypt today.

Geography. In the harsh deserts and mountains of northeast Africa, Egypt is the only densely populated area. The Nile River flows north from the mountains of Ethiopia and through the Nubian Desert, where its two tributaries, the Blue and the White Nile, join at Khartoum in modern Sudan. To the west lies the Libyan Desert (see libya), with five habitable oases, and to the east, the Eastern Desert and the Sinai Peninsula (see sinai, mount). Prior to the construction of a series of dams at Aswan (ancient Syene) in the 20th century, the Nile's annual summer flood spread from north to south, fed by seasonal rains in Ethiopia. The river deposited fertile silt in the Nile Valley and the Delta and washed harmful salts from the soil, providing the conditions for settled life and bountiful agriculture.

Of the approximately 4,000 miles of the Nile's course, Egypt proper comprises some 600 miles of the lower (northern) part of the river and its widely fanned Delta, where two (in antiquity, seven) branches allow the Nile to flow into the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt's natural southern boundary at Aswan (Syene) is caused by a granite barrier crossing the river bed, creating rapids that make navigation impossible (the first Cataract, of six counted north to south). Egypt falls into two unequal parts, the narrow valley in the south (Upper Egypt) and the wide Delta in the north, which often opposed each other during the country's long history. The meeting point of these two regions is the natural place for a capital, which was Memphis in ancient times and is now Cairo. Important cities in Upper Egypt were Thebes (biblical

No-Amon, modern Luxor) and Syene (modern Aswan), where the Elephantine Island marked the southern frontier. Among the cities of the Delta, the eastern site of Tanis (biblical Soan, Zoan) flourished between 1500 and 1000 b.c. due to close contacts with Palestine. In 332 b.c., Alexander the Great founded a new capital at alexandria in the northwest Delta, providing Egypt with a coastal harbor.

Natural resources. Agriculture was and is the base of Egypt's economy. The primary ancient crops were emmer wheat and barley, as well as flax for linen. Along the riverbanks were papyrus plants, from which the writing material of ancient times was made (see papyrology). Today, cotton is the main crop and a valuable export; rice and vegetables are also grown. In ancient times, a series of canals and basins helped floodwaters reach as much arable land as possible. Because the Aswan High Dam holds back the flood and its rich silt, irrigation and chemical fertilizers now support agriculture.

Of the many animals domesticated for agriculture and husbandry, cattle were the most important; sheep played a lesser role than in Palestine. The horse was introduced c. 1650 b.c., but its use was restricted in ancient times. Donkeys were a primary resource for transport and travel, as they are today, and camels were used as well from the 5th century b.c. onwards.

The deserts hemming Egypt are rich in minerals, semiprecious stones and building stones such as limestone, sandstone, granite and porphyry. Copper deposits are found in the Eastern Desert and in Sinai, and gold veins in the Eastern and the Nubian Deserts. Wood for ships and buildings was imported from Lebanon to supplement sparse native trees. Bricks of sun-dried mud were the main building material; the Egyptian name for

these bricks, djebet, passed into Arabic and, via Spain, into Spanish and English as the word adobe.


Early humans passed through the Western Desert oases and the Nile Valley as early as the Lower Paleolithic Period, some 500,000 years ago. Over time, the climate changed and turned the swamp-like plains into deserts, and c. 10,000 b.c., pastoral settlements began to emerge along the river. Archeologists identify several cultures which flourished as a result of developed agriculture from c. 4500 b.c. onwards.

In the north, Merimda, el-Omari and Helwan were centers for a distinctive northern culture. In the Nile Valley at el-Badari, the Badarian culture is known from pit graves where fine pottery vessels and flaked stone tools were buried with the dead. The nearby site of Naqada has yielded important evidence for a culture which spread throughout Upper Egypt from c. 4000 to 3200 b.c. During this period, society became increasingly stratified as a small portion of the population consolidated its wealth and power. Grave goods include decorated pottery, terracotta figurines, vessels and weapons worked from hard stones, and tools and combs carved from hippopotamus ivory. Gold and semiprecious stones were used for jewelry. Animal-shaped palettes made of greywacke were used to grind pigments for cosmetics and paint. Decorative motifs like animals, human and divine figures, boats and hunting or battle scenes illustrate the development of religious and social structures. The import of pottery and raw materials like lapis (from Afghanistan) and cedar (from Lebanon) indicate active trade with Palestine and the Near East.

By about 3200 b.c., or a little after, the Naqada culture also saw the creation of the hieroglyphic writing system, perhaps to fill a need for better communication and written records in a more complex society. Such developments paved the way for a Pharaonic Egyptian state.


After a general introduction, this period is treated under the following subdivisions: Protodynastic and Early Dynastic Period, Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, Hyksos Age, New Kingdom, Third Intermediate Period and Cushite Rule, and the Late Period.

General Introduction. Lists of kings (or pharaohs, from the Egyptian pr-aa, "Great House") were compiled for temple records in antiquity and are a major source for the Pharaonic history of Egypt. In the 3rd century b.c. the Egyptian priest Manetho used older king lists to write a history of Egypt in Greek for the new Ptolemaic rulers, and his work was quoted by other Greek and Latin historians such as Josephus. Manetho is responsible for dividing Egyptian history into 30 dynasties from the initial unification of the country to its conquest by Alexander the Great (332 b.c.), a model followed by modern scholars.

The chronology of Pharaonic Egypt is, for the most part, well established, although some uncertainties persist. A few astronomically fixed points provide a fairly certain framework for the third millennium b.c., and working back from these points the beginning of dynastic history in Egypt is estimated c. 3000 b.c.

Protodynastic and Early Dynastic Period (c. 32002575 B.C.). Modern scholars refer to the period of c. 3200 to 3000 b.c. as the Protodynastic Period because during these years, early rulers expanded their power and formed a unified Egyptian state. Some of these rulers are known by name from works of art, such as a ceremonial palette representing king Narmer. Narmer, who came from Upper Egypt, is generally credited with joining the north and south into one nation. On his palette, Narmer is shown defeating enemies associated with the Delta. The king was central to Egyptian religious and political thought because he was responsible for ensuring that maat, or cosmic order and justice, was maintained in the

universe. As the palette of Narmer shows, even at this early stage in Egyptian history, artists had adopted a canon, or style, of representation which would remain typical of all Egyptian art.

The sequence of numbered dynasties recorded by Manetho begins after the initial unification of Egypt. The first three dynasties (c. 30002575 b.c.) comprise the Early Dynastic Period, during which the kings strengthened the structure of Egyptian government. In the Third Dynasty (c. 2650 b.c.) Egypt reached an important point under the reign of Djoser, who built the first large-scale stone monument for his funerary complex at Saqqara, the cemetery of Memphis (biblical Noph). The center of the complex was a structure of seven graduated layers, the so-called Step Pyramid. Djoser was buried in chambers beneath the pyramid, and buildings around it provided a spiritual 'home' for the dead king where religious rituals ensured his eternal life.

Old Kingdom (c. 25752140 B.C.). The concentration of Egypt's social, material and artistic skill reached a new height in the Fourth Dynasty (c. 25752465). Royal funerary monuments were larger and centered around a true pyramid with straight sides. Kings Khufu (Cheops in Greek), Khafra (Chephren) and Menkaure (Mykerinos) built three pyramids at Giza, north of Saqqara.

Khufu's is the largest at 481 feet high, and each pyramid with its temples was enclosed by a wall and served by two temples housing statues of the king. Around this complex were the tombs of the king's relatives and nobles. Khafra, a son of Khufu, also built the Sphinx, an enormous figure of the king with a lion's body carved from natural rock. Images like the Sphinx show the dual nature of the king: he was a mortal carrying out a divine office and representing, on earth, the falcon god Horus, who was a king among the gods.

In the Fifth Dynasty (c. 24652320) kings also explicitly associated themselves with the sun god ra, whose cult was based at Heliopolis (biblical On) in modern Cairo. Kings built smaller pyramid complexes, probably because the larger projects of the Fourth Dynasty had been too expensive and difficult to complete. The number of nobles, or officials, administering the country expanded and many of their tombs are at Saqqara. In the Sixth Dynasty (c. 23202150), kings began to appoint officials to serve in provinces throughout Egypt, leading to decentralization of the government. Politically, the Sixth Dynasty was very active in Egypt and abroad. Copper and turquoise were mined in Sinai, and close commercial connections existed with byblos (Gebal); trading expeditions penetrated into Africa and sailed the Red Sea. Military campaigns in the western and eastern Delta expanded Egyptian territory. Despite such efforts, though, the devolution of power and the long reign (over 90 years) of King Pepi II hastened a collapse of political order.

The last two dynasties of the Old Kingdom (Dynasties 7 and 8, c. 21502130) were short-lived and gave way to a group of kings (Dynasties 9 and 10, c. 21302040) who were based at Heracleopolis in the Faiyum district and controlled only the northern half of Egypt. Scholars refer to this as the First Intermediate Period because Egypt was no longer united. In the south, local officials did not acknowledge the northern kings, instead governing the provinces (called nomes) in their own right. Over time the governors of Thebes (biblical No-amon) in Upper Egypt established Dynasty 11 and competed with the Heracleopolitan kings by gaining dominion over the south as far as the first Cataract.

Middle Kingdom (c. 20401640). Around 2040 b.c. the rulers of Thebes defeated the Heracleopolitan kings, took control of Lower Egypt and reunited Egypt under King Mentuhotep II of Dynasty 11. This dynasty ended when an official, Amenemhet I (c. 19911962), claimed the kingship and founded Dynasty 12, which lasted until c. 1783 and became the classical age of Pharaonic Egypt. Powerful kings secured the dynastic succession by appointing the heir presumptive as coregent. Egypt annexed Nubia as far south as the second Cataract and built a system of fortresses there. An Egyptian settlement in Sinai worked the mines and included a temple dedicated to the important goddess Hathor. Egypt exercised a strong cultural influence over Palestine and offered political protection to local rulers in the region; ties with Byblos were particularly close. Throughout the Middle Kingdom, Asiatic peoples from Palestine settled in Egypt, especially in the eastern Delta. Close contacts also existed with crete, which brought goods and craftsmen to Egypt by boat.

The close of the Middle Kingdom is not well understood. Internal rivalries may have eroded the central government, and Dynasty 13 consisted of a sequence of short reigns. By c. 1640, Egypt had disintegrated into several small kingdoms, a time referred to as the Second Intermediate Period.

Hyksos Age. During the Second Intermediate Period (c. 16401550) the chief rivals in Egypt were a new group of kings at Thebes (Dynasty 17) and a series of kings of Asiatic origin who ruled from the Delta (Dynasties 15 and 16). The Delta kings were known as the Hyksos from the Egyptian term hekau-khasut (rulers of foreign lands), signifying their foreign origin. The Hyksos had probably lived in Egypt for some time, however, and they adopted many Egyptian cultural forms alongside their own. Their capital was at Avaris in the northeast Delta, with a palace and fortifications like those also found in Palestine and Syria. It was the Hyksos who introduced horses and chariot-based warfare to Egypt. They made few changes to the administration of Egypt, instead relying on the loyalty of officials in the north and central parts of the country.

New Kingdom (c. 15501070). Around 1550 b.c., a ruler of the Theban 17th Dynasty, Kamose, led a series of military campaigns against the Hyksos king, Apophis. Under Kamose's brother Ahmose, the Hyksos were defeated and Egypt was reunited at the start of a new dynasty. The 18th Dynasty was a time of unprecedented wealth, and rulers with powerful personalities created an Egyptian empire stretching east to Palestine and south to Nubia, control of which had been lost after the Middle Kingdom.

Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. One important ruler of the 18th Dynasty was Hatshepsut (c. 14731458), daughter of King Thutmose I and wife of Thutmose II. Hatshepsut was regent for her young stepson, Thutmose III (c. 14791425), but declared herself king in her own right, one of several women to do so in ancient Egypt. She built a magnificent funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes and sent a large commercial expedition to the land of Punt, in modern Ethiopia.

After Hatshepsut's death (c. 1458), the fully grown Thutmose III took sole command of the throne and led an army against Palestine and Syria, where local rulers were rebelling against Egyptian supremacy. For several months Thutmose III besieged megiddo, and on another campaign, he defeated the king of Mitanni in southern Mesopotamia and crossed the Euphrates River, the only pharaoh ever to do so. Egypt did not integrate Syria and Palestine into its government or culture but oversaw these regions through the diplomatic efforts of local officials and garrison towns like Gaza.

Thutmose III also extended Egyptian control further south in Nubia, to the fourth Cataract. Unlike Egypt's Asiatic holdings, Nubia was actively colonized and administered by an Egyptian official, the viceroy of Cush [see ethiopians (cushites)]. Rich gold mines in the Nubian Desert were an important source of wealth for Egypt.

Amenhotep III. A later 18th Dynasty ruler, Amenhotep III (c. 13901353), ruled the Egyptian empire peacefully. He undertook many building projects, including Luxor Temple and the impressive Hypostyle Hall of Karnak Temple. Two colossal statues of Amenhotep III, called the Colossi of Memnon by the Greeks, mark the

site of his destroyed funerary complex near modern Luxor.

Akhnaton (Amenhotep IV). The son and successor of Amenhotep III ruled from c. 13531336 and introduced radical political and religious changes. Early in his reign, Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhnaton, meaning "spirit of the Aton (sun disc)," to reflect his loyalty to the cult of this solar deity. Akhnaton was opposed to the powerful priesthood of the Theban god Amun (or amon), who was the patron deity of 18th Dynasty kings. Instead, Akhnaton promulgated the Aton religion, which credited the sun disc as the only source of life and positioned the king as sole mediator between this all-powerful god and the people of Egypt. The Aton thus replaced both Amun (Amon) and the ancient sun god Re (Ra).

Although Akhnaton's loyalty to the Aton cult is often attributed to the king's religious conviction, there were political considerations as well: the Aton religion made the king central and unique, rather than a servant of the god, and broke the power of the priests. In the fifth year of his reign, Akhnaton emphasized this new political and religious reality by building a capital city at the previously uninhabited site of Akhet-Aton ("horizon of the Aton"), modern el-Amarna. He also introduced sweeping changes in religious ritual, with ceremonies for the

Aton conducted in the open air, and in art, where stylized physical forms were used to represent Akhnaton, his wife Nefertiti, and their six daughters in the streaming rays of the Aton disc. Officials and private individuals used images of the royal family to make devotions to the Aton.

The novelty of the Aton religion and its opposition to tradition doomed the reforms to failure. Egypt's foreign relations also suffered during Akhnaton's reign, as diplomatic correspondence from some Palestinian rulers (in the so-called Amarna Letters) attests. When Akhnaton died, a new king named Smenkhare, whom some scholars believe was Queen Nefertiti, ruled briefly, followed by a child named Tutankhaton, the son-in-law, and probably also son, of Akhnaton. Representatives of the suppressed Amun priesthood ensured that Tutankhaton renounced the Aton religion and changed his name to Tutankhamun in honor of the Theban god. Tutankhamun (c. 13321322) died around age 19 and is best known for the 1923 discovery of his tomb, the only royal burial found intact. The so-called "Amarna Age" came fully to an end when an army commander named Horemheb (c. 13191292) claimed the throne and extinguished every trace of the Aton cult, Akhnaton and the city of Akhet-Aton.

Dynasty 19. Horemheb was succeeded by another army commander, Ramses (Ramesses) I, who founded a new line of kings hailing from the northeast Delta. The kings of the 19th Dynasty based themselves there at Tanis (biblical Soan, Zoan), although they continued to build lavish tombs and temples at Thebes. The reestablishment of internal order in Egypt enabled the next king, Seti I (c. 12901279), to recapture Palestine. Seti I and his son, Ramses II (c. 12701213), both fought against the Hittite kingdom in Anatolia (in modern Turkey). The Hittite king, Muwatalli, was allied with the city-states of Carchemish, Aleppo and ugarit. Ramses II fought Muwatalli at the battle of Kadesh, but neither king emerged victorious. They declared a truce, cemented by a diplomatic marriage between Ramses II and a Hittite princess.

For the remainder of Ramses II's long reign Egypt was very prosperous; the king built extensively throughout Egypt and Nubia. Some scholars suggest that Ramses II was the biblical pharaoh confronted by Moses, and builder of the cities of Phithom (Pithom) and Rameses (Pi-Ramesses), but Egyptian sources cannot support this. It is interesting, however, that the only Egyptian reference to Israel occurs in a stele inscription of Ramses II's successor, Mer-ne-Ptah (c. 12131204). This stele demonstrates that a people called Israel lived in Palestine at that time, and it was set up to commemorate Mer-ne-Ptah's military victory over Libyans and Sea Peoples (a migratory group from the Near East) in the Delta.

Dynasty 20. The 19th Dynasty was unsettled due to internal problems and foreign attacks like those by the Sea Peoples. In the next dynasty, Ramses III (c. 11871156) successfully fought off Libyans and more Sea Peoples, among them the philistines. War depleted Egypt financially, and although several more kings named Ramses (through Ramses XI) complete the 20th Dynasty, central authority waned.

Third Intermediate Period and Cushite Rule. After the end of the 20th Dynasty, the priests of Amun at Thebes styled themselves as kings (Dynasty 21) and governed southern Egypt, c. 1075945. In the north, families originally of Libyan descent founded Dynasty 22 (c. 945715), ruling from the Delta. The first king of the dynasty was Shoshonk (biblical Sesac, Shishak) I, who took a large army into Palestine and sacked Jerusalem, mentioned in 1 Kings 14:2526 and 2 Chr. 12:29. His successors tried to appease Thebes and Upper Egypt but tensions remained, and in the 9th and early 8th centuries b.c., as many as four kings claimed to rule Egypt at once.

While a power vacuum existed in Egypt, Nubia governed itself independently as the kingdom of Cush (or Kush) under a line of rulers based at Napata near the fourth Cataract. One of these rulers, King Piye (c. 750715) swept through Egypt with his army, meeting little resistance, and then withdrew to Napata. Other ethnic Libyan kings reigned briefly as Dynasty 24, but after 715 b.c. the Cushites returned to Egypt under Piye's successor, Shabaqo. Shabaqo established Dynasty 25, made up of Cushite kings who ruled both their native land and all of Egypt.

The Cushites worshipped the Theban god Amon and had strong cultural ties to Egypt due to the long relationship between Egypt and Nubia. The might of the Assyrian Empire was a threat to Cushite rule, however, and the Assyrian kings Sennacherib and Asarhaddon both attacked

Egypt. Ashurbanipal invaded in 671 b.c., forcing King Taharqo (biblical Tharaca, Tirhaka 2 Kgs 19:9) to retreat to Napata, where he later died. Taharqo's successor, Tanutamun, re-entered Egypt but was immediately defeated by another Assyrian onslaught, during which Ashurbanipal, with the help of Egyptian vassals, subdued all of Egypt once again.

Late Period. The Assyrians governed the country by appointing Egyptians as vassal rulers. One of these vassals, Psamtek (Psammetichus) I (664610) of Sais in the Delta, broke free of Assyrian control and established himself as sole ruler of the country, founding Dynasty 26 (664525). He controlled Thebes by appointing his daughter, Nitocris, there as "divine votaress" of Amon. Psamtek I's success was due in part to the help of Greek (Ionian and Carian) mercenaries in his army, and as Assyria declined, Egypt's contacts with foreign countries grew. Greeks were given a free trading port at Naucratis in the Delta, and Psamtek I led troops to Palestine. Nechao (Necho) II (610595) continued these policies, campaigning unsuccessfully against the Chaldaeans under nebuchadnezzar (Nabuchodonosor) and defeating King Josiah of Juda. Subsequently, the Egyptian kings Apries (589570) and Amasis (570526) also struggled against the Chaldaeans but were thwarted by

the rise of the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great in the sixth century b.c.

In 525 b.c., the Persian emperor, Cambyses, pressed west and captured King Psamtek III (526525) at Pelusium in the eastern Delta. Egypt became part of the Persian Empire, run by an appointed official called the satrap; Manetho termed this period Dynasty 27. The emperor, darius i (522486), showed some interest in the country, but after his death Egyptian leaders began to wrest power away from Persia. The last three native dynasties (Dynasties 28, 29 and 30), each based in the Delta, attained Egyptian independence and saw a short-lived renaissance of native culture. In 341 b.c., however, Persia reestablished control of Egypt under the emperor Artaxerxes III (358338), succeeded by Darius III (338335).

Alexander the Great defeated Darius III at Issus in 333 b.c. and then turned to Egypt, where he was welcomed as liberator. He stayed less than a year, but in that time he was crowned as pharaoh. He founded a harbor on the northwest coast of the Delta, named Alexandria in his honor. In the division of Alexander's empire after his death in 332 b.c., Egypt was given to his general, Ptolemy, son of Lagus, who established himself as Ptolemy I Soter (305285), king of Egypt and founder of the house of the Ptolemies.


This section surveys Egypt's history as a Hellenistic monarchy and then as part of the Roman and Byzantine empires.

Ptolemaic Period (30530). The Ptolemaic rulers were Greeks who respected some of Egypt's social and religious traditions while fashioning a Hellenistic monarchy for themselves. Their capital at Alexandria became the greatest intellectual center of its time, with a library of approximately half a million scrolls.

Ptolemy III Euergetes I (246221) took an interest in Palestine and came into conflict there with the Seleucid Dynasty of Syria. The Syrian wars, combined with feuds among the Ptolemies and native rebellions in the south, weakened Ptolemaic authority. In 170 b.c., Rome intervened on behalf of the Ptolemies against the Seleucid king, antiochus iv epiphanes (175164), and as a result Egypt entered more and more into the orbit of the Roman Republic.

The contest between Pompey and Julius Caesar for sole rule over Rome decided Egypt's fate. The last Ptolemaic monarch was Cleopatra VII (5130), who allied herself first with Caesar and then, after his assassination at Rome in 44 b.c., with Mark Antony in an effort to preserve Egypt's independence. Conflict between Antony and Caesar's heir, Octavian (later Augustus), came to a head at the Battle of Actium off the northwest coast of Greece in 30 b.c. After Antony and Cleopatra's forces were defeated, the pair committed suicide and Octavian claimed Egypt for Rome.

Roman Empire (30 B.C.A.D. 395). Egypt became a Roman province and was the chief source of grain for the entire empire. Roman rule differed from the Ptolemaic system because the Romans imposed a stricter system of social stratification, privileging a Greek-speaking, city-based elite. Romans did not encourage native Egyptian language, although some Egyptian temples continued to be decorated with representations of Roman "pharaohs" until around a.d. 250. As early as the second century, Christianity began to spread in Egypt, with scholars like Clement and Origen based at Alexandria. Despite Roman attempts to suppress it, Christianity continued to grow, and c. 320 St. pachomius founded the first monastery, in Upper Egypt. monasticism flourished in Egypt as men and women left their homes for these desert settlements.

Byzantine Period. At the partition of the Roman Empire following the death of Emperor Theodosius in 395, Egypt became part of the Eastern Empire and shipped its grain to the capital, Byzantium (Constantinople, modern Istanbul), rather than Rome. Christianity was now the state religion, and under Abbot shenoute of atripe (Athribis), the Egyptian, or Coptic, Church thrived. Copts continued to adhere to the Monophysite doctrine after this belief in the one divine nature of Christ was condemned at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of chalcedon in 451, and Coptic Christianity became separated from mainstream Christianity in the Byzantine Empire.

Under Heraclius (610641) Byzantine power in the Near East declined, and Arab followers of the new Islamic religion began to filter throughout the region.


The following sections cover Egypt from the Arab conquest until 1798: Arab Rule, Fatimid Dynasty, Ayyubid Dynasty, The Mamelukes and Ottoman Egypt.

Arab Rule. In 640, eight years after the death of the prophet muammad, the army of Caliph Umar defeated Byzantine garrisons at Pelusium in the Delta and Fort Babylon (at modern Cairo), bringing Egypt into the Muslim world.

Early Arab rulers maintained much of the Byzantine administrative system and did not force conversions to Islam. The Arabs isolated themselves from the native population and founded a new capital called Fustat (at the site of Fort Babylon), which would grow into Old Cairo. Egypt was ruled by Arab and Turkish governors appointed by the ruling Umayyad caliphs in Damascus, and later the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad. Gradual Islamization of the country proceeded and most people adopted the Arabic language. In 868, Egypt became the fiefdom of a Turkish general whose stepson, Ahmad Ibn Tulun, went to Egypt and founded the Tulunid Dynasty (868905), which opposed the Abbasid government and helped Egypt's economy and culture flourish. Ibn Tulun's successors squandered their wealth and power, however, and several years of unrest ensued.

Fatimid Dynasty (9691171). The Fatimid state, based in North Africa, took control and ruled Egypt as an independent country, setting up its own dynasty at Cairo to rival the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad. The Fatimids were tolerant of Christians and Jews in their government, except for Caliph el-Hakim (9961021), who destroyed Christian churches throughout Fatimid territory, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The Fatimids followed Shī 'ite Islam (a more esoteric sect which had split off to honor Muammad's son-inlaw, Caliph Ali), although the majority of Egyptians were, and are, mainstream Sunni Muslims. In the 12th century, struggles within the Fatimid dynasty led to the intervention of Syrian troops, who were Sunni as well. In 1171, the Sunni general, Saladin, wrested control of Egypt and deposed the Fatimids.

Ayyubid Dynasty (11711250). Saladin established the Ayyubid dynasty, which restored Egypt to the eastern (Abbasid) caliphate. Under Saladin, Egypt prospered and Cairo became the center of the Arab world. During this period, the crusades touched on Egyptian soil. Damietta in the Delta was captured and occupied for three years (12181221) during the Fifth Crusade and again during the Sixth Crusade (1249), when louis ix of France was taken prisoner in Egypt. Saladin was tolerant of Christianity in Egypt and Palestine, and Egypt traded actively with Italian city-states. At the same time, the Ayyubid policy of granting family members control of different parts of the territory encouraged dissent and armed conflict.

The Mamelukes (12501517). Ayyubid sultans increasingly purchased Turkish slaves, called Mamelukes, to staff their armies, and in 1250 the Mamelukes took advantage of an Ayyubid feud to elect one of their own men as sultan, backed by Mameluke military strength. The Mameluke Dynasty saw Egypt at the pinnacle of its cultural, economic and political powers. Although the Mamelukes were not ethnically Arab and many did not speak Arabic literature, education and the arts. Mameluke territory in Egypt and Palestine offered a haven to Muslims fleeing Mongol invasions from the Far East, and in part because of this pressure, Christians and Jews were resented and at times persecuted. Conversion to Islam accelerated, and use of the Coptic language declined in favor of Arabic.

Ottoman Egypt (15171798). After confrontations between the Mamelukes and the Ottoman Empire over control of Palestine and Syria, the Ottomans defeated the Mamelukes in 1517. Egypt became a province governed from Istanbul (ancient Byzantium, Constantinople) by means of a viceroy, or pasha, in Cairo. Mamelukes still constituted a political and financial elite, identified by the title bey after their names, and in the late 18th century, Mamelukes tried to reassert power against their Ottoman rulers.


Egypt's history since the Napleonic invasion of 1798 is treated under these subdivisions: French Occupation, Muhammad Ali and his successors, British Occupation, The Kingdom of Egypt and the Arab Republic of Egypt.

French Occupation (17981805). In 1798, napoleon i Bonaparte captured Alexandria with a fleet that included his army as well as a corps of scholars and scientists (savants) interested in Egyptian history and culture. Napoleon claimed to be a friend of the Ottomans who would liberate Egypt from the Mameluke rebels. As the savants set about recording the art, architecture and natural world of Egypt, Napoleon faced the threat of British troops approaching from the Mediterranean and the Ottoman forces from the east. Napoleon slipped by the British and returned to France, leaving his troops behind to hold out against the British until 1801. British forces then withdrew from Egypt in 1803, leaving control of the country to the Ottomans once more.

Although of little military consequence, the French Occupation brought Egypt into close contact with Europe and opened the door for Europeans to study the Egyptian past, most notably through the discovery of the Rosetta Stonea trilingual Egyptian and Greek inscription which was surrendered to the Britishand the publication of the multi-volume Description de l'Égypte, which collected the savants' records of ancient and contemporary Egypt.

Muammad Ali (18051849) and his successors. Amid much debate, Muammad Ali was appointed pasha and set about establishing himself in a position of almost complete independence from the Ottomans. He restructured the Egyptian administration to break the power of the Mamelukes, effectively making himself chief landowner with an agricultural monopoly. Trade with Europe, especially the British and French, introduced some westernization and opened Egypt to European travelers and archaeologists.

During the reign of Ismail (18631879), a grandson of Muammad Ali, the French-designed Suez Canal was opened, making Egypt even more pivotal to Europe and the Ottomans. Ismail used the title Khedive to distinguish himself from other Ottoman viceroys, and he and his family continued to own most of Egypt's land. Egyptian army leaders and the educated elite, who had been exposed to European administrative ideals, increasingly opposed this autocracy. Under pressure from Britain and France, the Ottomans deposed Ismail in favor of his son, Tawfiq (18791892), which created an opening for further European involvement in Egyptian affairs.

British Occupation (18821922). In 1882, British forces occupied Egypt and made it an unofficial, or "veiled," protectorate of the British Empire. Nominally, the Ottoman sultan and the Khedive retained control of Egypt, but Britain installed advisors who oversaw the internal administration, under the direction of the British consul, Lord Cromer.

Khedive Tawfiq was succeeded by his son, Abbas Hilmi II (18921914), who at times openly criticized Cromer and General Kitchener, commander of the Egyptian army. In 1898 the army reconquered Sudan and added it to Britain's veiled protection, after which Tawfiq was more conciliatory to the British.

Meanwhile, a growing Egyptian nationalist movement, spearheaded by French-educated lawyer and journalist Mustafa Kamil (18741908), turned to the Ottomans for support. The Egyptian upper classes were dissatisfied with the extent and duration of British control, but Cromer did not sympathize with nationalist concerns. By the time Kitchener was appointed consul in 1911, several nationalist factions competed in opposition to the British and to Khedive Abbas Hilmi.

War against the Ottoman Empire was declared in 1914, and Britain made Egypt an official protectorate, deposing the Khedive and appointing his uncle, and later his uncle's brother, as sultan. Kitchener was replaced by a high commissioner, Sir Reginald Wingate, who instituted martial law and abolished the Egyptian assembly.

Two days after the Armistice was signed in November of 1918, an Egyptian delegation (called the Wafd ) led by nationalist politician Said Zaghlul approached Wingate to plead for Egypt's independence from Britain. When Wingate refused to meet the delegation, revolt broke out and Britain appointed a new commissioner, Lord Allenby, to reassert control. Zaghlul continued to press for independence, and Allenby, hoping to thwart the most radical nationalists, agreed, resulting in a declaration of independence on Feb. 28, 1922.

The Kingdom of Egypt (19221952). In March of 1922, the sultan became King Fuad I of Egypt at the head of a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament. However, political struggles continued between the British, the new king and the Wafd, which had become the major nationalist organization with a large popular following.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Egypt was obliged to offer Britain military assistance under the terms of a 1936 treaty, although King Farouk (19361952) was hostile to the British; heavy fighting took place in Egypt in 194243. Egypt's involvement on behalf of the Arab cause in Palestine (ending in defeat in the first Arab-Israel war of 194849) and the formation of the Arab League in 1945 led to further political disagreement with Britain and public demonstrations against the king.

A group of army officers, called the Free Officers, conspired in an armed coup on the night of July 2223, 1952. Led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the officers forced King Farouk to abdicate and leave the country.

Arab Republic of Egypt. Nasser and his associates abolished the 1923 constitution. In July of 1953, the Arab Republic of Egypt was declared (first as the United Arab Republic) and a new constitution was in place by 1956, with Nasser elected as the first president of Egypt.

Nasser (19561970). Nasser settled long-standing disputes with Britain over Sudan and the Suez Canal Zone, so that Sudan attained independence and British troops left Suez. Nasser's popular domestic policies were socialist in scope, placing Egyptian industry under state ownership, limiting private landownership and heavily subsidizing commodities like sugar and electricity. He suppressed opposition political organizations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the postwar political climate, Egypt had an uneasy relationship with the West. In 1956, Nasser provoked a crisis by nationalizing the Suez Canal after the United States and Britain withdrew funding for the Aswan High Dam. With backing from the Soviet Union, the Dam was finally completed in 1968, to provide adequate electricity to Egypt's expanding population.

Antagonism towards the new state of Israel united Egypt and other Arab countries, from whom Israel feared attack. A second Arab-Israeli war in 195657 was instigated by the Suez Crisis and ended after American and Soviet intervention convinced Israel to withdraw from territory it had taken in Sinai, bordering the Canal Zone. In June of 1967, the third Arab-Israeli war (called the Six Day War) broke out when Israel launched pre-emptive strikes against Egypt and Jordan. Israeli forces reoccupied the Sinai Peninsula and captured territory in Jordan (the West Bank) and Syria (the Golan Heights).

Sadat (19701981). When Nasser died suddenly in September of 1970, vice-president Anwar Sadat succeeded him as president. Sadat inherited an economy struggling with budget deficits, chronic shortages and a military infrastructure nearly destroyed by Israel in the 1967 war.

In October of 1973, a fourth Arab-Israeli war (the October War, or Yom Kippur War) began when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. To solve the crisis, the United States restored diplomatic relations with Egypt and helped broker a settlement whereby Israel withdrew from Sinai and Egypt fully reopened the Suez Canal to international traffic. Egypt also acknowledged Israel's right to exist. This political victory placed Sadat in a strong position to turn to the West, rather than the Soviet Union, for financial aid. Subsidies and nationalization were curtailed and Western companies began to invest in Egypt, moves which stabilized the economy but were very unpopular. Sadat tried to appease Islamists by giving limited state backing to some religious laws and showing more lenience towards the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sadat also entered into peace negotiations with Israel, and in 1978 he met with the Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, and U.S. President James Carter at Camp David near Washington D.C. In March of 1979, Sadat and Begin signed a peace treaty, which brought American support but angered other Arab nations, who immediately excluded Egypt from the Arab League.

Controversial laws adopted in 1980 made it possible for the president to be elected indefinitely, and in September of 1981, members of many opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, were imprisoned. On Oct. 6, 1981, Sadat was assassinated during a military parade when Islamist army officers opened fire on him.

Mubarak (1981present). Vice-president Hosni Mubarak survived the attack on Sadat and was immediately elected as the new president. Mubarak restored Egyptian relations with the Arab League in 1989 and has continued to open the Egyptian economy to the West. Mubarak has also used Egypt's pivotal but difficult position with regard to Israel to help further negotiations among moderate Israeli leaders, the Palestinians and other Arab countries, especially during crises like the 199192 Persian Gulf War. The activity of Islamist extremists in Egypt remains a serious problem. Coptic Christians in central Egypt have been targeted by radical Islamist militia, and in 1997, members of the outlawed Islamic Jihad group killed more than 60 tourists at Luxor in an attempt to damage the government's vital revenues from travel industry sources. Mubarak was elected to a fourth term as president in 1999.

Bibliography: j. baines and j. malek, Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt (2nd ed. New York 2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. i. shaw (Oxford 2000). Egypt The World of the Pharaohs, ed. r. schulz and m. seidel, tr. p. manuelian (Cologne 1998). b. midant-reynes, The Prehistory of Egypt From the First Egyptians to the First Pharaohs (Oxford 2000). b. kemp, Ancient Egypt Anatomy of a Civilization (London and New York 1989). d. redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton 1992). a. bowman, Egypt After the Pharaohs (2nd ed. London 1996). The Cambridge History of Egypt, volume I: Islamic Egypt, 6401517 and volume II: Modern Egypt, from 1517 to the End of the Twentieth Century, ed. m. w. daly (Cambridge 1998).

[h. goedicke/

c. riggs]

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EGYPT , country in N.E. Africa, centering along the banks of the River Nile from the Mediterranean coast southward beyond the first cataract at Aswan. The ancient Egyptians named their land "Kemi," the "Black Land," while the neighboring Asiatic peoples used the Semitic word "Miṣr" which is still the country's name in both Hebrew (Heb. מִצְרַיִם; Miẓrayim) and Arabic. Geographically Egypt consists of two areas, Lower Egypt, the northern part of the land, which contains the Delta, and Upper Egypt, the south, which comprises the narrow strip of cultivable land on both sides of the river as far south as Aswan.

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian history can be divided into seven periods that correspond to the major dynastic ages of Pharaonic history:

  1. Predynastic – (prehistory)
  2. Early Dynastic Period (Archaic) – Dyn. 1–3, 2920–2575
  3. Old Kingdom – Dyn. 4–8 (Pyramid Age), 2575–2134
  4. First Intermediate Period – Dyn. 9–10, 2134–2040
  5. Middle Kingdom – Dyn. 11–12 ("Classical" Period), 2040–1640
  6. Second Intermediate Period – Dyn. 13–17 (including the Hyksos Period), 1640–1532
  7. New Kingdom – Dyn. 18–20 (Empire Period), 1550–1070

predynastic – early dynastic period

The Predynastic history of Egypt refers to the period before the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. It is the unification of the two kingdoms that heralds the national consciousness of Egypt; therefore, her history as a nation cannot start before the Early Dynastic Period. Egyptian tradition traced its historical beginnings to the time when King Menes of Upper Egypt (as recorded by Manetho, and transmitted with slight variations by Herodotus, Josephus, and Diodorus Siculus) conquered Lower Egypt and unified the two lands. By this action, he became the ruler of both Upper and Lower Egypt, thereby establishing the First Dynasty. Menes' unification came to symbolize the nation and its conception of itself. The earliest representation of the unification of Egypt is the Narmer Palette (+/–3150 b.c.e., now in the Cairo Museum). The legendary Pharaoh Narmer has been identified with Menes, and the Narmer Palette apparently represents the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt conquering Lower Egypt and subduing the enemy. The obverse of the palette shows the ruler wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt, while the reverse has him wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt. Throughout dynastic history the unification represented the potency of the land, a potency recalled in a variety of ways, from the titles of the kings, through the representations in the artistic canon.

The most important legacy of the Early Dynastic Period is the foundation of what we view as the civilization of ancient Egypt. The national economy, political ideology, and religious philosophy all developed in this period, and the administrative seat of Egyptian government moved north to Memphis. Much of the contact between Egypt and the Levant during the Early Dynastic Period was in the area of trade. Grain, timber for construction, precious and semi-precious materials, including lapis lazuli copper and turquoise, were imported to Egypt from Southwest Asia.

the old kingdom

The Old Kingdom is also known as the Pyramid Age. During this period Egypt's power revolved around her resources, human and natural, and the Pharaoh's ability to utilize them. One of the results of the successful harnessing of resources was monumental architecture; the first complexes built from fully dressed stones are from this period. These large structures seem to represent the physical manifestation of the Pharaoh's godhead and authority. The strong centralized government of the god-king that had developed earlier underwent decentralization during the 5th dynasty and resulted in a new class of officials: The vizier no longer had to be a prince, and the nomarchs began to reside in the nome that they administered rather than in the royal residence or capital.

Foreign relations during the Old Kingdom were generally peaceful, and foreign expeditions were related either to defense or, more frequently, to trade. A 6th dynasty official named Weni inscribed his autobiography on a wall in his tomb-chapel. He reports that at the behest of the Pharaoh he led five expeditions into the Southern Levant to defend against the "Sand-dwellers" (Lichtheim 18ff.). At least two stone vessels bearing Old Kingdom royal names have been discovered at Tel Mardikhi, *Ebla, in central Syria. There is no certainty as to how the vessels got to Ebla (one, bearing Pepy i's name, is thought to have come through Byblos, and the other with Kephren's name may have come directly from Egypt), but their existence attests to far reaching diplomatic connections between Egypt and the Levant.

the first intermediate period

In Egyptian chronology, the term "Intermediate" refers to the periods when there was no strong centralized government unifying the Two Lands. During the first Intermediate Period there was dynastic rule both in the North (at Herakleopolis), and in the South (at Thebes). The attempts to reunify the land fostered sporadic internal conflicts and civil wars.

the middle kingdom

The detailed origins of the Middle Kingdom are unknown, but in a political sense the Middle Kingdom may be said to begin when the ruler of Upper Egypt becomes the sole Pharaoh and the two lands are again united. During the 11th Dynasty the seat of rule remained at Thebes in the South, but the first Pharaoh of the 12th Dynasty moved the capital North to a new capital called Itjtawy, "Grasper of the Two Lands"; the capital remained there for more than 300 years. The 12th Dynasty is the "Classical Period" in the art and the literature of Ancient Egypt.

The literature and the art of this period were used to promote the royal and elite values and interests. Many of the literary texts of this period have a propagandistic flavor and were circulated to the literati though the temples and schools. The monumental royal inscriptions on temples and other buildings were also used to address the public, to inspire loyalty, and to tell the people of the grandeur of their rulers.

For the most part Egypt's foreign relations remain peaceful during this period as witnessed by the famous tomb painting in the tomb of Khnumhotep ii at Beni Hasan. Part of this painting depicts 37 Asiatics (men, women, and children) bringing eye-paint to Khnumhotep. But there is evidence of international strife during the Middle Kingdom in the Execration Texts. The Execration Texts were a class of formulas that functioned as destructive magic; they were designed to counteract negative influences, and they are attested from the Old Kingdom through the New Kingdom. The performance of execration rituals centered on objects inscribed to identify the target of the magical act; they were then destroyed or symbolically neutralized. These texts include figures made of unbaked clay and crudely formed into the shape of a bound prisoner. There are three lots of execration texts that deal with Western Asia containing standard formulae with the names of Asiatic chieftains and their related toponyms (place names), after which follows a comprehensive statement of curse along the lines of "all Asiatics of Gns, and their mighty runners … who may rebel … etc."

the second intermediate period and the period of the hyksos

The Second Intermediate Period began toward the end of the 13th Dynasty when the centralized government began once again to falter, leading to the rise of local rulers in the eastern Nile Delta. The period reached its culmination when the *Hyksos invaded from Western Asia and usurped the throne. Originally these Near Easterners were referred to as "Shepherd kings" or "captive shepherds" by the scholarly community. These titles are based on an incorrect folk-etymology attested to as early as Josephus. The term Hyksos is the Greek rendering of the Egyptian appellation for these foreigners. But the Egyptian that underlies the Greek is best translated as "rulers of the foreign countries." In Egypt it became the official designation of the first three kings of the 15th Dynasty. The capital of the Hyksos was at Avaris, modern Tel ed-Dabʿa in the Delta, on the eastern most of the Delta branches. The population there seems to have been composed of Asiatics, especially those who spoke Amorite, a West Semitic dialect.

Much of the Hyksos's power resulted from good trade relations with Cyprus, Nubia, and the Levant, and it was during this period that the horse, and wool-bearing sheep were introduced into Egypt. The archaeological record indicates that the Hyksos were not the first Near Easterners to live in the Nile Delta, but it was under the Hyksos that Egypt became more involved with the eastern Mediterranean (Bietak).

The reign of the Hyksos ended when the Theban ruler Ahmose finally expelled them and reunited the Two Lands. After this expulsion the capital shifted south again to Thebes.

the new kingdom

The New Kingdom is the period of Egyptian expansion and imperialism. In the earlier periods Egypt's contact with, and control over, foreign areas was limited to her desire for trade and resources; during the New Kingdom Egypt's foreign policy became more aggressive. The Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni became a threat to Egypt, and the New Kingdom rulers responded to Mitanni's rising power in the area. The 18th Dynasty ruler Thutmose i led a campaign into northern Syria. Later, Thutmose iii led 14 campaigns into Western Asia (one of which included a seven-month siege at Megiddo), and eventually subdued the Levantine coast, increasing Egyptian hegemony into the interior of Syro-Palestine. Under Thutmose iii the rulers of the conquered Asiatic city-states became vassals to Egypt who had to send tribute and swear an oath of loyalty to the Pharaoh. True peace was not realized until the reign of Thutmose iv, who married one of the Mitannian princesses (Murnane 2001).

The Egyptian Empire reached its height during the reign of another 18th Dynasty Pharaoh, Amenhotep iii. By this time the empire was firmly established, so that Egypt was able to keep her troops in just a few areas and to send garrisons only to regions that threatened revolt. But this relative ease of imperialism was short lived, and the Empire began to falter under the reign of Amenhotep iv whose internal policies caused him to be labeled the "heretic king." Amenhotep iv devoted much of his energy to religious reform. Traditionally, the established cults of Egypt's gods were under the care of the Pharaoh. Amenhotep iv neglected the traditional gods of Egypt and showed strict devotion to a new conception of the sun god the "Aten" (solar orb); he eventually withdrew his patronage from the capital at Thebes (which was the "city of Amun"), he changed his name to reflect his religious preferences to Akhenaten (*Akhenaton; "effective on behalf of the orb"), and established a new capital city named Akhetaten ("horizon of the orb"). Akhenaten weakened the power of the royal family to such an extent that that even when the traditional cult was re-established in the land, the last kings of the 18th Dynasty (including Tutankhamun) had no real power. The entire balance of power in the Near East changed during this period when the Mitannians lost control of most of their vassals to the Hittites and Egypt lost control of her vassal Kadesh to these same Hittites. The resulting hostilities between Egypt and Hatti only increased when a Hittite prince died on his way to Egypt with the intent to marry Tutankhamun's widow. Egypt's borders continued to recede south for the next three generations.

The Ramesside kings of the 19th and 20th Dynasties attempted to regain Egypt's past glory. These attempts met with varying levels of success. Ramesses ii successfully defended Egypt against the invasions of the Sea Peoples, but his "victory" against the Hittites at Kadesh is not the unqualified "victory" portrayed on his temple walls. In addition, the balance of power achieved by Egypt in the south, and the Hittites in the north changed as Assyria emerged as a major force in Western Asia. Ramesses iii was the strongest ruler of the 20th Dynasty, and he too defended Egypt against the Sea Peoples, and defeated two Libyan invasions. But the end of his reign is marked by a series of strikes by craftsmen who were working on the royal tombs at Thebes. These strikes were the beginning of the economic difficulties that helped bring about the end of the 20th Dynasty and Egypt's Empire period.

The New Kingdom saw Egypt rise to become an international superpower ruling territories from Nubia to Asia. But by the end of this period Egypt was a nation overwhelmed by internal troubles, which had lost control of all of her foreign territories; never again would Egypt regain her splendor.

For the biblical depiction of events in this period, see *History; *Exodus; *Pentateuch.

[Sharon Keller (2nd ed.)]

After the shortlived 21st Dynasty, the 22nd Dynasty, of Libyan origin, came to power in Egypt. Sheshonk i (the biblical *Shishak) gave refuge to the Israelite pretender *Jeroboam and, after the latter had returned to Israel, invaded first Judah, thoroughly ravaging and looting the country, and then Israel, treating it in like manner. Returning with vast plunder, and leaving a weakened Palestine behind him, Sheshonk retired to Egypt. Henceforth the Libyan rulers of Egypt, having shown their power, left West Asia alone.

By the end of the eighth century b.c.e. the Egyptianized Nubian rulers of *Cush had displaced the Libyans in control of Egypt, while the Assyrians under *Tiglath-Pileser iii made their presence felt in Syria and Palestine. During the last revolt of Israel against Assyria (724–721 b.c.e.) Hosea wrote to So, the king of Egypt, for support against the Assyrians. This otherwise unknown king has been plausibly identified recently as Tefnakht, the ruler of Sais (So), a vassal of the Nubians. However, Egyptian support was to no avail; Tefnakht was repulsed and Samaria fell. Nevertheless Egypt still appeared to be powerful, and in the following decades *Hezekiah, king of Judah, again relied on Egypt. Although the biblical account names *Tirhakah (Taharka), king of Cush (Nubia; ii Kings 19:35) as Jerusalem's ally, there are chronological problems involved, since the decisive battle of this campaign, that of Elteke, took place in 701, and Taharka's rule began only in 689.

*Sennacherib's successors subjugated Egypt, expelled the Cushites, and installed puppets who managed to regain Egyptian independence under the twenty-sixth Dynasty. The founder of this dynasty, Psammetichus i (c. 664–610 b.c.e.) strengthened Egypt by the widespread employment of foreigners – Greek and Jewish mercenary troops and Phoenician sailors and merchants. During his reign or that of Psammetichus ii (c. 595–89 b.c.e.) the famous colony of Jewish mercenary soldiers was established at *Elephantine to protect the southern frontier of Egypt. After the fall of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 612 b.c.e. to the Neo-Babylonians and Medes, the king of Egypt, Neco ii, "went up against the Babylonians," but found his way barred by *Josiah, king of Judah, whom he defeated and killed at Megiddo in 609. Four years later, the Babylonians decisively defeated him at the battle of Carchemish. The subsequent Babylonian invasion of Egypt, preceded by the siege and sack of Ashkelon, was, however, beaten back, although Palestine remained under Babylonian control.

In 589 *Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, whose king, *Zedekiah, had rebelled at the instigation of the pharaoh Apries (*Hophra). The latter invaded Syria in an attempt to relieve Jerusalem, but again Egyptian support proved ineffectual, and in 587 Jerusalem fell. Most of the city's population was deported to Babylon; some, however, took refuge in Egypt, including the prophet *Jeremiah.

[Alan Richard Schulman]

Egyptian Literature in the Bible

Egypt has a long and full literary history and tradition, and as such, there is ample evidence of both literary and nonliterary genre of texts. These texts serve many functions and come in a variety of forms each with its own established conventions and styles. The technical aspects of Egyptian literary forms are not generally paralleled in biblical literature, yet it is well recognized that there is a commonalty in content between some biblical narrative motifs and those found in various Ancient Egyptian texts. Direct links in the prose literature are difficult to establish, but there is a scholarly consensus that relates the two bodies of literature. Wisdom texts fall in their own category; the consensus maintains that the biblical wisdom tradition is dependent, at least in part, upon the Egyptian. Questions of borrowing and/or primary derivation notwithstanding, there is no doubt that the Egyptian material antedates the biblical.

Egypt plays an important part in the narrative setting of the Torah. From the time that Joseph is sold into servitude through the Exodus and the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, the central location of the story is Egypt. It is in these stories, the ones set in Egypt, that the majority of narrative parallels are to be found. The most frequently cited example is the biblical tale of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (Gen 39) and the New Kingdom Tale of Two Brothers. The Egyptian tale is the first known example in ancient literature of the Temptress motif. The details and purposes of each of the stories differ greatly, but there is no serious doubt that the structure of the motif is essentially the same. In such stories an older woman (or a woman of higher social status) develops an ill-advised passion for a younger man (or one of a lesser social status). This "temptress" makes her desires known to the young man (Gen 39:7) who refuses her advances on moral grounds (verses 8–9); thus spurned, the "temptress" accuses the young man of violating her, and the "wronged" husband then seeks retribution. The standard versions of this tale eventually vindicate the youth and punish the mendacious wife. In the biblical account Joseph is punished for his supposed actions by being imprisoned (verses 19–20). Eventually he is pardoned by Pharaoh and released from prison because, after interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, Joseph is rewarded and made viceroy of Egypt (41:14–45). The biblical version deviates from the pattern in two significant ways: First, the narrator never tells us that Joseph is ever publicly declared innocent. (He is pardoned not exonerated). Second, the fate of the temptress is not revealed. Potiphar's wife disappears from the story right after she accuses Joseph (Gen 39:18–19), because she is no longer important to the progress of the narrative.

Although the Tale of Two Brothers is the most frequently cited example of biblical and Egyptian narrative parallels, it is by no means the only one. Some literary tales present us with a picture of Syria-Palestine that is reminiscent of the description of the area in the Patriarchal Narratives of Genesis and also show some parallel values. The prime example is the Middle Kingdom Tale of Sinuhe, which depicts the environment of the Levant in detail and shows it much the same as described in the Torah narratives. Both the Hebrew and Egyptian sources describe pastoral nomadic clans who travel among the settled urban population centers. Sinuhe was an attendant to Princess Nefru, daughter of Amenemhet i and wife of Sesostris i. After Amenemhet i dies, Sinuhe overhears plans for a palace coup. Fearing that he will be caught up in the civil-war that will inevitably follow, he flees Egypt and wanders through the Nile Delta and throughout Canaan. Sinhue becomes very successful in Canaan, but always longs to return to his native land. Ultimately, he is reunited with Sesostris i and urged to return to Egypt. As with most Egyptian tales, this one ends happily when Sinhue returns to Egypt and is welcomed back into the royal household, His wish that he be allowed to returned to Egypt so he may die and be buried there is fulfilled. Sinuhe's flight from political danger may be compared to Moses' flight from Egypt to avoid Pharaoh's wrath (Ex. 2:15). Sinuhe's subsequent wanderings though the Egyptian Delta and into Canaan along with his new found prosperity in a foreign land may be compared with the accounts of Abraham's peregrinations. Another frequently cited parallel is that Sinuhe very much wants to be buried in his native Egypt, just as Jacob desires that his body be returned from Egypt to Canaan (Gen. 47:29–30). Similarly, Joseph adjures the children of Israel to carry his bones out from Egypt when they leave (Gen 50:25, Ex. 13:19).

Narrative parallels are not limited to the Torah. One of Sinuhe's exploits has been compared to David's slaying of Goliath. "He came toward me while I waited, having placed myself near him. Every heart burned for me; the women jabbered. All hearts ached for me thinking: 'Is there another champion who could fight him?' He [raised] his battle-axe and shield, while his armful of missiles fell toward me. When I had made his weapons attack me, I let his arrows pass me by without effect, one following the other. Then, when he charged me, I shot him, my arrow sticking in his neck. He screamed; he fell on his nose; I slew him with his axe. I raised my war cry over his back, while every Asiatic shouted. I gave praise to Mont, while his people mourned him" (Lichtheim in cos) Both Sinuhe and David are underdog warriors who surprisingly vanquish the enemy champion with his own weapon (i Sam 17:51).

Scholarly consensus recognizes that the biblical Wisdom tradition, and much of the poetic and instructional literature related to that tradition, has very close associations with Egyptian Wisdom Literature. Within the Bible there is a conception of Egypt as a source of great wisdom (i Kings 4:30, "Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the Kedemites and than all the wisdom of the Egyptians"), but this "wisdom" is not that of the Wisdom Literature. Egyptian Wisdom Literature deals with "truth," "justice," and especially "order," the "cosmic order" as ordained by the gods. Biblical Wisdom focuses primarily upon Wisdom personified and the "fear of God" associated with it. So the larger conceptions that inform the genre are not identical, but the Egyptian material most certainly has influenced the biblical.

Psalm 104 is frequently viewed in light of "The Great Hymn to the Aten." Both texts venerate the solar aspects of the deity and use similar language in so doing. Song of Songs is widely recognized as having significant parallels to Egyptian love poetry (Fox) There are parallels of phraseology: In the Song of Songs "sister" is used as a term of intimacy between the two lovers (4:9, 10–12, "…my sister, my bride…"; also 5:1, 2), and in the Egyptian Love Songs both "sister" and "brother" are used as terms of love and intimacy. In both literatures there is an alternation between the speech of the girl and that of the boy, but with a difference; In the Bible the lovers engage in dialogues, whereas in the Love Songs from Egypt the lovers are given alternating soliloquies. Another common feature is found in the so-called "Praise Song," where the physical beauty of the beloved body is described limb by limb. (4:1–7; 5:10–16; 7:2–10a).

Even more striking parallels are to be found in instructional literature; these connections were first recognized in the early 20th century, and are regularly noted in modern commentaries. The prime example is the "Instruction of Amenemope." Proverbs 22:17–24:22 and Jeremiah 17:5–8 are both thought to be inspired by "Amenemope." Of particular interest is Proverbs 22:20 and the difficulty surrounding the Hebrew word traditionally written both shlshwm (ketiv) and shlyshym (qere) and vocalized to mean either "officers" or "the day before yesterday." Neither makes any sense in the context of the pericope. Accordingly, many scholars vocalize this word as sheloshim, "thirty" ("Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and wisdom") especially since there are 30 chapters in the "Instruction of Amenemope" and that text ends "Look to these thirty chapters, They inform, they educate …."

The points of contact between biblical and Egyptian literature go beyond content, and include linguistic borrowings as well. There are close to six dozen agreed upon Egyptian loan words in the Bible, not including personal names and toponyms (place names); some of these words are Hebraized, whereas others are used in forms that are close to their Egyptian form. Understandably, there is a remarkable clustering of these loan words in the biblical accounts relating to Egypt. We have come to expect Egyptian words used to describe the natural environment of Egypt, so the biblical words for "reeds" (Ex. 13:18, 15:4, 22, 23:31; passim), "Nile" (Gen. 41:1–3; passim), "papyrus" (Ex. 2:3; Isa. 18:2, 35:7; Job 8:11), and "marsh grass" (Gen. 41:2, 18; Job 8:11) all are Egyptian loans. The same goes for specifically Egyptian offices like the hartumim typically translated as "magicians" (Gen. 41:8, 24; Ex. 7:11, 22, 8:3, 14–15, 9:11; Dan. 1:20, 2:2, 10, 27, 4:4, 6, 5:11). Pharaoh is a royal title (literally "big house" / "palace") used in the Bible both as a royal title with a specific royal name following (Pharaoh rn – ii Kings 23:29, 33–35; Jer. 46:2), or alone as a virtual royal name or specific appellative (this usage is consistent in the Torah text). Attempts have been made to date biblical passages according to the usage of the word "Pharaoh," but such arguments are speculative at best, and ignore the literary aspects of the text.

[Sharon Keller (2nd ed.)]

The Hellenistic Period

the ptolemaic period

Egyptian Jewry traced its history back to the time of Jeremiah (Letter of Aristeas, 35), but it was not until the conquest of *Alexander the Great in 332 b.c.e. that the second great wave of Jewish emigration to Egypt began. Alexander's successors in Egypt, the Ptolemid dynasty, attracted many Jews early in their reign to settle in Egypt as tradesmen, farmers, mercenaries, and government officials. During their reign Egyptian Jewry enjoyed both tolerance and prosperity. They became significant in culture and literature, and by the first century c.e., accounted for an eighth of the population of Egypt. The majority of the Jews of Egypt lived,

as the Greeks, in *Alexandria, but there were also very many in the ehora, the provincial districts outside Alexandria.

*Ptolemy i Soter (323–283) took a large number of Jewish prisoners of war in Palestine and forcibly settled them as mercenaries in Egypt to hold down the native Egyptians (ibid., 36).

On Ptolemy i's retreat from Palestine many Jews fled with him to Egypt, where they found a haven of tolerance. *Ptolemy ii Philadelphus (283–44) emancipated the Jews taken captive by his father and settled them on the land as cleruchs or in "Jew-Camps" as Jewish military units. He was remembered by the Jews of Egypt as having instigated the translation of the Septuagint (see Letter of *Aristeas; *Bible: Greek translation). Since *Manetho's antisemitic work was written in his reign there must have been a fair number of Jews already in Egypt.

*Ptolemy iii Euergetes (246–221) was said to have been favorably disposed toward the Jews and to have respected their religion. Two facts confirm this. One is the number of Jews who settled in the nome of Arsinoe (*Faiyum) in his reign, and the other is the synagogue inscription dedicated to him, declaring that he granted the rights of asylum to the synagogues (Frey, Corpus 2 pp. 374–6). There is also a synagogue inscription from Schedia, which was also probably dedicated to him (Reinach in rej, 14 (1902), 161–4).

*Ptolemy iv Philopator (221–203) attempted to institute a massacre of the Jews of Alexandria in 217 b.c.e., but was later reconciled with them (iii Macc. 5–6). During the reign of *Ptolemy vi Philometor (181–145) a marked change took place. Ptolemy vi won Jewish favor by opening up the whole of Egypt to the Jews, on whom he relied, as well as by receiving Jewish exiles from Palestine such as *Onias iv, to whom he granted land to build a temple at Leontopolis (c. 161 b.c.e.; Jos., Wars 1:33). The Jewish philosopher *Aristobulus of Paneas was said to have advised him on Jewish affairs, and he appointed two Jews, Onias and Dositheos, to high military posts (Jos., Apion, 2:49). During the struggles of Cleopatra *iii (116–101) with her son *Ptolemy ix Lathyros (116–80) the Jews of Egypt sided with the Queen, thus earning her esteem but alienating the Greek population from them (Ant. 13:287). She appointed two Jewish brothers, *Ananias and Helkias, as commanders of her army.

social and economic developments

Most of the Jews who settled in the chora were either farmers or artisans. The Ptolemies did not generally trust the native Egyptians and encouraged the Jews to enter three professions:

(a) the army, where, as other nationalities in Egypt, they were allowed to lease plots of land from the king (called cleruchies), and were granted tax reductions;

(b) the police force, in which Jews reached high ranks (cf. the Jewish district chief of police in Frey, Corpus, 2, p. 370); and

(c) tax collecting (a government executive job) and sometimes in the chora, tax farming (a government administrative post; see Tcherikover, Corpus nos. 107, 109, 110).

Others were managers in the royal banks or administrators (ibid., nos. 99–103, from middle of second century b.c.e.). In Alexandria there was a greater diversity of occupations and some Jews prospered in trade and commerce.

Early in the third century b.c.e. synagogues were founded in Egypt. They are known to have existed at Alexandria, Schedia (third century b.c.e.), Alexandrou Nesou (third century b.c.e.), Crocodilopolis-Arsinoe (three: third century b.c.e., second century b.c.e., and second century c.e.), Xenephyris (second century b.c.e.), Athribis (two: third or second century b.c.e.), and Nitriae (second century b.c.e.). They were usually called προσευχή or εὐχεῖον (from the Greek euche = prayer), and tablets were often erected dedicating the synagogue to the king and the royal family.

At first the Jewish immigrants spoke only Aramaic, and documents from the third century and the first half of the second century b.c.e. show a widespread knowledge of Aramaic and Hebrew (cf. Frey, Corpus 2, pp. 356, 365). But from the second century on there was a rapid Hellenization. Documents were written in Greek, the Pentateuch was read in the synagogue with the Septuagint translation, and even such a writer as *Philo probably knew no or little Hebrew. At first the Egyptian Jews transliterated their names into Greek, or adopted Greek names that sounded like Hebrew ones (e.g., Alcimus for Eliakim, or Jason for Joshua), but later they often adopted Greek equivalents of Hebrew names (e.g., Dositheos for Jonathan, Theodoras for Jehonathan). Gradually Egyptian Jewry adopted any Greek name (even those of foreign gods), and among the *Zeno Letters only 25% of the names are Hebrew.

In the chora the Hellenization was not so strong, but there the Jews were influenced by the native Egyptians. Documents testify to Egyptian names among the Jews, and sometimes to an ignorance of Greek (presumably these Jews spoke Egyptian). However, the chora Jews were more observant of the Sabbath and dietary laws than those of Alexandria.

The relations between Greek and Jew was on the whole good under the Ptolemies. The Jews often sought to explain Judaism to the Greeks (cf. Aristobulus of Paneas, Philo, and others). They tried to enter the Greek gymnasium which was a sign of the cultured Greek. Cases of actual apostasy were rare; that of Dositheos, son of Drimylos, who renounced Judaism to enter court, was exceptional (iii Macc. 1:3).


It used to be thought that the Jews were given equal rights with the Greeks by Alexander the Great, and that they called themselves Macedonians (Wars, 2:487–88). This has been disproved by papyri where it appears that only Jews or Jewish military units, who were incorporated into Macedonian units, were termed "Macedonians" (compare Tcherikover, Corpus nos. 142 line 3 with no. 143). Since the population registered its name and racial origin, each nationality in Egypt formed a separate group through the Ptolemid period. The Jews, unlike the Greeks, were not granted a politeia (rights of free citizenship), but received a politeuma (a constitution by which they had the right to observe their ancestral laws). Individual Jews were granted citizenship occasionally by the polis or the king, or by managing to register in a gymnasium. These, however, were exceptions. From the papyri of Faiyum and Oxyrhynchus it seems that the majority of Jews did not use the right of recourse to Jewish courts, but attended Greek ones even in cases of marriage or divorce. The head of the Jewish community in Alexandria was the *ethnarch, while in the chora elders held sway.

Toward the end of the Ptolemid period Jewish-Greek relations steadily worsened. The Greeks, supported by the Egyptians, were struggling to strengthen the power of the polis, while the Jews supported the Ptolemids, first Cleopatra iii (see above), and then *Ptolemyxiii and *Gabinius in 55 b.c.e. Papyri of 58 b.c.e. recorded some unrest in Egypt of an antisemitic nature (e.g., Tcherikover, Corpus no. 141). Josephus records that *Julius Caesar was aided by Jewish cleruchs in Egypt when *Antipater brought reinforcements from Palestine. In return for this Caesar is said to have reaffirmed the citizenship of the Alexandrian Jews in 47 b.c.e. (Ant., 14:131, 188–96).

Roman Period

early roman empire

The new administration under *Augustus at first was grateful to the Jews for their support (cf. the stele of their rights set up in Alexandria; Jos., Ant. 14:188), but generally it relied on the Greeks of Alexandria for help, which fact caused a great rift between the Jews and the rest of the population early in their rule. Augustus disbanded the Ptolemaic army and abolished the tax-collection system about 30 b.c.e. Both of these acts caused great economic hardships for the Jews. Few of them joined or were permitted to join the Roman army in Egypt (an exception being a centurion of 116 c.e., in Tcherikover, Corpus no. 229). Jewish tax collectors were mostly replaced by Greek government officials. The cursus honorum was closed to Jews unless they renounced their religion, which most refused to do (an exception being *Tiberius Julius Alexander, prefect of Egypt). Jewish civil rights (politeuma) were endangered by Augustus' revision of the constitution of Egypt. Three classes were created:

(a) the upper class of Romans, priests, Greek citizens of Alexandria, Naucratis, and Ptolemais, and those who had registered in the gymnasium;

(b) Egyptians, the lowest class, who paid a burdensome poll tax; and

(c) the middle class metropolitae (i.e., half-Greeks who lived in the chora), who paid the poll tax at a reduced rate.

Augustus placed the Jew in the lowest class, forced to pay the tax. This was a blow to Jewish pride, for besides those few individual Jewish families who had received the distinction of Greek citizenship, the vast majority of Jews could no longer register in the gymnasia and had to pay the poll tax.

From that time began a long struggle by the Alexandrian Jews to confirm their rights. The works of writers such as Josephus (Contra Apionem) and Philo (Vita Moysis 1:34) contain a defense of Alexandrian Jews' rights. The Greeks in turn approached Augustus suggesting that they would keep all non-Greeks out of the gymnasia, if he, in turn, would abolish the privileges of the Jews. Augustus refused and confirmed the Jewish ancestral rights, to the intense anger of the Greeks. Augustus abolished the post of ethnarch of Alexandria in 10–12 c.e., replacing it by a gerusia of elders.

The Greeks of Alexandria seized their opportunity with the rise of the pro-Hellenic emperor, Caius *Caligula in 37 c.e. The following year they stormed the synagogues, polluted them, and set up statues of the emperor within. The prefect, Valerius *Flaccus, was embarrassed and dared not remove the images of Caesar. The Jews were shut up in a ghetto and their houses plundered. Philo, who wrote In Flaccum and De Legatione on the affair, headed a Jewish delegation to Caligula to complain, but was dismissed with derision. On the assassination of Caligula in 41 c.e. the Jews of Alexandria took vengeance by instigating a massacre of the Greeks.

The new emperor, *Claudius, issued an edict in favor of the Jews in 41 c.e., abolishing the restrictions imposed at the time of the pogrom of 38 c.e., but he banned the Jews from entering the gymnasia, and refused them Greek citizenship. Much antisemitic material was written at this period in Egypt, e.g., *Apion's works, and the Acts of the*Alexandrian Martyrs.

Consequently the Jews closed their ranks and became more self-conscious of their Jewish heritage. Such works were written as iii*Maccabees and the Wisdom of *Solomon. The Jews also tended to live closer together, though no ghettos were imposed.

In 66 c.e. the Alexandrians, in debating about a delegation to be sent to Nero, presumably to complain about the Jews, discovered several Jewish spies among themselves. Three were caught and burnt alive. The Jews rose in revolt and tried to burn the Greeks in their amphitheater, and Tiberius Julius Alexander, the prefect, crushed them mercilessly, killing more than were slain in the pogrom of 38 c.e. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 c.e. Onias' Temple at *Leontopolis was destroyed and the *fiscus judai