Cities in EGYPT

El gouna Hurghada Makadi bay
Marsa alamSharm el sheikh

Geography and Landscape


The Arab Republic of Egypt (Arabic: Jumhuriyat Misr al-Arabiya) is a republic in Northeast Africa and is located on the border of Asia and Africa.

The total area of the country is 1,001,449 km². The greatest length is 1250 km, the greatest width 1100 km.

Egypt is bordered to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, to the northeast by the Gaza Strip (11 km) and Israel (266 km), to the east by the Red Sea and the Gulf of al-Aqabah, to the south by Sudan (1273 km) ), and in the west to Libya (1115 km). The total length of the coastline is 2450 km.

Egypt is on two continents; the Suez Canal separates the African part from the Asian (Sinai). The Suez Canal cuts through the Isthmus (isthmus) of Suez from Port Said to Suez, providing the maritime link between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The channel is 163 km long, with a width that varies from 365 to 305 meters. The canal has no locks and the passage takes about 15 hours. The sea route from Western Europe to the Far East is shortened by 16,000 km through the Suez Canal.

Satellite photo EgyptSatellite photo EgyptPhoto: Public domain


Egypt's territory consists almost entirely of desert, about 96%. The habitable area is only 55,000 km2 and includes the valley and delta of the Nile, the coastal areas along the Mediterranean and Red Sea and a few oases in the Western Desert. Physically geographically, the country can be divided into four areas: the Nile area, the Western Desert, the Eastern Desert and the Sinai area.

The Nile area extends 1250 km from the Sudanese border to the Mediterranean Sea, is a flat landscape, narrow and winding. From the Sudanese border to about 320 km downstream, the narrow Nile Valley cuts through the Nubian sandstone. Lake Nasser has formed here due to the construction of the High Dam near Aswan. Forty kilometers north of Aswan, the alluvial plain is about 10 miles wide and widens from Isna, where the Nile flows between white, steep limestone banks. The greatest width of the Nile valley is 20 km. From Aswan to Assiut they speak of Upper Egypt, then to Cairo of Middle Egypt.

At Cairo begins the Nile Delta (or Lower Egypt), where most of the Egyptian population lives, a triangular flood plain that extends for a distance of about 160 km from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east. Immediately inland from the coast is a zone of swamp and brackish lagoons, parts of which are reclaimed for agriculture.

Course of the Nile from origin to EgyptCourse of the Nile from origin to EgyptPhoto: Imagico CC BY-SA 2.5 no changes made

To the west of the Nile Valley lies the Western or Libyan Desert (Arabic: Al-Sahra al-Gharbiyah), a very arid plateau comprising about 75% of the total territory, and the easternmost part of the Sahara. This desert has an average height of three hundred meters. The area is made up of three plateaus: two of limestone, the Gilf al-Kabir and al-Diffah (Lybian Plateau) and a large sandstone plateau, the Nubian plateau. Approx. 15% of the desert is covered with sand dunes. The Great Sand Sea (Bahr al-Rimal) stretches for hundreds of kilometers, making it the largest dune area in the world. With a certain dune shape, the so-called sickle dune, the slope becomes increasingly steeper due to the constant wind and small avalanches arise. The dunes gradually move because of this slipping sand. The distance over which this happens varies from a few centimeters to as much as 20 meters per year.

Large oases occur in the seven large and some small depressions where fresh water is tapped. The only desert population also lives there. The largest oases are Siwah, al-Bahriyah, al-Farafirah, al-Dakhilah and al-Kharigah. The al-Qattarah Depression, up to 130 m below sea level and 20,000 km2 in size, is too salty for human habitation and one of the hottest regions on Earth. Temperatures of approx. 60 ° C have been measured. Other deep depressions are al-Fayyum (about 2 million inhabitants) and Wadi al-Natrun. The depressions were caused by a combination of soil subsidence and wind and water erosion.

Siwah oasis, EgyptSiwah oasis, EgyptPhoto: O.hicker CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

The Eastern or Arabian Desert (al-Sahra al-Sharqiyah) extends from the Nile Valley to the Red Sea and merges into the Nubian Desert in the south. On the north side are two plateaus, the northern and southern "Galala". Parallel to the coast stretches the reddish-brown Red Sea Mountains with peaks of more than 1500 meters: the Dzjebel Shayib reaches up to 2187 meters.

The drainage of the mountains here in the distant past created a network of deep wadis separating the mountain ridges. Nomadic shepherds roam here, who practice livestock thanks to the water from the occasional springs and hidden cavities or that is brought up from under the dry beds of the wadis. Hundreds of meters above sea level, fossils in the limestone show that this area was once a seabed.

The Sinai Peninsula (about 6% of the total area) is separated from the Eastern Desert and the Nile Delta by the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Suez. This irregular, triangular plateau reaches its greatest height in the south, where Jebel al-Deir or Mount Catherine is Egypt's highest peak (2641 m) in a spectacular mountain area. This mountain range was created about 50 million years ago by the drifting of the continental plates. Another high mountain is the holy Dzjebel Musa (Mount Sinai), 2285 meters.

Highest mountain of Egypt, Jebel al-Deir or Mount CatherineHighest mountain of Egypt, Jebel al-Deir or Mount CatherinePhoto: Mohamed kamal 1984 CC 4.0 International no changes made

To the north of this mountainous area is the very dry al-Tih Plateau, which is intersected by enormous wadis, and to the north gives way to the coastal plain with a belt of sand dunes. Volcanic rocks, limestone and sandstones provide colorful contrasts of red, green and yellow.


Nile Delta EgypteNile Delta EgyptePhoto: Public domain

Literally Egypt's lifeline, the Nile Valley is in fact the longest oasis in the world. This river oasis has a total area of 35,000 km2, and stretches for 900 km between Cairo and Aswan. The oasis consists of a narrow strip of fertile farmland on either side of the river that is never more than 20 km wide.

The Nile has two source rivers, the White and the Blue Nile, which merge at Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Although the White Nile is much longer, 80% of the Nile water comes from the Blue Nile, which rises in Lake Tana, on the Ethiopian plateau. A little further than the Blue Nile, the Atbara also joins the river.

Due to the Ethiopian monsoon rains, the Blue Nile swells so much that the water of the White Nile is blocked. It then floods the surrounding area. The flood water from the Blue Nile reaches Egypt in September, when the supply is greatest: sixteen times as much as the flow rate in May.

The most distant source of the White Nile is in Burundi, 6,825 kilometers from the Mediterranean coast. The Nile is therefore the longest river in the world. In the northern swamp areas of South Sudan, the Gazelle River (Bahr al-Ghazâl), the Giraffe River (Bahr az-Zarâfa) and the Sobat reinforce the watercourse of the Nile. The last 2700 kilometers through Sudan and Egypt, the Nile has no tributaries anywhere. The Nile cuts through the country for a distance of about 1500 kilometers, and enters Egypt just north of Wadi Halfa.

River Nile at the height of the capitol of Egpt, CaïroRiver Nile at the height of the capitol of Egpt, CaïroPhoto: Fakharany CC 3.0 no changes made

North of Cairo begins the Nile Delta, an area with an area of 20,000 km2, a maximum width of 250 km and a length of 160 km. This area consists entirely of silt that the Nile has deposited in the Mediterranean. When the Aswan Dam was completed in 1971, this silt deposition came to an end. The Nile flows in two main arms to the sea, the Damietta and Rosetta arms, supplemented by many smaller streams and canals. The river used to have seven arms, but five of them have silted up. Four shallow brackish lakes ("Bahra") form the gateway to the Mediterranean. These lakes are still separated from the sea by narrow headlands. The coastal strip of the delta is also dotted with marshes.


The only inhabited places west of the Nile Valley and the Delta are oases or "wahat" in the Libyan Desert. Enough water rises in seven places to allow permanent residence. These water sources are located in places where aquifers come to the surface. Sometimes those water sources are fed by rainwater that has fallen into the surrounding mountains and accumulated in the soil layers. Sometimes the water comes up from fossil water supplies (25,000-50,000 years old), formed during periods when the climate in the Sahara was much more humid than at present.

Oasis al-fayyum EgyptOasis al-fayyum EgyptPhoto: Cynic Zagor CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The largest "oasis" is that of al-Fayyum, with nearly two million inhabitants. In fact, it is not a real oasis, as it draws its water from the Nile through the canalised Bahr Yusuf, which flows into the depression at al-Lahun and branches off into a spider web of canals. The oasis of Wadi al-Natrun, 24 meters below sea level, is also becoming increasingly connected with the "inhabited" world, partly through the Cairo-Alexandria road that passes close to it. Wadi al-Natrun is approximately 40 km long, between 8 and 10 km wide. Due to the difference in height, groundwater from the Nile reaches the valley, where it returns to the surface. As a result, in combination with the strong evaporation, salt lakes have formed, which dry up completely in the summer. What remains is table salt and sodium hydroxide, a substance used in the time of the Pharaohs as a component of balm.

Siwa is the most remote oasis and is located at the lowest point of a depression (-18 meters). The oasis has hundreds of springs, 400,000 date palms and an abundance of olives, oranges and grapes. It is an un-Egyptian world, whose inhabitants do not speak Arabic, but a Berber dialect, Siwi. The area around the oasis was a military prohibited zone until 1991, but is now open to tourists and foreign investors.

The oases Dakhla, El-Kharga and Bahariya are elongated ribbons of villages and plantations. The El-Kharga oasis, located 1065 km from Cairo, is very long and stretches for almost two hundred kilometers. A large iron ore mine is located in Bahariya, and a phosphate mine has been opened near the Dakhla oasis. The small oasis Farafra is located on a plain amid sand dunes. The terraced farmlands of the oases are planted with vegetables, fruits, cereals, "bersim" clover, date palms and olive trees.

Badr Museum in the Farafra Oasis, EgyptBadr Museum in the Farafra Oasis, EgyptPhoto: Ahmed Yousry Mahfouz CC 4.0 International no changes made

Climate and Weather

Egypt has a desert climate with large temperature differences between day and night and between summer and winter.

Desert Climate EgyptDesert Climate EgyptPhoto: Cheesy 42 CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The weather is very steady; there are two distinct seasons: the hot summer from May to October and the cooler winter from November to April. In the desert, the temperature in summer during the day easily exceeds 38 °C in the shade, with tops of up to 50 °C. This heat escapes at night into the cloudless sky, with the temperature dropping by 10 to 17 °C. The temperature in winter is considerably lower: the average in January is 12-16 °C. The mountain areas in Sinai can be quite cold in December and January, and snow falls in the mountains almost every winter.

The rainfall is very low, Cairo has an average of six rainy days a year, Alexandria thirty. It hardly ever rains in the south of the country. In the spring, depressions now and then sweep Egypt, bringing with them the khamseen, a dry, scorching wind known for its sandstorms. For fifty days (khamseen = 50), from March to May, dangerous sand storms can emerge (wind speeds up to 150 km per hour).

Heavy rainfall in Caïro, EgyptHeavy rainfall in Caïro, EgyptPhoto: Mohamed Hozyen CC 4.0 no changes made

Unlike inland, the Mediterranean coast has rainfall in the winter (100 to 200 mm). The coast also has milder winters and lower summer temperatures than inland, due to the moderating effect of the Mediterranean Sea. The temperature differences between day and night are also not nearly as great.

Alexandria is the coolest place in the country. Average temperatures in January fluctuate between 10.5 and 18 °C, in July between 23 and 29 °C. Alexandria and the western coast of the Delta are also the wettest area in Egypt, with more than a hundred millimeters of rain per year.

Plants and Animals


The mudflats, especially east of the Nile, are mainly overgrown with scrub. Most of the desert is virtually bare.

Typical desert plants include rough grass, tamarisks and dwarf mimosas. Date palms bloom in the Nile Valley and in the oases, where groundwater is found close to the surface. Incidentally, there is almost only a cultural landscape along the Nile, where millions of date palms grow and vegetables and grain are grown.

Date palm, very common in EgyptDate palm, very common in EgyptPhoto: B. Simpson Cairocamels, CC 3.0 no changes made

Other trees and plants can be seen here and there, including fig trees, citrus trees, mangoes, tamarindes, mimosas, cypresses and the exotic Australian eucalyptus. Roses, bougainvillea and jasmine provide color and fragrance, for example.

The protected papyrus grows along the Nile, an elegant cane and one of the symbols of Egypt.

Papyrus plant, EgyptPapyrus plant, EgyptPhoto: ProjectManhattan in the public domain


About 160 fish species are found in the Nile, of which the Nile perch or Victoria bass is the best known. Due to overfishing, very large specimens of more than fifty kilos are almost non-existent. These can still be found in Lake Nasser in the south of the country. Also special are lungfish, which can even survive in mud puddles.

Nile perch, African snook or Victoria perch, fish from EgyptNile perch, African snook or Victoria perch, fish from EgyptPhoto: Daiju Azuma CC 4.0 no changes made

In the Sinai Mountains, ibex and panthers are rare. Despite the overcrowding, the desert areas are here and there still untouched. Sinai and the Red Sea coast offer some of the best scuba diving in the world.

The Red Sea is warm enough and shallow enough in places to allow coral growth. Corals are tiny polyps that cluster in colonies. When corals die, the next generation grows on top, and over time they develop into fantastic formations. The coral animals contain a lot of lime; if they die off, the calf shell remains. The Egyptian underwater world is home to more than 800 beautiful species of fish. The most common are the yellow clownfish and the reef perch, and further, among others, the masked butterflyfish, diamondfish, emperor fish and Napoleon fish. Different species of sharks live at greater depths (including tiger shark, reef shark, gray shark, leopard shark and hammerhead shark), barracudas, moray eels and stingrays.

Furthermore, sponges, seahorses, starfish, shellfish and lobsters live around the coral reefs. Dangerous species include moray eels, stonefish, scorpion fish, sea anemones, sea urchins, electric rays, lionfish and fire coral.

Coral in Red Sea, Marsa Alam, EgyptCoral in Red Sea, Marsa Alam, EgyptPhoto: Giorgio Galeotti CC 4.0 no changes made

In the western desert areas, tourists usually only encounter ants, beetles, flies, fleas, scorpions and sometimes a herd of gazelles. Yet there are many more wild animals to be found: cheetahs, oryxes, hyenas, jackals, desert foxes, rats, hedgehogs, hares, mongoose, weasels and different types of snakes. The most famous venomous snakes are the cobra and the sand viper. Scorpions are also dangerous guests. Birds of prey such as the Egyptian vulture and various falcons can be found throughout the desert.
Desert foxes sleep during the day and only leave their burrows at night. Thanks to their excellent hearing, they can catch insects and small mammals in the dark. Oases are an ideal habitat for all kinds of animals, such as the striped hyena, the Egyptian mongoose (aka pharaoh rat) and the little green bee-eater.

Egyptian vulture is bird of EgypEgyptian vulture is bird of EgyptPhoto: Arjan Haverkamp CC 2.0 no changes made

There are about 350 bird species in Egypt. About 150 species are permanently resident in the country, the rest are migratory birds flying to eastern Africa, or summer guests from tropical Africa. Saranik Nature Reserve was founded in 1985 at Bardawil Lake; one of the most important stopping places for birds between Africa and Eurasia. About 250 species have been observed so far, including the pink pelican, flamingo, blue heron, great egret, bittern, avocet and cormorant. Native species found here include the rare lesser kestrel, marbled duck, steppe lapwing and corncrake.

Lesser kestrel, rare in EgyptLesser kestrel, rare in EgyptPhoto: MinoZig CC 4.0 no changes made

Birds that stand out are spoonbills, storks, cow egrets, pelicans, flamingos, bee-eaters, kingfishers, purplets and the striking hoopoe. Famous is the Egyptian goose, which can be seen a lot, especially in Aswan. Protected birds include the lapwing, osprey, muscovy falcon, black kite, and purple heron.

The deserts are home to different species of sand grouse and partridges. Another special feature is the crested staircase, a beautiful flightless bird, of which there are not many left because of hunting. The ostriches seem to still occur in the Western Desert and in the protected area around Gabal Elba in southeastern Egypt.

Egyptian goose, typical for EgyptEgyptian goose, typical for EgyptPhoto: Lip Kee Yap CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The ibis, associated with the god Thot, and frequently depicted in works of art, disappeared from Egypt as early as the 19th century.

Large mammals such as lions, elephants, giraffes and hippos (last seen in Aswan, 1816) have not been seen in Egypt for hundreds to thousands of years. Nile crocodiles are only found in Lake Nasser, Nile monitor lizards are common.

Nile monitor, biggest lizard in Africa and EgyptNile monitor, biggest lizard in Africa and EgyptPhoto: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE CC 2.0 no changes made


The Camelus dromedarius, the one-humped camel or dromedary, from Persia, is indispensable in Egypt. They are usually called camel after the Arabic "kemal".

These gigantic ungulates have for centuries, until today, provided the transportation of goods and people through the deserts of Africa and the Middle East. The camel has adapted very well to the harsh desert life over thousands of years.

Camel, still indispensable in EgyptCamel, still indispensable in EgyptPhoto: Agadez, CC 3.0 no changes made

Thanks to a third, transparent eyelid, they can still see during sand storms. The legs of a camel are so flat that they do not sink into the sand of the desert. The hump on the back contains a lot of fat reserves, and no water as is often thought, allowing the animals to walk for many days without having to eat. Furthermore, dromedaries do not sweat and release almost no moisture with their faeces. This way they can withstand a higher body temperature and there is less need for cooling. On long treks without water, a camel can lose a third of its body weight, which it replenishes by drinking up to 150 liters of water in one sitting. Furthermore, a camel is also a supplier of milk, wool, leather and meat to the population.

Camels move both legs on one side first and then those on the other. They owe their nickname "ship of the desert" to that rocking walk.


Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period

Four thousand years before the beginning of our era, people already lived along the Nile. Over time, many small peasant states emerged, each with its own leader. After that, the many states were merged into two states, a northern state in the delta and a southern state in the valley between present-day Cairo and Aswan.

Around 2900 BC. North and South Egypt were united by Menes, and he also became the first pharaoh according to a few Egyptologists. Memphis became the capital of his empire. Other scientists believe that farao Narmer was the first farao of the Egyptian empire.

Image of pharao Narmer, maybe the first pharao of EgyptImage of pharao Narmer, maybe the first pharao of EgyptPhoto: Keith Schengili-Roberts CC3.0 Unported no changes made

With the 3rd Dynasty began the Old Kingdom (c. 2650-2140 BC), a period of great prosperity and tranquility in Egypt. Around 2300 BC, during the 6th Dynasty, the power of the Pharaohs weakened as noble rulers of the nomes seized power. In addition, hostile nations from the south and the east threatened Egypt.

The First Intermediate Period (c. 2140-2040 BCE) was a period of economic hardship and political instability. There was famine and anarchy, and many small states emerged in the south. Around 2100 BC. Mentuhotep I restored order and unity in the empire. During this period, more than a hundred Pharaohs from the 7th through 10th dynasties ruled.

Middle Kingdom, Second Intermediate Period and New Kingdom

The Middle Kingdom lasted from 2040-1650 BC. During the 12th Dynasty, the Egyptian Empire was at peace and beautiful monuments and impressive tombs were built. A large part of Nubia was also conquered. Raids from the Hyksos made around 1650 BC. an end to the Middle Kingdom, followed by the Second Intermediate Period. The rule of the Hyksos lasted about a hundred years, and Ahmose of Thebes succeeded in defeating the Hyksos around 1550 BC. to expel. He became the founder of the 18th Dynasty, and with him the New Kingdom began, that of 1551-1070 BC. lasted. Under the pharaohs of this dynasty (including Hatsheptut, Tutankhamun, Akhnaten and Ramses II) Egypt grew into a world empire with Thebes as its capital. Egypt reached its greatest extent under Thutmose I and especially under Thutmose III.

Thutmose III, pharaoh of EgyptThutmose III, pharaoh of EgyptPhoto: Keith Schengili-Roberts, CC 2.5 Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

Third Intermediate Period and Late Period

After 1100 BC. Egypt's power came to an end due to internal troubles and invasions from foreign nations. In the Third Intermediate Period (1075-715 BC) Egypt was even divided into many small principalities, in which the priest-kings rule.

In the Late Period (715-332 BCE), Egypt was conquered by the Persians in 525 BCE. In 332 BC. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and the Persians retreated: at that time Egypt became part of the Hellenistic world.

Alexander was followed by the Ptolemies, who made Alexandria the cultural and economic center of the country. All male Pharaohs today are called Ptolemy and all female Cleopatra. Cleopatra VII, among other things mistress of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, is said to be the last of the Ptolemies on the Egyptian throne.

Cleopatra, Queen of Old EgyptCleopatra, Queen of Old EgyptPhoto: Rama, CC 3.0 France no changes made

Roman Colony, Omayyads, Abassids and Fatimids

In 30 BC. Egypt was annexed by Emperor Augustus as an imperial province to the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. Egypt did not improve economically in Roman times. Very high taxes were imposed on the inhabitants of the country that, as the 'granary of Rome', had to deliver large quantities of grain to Rome. The Byzantine era started for Egypt with radical reforms in the time of Emperor Diocletian in areas such as the political organization, the economy and the monetary system. Despite those reforms, however, this period was clearly one of decline. The population was divided into a small group of powerful landowners and the enormous masses, mainly peasants.

In the first half of the 7th century, Islam became a world power and Egypt was soon annexed by this world power and an Islamic country. In 641 AD. Egypt was taken by Amr-Ibn al-As on behalf of Caliph Omar and the new capital became Fustat. In 661, one of Omar's successors brought the Omayyad dynasty to power, who ruled their empire from Damascus.

Amr-Ibn al-As mosque, EgyptAmr-Ibn al-As mosque, EgyptPhoto: Mohammed Moussa CC 3.0 no changes made

The Christian Coptic culture that still predominated in Egypt was slowly but surely replaced by the Islamic culture. Arabic became the main language and legislation became Islamic. The tax burden on Christians continued to increase, leading many to switch to Islam. The Coptic Christians revolted regularly, but had little success. In 750, the Omayyads were expelled by the Abbasid dynasty, who ruled their vast empire from Baghdad. One of the Abassidian governors, Ahmed Ibn Tolun, made Egypt an independent country for a short time (Tulunid dynasty, 870-905). Ahmed's successors were unable to keep the Abassids out and in 905 Baghdad's power was restored in Egypt.

Egypt was subsequently attacked by the Byzantines and by the Shia Fatimids, another Islamic power. Initially they managed to keep the Fatimids at bay, but in 968 they still conquered Egypt.

Under the rule of the Fatimids (969-1171), the city of Al-Qahira ("the Victorious", later Cairo) became increasingly important. Under Caliph Abu Mansur al-Aziz (975-996), the Fatimids reached their greatest heyday and ruled all of North Africa, Syria and Sicily.

Evolution of the Fatimid state, EgyptEvolution of the Fatimid state, EgyptPhoto: Jemeldz CC 4.0 no changes made

In the years 1062-1075 Egypt experienced a deep economic decline due to internal disputes, in which also great treasures of literature and art were lost. After that, authority was repeatedly in the hands of all-powerful viziers.

Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans

The arrival of the Crusaders in the late 11th century was to change everything, especially when the Crusaders attacked Jerusalem. Egypt was also attacked, but successfully defended by the Seljuk Turks. In 1169, the Seljuks came to power briefly through Salah al-Din ("Saladin"), who founded a new dynasty, the Sunni Ayyubids (1171-1250). Saladin became known for his victories over the Crusaders. In 1250 the Turkish Mamluks came to power, originally they were slaves in the army of Salah al-Din (Mameluk is Arabic for slave). The Mamluks managed to keep aggressive nomadic tribes from Asia out of Egypt in the 13th century, including the Mongols, who were defeated in 1260 by Baybars, who subsequently proclaimed themselves sultan. A period of stability and prosperity now followed, but in the 14th century another period of crisis broke out by fighting Mamluks. A period of recovery followed in the 15th century.

Selim I, ninth sultan of the ottoman EmpireSelim I, ninth sultan of the ottoman EmpirePhoto: Word press CC4.0 International no changes made

In 1517 the Ottoman Turks (Selim I) put an end to the rule of the Mamluks. However, they were allowed to keep the government of Egypt, which was not smart, because the Mamluks managed to gain more and more power. The constant infighting of the Mamluks brought Egypt into a dark period of economic hardship, famine and epidemics. However, they were able to hold their own with the weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century.

Mohammed Ali, Abbas I and English Rule

Also Napoleon, who occupied Egypt from 1798 to 1801, did not control the Mamluks and the French were even expelled by an alliance between the Turks and the English. The Mamluks quickly tried to regain power in Egypt, but were finally defeated in 1811 by Mohammed Ali (1805-1849). He became the founder of the last dynasty and the founder of modern Egypt. In 1805 he was proclaimed pasha (governor) of Egypt with the permission of the Turks. However, power went to his head and in 1840 he tried to expel the Sultan of Turkey together with his son. This attempt was prevented by the great powers.

Mohammed Ali Pasja, EgyptMohammed Ali Pasja, EgyptPhoto: Auguste Couder in the public domain

Mohammed Ali was succeeded by his grandson Abbas Hilmi I (1849-1854), who undid many of his grandfather's modern reforms. After the assassination of Abbas, Said Pasha (1854-1863) became governor of Egypt, and under his rule the Cairo-Alexandria railway was built and he was the basis for the construction of the Suez Canal. In 1867, Said Pasha's successor, Ismail Pasha, assumed the title of viceroy ("khedive").

At the request of the Western powers, he was deposed by the Sultan in Constantinople in 1879 and succeeded by his son Mohammed Tawfiq (1879-1892). Because Egypt was in fact ruled by foreigners and burdened with heavy financial burdens, a nationalist uprising led by Orabi Pasha ensued. After a massacre of a group of Europeans, Alexandria was bombed and the British occupation of Egypt was a fact. The British entered Cairo on September 15, 1882, and Egypt effectively became a British protectorate. Tawfiq died in 1892 and was succeeded by his son Abbas Hilmi II.

Abba Hilmi II, kedive of EgyptAbba Hilmi II, kedive of EgyptPhoto: Factory No. 64, 2nd District N.Y CC 2.5 no changes made

Abbas II was not really an enemy of the English, but the national movement wanted to run the country itself at all costs. In 1911 Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, who had recaptured Sudan in 1898, took over the administration. In 1913 Egypt received a parliament with fairly extensive legislative power and a new electoral system.

Egypt becomes a kingdom

When Turkey sided with the Central Powers in World War I, Egypt was officially proclaimed a British protectorate on December 18, 1914, and power rested with the British High Commissioner. After the war, the then High Commissioner, General Allenby, managed to persuade the government in London to unilaterally dissolve the protectorate (22 February 1922). The new leader of Egypt became Ahmed Faud, and the new leader of the nationalist opposition became Sa'd Zaghloel Pasha. Foead assumed the title of king and Egypt became a parliamentary monarchy. Zaghloel founded a new nationalist party, the Wafd. In 1935, the first free elections were held and these resulted in a Wafd majority; in May 1936 the new Wafd leader, Nahas Pasha, formed a cabinet composed entirely of fellow party members.

In 1936 Farouk became the new king (1936-1952), he succeeded his deceased father. The first measure he took was to dispatch Nahas, after which the country was ruled by so-called "palace coalitions." England remained closely involved with Egypt: the English army remained close to the Suez Canal and was allowed to provide the defense of Egypt. This turned out well, because in 1942 the Italian and German armies were defeated at Al-Alamayn (El Alamein), marking a turning point in World War II. Nahas,who had returned during the war, was fired again by Farouk in October 1944.

King Farouk of EgyptKing Farouk of EgyptPhoto: ThutmoseIII in the public domain

On March 22, 1945, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Transjordan formed the Arab League in response to the increasing migration of Jews to Palestine, then under English mandate. The League wanted to support the Arab population of Palestine against the Zionists and fight the last vestiges of Britain's imperial position in the Middle East.

At the end of 1947, Palestine was divided into a Jewish and an Arab part, while Jerusalem became an international enclave. The English left Palestine and on May 14, 1948, the National Jewish Council proclaimed the sovereign state of Israel. This was the signal for the Arab neighboring countries, including Egypt, to attack Israel. But due to disagreement and a lack of army, the attack failed completely.

Nahas and Naguib: Egypt Becomes a Republic

In 1950, the Wafd Party won a large majority in the elections. Prime Minister Nahas then turned against Farouk and England. Saturday, January 26, 1952 would become known under the name "Black Saturday". A popular uprising threatened, and Farouk fired Prime Minister Nahas. He also sent parliament home and announced martial law. Some time later Farouk refused to appoint Mohammed Naguib as Minister of War, after which on 23 July 1952 twelve young officers led by Naguib staged a coup d'état. On July 26, 1952, Farouk left Egypt to live in exile.

Mohammed Naguib, Egyptian politician and military figureMohammed Naguib, Egyptian politician and military figurePhoto: AshashyouCC 3.0 Unported no changes made

After the coup, the Revolutionary Council actually wanted a civilian government, but senior military led by Naguib quickly took over. He reappointed former Prime Minister Maher as Prime Minister. On June 18, 1953, the republic was proclaimed, with Naguib as president and he also remained prime minister. Gamal Abd al-Nasser, senior military officer, became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. In 1954 Naguib was pushed aside by Nasser and a number of officers. Nasser became Prime Minister and also Chairman of the Revolutionary Council.

Period Nasser and Suez crisis

In the same year, Nasser managed to get the British to leave the zone around the Suez Canal. In 1956, Nasser became president of the republic and requested support from the Soviet bloc for arms supplies. America insulted Nasser by refusing money for the construction of the Aswan Dam. On July 26, 1956, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Israeli ships were no longer allowed to pass through the canal and the Israeli army entered Egypt on October 29, 1956. The war lasted only six days and the blockade was lifted by the Israeli army led by Moshe Dayan.

France and England also sent troops to the Suez Canal but were ordered by the United Nations to leave Egypt. France and England followed this up, and Israel also left Egypt after promises that a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) would be stationed at the Egyptian-Israeli border. So after the humiliating military defeat, Nasser was able to win a major political victory.

Gamal Abdel Nasser, 2nd president of EgyptGamal Abdel Nasser, 2nd president of EgyptPhoto: Stevan Kragujevic; Tanja Kragujevic CC 3.0 no changes made

From that time on, he left the West behind and focused entirely on the Soviet Union, which reorganized the Egyptian army and financed the construction of the Aswan Dam.

On February 5, 1958, the VAR, the United Arab Republic, consisting of Egypt, Syria and Yemen, was established. Nasser was increasingly able to tighten his grip on political life within the VAR, and the Syrian bourgeoisie and military were deeply dissatisfied with the Egyptian central authority, especially after Nasser nationalized most of the major Syrian corporations in June 1961.

As a result, cooperation did not last long and on September 28, a number of Syrian officers committed a coup d'état and Syria seceded from the VAR.

In June 1962 a new system of government was introduced with the Arab Socialist Union (ASU) as the sole political party. Nasser continuously strengthened his position as the Arab world's chief leader over the following years, but his government experienced severe economic difficulties during this period.

At the time, there was a certain rapprochement between Egypt and Syria and a defense treaty was signed between the two countries in November.

Six Day War

In the spring of 1967, Nasser managed to get United Nations Secretary-General Oe Thant to withdraw the UN peacekeeping force from the Israeli-Egyptian border. The Palestinian Liberation Army took the place of the UN peacekeeping force. As a result, Israel lost the protection of its shipping in the Israeli port of Eilat. Nasser closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli ships and pushed Israel to the limit.

Israel threatened military action, but Nasser clearly directed a confrontation with a number of provocations at the border. On June 5, 1967, the so-called Six-Day War began. The Egyptian army and the Palestinian Liberation Army were quickly overrun, another major defeat for President Nasser.

Nasser initially announced his resignation, but the people and parliament urged him to stay on. A week after the ignominious defeat, Nasser became prime minister and party leader as well as president.

Situation after the Six Days War between Egypt and IsraelSituation after the Six Days War between Egypt and IsraelPhoto: Ling.Nut CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

After the war with Israel, major changes took place in the Egyptian army command. However, a military coup against Nasser was thwarted. Student strikes and uprisings were repeated in the following years, mainly against the often half-hearted attitude of the Egyptian government to the struggle with Israel and against a lack of democracy in the universities.

Nasser dead, Sadat succeeds him

The time after 1967 was marked by a shaky truce with Israel and a dangerous internal situation. Major problems such as overpopulation, population poverty and the very vulnerable Arab unity were added to this. Egypt was in dire straits economically due to the closure of the Suez Canal. On the positive side, the United Nations passed a resolution stipulating that Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, Nasser became increasingly dependent on the Soviet Union for supplies of weapons, food and medicine.

A series of border disputes with Israel ensued in 1968, and an offer from Israel to agree on mutually recognized borders was ignored by Egypt.

On September 28, 1970, President Nasser died of a heart attack. After Nasser's death, Vice President Anwar al-Sadat was elected president. In May 1971, large-scale purges were held among Sadat's political opponents, some of whom were sentenced to death.

Anwar Al-Sadat, Egyptian politician and later President of EgyptPhoto: Anefo in THe public domain

It was he who put an end to the presence of Russian soldiers in Egypt in 1972. Incidentally, the cooperation between the two countries continued, and civil advisers were allowed to continue to do their work. On October 6, 1973, the Arab-Israeli War began with attacks against Egypt in Sinai and Syria on the Golan Heights. Egypt was supported militarily in this war by the Soviet Union and the Arab States, Israel by the United States. On October 23, a ceasefire was accepted by the belligerent parties without a clear winner being identified. In March Egypt regained control of both banks of the Suez Canal.

After the war, Egypt received a lot of money from the Arab oil states to restore the economy and to pay off the debt to the Soviets. Slowly it became clear that Sadat increasingly focused on the United States and Western Europe. In March 1976, this resulted in the cancellation of the 1971 friendship and cooperation treaty with the Soviets, and for example arms supplies from the United States.

Peace with Israel

In 1973, a promised union between Egypt and Gaddafi's Libya was cancelled at the last minute by the Egyptians. As a result, relations with the neighboring country deteriorated and in July 1977 a brief border war broke out between the two countries.

In November 1977, Sadat paid a surprise visit to Israel and even spoke to the Israeli parliament, to the anger of the other Arab countries and the Palestinians. In late December of that year, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin met in the Egyptian city of Ismailiya and held talks that would later continue in the peace talks in Camp David and Washington, led by US President Carter.

Shake hands between Sadat, Begin and president Carter of the USAShake hands between Sadat, Begin and president Carter of the USAPhoto: Government Press Office (Israel) CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In March 1979, after difficult negotiations, peace was made with Israel, after which many Arab states severed their ties with Egypt. In 1981 Sadat took over. He had hundreds of opponents of his rule arrested, acted harshly against fundamentalists, and expelled hundreds of Russians for espionage. This likely cost him his life, as on October 6, 1981, he was killed in a military parade in Cairo by soldiers working with the fundamentalists.

Period Mubarak

Sadat was succeeded by Vice President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, and he pledged to continue Sadat's policy. This left Egypt isolated in the Arab world and relations with Israel deteriorated due to Israel's actions in Lebanon. But the cautious democratization of political life started under Sadat was also continued under Mubarak. In 1978 the National Democratic Party was established as a successor to the ASU and new political parties were allowed on the right and left. The parliamentary elections of 1984 and 1987 brought Nasserists, Liberals, Muslim Brothers and the re-established Wafd Party to the Assembly, among others, but Mubarak's NDP retained a large absolute majority.
In his foreign policy, Mubarak maintained relations with the United States and Israel, although relations with Israel were considerably cooled by the Lebanon War of 1982. In December 1983, PLO leader Arafat visited Cairo, in 1984 Jordan re-established ties and in connection with the First Gulf War also followed Iraq and the Arab Gulf states. Mubarak also managed to improve relations with Moscow.

Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian presidentHosni Mubarak, Egyptian presidentPhoto: World Economic Forum CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the mid-1980s, the economic situation deteriorated due to the fall in oil prices. An uprising by the security police in cities like Cairo and Giza also caused a lot of internal unrest.

Extremist violence in Egypt caused Mubarak to crack down on the Muslim fundamentalists. For the time being, this did not help much, because dozens of people were killed in shootings in 1990 and the speaker of parliament, Rifaat al-Maghoeb, was murdered. Tourists were also killed in several attacks, causing a lot of damage to the economy.

After the Amman Conference in November, relations between Egypt and the other Arab countries improved. In March 1989, the Saudi King Fahd visited Egypt, which meant that Egypt was once again fully accepted by the other Arab countries. Only relations with Iraq were severely damaged when Egypt took an open position against Saddam Hussein during the Gulf crisis and sent many thousands of soldiers to Saudi Arabia. In 1993 Egypt experienced an increase in anti-government violence by Muslim fundamentalists.

In 1993, Mubarak was elected to a third term with almost 100% of the vote. He again engaged in the fight against the fundamentalists, followed by an attack on him in 1995, during a visit to the meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The parliamentary elections at the end of November 1995, accompanied by much violence and fraud, were a great victory for the ruling National Democratic Party.

Poster Mubarak, presidential elections 1995Poster Mubarak, presidential elections 1995Photo: Papillus CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In November 1997, another bloody attack (58 tourists dead) in Luxor followed and tourism collapsed again completely. In 1999, Mubarak initially refused to run for a fourth term as president, but eventually ran for re-election. Again, he was reelected again with an overwhelming majority of 94%.

21st century

In the parliamentary elections of November 14, 2000, the NDP won 388 of the 454 seats. It was striking that of those 388 seats, 175 really belonged to NDP candidates. The remainder consisted of candidates who joined the NDP after the election. The big difference with the past is that these MPs, as independents, do not always have to support the government position. It was also striking that the 'Muslim Brotherhood' won 17 seats, making it the largest opposition party.

In October 2004, President Mubarak installed a new cabinet that has since implemented some far-reaching economic reforms. For a long time, the political reforms involved less. Bu suddenly, the president announced that the constitution (Article 76) will be amended to allow for multi-candidate presidential elections. Recently, the president presented new legislative changes that make it easier for political parties to organize and register. He also made proposals to expand the powers of parliament.

There is constant speculation about the succession of President Mubarak. During his unexpected admission to a Berlin hospital in the summer of 2004, the rumor storm re-emerged. Mubarak has denied speculation that he would prepare his son for president. The president has declined to appoint a vice president. The vice-president, a currently non-existent figure in the Egyptian political system, could, in the event of a - temporary - impossibility to govern, replace or succeed the president. It was recently announced that the appointment of a Vice President is currently under serious consideration. A committee has been set up to investigate the vice president's new duties.

Poster Muslim BrotherhoodPoster Muslim BrotherhoodPhoto: Elagamytare CC 4.0 International no changes made

Parliamentary elections were organized at the end of November early December 2005. For the first time, there was an open debate that was reported by the media. The opposition, including members of the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, were given more freedom to campaign. New parties, such as Al-Ghad, also participated in the elections. Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party got 331 seats of the available 444, while the Muslim Brotherhood managed to get 88 seats. The secular opposition has hardly gained any influence with eleven seats.
In June 2007, the National Democratic Party wins elections again. In April 2008, 25 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to prison. In March 2009, Egypt hosted talks between rival Palestinian political parties Hamas and Fatah. In February 2010, Mohammed El Baradei, the former top nuclear officer at the UN, returns to Egypt. He wants to form a coalition for political change and participate in the elections scheduled for 2011. In January 2011 there are violent protests against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. It appears to be the result of a wave of democratization in the Arab world, which started in Tunisia. More than at least 100 people have died. On February 11, 2011, Mubarak announced his resignation. Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood becomes the new president, but has since been impeached.

Mohamed Morsi Isa al-Ayyat. Egyptian politician of the Islamic Brotherhoodand later on president of EgyptMohamed Morsi Isa al-Ayyat. Egyptian politician of the Islamic Brotherhoodand later on president of EgyptPhoto: Cybaaudi CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The situation is very unsettled in 2013. Egyptians voted by referendum in January 2014 for a new constitution. In May 2014, former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi wins the presidential election. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 there was a lot of unrest because of terrorist actions by supporters of the Islamic State. In July 2017, Egypt joined the Saudi Arabian-led coalition against Qatar, accused of protecting terrorism.
In 2018 President Sisi wins a second term in elections against a sole minor opposition candidate. More serious challengers either withdrew or were arrested. In 2019, constitutional amendments were approved by the parliament and in a referendum. the President's and the military gained power. The presidential term was stretched from 4 years to 6 years so allowing El-Sisi to run for other two mandates.
In 2020 there is a dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia about the building of a dam by Ethiopia. Egypt fears that the dam will reduce the amount of water in the Nile. In March 2021, the Suez Canal will be blocked for several weeks as the 400-meter container ship Ever Given ran aground.

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, president of EgyptAbdul Fattah al-Sisi, president of EgyptPhoto: CC 3.0 Unported no changes made



The population (97,041,072 in 2017) is 90% of East Hamitic descent, but has been fully Arabized socially, culturally and politically over time.

Other small populations include the Berber nomads in the remote oasis of Siwa, the Nubians (in the south) and the Copts (in Upper Egypt).

Siwa is the most remote oasis and is an un-Egyptian world, whose inhabitants do not speak Arabic, but a Berber dialect, Siwi.

The Nubians are an important population group (approx. 6 million), which can also be found further upstream in Sudan (Dongola). Most Nubians live in villages along the banks of the Nile between Aswan and Luxor, notably in Kawm Umbu. Due to the construction of the dam at Aswan, they lost their original habitat in 1970 when it was flooded. Half of the Egyptian Nubians left for Sudan.

There are also several tens of thousands of Bedouins (estimates vary between 50,000 and 70,000), who partly still adhere to their (semi-) nomadic lifestyle. Most of them live in the Sinai and originate from the Arabian Peninsula. The Aulad Ali, Bedouins from Libya, live along the Mediterranean coast. However, they have traded their tents for stone houses and often work in Cairo and Alexandria.

Egyptian bedouins in the SinaïEgyptian bedouins in the SinaïPhoto: Someone10x CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Demographic data

There is a rapid population growth (2.45% in 2017) which is a direct consequence of a high birth rate (29.6 per 1000 inhabitants in 2017) and a decreasing death rate (4.6 per 1000 inhabitants in 2017). The government promotes birth control, yet about 1 million people are added every nine months. In a century, Egypt's population has grown nearly tenfold.

33% of the population is younger than 15 years old and only 4.% is older than 65 years. Life expectancy at birth is more than 71.6 years for men and 74.4 years for women. (2017)

Distribution of population

Almost 95% of the total population lives in the Nile Valley and Delta, which is only 3.5% of the territory. The population density in the inhabited and cultivated land is more than 1600 inhabitants. per km2 (the national average is approximately 90 inhabitants per km2). An additional problem is the increasing urbanization in Cairo (Greater Cairo, including suburbs, more than 18 million inhabitants), Alexandria (4 million inhabitants) and Giza (3 million inhabitants). These are the largest urban concentrations. In some parts of Cairo and Alexandria, the population density is a gigantic 140,000 inhabitants per km2. Greater Cairo is Africa's largest city and in terms of population, Egypt is Africa's second largest country after Nigeria.

Busy El Moez Street in Caïro, largest city of AfricaBusy El Moez Street in Caïro, largest city of AfricaPhoto: Omar Attallah CC 4.0 International no changes made

By building cities in the desert and developing the Suez Canal Zone, the government is trying to alleviate the population pressure in the Nile Valley. Major construction projects have also been started in the western oases. Several million Egyptians work as 'guest workers' in other Arab countries.


The official language in Egypt is Egyptian Arabic, which is spoken by about 98% of the population. Egyptian Arabic is actually a dialect of Modern Standard Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is the most important of all Arabic dialects, not only because of the large number of Egyptians, but also because the country is the leading producer of film, radio and television programs in the Arab world. The transcription from the Arabic script to the Roman alphabet is not easy, and different spellings for the same word can be encountered.
The Arabic script consists of 28 letters and is written from right to left; Arabic numerals, on the other hand, are written from left to right. In addition to this language, Nubian, Coptic and Berber (in Siwa) still exist.

The Coptic language has its origins in Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Coptic language is still used in religious ceremonies. The name Coptic only originated after the Arab conquest. The Greeks called the land Aiguptos and the inhabitants Aigupti. This was corrupted by the Arabs to Gupti, from which Copts is derived. So Coptic literally means as much as "native Egyptian".

Bible in the Coptic languageBible in the Coptic languagePhoto: Lollylolly78~commonswiki CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Nubian language has nothing to do with Arabic. Ethnologically, it is spoken Nubian to be divided into Fiadidja-Mahas and Kenuzi-Dongola.

Fiadidje-Mahas is spoken in Sudan, although more than 50% of Nubians in Egypt are Fiadidja. In Egypt this language is spoken by all Nubians living south of Kunuz. Fadidja and Mahas are two variants that hardly differ from each other.

Kenuzi-Dongola is spoken by the Nubians of Dongola in Sudan and Kunuz in Egypt. Most of the people from Dongola and Kunuz understand those who speak Fadidja-Mahas.

English and French are also spoken by educated Egyptians.

Below are some Arabic words and expressions in a simple phonetic transcription:

Yes = naAm

No = laa

Thank you = sjokran

I don't understand = ma afham

Left = jasaar

Right = jamien

One = waaHed

Two = ethneen

Three = thalaathah

Hundred = me’ah

Thousend = alf

Sunday = jom al-aHad

Wednesday = jom al-arbeAa

Summer = aS-Seef

Winter = asj-sjeta

Ik wdon't know = ma aAref

I'm veryy sorry = aasef jeddan

Where is the toilet = wien at-towaaliet

Upper row hieroglyphics, lower row ArabicPhoto: Davide Mauro CC 4.0 International no changes made


Three types of writing were in use in ancient Egypt. An originally secret language for the priests, the hieratic script, the demotic script, intended for daily use by the people, and the hieroglyphic script.

Hieroglyphs date back to c. 3200 BC. and are the oldest known script in the world. The word "hieroglyph" means "sacred engraved letter" and refers to the pictorial script used by the ancient Egyptians to express their faith. The Egyptians themselves also called the hieroglyphs the gods words. Hieroglyphic writing was originally purely "pictorial", and the signs initially meant exactly what they represented. Gradually the pictograms took on a general meaning and concepts and ideas were also displayed.

Hieroglyphs were mainly carved on monuments and can be read from left to right, right to left or from top to bottom. Because it was a very complex writing system, characters that were easier to write were developed over the centuries. The last datable inscription is that on Hadrian's Gate at Philae from 394.

Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsPhoto: Vania Teofilo CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

It took years of practice to master the art of hieroglyphics. The specially trained writers belonged to the social elite.

There are three main types of hieroglyphs. "Phonograms" convey the sounds of syllables, "ideograms" depict the object or action itself, it "determinatively" confirms, changes or indicates the meaning of the adjacent word. A complicating factor is that many symbols can represent all these types. Reading is further complicated by the fact that words and sentences are neither separated by distances nor by punctuation marks. One aid is that symbols of animals and people always look at the point where the text begins.

The person who first succeeded in deciphering hieroglyphs was the French linguist Jean-François Champollion, in 1822. The key to reading hieroglyphs was found on a black granite stela, the 'Rosetta stone', discovered by the Napoleon's soldiers in 1799.

Statue of Jean-François Champollion, EgyptStatue of Jean-François Champollion, EgyptPhoto: NonOmnisMoriar CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

It had a text in three scriptures: hieroglyphs (14 lines), Demotic (32 lines) and Greek (54 lines). By deciphering the three texts and comparing them, he managed to decipher the hieroglyphs. The text is a decree from 196 BC, written by priests who were together in Memphis at the time. They expressed their gratitude to Pharaoh Ptolemy for taking good care of the faith and the temples.

He first realized that there were different types of hieroglyphs with different functions. This is how he discovered the basis of hieroglyphic writing. Initially, approximately 700 symbols were used. Later, in the time of the Ptolemies, about 1000 symbols were used. Hieroglyphs were used to record profane bills, treaties and court protocols in addition to "ordinary" texts.

Rosetta stone, EgyptRosetta stone, EgyptPhoto: Hans Hillewaert CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Egyptians mainly used the "papyrus" as writing material, made from the papyrus plant, the Cyperus papyrus. The stem of the plant was divided into strips, which were pressed together in two layers, transverse to each other. The sheets of "paper" were then assembled into rolls. The plant, the sheets, the scrolls and the texts and images applied to them became known as "papyrus". Papyrus remained in use as a writing material until the 10th century. The text was applied with a writing reed dipped in ink. Often the hieroglyphs were provided with a color.



93% of the Egyptian population practice Sunni Islam, the official state religion. However, the free exercise of Christianity and Judaism is guaranteed in the constitution.

This does not mean that Egypt is an Islamic state with pure Islamic law. Muslim fundamentalists do strive for this, and as a result often come into conflict with the government. One of the most important founders of contemporary fundamentalism is the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, born in 1906 in the province of Asyut. He preaches armed struggle, "jihad," His book on it, "Ma'lim fi'l-Tarikh," became the political bible of the fundamentalists. From the 1980s onwards, various fundamentalist groups carried out attacks, including the assassination of President Sadat in 1981. The violence intensified in the early 1990s and since the summer of 1992, attacks on foreign tourists have also been carried out.

Sayyid Outb, one of the founders of Egyptian fundalismSayyid Outb, one of the founders of Egyptian fundalismPhoto: Olivier Carré et Gérard Michaud CC 4.0 International no changes made

Central to Islam is the belief in the one God, who through revelations to a series of prophets made his will known to man. Muslims believe that a merchant from Mecca, Muhammad, received God's closing revelation, and is therefore considered the Seal of the Prophets. That closing revelation is recorded in the Quran, which was completed twenty years after Muhammad's death. Muhammad himself did not appoint a successor and after his death the fledgling Islamic community was soon torn apart by succession disputes.

A battle arose between Muslims who wanted to test the Quran against human reason and those who held to the literal nature of the revealed text. The traditionalists fiercely oppose rationalists, the modern thinking intellectuals. The traditionalists adhere to the literal nature of the revealed Qur'anic text, to the sayings, "hadith", of the prophet, and to his actions, the "sunnah". These three form the basis of the Islamic law of duty, the "Sharia".

Quran verses, attributed to the caliph Hazrath Usman ibn Affan Radiallahu Anhu (644-656 AD)Quran verses, attributed to caliph Hazrath Usman ibn Affan Radiallahu AnhuPhoto: S N Barid CC 4.0 International no changes made

According to the Sunnis, every good Muslim is eligible to succeed Muhammad, and must be designated by the people. In practice, this is done by a counsel of the scribe called "ulama".

Shias recognize as the leader of the Islamites only the descendants of Ali, murdered in 661, who was married to Muhammad's daughter Fatima. They alone possess esoteric knowledge which, from Muhammad, is passed on through a hereditary line of imams who are considered infallible. Shias make up about ten percent of the Muslims. The main Shia country is Iran.

Coptic Church

The largest religious minority are the Copts (6%). The Copts mainly live in Cairo, Central Egypt (al-Minya, Asyut Sawhag) and Alexandia.

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church is the Patriarch (Pope) of Alexandria. This patriarch is regarded as the successor of the apostle Mark, who according to tradition brought Christianity to Egypt in the 1st century. By the 4th century, Christianity was the official religion of Egypt.

The Egyptian Christians split from the Orthodox Church after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 determined that Christ had a human and divine nature. Dioscorus, patriarch of Alexandria, did not accept this definition: he believed only in the divinity of Christ (monophytes). The Monastery of St. Anthony, built in the Red Sea Mountains in 361-363, is the oldest Coptic monastery in Egypt.

Coptic church in Hurghada, EgyptCoptic church in Hurghada, EgyptPhoto: Aleksasfi CC 3.0 Unported, no changes made

The current Coptic Pope Shenouda III rose to power under President Sadat. He has transformed the Coptic Church into a vibrant community from a dusty church. He is also very militant when it comes to the interests and rights of the Copts. That got so out of hand that in 1981 he was suspended as pope by Sadat and locked up in a monastery. All kinds of Muslim movements and especially fundamentalists are agitating against the Copts, and killings, fires and molestation are very common.

Various groups

In addition to the Copts, there are about a quarter of a million other Christian minority groups, including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Armenian Orthodox and Protestants.

Especially in the south, where people have mixed much less with the Arabs, the old, pre-Islamic Egyptian faith has not completely disappeared. The people there are often very superstitious.


In the big cities there are small Jewish communities, mainly made up of elderly Jews. As a result, Judaism as a religion is doomed to disappear from Egyptian society. With the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, most of the Jews left Egypt.

The Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, the oldest monument to the Jews in Egypt, is still being preserved. The synagogue was extensively renovated in the 1980s. However, it is no longer used for services.

Ben Ezra syngogue in Caïro, EgyptBen Ezra syngogue in Caïro, EgyptPhoto: Faris knight CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Egyptian gods

In general, the gods of the ancient Egyptians had several appearances, according to their different characteristics. Most gods were worshiped in a certain place or region, some managed to become the kingdom god.

Many gods were depicted in animal guises. In fact, it was not actually the animal itself that was worshiped, but rather the force with which it was associated. In the Late Age animal worship changed in character and the animals associated with the gods were themselves considered sacred.

Important gods were:

God of the wind and the "breath of life". Later became tutelary deity of Thebes and was during the New Kingdom as Amon-Ra kingdom god of Egypt. Has always been depicted as a human figure, with a crown with two long feathers.

Head of the god Amun, EgyptHead of the god Amun, EgyptPhoto: public domain

God of mummification and protector / guide of the dead in the underworld. He was always presented as a black reclining jackal or dog. Also known as a jackal or dog head.

The "Sacred Bull of Memphis" was a symbol of strength and virility. He was depicted as a predominantly black bull with a white triangular spot on the forehead and a sun disk with cobra erected between the horns.

Sky goddess, goddess of music, dance, joy and love and protector of women. Was depicted as a cow or as a woman with a cow's head or ears, with the sun disk between the horns.

Symbol of devoted motherhood. Was portrayed as a woman with a throne on her head, or with cow horns, a sun disk and a throne.

Egyptian Goddess Isis nursing her son HorusEgyptian Goddess Isis nursing her son HorusPhoto: Wellcome Collection gallery CC 4.0 International no changes made

Fertility god, later commonly associated with the fertility of the soil and the Nile and the growth of crops. Later also became ruler of the realm of the dead. Depicted in mummy coats, with green skin, a feather-trimmed crown, and signs of royal and divine power: scepter, crook and flail.

Sun god who manifests as the solar disk. Ra was represented as a man with the head of a falcon, surmounted by a sun disk, surrounded by the "uraeus" or upright cobra.

Was the symbol of destructive forces, especially the desert, the thunderstorm and the dry wind. Depicted as a human with the head of a terrifying fantasy animal and a double crown.

God of measures, arithmetic, science and knowledge. He was depicted as an ibis or baboon, or as a man with an ibis head, writing utensils in hand.

Figure of Thoth, Egyptian Moon God, divinity of wisdom Figure of Thoth, Egyptian Moon God, divinity of wisdomPhoto: Wellcome Collection gallery CC 4.0 International no changes made


State Structure

Egypt was a monarchy until 1952. At the moment Egypt is a presidential republic with a democratic, socialist system, but with a president who has many powers. There is freedom of worship, expression, assembly and education. Legislative power is vested in a bicameral parliament.

The People's Assembly (Majlis ash-Sha'ab), with a term of five years, consists of 454 members, 444 of whom are elected in general elections, and the remaining 10 are appointed by the president. Most of the representatives come from the 176 constituencies, each of which elects two deputies. At least one of these must come from farmers 'or workers' circles. In addition, a third delegate, a women, is elected in about 30 districts. Members of parliament must be at least thirty years old.

In addition, there is the Consultative Council (Majlis ash-Shura) with 210 members, 70 of whom are appointed by the President and the rest are directly elected. The president must be born of Egyptian parents and must not be under the age of 40.

Meeting of Foreign Ministers European Union and Arab League in Cairo, EgyptPhoto: Estonian Foreign Ministry CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Executive power rests with the president and the cabinet. The president is elected for a six-year term by two-thirds of the parliament, and may be re-elected. This choice must be confirmed by a national referendum. The president appoints one or more vice presidents and ministers, is commander in chief of the military and can declare emergency measures.

Despite the cautious democratization under Mubarak, political life and civil liberties are still constrained and curtailed. Many associations and groups are excluded from political participation and if they do not follow the rules, they risk being banned. Notorious is the "Law of Shame" which prohibits the publishing of articles or writing books that "damage the image of Egypt". Censorship is therefore normal in Egypt. For the current political situation, see chapter history.

Administrative division

Egypt is administratively divided into 27 "muhafazat" or governorates. The governorates, which are divided into districts and municipalities, are headed by a governor appointed by the president.

From 1962 onwards, every influence in the political system was linked to membership of the ASU, the Arab Socialist Union, ex-President Nasser's party. However, in 1976 the ASU lost its monopoly position and other political parties were allowed. In 1980, the ASU was even abolished after a constitutional reform and Egypt got a purely multi-party system. The current ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), led by President Hosni Mubarak, is the successor to Nasser's ASU.

Burnt-out headquarters NDP in Cairo, EgyptBurnt-out headquarters NDP in Cairo, EgyptPhoto: Sherif9282 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


After the revolution of 1952, the school system was radically renewed, whereby the general compulsory education was included in the constitution from the age of six.

Education in Egypt is free and compulsory up to the age of twelve (since 1923), but many children, especially in rural areas, receive little or no education. Many children have to help out on land. About 80 to 90% of the children go to school at the age of six, but unfortunately about 30% leave school again within a few years. As a result, the number of illiterate people is high, especially among women.

With new rural schools being added every year, there is an increasing shortage of qualified teachers and modern teaching materials. Due to the rapid population growth, lessons are sometimes taught in two or three "shifts".

After primary school there are three more years of secondary education; successful completion of this entitles you to enroll at one of the twelve universities in Egypt.

There are also several so-called "Training Centers", a type of vocational education where professionals are trained in different areas. These training centers come under different ministries.

Cairo English SchoolCairo English SchoolPhoto; Lourdes Lanote,CC 4.0 International no changes made

The planned reorganization of the education system involves an increase in compulsory education from six to nine years, including extensive technical training. This is to prevent a future shortage of skilled workers.

Egypt has six major universities, of which al-Azhar, Cairo's Islamic University, is highly regarded in the Middle East. Cairo University and the Ain Shams are somewhat more secular universities in the capital. Also important is the American University and the universities of Alexandria and Asyut. There are also six universities in a number of smaller provincial towns. Ultimately, about 10% of Egyptians go to a university or college.

Al-Azhar University is one of the oldest universities in the world. The al-Azhar was founded as a mosque in 972, but developed into a theological university as early as 975. Initially under the Fatimids, it was a Shia university that could provide a response to the Sunni Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad. After the fall of the Fatimid Caliphate, al-Azhar was transformed into a Sunni university.

Al-Azhar University in Caïro, EgyptAl-Azhar University in Caïro, EgyptPhoto: Jorge Láscar from Melbourne, Australia CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Within the Sunni world, the al-Azhar is highly prestigious and Muslim students from all over the world attend university. Nasser has attempted to transform al-Azhar from a purely theological university to a general university. This has been partially successful, the university currently also has modern subjects such as "medicine" in its package.

Typically Egypt


Pyramids in ancient Egypt are basically the superstructure of a king's tomb, built on a square ground plan and consisting of four flat sides converging in a point. The dimensions of the various pyramids differ, as well as the way in which the corridors, (tomb) chambers and other rooms and the false doors were installed in the interior. The material of the pyramids is mainly local limestone, covered with finer white limestone and granite from elsewhere. For the top, a separate block ("pyamidion") was usually used granite, sometimes covered with gold. The pyramids were the central structure in a complex, which further included a temple for the death cult of the dead king.

Pyramids, EgyptPyramids, EgyptPhoto: Muhamed Ayman CC 4.0 Internationall no changes made

All of Egypt's pyramids are located west of the Nile, on a plateau on the eastern edge of the Libyan Desert. Egypt currently has 88 pyramids, of which 43 are royal tombs. The oldest and largest pyramid in Egypt is that of Cheops. This pyramid consists of about 2.3 million pieces of limestone, each weighing about 2.5 tons (6.1 million tons in total). Originally the pyramid was 147 meters high, but because the shiny outer layer has been lost, the pyramid is now 137 meters high.


Despite fierce opposition from the fundamentalist quarters, professional belly dancers are popular with both men and women. Grave reliefs from Pharaonic times depict naked dancers whose movements can be explained as a belly dance ("raqs shjarq"). Belly dancers are often the main attraction at weddings and parties, and the dances are often a combination of folkloric, gypsy and Ottoman dances. The dancers themselves prefer to speak of oriental dances. Belly dance costumes are studded with sparkling sequins, pearl necklaces and rhinestones. The belly dancers are accompanied by musicians with flutes, drums and lutes.

Egyptian belly dancers Egyptian belly dancersPhoto: Paul2018Jackson CC 4.0 International no changes made


The first dam was built by the British between 1899 and 1902, then the largest dam in the world. The 30-meter-high dam was initially not high enough and was raised several times until it was raised to a height of 42 meters in 1933.

The new dam, Sadd al-Ali, is located seven kilometers south of the old dam from 1902. In 1955 the development of the building plans started, initially under the guidance of America and England, who also financed the construction. However, when Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, the Western powers pulled out. Russia then offered to build and finance the dam, and construction of the massive dam actually began in 1960. In 1970, the work was completed by 35,000 personnel led by some 800 Russians.

The top length of the dam is 3600 meters with an upper width of 50 meters. The height above the river bed is 110 meters and the dam raises the water to 61 meters, from 121 to 82 meters above sea level. 42 million m3 of stone, sand, rock and clay were used for the construction of the dam, which was anchored in the former river bed by a 155 meters deep underground 'curtain' to prevent the dam from being damaged from below and ultimately would wash away.

Aswan dam, EgyptAswan dam, EgyptPhoto: Unknown CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Lake Nasser, with a length of 500 kilometers, was created behind the dam, one third of which is on Sudanese territory. However, the construction of the dam was very negative for Nubian culture. With the flooding of their villages and land, the Nubians lost an integral part of their cultural identity. Together with UNESCO, many monuments were moved to higher parts, including the rock temple of Abu Simbel. Another disadvantage is that the Nile does not leave nearly as much fertile silt as usual.


The ancient Egyptians believed in eternal life after death, which meant, among other things, that the body of the dead was mummified for reunion with the soul in the afterlife.

Real mummification started in the 4th Dynasty with the development of artificial embalming techniques. During the mummification the body was stripped of organs and entrails by special priests, except for the heart. The body was then dehumidified with the help of sodium hydroxide (a natural mixture of sodium salts) and filled with, among other things, myrrh, cinnamon, sand, clay and sawdust and bandaged. Amulets were placed between the bandages.

This entire process took between forty and ninety days. Finally, the mummy was given a painted mask, made of linen and plaster and sometimes gilded. This death mask was placed on the mummy to help the soul of the dead person recognize the body. The body was then placed in a wooden mummy box or a stone sarcophagus. Often the dead was placed in one or more mummy boxes and then placed in a sarcophagus. These chests or sarcophagi could be rectangular or shaped like the mummy. The organs and intestines (liver, lungs, stomach, intestines) were separately preserved and kept in its own vase "canope".

Egyptian mummies in the British MuseumEgyptian mummies in the British MuseumPhoto: Bram Souffreau CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

According to the Egyptians, something special happened to the heart. A jury of gods presided over the ceremony, deciding whether the deceased deserved eternal life. The jackal god Anubis weighed the heart against the "feather of truth." If the heart was too heavy, it was given to the sample Ammoth, who then ate it. In equilibrium, the dead lived forever.

In addition to important worldly possessions, the mummy was usually buried with grave objects, such as the aforementioned amulets, a number of "Shabtis" statues and a model boat to take the dead to Abydos, the home of Osiris, god of the underworld.

Natural mummification took place in simple sand graves. The sand absorbed the body fluids, drying out the corpse and preserving the tissue.



The Egyptian economy is characterized by the abandonment of Arab socialism under Nasser (a state-run economy system) and a gradual transition to a freer economy under Sadat and Mubarak. Nationalizations were reversed and foreign investment encouraged. Under pressure from the IMF, which provided various loans in the 1990s, the privatization of the economy was accelerated, partly due to new investment legislation. Since the start of the privatization process in 1994, 132 companies have been fully privatized and 57 companies have been partially privatized at the end of June 2002. Another 125 companies should have been privatized by the end of 2002, but this failed. But the economic situation did not improve. Due to strong population growth, the shortage of jobs has become increasingly acute. Tourism has always been a strong pillar of the economy, but since the 2011 turmoil, the number of tourists has fallen dramatically.

Economic blocks in the Arabian LeagueEconomic blocks in the Arabian LeaguePhoto: User:Roxanna CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 2017, 11.9% of the labor force was officially unemployed and around 2 million Egyptians were working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia (924,000), Libya (333,000), Jordan (227,000) and Kuwait (191,000). Unemployment among the highly educated is very high, approximately 45%. Many highly educated people and also low educated people, look for work abroad. For example, a certain "brain drain" has started to other countries. Yet all those Egyptians abroad are of tremendous importance to the Egyptian economy. They send billions of euros to their homeland every year, an important source of income.

Although about 25.8% of the labor force is employed in agriculture, the yield of that sector is relatively low, 11.8% of GDP. The Egyptian economy is currently dominated by the services sector, with a share of about 49% of total GDP. (2013) Mining and industry are also an important source of income for Egypt.

Agriculture, livestock and fishing

Agriculture is still an important sector for the economy, both in terms of employment and its share of Egyptian exports.

In 1962, peasants' land holdings or 'fellahs' (Arabic for' tenders of the land ') was basically limited to 100 feddans (1 feddan = 0.42 ha), but in 1981 95% of all farms had no more than 5 feddan; the average is only 0.9 feddan. By improving irrigation and drainage techniques and the climate, the available cultivated land has been expanded to approximately 6 million feddans (= more than 36,000 km2), about 4% of the entire country, which yields two, sometimes three harvests per year. The production yield per feddan has also increased, but due to the rapid population growth, this has not led to a reduction in food imports.

The expansion of the cultivated land is also insufficient. Since the High Dam near Aswan was completed in 1970, the agricultural area could be increased by approximately 5000 km2, but a lot of cultivated land was also lost again due to urban development and salinization.

Farrmers in Upper-EgyptFarmers in Upper-EgyptPhoto: Mmelouk CC 4.0 International no changes made

Egypt is the world's leading supplier of long-fiber cotton and the sixth largest cotton producer in the world. The high-quality Egyptian cotton is partly exported, while Egypt imports lesser qualities of cotton for its own needs from Syria, Turkey and the United States.

Rice cultivation is becoming increasingly important. Egypt has the largest rice production in Africa and ranks second in the cultivation of corn and cane sugar. Cereals, vegetables, (citrus) fruits and potatoes are also grown.

Egypt produces several dozen types of fruit and vegetables and the horticultural sector has been growing strongly since 1987. The number of greenhouses is more than 20,000 with a production of about 80,000 tons. The most cultivated greenhouse products are cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.

Egypt provides 50% of its own needs for agricultural products. Potatoes, onions, citrus fruits, melons, white grapes, strawberries, peppers and herbs are exported. The Netherlands mainly knows the Egyptian green beans.

Field of brassica, EgyptField of brassica, EgyptPhoto: Unknwn CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Livestock farming provides a quarter of the agricultural contribution to the gross national product. The most common types of large cattle (mainly used for milk and meat production, but also as pack and draft animals) are cattle, buffalo, sheep and to a lesser extent donkeys and goats. Still, a lot of dairy products and meat have to be imported. A lot of young cattle in particular are imported. Total milk production in 2000 was estimated at 2.8 million tons, insufficient to meet domestic demand. Camels are also kept.

Due to the construction of the Aswan Dam, most of the fishing in the Mediterranean (sardines, shrimps) has been lost. Inland fishing (including in Lake Nasser, behind the dam) provides 80% of the total catch.

Petroleum, natural gas, minerals and energy supply

The petroleum industry is of great importance to the economy. The principal fields are in the Gulf of Suez, in the Sinai and in the areas of the more recent finds: the fields of El Alamein, Yidma, Abu Gharadek and al-Razzak in the Western Desert. In 1968 Egypt became an oil exporting country.

Egypt, which is not a member of OPEC, produced over 400,000 barrels a day in the 1970s. In the late 1980s this was about 600,000 barrels per day and in 1997 Egypt was producing between 800,000 and 900,000 barrels per day. About 170,000 of these were exported. Since Egypt is not a member of OPEC, the Egyptian government can set the price of the oil itself.

Oil refinery centers are Alexandria and Cairo. There is a network of pipelines to transport the oil. The pipeline with the largest capacity is that from Suez to the Mediterranean.

In 1974 natural gas fields were discovered at Abu Madi in the Nile Delta. Other fields are located at Abu Gharadek in the Western Desert (1976) and in Abukir, near Alexandria (1977). Gas reserves were estimated at 935 billion m3 in 1997. The natural gas is used exclusively for domestic consumption; export is only considered when the country itself has enough for at least 40 years.

Logo of the Egyptian oilcompany Misr Logo of the Egyptian oilcompany MisrPhoto: Marc Ryckaert CC 4.0 International no changes made

Other important minerals are phosphate, iron, salt and manganese, which are largely unexplored. Coal is found in the Sinai Desert and iron ore in the Bahariya Oasis and Aswan. For agriculture, the phosphate mines in the Arabian and Libyan deserts are important, providing the raw material for the fertilizer to keep the soil fertile now that the silt from the Nile remains in Lake Nasser. There is also some gold in the Arabian Desert, the Sinai provides marble and Aswan a famous red granite. Chromium and manganese are also found in the Arabian Desert.

South of Cairo, near Heluan, is the largest steel mill in Africa and at Naj'Hammâdî the largest aluminum smelter. Egypt is heavily dependent on the Aswan Dam for energy supply.


Industrial production increased by approximately 20% between 1950 and 1970 and since then by approximately 5% annually. There is a surplus of cheap labor, but a shortage of technically skilled workers. Most companies are known for inefficiency, understaffing and shortage of capital. Since 1977, Egypt has pursued a policy of attracting more foreign capital and privatizing many state-owned companies.

Egyptian man at workEgyptian man at workPhoto: Ahmed Emad H CC 4.0 International no changes made

Most industries are located in and around the major cities of the Nile Delta (Cairo, Port Said Free Trade Zone, Alexandria); the main industrial sectors are the textile industry and the food industry (approx. 57% of industrial production). Heavy industry is increasingly important, such as the iron and steel industry in Helwan and the aluminum industry in Nag Hammadi. Other small industries include cement, automotive and electronics industries. Since 1980 there has been a strong development of the arms industry.

The textile industry is one of the most important industries in Egypt. More than 1 million people work in this sector. The main textile centers are Mahallah al-Kubra and Kafr al-Dawar.

Outdated technologies and machines will force many companies to close their doors. These machines can only process expensive imported cotton. Modernization of the machine park therefore has the highest priority.

Many products are sold on markets in EgyptMany products are sold on markets in EgyptPhoto: Marwa elchazly CC 4.0 International no change made

The Egyptian pharmaceutical industry in a real growth sector, more than 10% annually. Egypt is the largest producer of pharmaceuticals in the Middle East and North Africa with a share of 30%. A small part of the total production is exported, mainly to neighboring countries.

Pharmaceutical raw materials and finished products are mainly imported from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and the United States. The import consists mainly of insulin, vaccines, medicines and baby milk.

The information technology market is booming. As of mid-2001, Egypt had about 60 internet service providers and more than 800,000 internet users. Free Internet became available in January 2002. The number of mobile phones is growing rapidly. This number is expected to double within a few years. The production of self-made hardware is still very limited; 60% of computer systems are composed of imported components.Electronic business is still in its infancy due to the low number of internet connections and the very limited use by the population of credit cards.


Egypt's trade balance has been in deficit for many years and probably always will. In 2017, total exports of US $ 23.5 billion and imports of US $ 53 billion, so the trade deficit is large.

Egypt export productsEgypt exportPhoto: Celinaqi CC 4.0 International no changes made

The main exports are cotton and oil and oil products, textiles and rice. The main export areas are the former Soviet Union, the EU countries (especially Italy, Greece) and the United States.

Many consumer goods have to be imported (especially wheat). Furthermore, machines, chemicals, means of transport and metal are imported. Most imports came from the EU countries (especially Germany, Italy and France) and the United States and Japan.

Trade with Arab countries is still limited, 4.9% of total imports and 8% of total exports. The main Arab markets are Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. In order to intensify trade relations with the Arabs, Egypt is striving for an Arab free trade zone.


Good roads connect Cairo and Alexandria, the cities along the Suez Canal and those in Upper Egypt. The Egyptian road network was greatly expanded in the 1980s and covers a total of more than 45,000 km. On November 14, 1980, the Ahmed Hamdi tunnel under the Suez Canal was opened. The coastal road to Libya and the connection with Sudan were improved.

Western entrance Ahmed Hamdi tunnel EgyptWestern entrance Ahmed Hamdi tunnel EgyptPhoto: Zehnfinger CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

As early as 1851, Egypt had a railway network. In 1990 the total length was 7,726 km. The Egyptian railways transport approximately 800 million passengers and 12 million tons of freight per year. In 1987 the metro network in Cairo was put into operation. The European Investment Bank is financing the extension of the South Metro Line 2 in Cairo.

After the train disaster of early 2002, the Egyptian government set aside 250 million euros for the modernization of the railways, including for the purchase of new wagons and locomotives.

The national airline of Egypt is EgyptAir, fully owned by the Egyptian government, based in Cairo and the hub at Cairo International Airport. In addition to regional destinations, EgypAir flies to more than 50 destinations in Africa, Australia, Europe, Middle East, Far East and the United States.

EgyptAir, national airline of EgyptEgyptAir, national airline of EgyptPhoto Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The main ports are Alexandria, Port Said and Suez. A new large port complex was completed in 1986 at Damietta. In 1985 a ferry service started operating between Nuweibeh on the Red Sea and the Jordanian port of Aqaba. The waterways are important as a means of transport. The total length is 3350 km, of which almost half is formed by the Nile; the rest consists of channels.

The government wants to expand the ports on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. To the west of Alexandria, a new port is being built: Dakheila, with a capacity of 20 million tons of cargo handling per year.

As far as inland navigation is concerned, making the Nile more navigable is the most important task of the government.

The Suez Canal is one of the largest sources of foreign exchange after the income of Egyptians working abroad.

Suez, great source of income for EgyptSuez, great source of income for EgyptPhoto: Mmelouk CC 4.0 International no changes made

Holidays and Sightseeing

The national airline Egypt Air operates domestic and foreign flights. Cairo and Alexandria have an international airport, Egypt has eighteen airports in total. Each year, approximately 12 million passengers are processed, of which approximately 8 million from abroad. Seven new airports were built in Egypt up to 2007, an investment of approximately 900 million euros. The private sector is playing a major role in this, as well as in modernizing a further 16 airports. Many tourists use last minute flights to Egypt.

Caïro International Airport, EgyptCaïro International Airport, EgyptPhoto: Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the second half of the 1970s, with government support, tourism recovered strongly from the setbacks caused by the wars with Israel. The Gulf crisis and attacks by Muslim fundamentalists did the sector no good. For example, the occupancy rate of hotels in the period after the attacks in America was around 30%. In the first quarter of 2002 this percentage had risen again to 60%. All these events made it clear that tourism remains a very vulnerable part of the economy.

Tourism (one of the few growth sectors of the economy) focuses mainly on the great monuments of Egyptian civilization and increasingly on the Red Sea coast. The tourists mainly come from the United States, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom and France.

The city of Cairo is well worth a visit. The main attraction is the Egyptian Museum. Here you will find art treasures from all periods of Egypt's history, the absolute highlight of which is the death mask of Tutankhamun, a young pharaoh who lived in the 14th century BC. The burial chamber was only discovered in the last century and in the museum you can also see the grave goods, the golden coffin and the throne of Tutankhamun.

Egyptian Museum, Cairo, EgyptEgyptian Museum, Cairo, EgyptPhoto: Bs0u10e01 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Close to Cairo to be more precise in Giza are the famous pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. There are three large pyramids close to each other, the largest and most famous being that of Cheops. The huge image of a sphinx is surrounded by mysteries. The dimensions are: length 73 meters, width 19 meters and the statue is 20 meters high. The most common theory is that the sphinx served as guardian of the pyramids and is related to the god Horus. The pyramids can be crowded and it is recommended to buy tickets in advance.

Pyramid of Gizeh and SphinxPyramid of Gizeh and SphinxPhoto: Kurohito CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the valley of the kings near Luxor you will find more than sixty royal tombs. It is Egypt's most famous archaeological site. Most of the pharaohs of the new kingdom were buried here. The first tomb discovered was of Ramesses VIII and the last that of Tutankhamun. Most of the valuables are now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. But it is magical to visit the graves and imagine what has happened here.

Just north of the city of Luxor you can also visit the temples of Karnak. Here you will find two temple complexes connected to Amon-Re and Moet (Mut). It is a gigantic complex, probably the largest religious structure in the world and the most visited archaeological site in Egypt after the Pyramids of Giza. The temple of Amon-re is open to the public and you can easily wander around for half a day, especially the large colonnaded hall is impressive.

Karnak, temple of Ramses IIIKarnak, temple of Ramses IIIPhoto: Marc Ryckaert CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Many tourists also visit the beaches on the Red Sea, which are known for the beautiful corals and tropical fish you see there. It is therefore a great place to dive and you can also get your diving license. The most famous places are Marsa Alam, Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh, El Gouna and Makadi Bay, all described on separate pages of landenweb.

Coral in the Red SeaCoral in the Red SeaPhoto: kallerna CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

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Ambros, E. / Egypte
Het Spectrum

Botje, H. / Egypte : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen

Dunford, J. / Egypte
Van Reemst

Grünfeld, R. / Reishandboek Egypte

Innemee, K. / Egypte

Kreissl, B. / Egypte

Laet, R. de

Rooi, M. de / Egypte

Sattin, A. / Egypte
Van Reemst

CIA - World Factbook

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Last updated December 2021
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