About Egypt

Official Name: Arab Republic of Egypt (Misr, or Jumhuriyat Misr Al-'Arabiyah)

Location: Egypt actually spans two continents (like only one other country in the world, can you guess which one?). With most of its land located in the northeast corner of the African continent, Egypt also possesses the Sinai, in Asia. Egypt is bordered on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Israel, Gaza, and the Red Sea, on the south by Sudan and on the west by Libya.

Land Area: 995,450 sq km (384,244 sq mi).

Coast: Approximately 2450 km (1521 mi) of coast.

Climate: Egypt is hot and dry for most of the year, except December through February. Hotter in the south than in the north, average temperatures range from 20°C (68° F) in Alexandria (and other coastal Mediterranean areas) to 27° C (80° F) in the arid south (although temperatures can get as high as 50° C (122° F) in the latter). Rainfall also varies, from around 20 cm (8 in) a year in the north to 10 cm (4 in) every 5 years in the south.

Population: 2000 estimates show the population of Egypt at more than 68 million, making it the most populous country in the Arab world and the second in Africa (after Nigeria). More than half of the population is under 18. Perhaps as many as 99% of all Egyptians occupy 4-6% of the country's surface area. 1995 estimates showed that the population density in the Nile Delta, the most densely populated, was 3,243 people per square kilometer (1,252 per square mile).

Language: Arabic is the official language of Egypt. That said, there are two kinds of spoken Arabic: Modern Standard Arabic, which can be used in all Arabic countries; and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, a dialect of the former. English and French are also widely understood.

Religion: Islam (Sunni) is the main religion of Egypt. There are also small communities that practice Egyptian Coptic Christianity (Egypt's most significant religious minority), other forms of Christianity, and Judaism.

Government: Egypt is a constitutional republic based on a constitution that was ratified in 1971. The executive branch of the government, meaning the president, maintains most of the power. The president is nominated by the 454-seat legislature called the People's Assembly, and then passed on to the people for referendum. Political parties were first allowed in 1977, but the 1990 and 1995 parliamentary elections, the latter of which was declared rigged by an independent monitoring group, were still resoundingly won by the incumbent National Democratic Party. The main opposition groups are the New Wafd Party (or nationalist movement, NWP), and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Executive (President or King): President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, currently in his fourth six-year term.

Capital: Cairo (El Qahira)

Flag: Egyptian flag

Currency: The Egyptian currency is called a Pound (E£), or guinay in Arabic. It is divided into 100 piastres or 1000 millims. There are 25 and 50 piastre bills as well as those for 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 E£ bills. There are also infrequently used 1, 5, 10, 20 and 25 piastre coins. The exchange rate for the period of the BikeAbout visit was approximately 3.37 E£ for every $1.
arrowClick to Use Currency Converter Find out how many Egyptian pounds there are in your local currency!

Resources and Industry: Egypt is a primary exporter of cotton to the world, selling 150% more to foreign markets than the US does (or 1/3 the world's total need). This number may drop as Egypt's farmers convert their fields to wheat for grain production. Agricultural production includes citrus fruits, vegetables, rice and sugar cane. Other markets include a smaller industrial base (textiles, iron and steel, vehicles, cement, fertilizer), and natural resources for export including significant oil and natural gas reserves, iron and minerals. The Suez Canal and tourism also represent important revenues, the canal alone bringing in more than $2 billion per year.

Transport: Egypt has 64,000 km (39,744 mi) of roads, 4,955 km (3,077 mi) of rails, and 3,500 km (2,174 mi) of navigable waterways.

Electric current: 220 volts.

Time Zone: GMT +2 hour

A brief history:

It is impossible to summarize, even in a few pages, the history of Egypt, stretching back as it does more than 5,000 years, but we will try to do it in just a few overly general paragraphs.

Ancient Egypt

Written Egyptian history begins in 3100 BC, when King Menes unified the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of the Nile. Following him, there were 30 dynasties (or successions of rulers from the same lineage) that ran through three Kingdoms (periods of prosperity) -- the Old, Middle and New -- and three periods of decline the last of which was the Late Period.

The Old Period had its capital at Memphis and saw the building of Cairo's greatest monuments at Saqqara and Giza. The Middle Kingdom moved the capital to Thebes, in the south, and is notable for strides made in irrigation practices along the Nile. The New Kingdom left many of the great surviving southern monuments. The Late Period, and the end of the dynasties, came in 341 BC.

Egypt in the Common Era

Alexander the Great followed soon after the end of the dynasties. After his death, one of his generals, Ptolemy began the Ptolemic period from his capital at Alexandria. This period of 300 years ended with Cleopatra who lost Egypt to Rome. By the fourth century, after Rome was divided for administrative purposes, Egypt was administered from Constantinople by the Roman Byzantine emperors. In the seventh century, the Arabs conquered Egypt, installed Islam and, by the ninth century, had established Cairo as their capital. It remained under Arab rule until the 16th century.

In 1517, Egypt fell to the Ottoman sultans. It wasn't until 1798 that Napoleon's forces defeated the local Mamluk forces and established a French-style government. This lasted only a month before the first of several British campaigns removed the French from Egypt. Soon after, the Albanian-born Ottoman governor of Egypt, Mohammed Ali took control of Egypt. He was followed by his son, and then his grandson, until 1879. Under the latter, the Suez Canal was dug.

In 1882, with growing internal problems, the French and British got involved. This control increased when, in World War I, Egypt sided with the Allies, while Turkey, siding with the Axis, attacked Egypt. As a result, Egypt was "protected" by the British until 1952. (In 1923, a constitutional monarchy was established with King Fuad and then, in 1936, his son King Farouk.

Modern Egypt

Important World War II battles were fought in Egypt which was left in chaos by it and the war with Israel in 1948. In 1953, Farouk was overthrown and Egypt was declared a republic, with Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser as its prime minister and then, in 1956, its president. Nasser, despite significant international problems -- an invasion in 1956 by Israeli, British and French forces -- nationalized the Suez Canal. He then labored for more than a decade for Arab unity.

In 1970, Vice President Anwar Sadat succeeded Nasser after the latter's death. He is famous for having designed a foreign policy more open to the West, and, after the War of 6 October 1973 (also known as the Yom Kippur War), for making peace with Israel. For this, Egypt was ostracized by other Arab nations and Sadat was ultimately assassinated on 6 October 1981.

Vice President Hosni Mubarak followed as president, which he has remained. Since 1981, he has brought Egypt back into the Arab world and, in particular, the Arab League, and maintained peace with Israel. He improved relations with both the U.S. and the then Soviets. He has also worked to tackle the internal problem of religious tolerance and rising fundamentalist demands about state management.

Sources: CIA World Factbook 2000, ArabNet, AfricaNet, Lonely Planet

Web Links

Note: The opinions expressed in these sites do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BikeAbout. If you have seen a Web site that you think BikeAbout participants would be interested in, please send the URL to We'll review the site and consider adding it to our resource library.

AfricaNet: Egypt
Extensive travel and country profile information.
Al Bawaba: The Middle East Gateway
A comprehensive Middle Eastern portal. Provides information on the Middle Eastern economy and business sectors, along with politics, tourism, culture, legal issues, health, entertainment and sports. News items, in-depth reports and analysis on all these topics are undertaken daily. Includes a keyword search facility. Available in English and Arabic.
Historical and tourism information, pictures, maps and audio clips. Winner PointCast Top 5%, Magellan 4 Star Site, and Webcrawler Select awards. [Mirrored in Italy at]
Read about an expdition to Alexandrian ruins by the Society for Underwater Exploration. Yahoo Pick of the Week for December 1, 1998.
American Research Center in Egypt
"Explore Egypt With The Specialists": learn about conservation projects, events and programs. Yahoo Pick of the Week for December 6, 1997.
Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis (UNESCO World Heritage Site) [also available in French]
Arab Countries' WWW Sites
Links to country indexes, news, pictures, and Middle Eastern recipes.
ArabNet -- Egypt
Government, history, geography, transportation, culture and descriptions of Egypt's major cities.
le Caire (Cairo) [French]
General historical and cultural information produced by the Egyptian Tourism Authority.
Historical and tourism information, pictures, maps and audio clips. [Mirrored in Italy at]
Cairo: City of 1,000 Minarets
General information.
Destination: Egypt
Historical overview, maps, travel facts, culture, environment, attractions. The "Off the Beaten Track" feature is especially interesting. Brought to you be Lonely Planet.
EGYPT has it all !!
The official Web site of the Egyptian Tourism Authority.
Tourism site with information about history and culture.
Egypt Schools
School directory, general country information. Compiled by WorldWide Classroom.
Egypt's WWW Sites [Index]
General information, local time, map.
Egypt WWW Index
Comprehensive index to Egypt information on the Web organized into 18 categories, including sports, entertainment, history, travel, Egyptology, food, and health.
The Egyptian Presidency
News, profiles, and a tour of the Presidential palace. Yahoo Pick of the Week for December 15, 1997.
A virtual museum of the pyramids, created by students for ThinkQuest®. Includes lesson plans and interactive games. Yahoo Pick of the Week for December 1, 1998.
Islamic Cairo (UNESCO World Heritage Site) [also available in French]
Map of Egypt
From DeLorme Mapping (1991). Used by permission.
Memphis and its Necropolis - the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (UNESCO World Heritage Site) [also available in French]
Miftah Shamali -- Egypt
Geared toward tourism, this site includes descriptions of Egypt's cities. Winner of the Luckman 4 Star Award.
Theban Mapping Project
Maps and information about archaeological work at the monuments of Thebes, including the Valley of the Kings and King Ramses' tomb. Yahoo Pick of the Week for November 10, 1997.
Treasures of the Sunken City
PBS' NOVA program follows Jean Yves Empereur and his team as they explore the underwater ruins of the Pharos lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Yahoo Pick of the Week for December 6, 1997.
Weather-Alexandria, Egypt
Weather in Alexandria. Source: USAToday.
Weather-Cairo, Egypt
Weather in Cairo. Source: USAToday.
WWW Links Related to Alexandria
Categories include: Historical, Academia and Literature, Political/Government, Regional, and Business. [Mirrored in Italy at]
WWW Links Related to Cairo
Categories include: Historical, Academia and Literature, Political/Government, Regional, and Business. [Mirrored in Italy at]

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Internet access while in Egypt was provided by InTouch Communications Services.

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