AND GENERAL INFORMATION
Egypt enjoys a unique geographical location.
It is an Arab-African country situated on the north-eastern
corner of the African continent. It is also partly an Asian
country, being linked to that continent by the Sinai Peninsula,
which has always played a pivotal role in history as a crossing
point between the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.
Due to its singular geographical situation, Egypt has always
been a connecting link between the world’s continents.
Although the country’s position was affected following
the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope route, it later regained
its vital role after the creation of the Suez Canal. Egypt
lies between latitudes 22° and 32° and between longitudes
24° and 37° to the east of the Greenwich Meriden.
The Arab Republic of Egypt consists of a total area of about
1,002,000 square kilometres, of which only 35,189 square
kilometres, ie, 3.6%, are populated.
Cairo, the capital of the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a time-honoured
city, with an outstanding position among world capitals.
It has a population of approximately 17,000,000, ranking
21st among world cities in terms of population, and making
it the largest in the Arab world and Africa.
The Arab Republic of Egypt is divided into four major parts:
Nile Valley and Delta
This consists of an area of about 33,000 square kilometers,
accounting for 4% of the total area of the country, while
the remaining area, ie, 96%, is desert.
extends in the south from above Wadi Halfa up to the Mediterranean
coast in the north.
It is divided into:
- Upper Egypt, extending from Wadi Halfa to the south of
- Lower Egypt (Nile Delta), extending from the south of
Cairo to the Mediterranean coast in the north
The Western Desert occupies an area of about 671.000 sq
km, ie, 68% of the country’s total area, extending
from the Nile Valley in the east to the Egyptian-Libyan
borders in the west and from the Mediterranean coast in
the north to Egypt’s southern borders with Sudan.
The Western Desert terrain is dominated by sand dunes, extending
from north to south. It is divided into two sections:
- The northern section, extending from the Mediterranean
coast to the Great Depression area
- The southern section, extending from the south of the
Great Depression area to the borders of Sudan
- Eastern Desert
With an area of about 225,000 sq. km, ie, 25% of the country’s
total area, the Eastern Desert is noted for its mountain
range along the Red Sea coast, with peaks that rise up to
about 2,000 metres above sea level.
- Sinai Peninsula
With an area of about 61,000 sq. km, ie, 6% of the country’s
total area, the Sinai Peninsula is triangular in shape,
with its base in the north and apex in the south. It is
bounded by the Mediterranean coast to the north, the Gulf
of Aqaba to the east, and the Suez Canal to the west.
Climate is determined by many factors, chief of which are
location, terrain and atmospheric pressure and water surfaces.
Basically, Egypt lies within the dry tropical region, except
for the northern parts that lie within the warm moderate
region, with a climate similar to the Mediterranean, characterised
by hot dry summers and moderate winters with little rainfall.
Egypt’s land area is about 238 million feddans, of
which only 7.7. million feddans are cultivated, while the
remainder consists of desert, lakes and territorial waters.
Egypt depends for its water supply on the following:
- surface water from the Nile, rain and storm water and
subterranean water. While The Nile remains the main source
of fresh water, there are additional, albeit limited resources,
consisting of recycled agricultural drainage water resulting
from irrigating cultivated land; and treated sanitary waste
The quantity of water available for use at present is 61.61
billion cubic metres per annum, broken down as follows:
- 53.3 billion cubic metres of Nile water from the Aswan
Dam reservoir, to irrigate cultivated land (old and newly-reclaimed)
- 3.3. billion cubic metres of underground water (in the
Delta, Upper Egypt and Sinai) for drinking purposes
- 7.2. billion cubic metres of recycled agricultural drainage
water, for other industrial purposes
- 0.8 billion cubic metres of treated sanitary waste water,
for non-consumer purposes.
The Arab Republic of Egypt has a large wealth of major minerals,
particularly petroleum, phosphate, iron and manganese.
Arabic is Egypt’s official language, but English and
French are widely spoken.
Islam is the country's main religion. Coptic Christians
make up most of the remaining population.
The unit of currency is the Egyptian pound (LE), which is
divided up into 100 piastres(pt).
Division and local Government
The Arab Republic of Egypt is divided into 26 governorates,
each comprising a number of urban districts, provincial
towns (marakez) and villages. The city of Luxor is an independent
The country is divided into seven regions as follows:
1 — Southern Upper Egypt
2 — Central Upper Egypt
3 — Northern Upper Egypt
4 — Greater Cairo
5 — Canal Region (Canal governorates plus North and
South Sinai governorates)
6 — Delta Region
7 — Alexandria and Matrouh
At present, Egypt has about 4,625 villages in addition to
22,704 affiliate and subsidiary hamlets.
is the bastion of faith and the faithful on earth, the connecting
link between the past and the present and truly the “cradle
of civilisation”. This is proved by the history of
the Ancient Egyptian civilisation: Egypt was the world’s
first state to emerge as a stable, central political unit,
when its people permanently settled on the banks of the
the rule of King Menes, the First of Egypt’s Pharaohs,
its provinces were united at the beginning of the third
millennium BC. At that time, there emerged the greatest
and most advanced civilisation known to the Ancient World,
namely the Pharaonic Civilisation. The monuments and landmarks
of this civilisation are still extant, bearing witness to
the greatness of the Ancient Egyptians, who understood “total
development”, and, therefore, accorded due attention
to all economic considerations in the areas of agriculture,
industry, trade and irrigation.
statement that “Egypt is the Gift of the Nile”
is only half-true. In point of fact, Ancient Egyptian civilisation
evolved as a result of creative interaction between the
Ancient Egyptians and their physical surroundings. This
fact is more clearly reflected in the words of the modern
Egyptian historian Shafiq Ghorbal: “Egypt is the gift
of the Egyptians.”
times of strength, as well as weakness, Egypt has maintained
its unique identity, formed through a process of interaction
between its unique cultural characteristics and other civilisations,
including the Pharaonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic
peoples. While being a melting-pot for all such civilisations,
Egypt has over the years maintained its own distinct identity
through the unity of culture and language.
Civilisation in Egypt started in pre-historic times, estimated
by some archaeologists to be around 100,000 years ago. Since
the late Palaeolithic era (10.000 years BC), the ancient
Egyptians considered themselves as a separate nation, calling
themselves “The People of Egypt” or “The
People of the Earth”. At that time, there were two
separate kingdoms in Egypt. The first was founded in Lower
Egypt, with Butu as its capital, the papyrus as its emblem,
Horus as its deity and the snake as its symbol. The Southern
Kingdom had Nekhen as its capital, Seth as its deity and
the lotus as its emblem. Several attempts were made to unite
both the north and south kingdoms but were unsuccessful
until the year 3,200 BC, when King Menes (Narmer) ascended
the throne. His rule marked the beginning of written history
and the era of dynasties, which followed in succession until
the 30th dynasty.
Old Kingdom (2980 BC - 2475 BC)
During this era, principles of central government were established.
Menes was called the King of Both Lands and “Bearer
of Both Crowns”. At this time, hieroglyphic writing,
i.e. sacred engraving, was devised.
were actively involved in securing the country’s borders
and trade between Egypt and Sudan was developed. Egypt then
embarked on a glorious period of its history, known as the
pyramid-builders’ age, when the first pyramid of Saqqara
the flourishing of agriculture, industry and trade, the
first river fleet was also introduced by the Egyptians.
Middle Kingdom (2160 BC — 1580 BC)
Kings of the Middle Kingdom attended to those projects most
beneficial to the people such as irrigation, agriculture
and trade. During that era, a canal was dug to connect the
Nile with the Red Sea. Mines and quarries were operated
and arts and architecture flourished.
However, towards the end of this kingdom, Egypt was invaded
by the Hyksos in 1957 BC, who occupied and ruled the country
for about 150 years.
New Kingdom (1580 BC — 1150 BC)
At the hands of King Ahmus I, the Hyksos were beaten and
expelled from Egypt.
learning from experience, a strong Egyptian army was built,
thus making it possible to create a great empire extending
from the Euphrates in the east to the fourth cataract on
the River Nile in the south.
era also witnessed Akhenaton´s religious revolution.
He called for the worship of one deity symbolised by the
sun. He also built a new capital for Egypt, which he named
Aketaton. From the 21st to the 28th dynasty, Egypt was occupied
by the Assyrians in 670 BC and by the Persians in 523 BC.
The last native dynasty came to an end in 332 BC, when Alexander
the Great invaded Egypt and was recognised as a Pharaoh.
under the Pharaonic Civilisation
The Ancient Egyptians were the first to introduce systems
of government, setting up the authorities required to administer
the country’s affairs.
the vizier’s position was created to assist the Pharaoh
in administering government affairs, and the vizier himself
was provided with staff, thereby ushering in the first system
of local government.
the religious front, Ancient Egyptians had already arrived
at some concepts ranging from polytheism to monotheism advocated
by Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton),who was highly regarded for
his philosophical thinking. Then came the country’s
outstanding achievements in architecture. The first pyramid
ever built in Egypt was Zoser’s. However the Giza
Pyramids, together with the Sphinx, built during the 4th
dynasty, are the most famous of the 97 pyramids built as
tombs for Pharaohs.
the period of the Middle Kingdom, many funerary temples
were built. The most famous of these was the Labyrinth Temple
or the “Maze Palace” as it was called by the
Greeks. It was built in Hawara by King Amenmehat III, who
also built castles, fortresses and walls along Egypt’s
The Middle Kingdom period was the heyday of architectural
arts, when exquisite inscriptions and fine artworks were
engraved on the walls of colossal temples, chief of which
were Karnak, Luxor and Abu Simbel.
is also indebted to Egyptians for inventing writing with
the advent of the “Hieroglyphic Alphabet”, composed
of 24 letters. In particular, Egyptians excelled in religious
writing, the oldest examples of which were “The Text
Pyramid” and the “Book of the Dead”, which
contained texts written on papyrus and were buried with
the dead to protect them from the perils of the “after
Egyptian wrote music and stories, too. Music was used for
educating young people as well as in public and private
ceremonies, including funerals.
in Pharaonic Egypt varied depending on class. In general,
clothes were made of soft linen or silk fabrics imported
from Ancient Syria (Phoenicia) and differed according to
Ornaments were also known to ancient Egyptians, and were
derived from natural surroundings such as papyrus, palm-trees,
lotus flowers and precious stones. At the same time, women,
used Kohl as eye-liner and wore bracelets, necklaces and
in the Greek Era
Having beaten the Persians in Asia Minor, Alexander the
Great conquered Egypt in the year 332 BC. The Egyptians,
who had been involved in constant revolts against the greatly-resented
Persian rule, welcomed Alexander, who admired and took an
interest in Egyptian religion. He later selected a unique
site on the Mediterranean Sea, where he established a new
town bearing his name and made it the capital of Greek rule
in Egypt and a principal sea harbour.
under the Ptolemies
(323 BC — 30 BC)
After Alexander’s death, Egypt was ruled by his general,
Ptolemy, who founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty that ruled Egypt
for three centuries and adopted Alexandria as its capital.
Later, though, because of a series of weak kings and continuous
revolts by the Egyptians, the Ptolomaic dynasty soon degenerated.
Thereafter, Rome stepped in and put an end to the rule of
Queen Cleopatra in 30 BC.
Egyptian Civilisation under the Ptolemies
Alexandria was well known not only as a centre of outstanding
achievements in arts, science, industry and trade but also
as the prime harbour on the Mediterranean thanks to its
famed lighthouse, considered by the Greeks to be one of
the Seven Wonders of the World.
city was further renowned for its university, which symbolised
a great Hellenistic-Egyptian civilisation.
At Alexandria University, founded by the Ptolemies, scientists
came to significant conclusions concerning the earth’s
rotation around the sun and the approximate circumference
of the planet. The University was also famous for the study
of medicine, particularly anatomy and surgery. The most
famous university scientists were the geometrician Euclides,
the geographer Ptolemy and the Egyptian historian Maniton.
(Bibliotheca Alexandrina) and its Cultural Influence
The Ptolemies also established a large library in Alexandria.
It was considered the greatest in the world at that time
and contained more than 500,000 papyrus rolls. The Ptolemies
ordered that each visiting scientist should donate a copy
of his work, thus bringing the number documents to more
Civilisation under the Romans
In 30 BC, Egypt was conquered by the Romans and became a
province in their empire. However, due to its unique geographical
position, the fertility of its land and its cultural and
urban development, the country was regarded as the empire’s
most precious property. During this period, agriculture
and industry, particularly glass manufacturing, flourished.
Egypt was especially known for glass blowing and paper manufacturing,
as well as making perfume, cosmetics and fine linen fabrics.
Egyptian capital was practically the largest trading centre
in the east Mediterranean and the second city of the Roman
Empire. And the university maintained its position as a
centre of scientific research and a seat of learning for
scholars from all over the world.
Civilisation during the Coptic Era
Coptic architecture upheld the spirit of ancient Pharaonic
art. And churches built from the 5th century AD up to the
Arab conquest of Egypt are models of Coptic art
prevailing style of painting during the Coptic era was an
extension of the Fresco style (or oxidised colour painting)
on gypsum-coated walls inherited from previous eras.
a unique form of church music, in harmony with Ancient Egyptian
melodies, emerged during the Coptic era. And, indeed, some
of the church tunes played today in Coptic churches still
bear Pharaonic names.
Aspects of Islamic Civilisation
Under Islamic rule, Egypt generally enjoyed a golden age
in arts and architecture. This was evidenced in the building
of many mosques, fortresses and city walls. The first Islamic
capital of Egypt was founded at Fustat, which has developed
into the modern city of Cairo.
Nilometer on the Island of Roda in modern Cairo, built by
Abbassid Caliph Al-Mutawakel Billah in 295 AD, is known
to be the oldest Islamic monument in Egypt.
period also witnessed the development of local Islamic architecture.
The Al-Azhar Mosque, built by Jawahr Al Siqilli, general
for the Fatimid Caliph Al- Mu´izz Lidin Ellah, and
the Al Anwar and Al-Aqmar Mosques are examples of Fatimid
architecture. And the Al Geoshi Mausoleum is a model for
dome structures and mosques built around the tombs of eminent
men of religion. During the Ayyubid period, further advances
were made in the field of architecture, and Salah Eddin´s
(Saladin´s) Citadel still stands out as a lofty, striking
example of Islamic architecture.
Mamelukes were no less advanced in this field. They also
left behind a great wealth of finely-designed and decorated
mosques, domes, mystics’ houses, palaces, schools,
khans (inns), fortresses and public drinking fountains.
The most notable arts of the period were wood-engraving
and ornamentation, textiles, porcelain and stained glass.