Occupying the northeast corner of Africa, Egypt is divided by the highly fertile Nile Valley. Its essentially pro-Western, military-backed regime is being challenged by Islamic fundamentalists.
Geography: Fertile Nile Valley separates arid Libyan Desert from smaller semiarid eastern desert. Sinai peninsula has mountains in south.
Climate: Summers are very hot, but winters are cooler. Rainfall is negligible, except on the coast.
People and Society: Despite a long tradition of ethnic and religious tolerance, the rise of Islam has sparked clashes between Muslims and Copts (Coptic Christianity is one of the church’s earliest branches). Women play a full part in education and the economy, though this is threatened by Islamism. Rapidly growing population is a problem. Poverty is rife around Cairo.
The Economy: Oil and gas. Cotton. Tolls from the Suez Canal. Successful tourist industry, in spite of terrorist attacks. High birth-rate and rural poverty.
Insight: In 450 BCE Herodotus visited the already-ancient pyramids
Official Name: Arab Republic of Egypt
Date of Formation: 1936
Population: 83 million
Total Area: 386,660 sq. miles (1,001,450 sq. km)
Density: 216 people per sq. mile
Languages: Arabic*, French, English, Berber
Religions: Muslim (mainly Sunni) 94%, Coptic Christian and other 6%
Ethnic Mix: Egyptian 99%, other (Nubian, Armenian, Greek, Berber) 1%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Egyptian pound = 100 piastres