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Egypt country profile
While best known for its pyramids and ancient civilisations, Egypt has played a central role in Middle East politics in modern times.
Its wars with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, then its eventual peace with its adversary in 1979, have seen Egypt move from being a warring nation to become a key representative in the peace process.
Egypt's ancient past and the fact that it was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to open up to the West following Napoleon's invasion have given it a claim to be the intellectual and cultural leader in the region. The head of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam.
Politics: President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011 amid widespread street protests, handing power to the military
Economy: The Egyptian economy is the second largest in the Arab world after Saudi Arabia
International: Egypt has been a key ally of the West; it has played a key role in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
But the historic step by President Anwar Sadat to make peace with Israel in the 1979 Camp David agreement led to Egypt being expelled from the Arab League until 1989, and in 1981 Mr Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists angry at his moves to clamp down on their activities.
Since then, President Hosni Mubarak took a more moderate line, but Islamic groups have continued their campaigns sporadically. They have been responsible for deadly attacks that have often targeted tourists and resort areas, and more recently have begun to target Egypt's Coptic Christian community.
Campaigners for political reform have become more vocal in recent times and have taken to the streets in defiance of an emergency law, in force since 1981.
Widespread anti-government demonstrations in January 2011 - encouraged by the flight of the long-term leader of Tunisia amid unrest - eventually led President Mubarak to step aside.
The military is now in charge but pro-democracy demonstrators have been maintaining their pressure for an interim government, a new constitution and parliament, an end to emergency law and democratic elections.
Egypt's teeming cities - and almost all agricultural activity - are concentrated along the banks of the Nile, and on the river's delta. Deserts occupy most of the country.
The economy depends heavily on agriculture, tourism and cash remittances from Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.
However, rapid population growth and the limited amount of arable land is straining the country's resources and economy.
Arab Republic of Egypt
Population: 84.5 million (UN, 2010)
Area: 1 million sq km (386,874 sq miles)
Major language: Arabic
Major religions: Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy: 69 years (men), 73 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Egyptian Pound = 100 piastres
Main exports: Petroleum, petroleum products and cotton
GNI per capita: US $2,070 (World Bank, 2009)
Internet domain: .eg
International dialling code: +20
President: Muhammad Hosni Mubarak (resigned)
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's longest-serving ruler since Muhammad Ali in the early 19th century and one of the longest-serving leaders in the Arab world, stepped down in February 2011 after 30 years in power.
President Mubarak has pursued economic, but not political reform
He was responding to weeks of street protests, which began in January 2011, only days after the president of Tunisia fled a popular uprising.
His vice-president announced Mr Mubarak's resignation and said he had handed power to the army.
Mr Mubarak gained a fifth consecutive term in presidential elections in September 2005, when he was aged 77. The poll was the first under a new system which allows multiple candidates to stand. In previous elections Egyptians voted yes or no for a single candidate appointed by parliament.
However, the only opposition organisation which has broad public support, the Muslim Brotherhood, is banned from open political activity and could not field a candidate.
Mr Mubarak succeeded Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated in 1981. He is seen as Egyptian politics' great survivor, having escaped no fewer than six assassination attempts.
He is an economic liberal and his government promised economic reforms. But Egypt remains plagued by high unemployment and low standards of living.
Mr Mubarak has pursued friendly relations with the West, breaking the isolation imposed on Egypt by Arab countries opposed to peace with Israel.
As a military man he modernised the air force after Egypt's defeat in the six-day war with Israel in 1967. He helped to plan the 1973 Yom Kippur War - an Egyptian-Syrian attack on Israeli forces on the Suez Canal and in the Golan Heights.
In March 2010, Mr Mubarak underwent gall-bladder surgery in Germany, renewing speculation over whether he will run for re-election in 2011.
Since 1952, when army officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the monarchy, Egyptian leaders have been drawn from the military.
Hosni Mubarak was born in 1928. He and his wife Suzanne, who is part Welsh and part Egyptian, have two sons, Ala and Gamal.
Vice-president: Omar Suleiman
Omar Suleiman was appointed as vice president in January 2011 amid a popular uprising against the government and given the task of opening talks with the opposition.
Omar Suleiman addresses the nation after his appointment
The post is the one that President Mubarak occupied before he was promoted to the presidency, but which he kept vacant until 2011.
Mr Suleiman has been intelligence chief since 1993 and has played a prominent public role in diplomacy - including in Egypt's relations with Israel and key aid donor the United States.
As head of intelligence he was said to be the mastermind behind the fragmentation of Islamist groups which led the uprising against the state in the 1990s. He is described as a long-term confidant of Mr Mubarak.
Egypt is a major regional media player. Its press is one of the most influential and widely-read in the region, and its TV and film industry supplies much of the Arab-speaking world with shows from its Media Production City.
Press laws allow prison sentences for libelling the president, state institutions and foreign heads of state. Nevertheless, journalists openly express their views on political and social issues, including vigorous criticism of government officials and policies.
President Hosni Mubarak's departure precipitated an editorial u-turn among state media outlets that had served for decades as government mouthpieces.
Television is the most popular source for news. There are two state-run national TVs and six regional channels, but many viewers turn to pan-Arab stations for news.
Egypt is a big force in satellite TV. Most leading Arab pay TV networks have a presence at Media Production City in Cairo. Egypt was the first Arab nation to have its own satellite, Nilesat.
State radio's monopoly was broken with the arrival of private music stations in 2003.
Around 17 million Egyptians were online by February 2010 (InternetWorldStats.com). Bloggers have uploaded videos showing human rights violations and activists have embraced Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Internet access was cut for a time in early 2011 in an effort to curb protests which eventually forced President Mubarak to resign. Social networks were used to organise the demonstrations.
- state-owned daily, the oldest newspaper in the Arab world
- private satellite network, operates Dream 1 targeting young viewers and Dream 2, an entertainment channel
Nogoum FM - private, Arabic pop
Compiled by BBC Monitoring
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