African Democracy Encyclopaedia Project
Egypt: Land and people
Updated January 2012
The Arab Republic of Egypt is located in the north-eastern corner of Africa, a crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, Africa and West and South Asia. It is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the South, the Palestinian Territories, Israel and Jordan to the north-east. Its north coast is on the Mediterranean Sea, while the Red Sea bounds the eastern coast. The Suez Canal links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean - a linkage vital to both Egypt and the world. The country has 1.001 million sq km of territory, 96% desert. The Nile runs for over 1,000 miles within Egypt, from Wadi Halfa in the south to the Mediterranean in the north. It divides the country into four broad regions; the Western Desert, which occupies almost two-thirds of the total area, the Eastern Desert, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Nile Valley and Delta, which is the most densely populated region of the country. Egypt is dependent on the Nile for nearly all its water needs. Egypt has two seasons. It is hot and dry in the summer (from May to October) and cold in the winter (from November to April) with rainfall increasing nearer the coastlines. Temperatures increase southwards, and on average, these vary between 22-37 degrees Celsius in the summer and 9-19 degrees Celsius in the winter.
Egypt currently has a population of over 81 million people, making it Africa's second largest country by population, has a population growth rate of 1.7% (2010-2015) and has 43.4%, of this population residing in urban areas (see Fact file. Major cities include Cairo (the capital) and the adjacent cities of Shubra al Khaymah, Al Mahallah al Kubra which are functionally integrated with Cairo, as well as Alexandria, Giza, Tanta, Port Said and Al Mansurah. The country has an adult literacy rate of about 66%. Life expectancy for women is estimated at 75.5 years and that on men at 71.6 years (2010-2015), while infant mortality is 22/1000 live births. There are many ethnic groups in Egypt, and their settlement in different parts of Egypt is rooted in history. Apart from the Arabs who constitute the majority, other ethnic groups found in Egypt are: Nubian, Berber and Bedouin. These groups occupy different parts of the country, specifically, the Nubians can be found in the southern part of the country around the Aswan. The Berber are found along the west Nile oases along the Alexandria coast, the Bedouin are found around the Sinai peninsula and the Beja found in south-eastern part of the country. Today, the overwhelming majority of the country's population (90%) are Muslims (mainly Sunni). Christianity continues to have significant a presence in Egypt (10% of the population), 90% of whom belong to the distinctive Egyptian Coptic Church.
With an estimated GDP of US$229.53 billion in 2011 Egypt s ranked as the 42nd largest economy in the world by the World Bank and, a GDP per capita income of US$2,654 (2010 estimate), is classified by the World Bank as a middle income country. Nevertheless, a fifth of the population live below the poverty national poverty line and 12.4% of the labour force is unemployed. Egypt's economy is based on the export of natural gas, ready-made clothes, cotton textiles, petrochemical and medical products, citrus fruit, etc. The country mainly imports pharmaceuticals, wheat, etc. Tourism is one of the most important sectors of the economy in terms of high employment and incoming foreign currency. The economy experienced a decline during the Revolution (see Egypt's Arab Spring (2001-2012). The impact of the revolution at the macro level has led to severe reduction in confidence and investment outflows, as well as a drop in tourism revenues and foreign investment. Real growth, which had averaged over 6% in 2006-2010, dropped to 1.8% in the financial year that ended in June 2011 and 0.3% year-on-year in July-September 2011. The tourism, manufacturing and construction sectors were among the worst hit. Absolute poverty, thus, also increased during 2011-2012.

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