The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GNP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Egypt: A blend of the ancient and contemporary
Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip (Palestine) and Israel to the north- east, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.
Egypt has one of the longest histories of any country, tracing its heritage along the Nile Delta back to the 6th–4th millennia BCE. Considered a cradle of civilization, Ancient Egypt saw some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanization, organized religion and central government. Iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy and remain a significant focus of scientific and popular interest.
Egypt's long and rich cultural heritage is an integral part of its national identity, which reflects its unique transcontinental location being simultaneously Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African. Egypt was an early and important center of Christianity, but was largely Islamized in the seventh century and remains a predominantly Muslim country, albeit with a significant Christian minority.
Modern Egypt dates back to 1922, when it gained independence from the British Empire as a monarchy. Following the 1952 revolution, Egypt declared itself a republic, and in 1958 it merged with Syria to form the United Arab Republic, which dissolved in 1961.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Egypt endured social and religious strife and political instability, fighting several armed conflicts with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, and occupying the Gaza Strip intermittently until 1967. In 1978, Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, officially withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and recognizing Israel. The country continues to face challenges, from political unrest, including the recent 2011 revolution and its aftermath, to terrorism and economic underdevelopment. Egypt's current government, a semi-presidential republic led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has been described by a number of watchdogs as authoritarian or heading an authoritarian regime, responsible for perpetuating the country's problematic human rights record.
Islam is the official religion of Egypt and Arabic is its official language. With more than 100 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa (after Nigeria and Ethiopia), and the 13th most populace in the world. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 15,000 square miles, where the only arable land is found. The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of Egypt's territory, are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centers of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Egypt is a developing country, ranking 116th on the Human Development Index. Politically, how- ever, it is considered to be a regional power in North Africa, the Middle East and the Muslim world, and a middle power worldwide. Egypt has a diversified economy, which is the second-largest in Africa, the 33rd-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the 20th-largest globally by PPP. Egypt is a founding member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab League
Cairo is Egypt’s sprawling capital, situated on the Nile River, the world's longest bearing 9.4 million people. Cairo, with its modern urban look and energy, belies nearby Giza, site of the iconic pyramids and Great Sphinx, dating to the 26th century BC.
A view of the pyramids at Giza from the plateau to the south of the complex. From left to right, the three largest are: the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The three smaller pyramids in the foreground are subsidiary structures associated with Menkaure's pyramid. Above, the Spinx and the Temple of Abu Simbei.
Qarun Lake is considered one of the the oldest natural lakes in the world, the third largest lake in Egypt and the rest of Lake Old Maurice. Available for recreational use, the lake's main sources of water is from agriculture drainage and domestic wastewater.
Like other nations in Africa, Egypt has its complement of wildlife. Camels and don- keys are common, while shier animals such as the fennec fox, aardwolf, caracal, meerkat, mongoose, and the Egyptian aardvark attempt to find enough food to survive while contending with the arid desert and the heat.
Following the 1952 Revolution by the Free Officers Movement, the rule of Egypt passed to military hands and all political parties were banned. On June 18 1953, the Egyptian Republic was declared, with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic, serving in that capacity for a little under one and a half years.
The House of Representatives, whose members are elected to serve five-year terms, specializes in legislation. Elections were last held between November 2011 and January 2012 which was later dissolved. The next parliamentary election was announced to be held within 6 months of the constitution's ratification on Jan. 18, 2014, and were held in two phases, from Oct. 17, to Dec. 2, 2015.
The Egyptian presidential election, 2014, took place May 26-28, 2014. Official figures showed a turnout of 25.5 million or 47.5 percent, with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi winning with 23.78 million votes, or 96.9 percent compared to 757,511 or 3.1 percent for Hamdeen Sabahi.
After a wave of public discontent with autocratic excesses of the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi, on July 3, 2013 then-Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced the removal of Morsi from office and the suspension of the constitution. A 50-member constitution committee was formed for modifying the constitution which was later published for public voting and was adopted on Jan. 18, 2014.
In 2013, Freedom House rated political rights in Egypt at 5 (with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least), and civil liberties at 5, which gave it the freedom rating of "Partly Free.” Egyptian nationalism predates its Arab counterpart by many decades, having roots in the 19th century and becoming the dominant mode of expression of Egyptian anti-colonial activists and intellectuals until the early 20th century.
Egypt has the oldest continuous parliamentary tradition in the Arab world. The first popular assembly was established in 1866. It was disbanded as a result of the British occupation of 1882, and the British allowed only a consultative body to sit. In 1923, however, after the country's independence was declared, a new constitution provided for a parliamentary monarchy.
Military and foreign relations
The military is influential in the political and economic life of Egypt and exempts itself from laws that apply to other sectors. It enjoys considerable power, prestige and independence within the state and has been widely considered part of the Egyptian "deep state.”
According to the former chair of Israel's Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz, the Egyptian Air Force has roughly the same number of modern warplanes as the Israeli Air Force and far more Western tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft batteries, and warships than the IDF. Egypt is speculated by Israel to be the second country in the region with a spy satellite, EgyptSat 1 in addition to EgyptSat 2 launched in April 2014.
The US provides Egypt with annual military assistance, which in 2015 amounted to 1.3 billion. In 1989, Egypt was designated as a major non-NATO ally of the US. Nevertheless, ties between the two countries have partially soured since the July 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, with the Obama Administration denouncing Egypt over its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, and cancelling future military exercises involving the two countries. There have been recent attempts, however, to normalize relations between the two, with both governments frequently calling for mutual support in the fight versus regional and international terror.
The Egyptian military has dozens of factories manufacturing weapons as well as consumer goods. The Armed Forces' inventory includes equipment from different countries around the world. Equipment from the former Soviet Union is being progressively replaced by more modern US, French, and British equipment, a significant portion of which is built under license in Egypt, such as the M1 Abrams tank. Relations with Russia have improved significantly following Mohamed Morsi's removal and both countries have worked since then to strengthen military and trade ties among other aspects of bilateral co-operation.
Relations with China have also improved considerably. In 2014, Egypt and China established a bilateral "comprehensive strategic partnership.” In July 2019, UN ambassadors of 37 countries, including Egypt, have signed a joint letter to the UNHRC defending China's treatment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region. The perm-
anent headquarters of the Arab League are located in Cairo and the body's secretary general has traditionally been Egyptian. This position is currently held by former foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. The Arab League briefly moved from Egypt to Tunis in 1978 to protest the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, but it later returned to Cairo in 1989. Gulf monarchies, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have pledged billions of dollars to help Egypt overcome its economic difficulties since the overthrow of Morsi.
Following the 1973 war and the subsequent peace treaty, Egypt became the first Arab nation to establish diplo- matic relations with Israel. Despite that, Israel is still widely considered as a hostile state by the majority of Egyp- tians. Egypt has played a historical role as a mediator in resolving various disputes in the Middle East, most notably its handling of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the peace process. Egypt's ceasefire and truce brok- ering efforts in Gaza have hardly been challenged following Israel's evacuation of its settlements from the strip in 2005, despite increasing animosity towards the Hamas government in Gaza following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, and despite recent attempts by countries like Turkey and Qatar to take over this role.
Ties between Egypt and other non-Arab Middle Eastern nations, including Iran and Turkey, have often been strained. Tensions with Iran are mostly due to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel and Iran's rivalry with traditional Egyptian allies in the Gulf. Turkey's recent support for the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its alleged involvement in Libya also made both countries bitter regional rivals.
Egypt is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations. It is also a member of the Organization internationale de la francophonie, since 1983. Former Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1991 to 1996.
In 2008, Egypt was estimated to have two million African refugees, including over 20,000 Sudanese nationals registered with UNHCR as refugees fleeing armed conflict or asylum seekers. Egypt adopted "harsh, sometimes lethal" methods of border control.
Law and justice
The legal system is based on Islamic and civil law (particularly Napoleonic codes); and judicial review by a Supreme Court, which accepts compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction only with reservations.
Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation. Sharia courts and qadis are run and licensed by the Ministry of Justice. The personal status law that regulates matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody is governed by Sharia. In a family court, a woman's testimony is worth half of a man's testimony.
On Dec. 26, 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to institutionalize a controversial new constitution. It was approved by the public in a referendum held 15-22 December 2012 with 64 percent support, but with only 33 percent electorate participation. It replaced the 2011 Provisional Constitution of Egypt, adopted following the revolution.
The Penal code was unique as it contains a "Blasphemy Law." The present court system allows a death penalty including against an absent individual tried in absentia. Several Americans and Canadians were sentenced to death in 2012. On Jan. 18, 2014, the interim government successfully institutionalized a more secular constitution. The president is elected to a four-year term and may serve two terms. The parliament may impeach the president. Under the constitution, there is a guarantee of gender equality and absolute freedom of thought. The military retains the ability to appoint the national Minister of Defense for the next two full presidential terms since the constitution took effect. Under the constitution, political parties may not be based on "religion, race, gender or geography.”
Egypt's economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum imports, natural gas, and tourism; there are also more than three million Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Libya, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Europe. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970 and the resultant Lake Nasser have altered the time-honored place of the Nile River in the agriculture and ecology of Egypt. A rapidly growing population, limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress the economy.
The government has invested in communications and physical infrastructure. Egypt has received US foreign aid since 1979 (an average of $2.2 billion per year) and is the third-largest recipient of such funds from the US following the Iraq war. Egypt's economy mainly relies on these sources of income: tourism, remittances from Egyptians working abroad and revenues from the Suez Canal.
Egypt has a developed energy market based on coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro power. Substantial coal deposits in the northeast Sinai are mined at the rate of about 590,000 long tons; 660,000 short tons) per year. Oil and gas are produced in the western desert regions, the Gulf of Suez, and the Nile Delta. Egypt has huge reserves of gas, estimated at 520 cubic miles and LNG up to 2012 exported to many countries.
In 2013, the Egyptian General Petroleum Co (EGPC) said the country will cut exports of natural gas and tell major industries to slow output this summer to avoid an energy crisis and stave off political unrest, Egypt is counting on top liquid natural gas (LNG) exporter Qatar to obtain additional gas volumes in summer, while encouraging factories to plan their annual maintenance for those months of peak demand, said EGPC chairman, Tarek El Barkatawy. Egypt produces its own energy, but has been a net oil importer since 2008 and is rapidly becoming a net importer of natural gas.
Economic conditions have started to improve considerably, after a period of stagnation, due to the adoption of more liberal economic policies by the government as well as increased revenues from tourism and a booming stock market. In its annual report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has rated Egypt as one of the top countries in the world undertaking economic reforms. Some major economic reforms undertaken by the government since 2003 include a dramatic slashing of customs and tariffs. A new taxation law implemented in 2005 decreased corporate taxes from 40 percent to the current 20 percent, resulting in a stated 100 percent increase in tax revenue by the year 2006.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Egypt increased considerably before the removal of Hosni Mubarak, exceeding $6 billion in 2006, due to economic liberalization and privatization measures taken by minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieddin. Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has experienced a drastic fall in both foreign investment and tourism revenues, followed by a 60 percent drop in foreign exchange reserves, a 3 percent drop in growth, and a rapid devaluation of the Egyptian pound.
Although one of the main obstacles still facing the Egyptian economy is the limited trickle down of wealth to the average population, many Egyptians criticize their government for higher prices of basic goods while their standards of living or purchasing power remains relatively stagnant. The government promised major recons- truction of the country's infrastructure, using money paid for the newly acquired third mobile license ($3 billion) by Etisalat in 2006.In the Corruption Perceptions Index 2013, Egypt was ranked 114 out of 177.
Due to the extreme aridity of Egypt's climate, population centers are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta, meaning that about 99 percent of the population uses about 5.5 percent of the total land area. Ninety-eight percent of Egyptians live on 3 percent of the territory. Egypt's important role in geopolitics stems from its strategic position: a transcontinental nation, it possesses a land bridge (the Isthmus of Suez) between Africa and Asia, traversed by a navigable waterway (the Suez Canal) that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean by way of the Red Sea.
Apart from the Nile Valley, the majority of Egypt's landscape is desert, with a few oases scattered about. Winds create prolific sand dunes that peak at more than 100 feet high. Egypt includes parts of the Sahara desert and of the Libyan Desert. These deserts protected the Kingdom of the Pharaohs from western threats and were referred to as the "red land" in ancient Egypt.
Towns and cities include Alexandria, the second largest city; Aswan; Asyut; Cairo, the modern Egyptian capital and largest city; El Mahalla El Kubra; Giza, the site of the Pyramid of Khufu; Hurghada; Luxor; Kom Ombo; Port Safaga; Port Said; Sharm El Sheikh; Suez, where the south end of the Suez Canal is located; Zagazig; and Minya. Oases include Bahariya, Dakhla, Farafra, Kharga and Siwa. Protectorates include Ras Mohamed National Park, Zaranik Protectorate and Siwa.
Most of Egypt's rain falls in the winter months. South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 0.1 to 0.2 inches per year and at intervals of many years. On a very thin strip of the northern coast the rainfall can be as high as 16.1 inches, mostly between October and March. Snow falls on Sinai's mountains and some of the north coastal cities such as Damietta, Baltim and Sidi Barrani, and rarely in Alexandria. A very small amount of snow fell on Cairo on Dec. 13, 2013, the first time in many decades. Frost is also known in mid-Sinai and mid-Egypt. Egypt is the driest and the sunniest country in the world, and most of its land surface is desert.
Egypt has an unusually hot, sunny and dry climate. Average high temperatures are high in the north but very to extremely high in the rest of the country during summer. The cooler Mediterranean winds consistently blow over the northern sea coast, which helps to get more moderated temperatures, especially at the height of the summertime.
The Khamaseen is a hot, dry wind that originates from the vast deserts in the south and blows in the spring or in the early summer. It brings scorching sand and dust particles, and usually brings daytime temperatures over 104 degrees Fahrenheit and sometimes higher than 122 degrees in the interior, while the relative humidity can drop to 5 percent or less. The absolute highest temperatures in Egypt occur when the Khamaseen blows. The weather is always sunny and clear in Egypt, especially in cities such as Aswan, Luxor and Asyut. It is one of the least cloudy and least rainy regions on Earth.
Prior to the construction of the Aswan Dam, the Nile flooded annually replenishing Egypt's soil. This gave Egypt a consistent harvest throughout the years. The potential rise in sea levels due to global warming could threaten Egypt's densely populated coastal strip and have grave consequences for the country's economy, agriculture and industry. Combined with growing demographic pressures, a significant rise in sea levels could turn millions of Egyptians into environmental refugees by the end of the 21st century, according to some climate experts.
Egypt signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on June 9, 1992, and became a party to the convention on June 2, 1994. It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on July 31, 1998. Where many CBD National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans neglect biological kingdoms apart from animals and plants, Egypt's plan was unusual in providing balanced information about all forms of life.
The plan stated that the following numbers of species of different groups had been recorded from Egypt: algae (1483 species), animals (about 15,000 species of which more than 10,000 were insects), fungi (more than 627 species), monera (319 species), plants (2,426 species), protozoans (371 species).
For some major groups, for example lichen-forming fungi and nematode worms, the number was not known. Apart from small and well-studied groups like amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles, the many of those numbers are likely to increase as further species are recorded from Egypt. For the fungi, including lichen-forming species, for example, subsequent work has shown that over 2,200 species have been recorded from Egypt, and the final figure of all fungi actually occurring in the country is expected to be much higher. For the grasses, 284 native and naturalized species have been identified and recorded in Egypt.
There are many kinds of animals living in Egypt. Horses, camels, buffalos and donkeys are the most prevalent animals to be found here. As for desert wildlife the gazelles, Nubian ibex, jackals, jerboas and desert foxes, and desert lynx are indigenous to the country. The desert lynx is the largest cat in Egypt.
Egypt produced 691,000 bbl/d of oil and 2,141.05 Tcf of natural gas in 2013, making the country the largest non-OPEC producer of oil and the second-largest dry natural gas producer in Africa. In 2013, Egypt was the largest consumer of oil and natural gas in Africa, as more than 20 percent of total oil consumption and more than 40 percent of total dry natural gas consumption in Africa. Also, Egypt possesses the largest oil refinery capacity in Africa 726,000 bbl/d (in 2012).
Transport in Egypt is centered around Cairo and largely follows the pattern of settlement along the Nile. The main line of the nation's 25,400 mile railway network runs from Alexandria to Aswan and is operated by Egyptian National Railways. The vehicle road network has expanded rapidly to over 21,000 miles, consisting of 28 lines, 796 stations, and 1,800 trains covering the Nile Valley and Nile Delta, the Mediterranean, and Red Sea coasts, the Sinai, and the Western oases.
The Cairo Metro in Egypt is the first of only two full-fledged metro systems in Africa and the Arab World. It is considered one of the most important recent projects in Egypt which cost 12 billion Egyptian pounds. The system is comprised of three operational lines.
EgyptAir, which is now the country's flag carrier and largest airline, was founded in 1932 by Egyptian Indus- trialist Talaat Harb, today owned by the Egyptian government. The airline is based at Cairo International Airport, its main hub, operating scheduled passenger and freight services to more than 75 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The Current EgyptAir fleet includes 80 airplanes.
The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt considered the most important center of the maritime transport in the Middle East, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows ship transport between Europe and Asia without navigation around Africa. The northern terminus is Port Said and the southern terminus is Port Tawfiq at the city of Suez. Ismailia lies on its west bank, 1two miles from the half-way point.
The canal is 120 miles long, 79 feet deep, and 673 feet wide as of 2010. It is constitutes 14 miles of the northern access channel, 101 miles of the canal itself, and 5.5 miles of the southern access channel The canal is a single lane with passing places in the Ballah By-Pass and the Great Bitter Lake. It contains no locks and seawater flows freely through the canal. In general, the canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. The current south of the lakes changes with the tide at Suez.
On Aug. 26, 2014 a proposal was made for opening a New Suez Canal. Work on the New Suez Canal was completed in July 2015. The channel was officially inaugurated with a ceremony attended by foreign leaders and featuring military flyovers on 6 August 2015, in accordance with the budgets laid out for the project.
Water supply and sanitation
The piped water supply in Egypt increased between 1990 and 2010 from 89 to 100 percent in urban areas and from 39 to 93 percent in rural areas despite rapid population growth. Over that period, Egypt achieved the elimination of open defecation in rural areas and invested in infrastructure. Access to an improved water source in Egypt is now practically universal with a rate of 99 percent. About one half of the population is connected to sanitary sewers.
Partly because of low sanitation coverage about 17,000 children die each year because of diarrhoea. Another challenge is low cost recovery due to water tariffs that are among the lowest in the world. This in turn requires government subsidies even for operating costs, a situation that has been aggravated by salary increases without tariff increases after the Arab Spring. Poor operation of facilities, such as water and wastewater treatment plants, as well as limited government accountability and transparency, are also issues.
Irrigated land and crops
Due to the absence of appreciable rainfall, Egypt's agriculture depends entirely on irrigation. The main source of irrigation water is the river Nile of which the flow is controlled by the high dam at Aswan. It releases, on average, 45 million acre feet of water per year, of which some 37 million feet are diverted into the irrigation canals.
Egypt is the most populated country in the Arab world and the third most populous on the African continent, with about 105.5 million inhabitants as of 2017. Its population grew rapidly from 1970 to 2010 due to medical advances advances and increases in agricultural productivity[ enabled by the Green Revolution.
Egypt's people are highly urbanized, being concentrated along the Nile (notably Cairo and Alexandria), in the Delta and near the Suez Canal. Egyptians are divided demographically into those who live in the major urban centers and the fellahin or farmers that reside in rural villages. While emigration was restricted under Nasser, thousands of Egyptian professionals were dispatched abroad in the context of the Arab Cold War.
Egyptian emigration was liberalized in 1971, under President Anwar Sadat, reaching record numbers after the 1973 oil crisis. An estimated 2.7 million Egyptians live abroad. Approximately 70 percent of Egyptian migrants live in Arab countries (923,600 in Saudi Arabia, 332,600 in Libya, 226,850 in Jordan, 190,550 in Kuwait with the rest elsewhere in the region) and the remaining 30 percent reside mostly in Europe and North America (318,000 in the US, 110,000 in Canada, and 90,000 in Italy. The process of emigrating to non-Arab states has been ongoing since the 1950s.
Ethnic Egyptians are by far the largest ethnic group in the country, constituting 99.7 percent of the total population.[ Ethnic minorities include the Abazas, Turks, Greeks, Bedouin Arab tribes living in the eastern deserts and the Sinai Peninsula, the Berber-speaking Siwis (Amazigh) of the Siwa Oasis, and the Nubian communities clustered along the Nile. There are also tribal Beja communities concentrated in the southeasternmost corner of the country, and a number of Dom clans mostly in the Nile Delta and Faiyum who are progressively becoming assimilated as urbanization increases.
Some 5 million immigrants live in Egypt, mostly Sudanese, "some of whom have lived in Egypt for generations." Smaller numbers of immigrants come from Iraq, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Eritrea.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that the total number of "people of concern" (refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people) was about 250,000. In 2015, the number of registered Syrian refugees in Egypt was 117,000, a decrease from the previous year.[Egyptian government claims that a half-million Syrian refugees live in Egypt are thought to be exaggerated. There are 28,000 regis- tered Sudanese refugees in Egypt.
The once-vibrant and ancient Greek and Jewish communities in Egypt have almost disappeared, with only a small number remaining in the country, but many Egyptian Jews visit on religious or other occasions and tourism. Several important Jewish archaeological and historical sites are found in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities.
The official language of the Republic is Arabic. The spoken languages are: Egyptian Arabic, 68 percent; Sa'idi Arabic, 29 percent; Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic, 1.6 percent; Sudanese Arabic, 0.6 percent; Domari, 0.3 percent; Nobiin, 0.3 percent; Beja, 0.1 percent; and Sewi, less than 0.1 percent. Additionally, Greek, Armen- ian and Italian, and more recently, African languages like Amharic and Tigrigna are the main languages of immigrants.
Historically Egyptian was spoken, of which the latest stage is Coptic Egyptian. Spoken Coptic was mostly extinct by the 17th century but may have survived in isolated pockets in Upper Egypt as late as the 19th century. It remains in use as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It forms a separate branch among the family of Afroasiatic languages.
Egypt has the largest Muslim population in the Arab world, and the sixth world's largest Muslim population, and home for five percent of the world's Muslim population. Egypt also has the largest Christian population in the Middle East and North Africa. Egypt is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country with Islam as its state religion. The percentage of adherents of various religions is a controversial topic in Egypt. An estimated 85-90 percent are identified as Muslim, 10-15 percent as Coptic Christians, and 1 percent as other Christian denominations, although without a census the numbers cannot be known.
Egypt was a Christian country before the 7th century, and after Islam arrived, the country gradually became majority Islamic. It is estimated that 15 million Egyptians follow Native Sufi orders, with the Sufi leadership asserting that the numbers are much greater as many Egyptian Sufis are not officially registered with a Sufi order. There is also a Shi'a minority. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs estimates the Shia population at 1-2 million. The Ahmadiyya population is estimated at less than 50,000, the Salafi (ultra-conservative Sunni) population is estimated at 5-6 million. Cairo is famous for its numerous mosque minarets and has been dubbed "The City of 1,000 Minarets.”
Of the Christian population in Egypt more than 90 percent belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, an Oriental Orthodox Christian Church. Other native Egyptian Christians are adherents of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church of Egypt and various other Protestant denominations. Non-native Christian communities are largely found in the urban regions of Cairo and Alexandria, such as the Syro-Lebanese, who belong to Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Maronite Catholic denominations.
Ethnic Greeks also made up a large Greek Orthodox population in the past. Likewise, Armenians made up the then larger Armenian Orthodox and Catholic communities. Egypt also used to have a large Roman Catholic community, largely made up of Italians and Maltese. These non-native communities were much larger in Egypt before the Nasser regime and the nationalization that took place.
Egypt is also the home of Al-Azhar University (founded in 969 CE, began teaching in 975 CE), which is today the world's "most influential voice of establishment Sunni Islam" and is, by some measures, the second-oldest continuously operating university in world.
Egypt is a recognized cultural trend-setter of the Arabic-speaking world. Contemporary Arabic and Middle-Eastern culture is heavily influenced by Egyptian literature, music, film and television. Egypt gained a regional leadership role during the 1950s and 1960s, giving a further enduring boost to the standing of Egyptian culture in the Arabic-speaking world. Egyptian identity evolved in the span of a long period of occupation to accommodate Islam, Christianity, and Judaism; and a new language, Arabic, and its spoken descendant, Egyptian Arabic which is also based on many Ancient Egyptian words.
Tourism is one of the most important sectors in Egypt's economy. More than 12.8 million tourists visited Egypt in 2008, providing revenues of nearly $11 billion. The tourism sector employs about 12 percent of Egypt's workforce. Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou told industry professionals and reporters that tourism generated some $9.4 billion in 2012, a slight increase over the $9 billion seen in 2011.
Egyptian literature traces its beginnings to ancient Egypt and is some of the earliest known literature. Indeed, the Egyptians were the first culture to develop literature as we know it today, that is, the book. It is an important cul- tural element in the life of Egypt. Egyptian novelists and poets were among the first to experiment with modern styles of Arabic literature, and the forms they developed have been widely imitated throughout the Arab world. The first modern Egyptian novel Zaynab by Muhammad Husayn Haykal was published in 1913 in the Egyptian vernacular. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arabic-language writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Egyptian female writers include Nawal El Saadawi, well known for her feminist activism, and Alifa Rifaat who also writes about women and tradition.
Music and cinema
Egyptian music is a rich mixture of indigenous, Mediterranean, African and Western elements. It has been an integral part of Egyptian culture since antiquity. Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings to the creative work of people such as Abdu al-Hamuli, Almaz and Mahmoud Osman, who influenced the later work of Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Abdel Halim Hafez whose age is considered the golden age of music in Egypt and the whole Arab world. Prominent contemporary Egyptian pop singers include Amr Diab and Mohamed Mounir.
Egyptian cinema became a regional force with the coming of sound. In 1936, Studio Misr, financed by industria- list Talaat Harb, emerged as the leading Egyptian studio, a role the company retained for three decades. For more than 100 years, more than 4,000 films have been produced in Egypt—three quarters of the total Arab production. Egypt is considered the leading country in the field of cinema in the Arab world. Actors from all over the Arab world seek to appear in the Egyptian cinema for the sake of fame. The Cairo International Film Festi- val has been rated as one of 11 festivals with a top rating worldwide by the International Federation of Film Producers' Associations.
Egypt celebrates many festivals and religious carnivals, also known as mulid. They are usually associated with a particular Coptic or Sufi saint, but are often celebrated by Egyptians irrespective of creed or religion. Ramadan has a special flavor in Egypt, celebrated with sounds, lights (local lanterns known as fawanees) and much flare that many Muslim tourists from the region flock to Egypt to witness during Ramadan.
Egyptian cuisine is notably conducive to vegetarian diets, as it relies heavily on legume and vegetable dishes. Although food in Alexandria and the coast of Egypt tends to use a great deal of fish and other seafood, for the most part Egyptian cuisine is based on foods that grow out of the ground. Meat has been very expensive for most Egyptians throughout history, so a great number of vegetarian dishes have been developed.
Some consider kushari (a mixture of rice, lentils, and macaroni) to be the national dish. Fried onions can be also added to kushari. In addition, ful medames (mashed fava beans) is one of the most popular dishes. Fava bean is also used in making falafel (also known as "ta‘miya"), which may have originated in Egypt and spread to other parts of the Middle East. Garlic fried with coriander is added to molokhiya, a popular green soup made from finely chopped jute leaves, sometimes with chicken or rabbit.
Football is the most popular national sport of Egypt. The Cairo Derby is one of the fiercest derbies in Africa, and the BBC picked it as one of the 7 toughest derbies in the world. Al Ahly is the most successful club of the 20th century in the African continent according to CAF, closely followed by their rivals Zamalek SC. They're known as the "African Club of the Century.” With 20 titles, Al Ahly is currently the world's most successful club in terms of international trophies, surpassing Italy's A.C. Milan and Argentina's Boca Juniors, with 18, respectively.
The Egyptian national football team, known as the Pharaohs, won the African Cup of Nations seven times, including 2006, 2008, and 2010. Considered the most successful African national team and one which has reached the top 10 of the FIFA world rankings, Egypt has qualified for the FIFA World Cup three times. Two goals from star player Mohamed Salah in their last qualifying game took Egypt to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Egyptian Youth National team, Young Pharaohs won the Bronze Medal of the 2001 FIFA youth world cup in Argentina. Egypt took fourth place in the football tournament in the 1928 and the 1964 Olympic Games.
Squash and tennis are other popular sports in Egypt. The Egyptian squash team has been competitive in international championships since the 1930s. Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour are Egypt's best players and both were ranked the world's number one squash player. Egypt has won the Squash World Championships four times, with the last title being in 2017.
In 1999, Egypt hosted the IHF World Men's Handball Championship. In 2001, the national handball team achieved its best result in the tournament by achieving fourth place. Egypt has won in the African Men's Handball Championship five times, as the best team in Africa. In addition, it also championed the Mediterranean Games in 2013, the Beach Handball World Championships in 2004 and the Summer Youth Olympics in 2010.
Egypt has taken part in the Summer Olympic Games since 1912 and has hosted several other international competitions including the first Mediterranean Games in 1951, the 1991 All-Africa Games, the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and the 1953, 1965 and 2007 editions of the Pan Arab Games.
A study of the Egyptian literacy rate among those ages 15 years and older by UNESCO Institute of Statistics, found that the illiteracy rate has decreased since 1996 from 39.4 to 25.9 percent in 2013. The adult literacy rate as of July 2014 was estimated at 73.9 percent The illiteracy rate is highest among those over 60 years of age being estimated at around 64.9 percent, while illiteracy among youth 15-24 was 8.6 percent.
A European-style education system was first introduced in Egypt by the Ottomans in the early 19th century to nurture a class of loyal bureaucrats and army officers. Under British occupation investment in education was curbed drastically, and secular public schools, which had previously been free, began to charge fees. In the 1950s
President Nasser phased in free education for all Egyptians. The Egyptian curriculum influenced other Arab education systems, which often employed Egyptian-trained teachers. Today this trend has culminated in poor teacher-student ratios and persistent gender inequality.
Basic education, which includes six years of primary and three years of preparatory school, is a right for Egyptian children from the age of six. After the ninth grade, students are tracked into one of two strands of secondary education—general or technical schools. Technical secondary education has two strands, one lasting three years and a more advanced education lasting five. Graduates of these schools may have access to higher education based on their results on the final exam, but this is generally uncommon.
Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License