Country fact file: Egypt today
Incredible ancient monuments, scorching deserts and bustling cities – this ancient country is now a sprawling, modern landscape! Read on to learn about the Egypt of today…
OFFICIAL NAME: Arab Republic of EgyptFORM OF GOVERNMENT: RepublicCAPITAL: CairoPOPULATION: 87, 562, 261OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: ArabicMONEY: Egyptian pound, guinayAREA: 1,001,449 square kilometresMAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Eastern HighlandsMAJOR RIVER: NileFLAG:
Without the Nile River, all of Egypt would be desert. Only about an 2.5cm of rain falls throughout Egypt each year. But each summer, the Nile river rises because of rains at its source, far to the south in Ethiopia. When this happens, floods cover the river’s valleys, leaving sediments needed for trees, plants and crops to grow.
Egypt is often divided into two sections – Upper Egypt in the south and Lower Egypt in the north. The sections are named this way because the Nile flows from south to north. The river empties into the Mediterranean Sea, on the country’s north coast.
Southern Egypt’s landscape contains low mountains and desert. Northern Egypt has wide valleys near the Nile, and desert to the east and west. North of Cairo (Egypt’s capital city) is the sprawling, triangular Nile River Delta. This fertile land is completely covered with farms.
Egypt is home to a wide variety of animals and plants, including cheetahs, hyenas, crocodiles and cobras. The best places to see Egypt’s wildlife are in its 21 protected regions, which include oases, deserts, mountains, coastal areas, river islands and wetlands.
Egyptians have always been close to the natural world. The ancient Egyptians left paintings and carvings (which can still be seen today!) of large animals like elephants, hippos, leopards and cheetahs. These animals were once common in Egypt, but they are now rare or extinct because of hunting and habitat loss.
The first people to live on the banks of the Nile were hunters and fishermen, who settled there over 8,000 years ago. They learned to grow crops and raise animals, and they began to build villages and towns. They traded with their neighbours and learned to sail boats. By 3000 B.C., a civilisation was established.
Around 3100 B.C., the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were unified under a powerful king, later called a pharaoh. These kings built huge pyramids, temples and other impressive monuments. They also conquered other lands.
By 1000 B.C., Egypt had split into smaller parts and the kingdom was in decline. Strong neighbours attacked and took over Egyptian territory – in 31 B.C., Egypt fell under Roman control and centuries later, in A.D. 640, Muslim warriors took over Egypt. These Arab forces ruled Egypt for several centuries and founded the modern capital, Cairo.
In 1882, the British invaded and occupied Egypt. The British wanted control of the Suez Canal, which linked the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea and greatly shortened the sailing trip from Asia to Europe. The British stayed until Egypt declared independence in 1952.
About 90 percent of Egyptians are Muslim, which means they are followers of the Islam religion. About ten percent of Egyptians are Copts, one of the oldest branches of the Christian religion.
Egypt’s population is growing rapidly. This puts strain on Egypt’s resources, since most people live in a narrow strip of land along the Nile River. Having so many people in such a small area causes overcrowding everywhere, from schools and hospitals to apartment buildings and public transport.
Children are highly valued in Egypt, especially in rural areas where they help on family farms. Children are also expected to look after their parents in their old age.
Egypt’s geography, population, history and military strength have made it highly influential in the region. Egypt is a democratic republic, although some critics claim that it is not truly democratic. Until 2005, there was never more than one presidential candidate to vote for.
Egypt’s most valuable resources are oil and gas, which are exported to other countries. Other exports include metals, textiles, livestock and chemical products. Tourism is also an important part of Egypt’s economy, with visitors flocking to see the famous ancient monuments and to enjoy the country’s beautiful beaches.