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Egypt, Arab nation in northeast Africa, bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Israel and the Red Sea, on the south by the Sudan, and on the west by Libya.

Land and climate

The Sinai peninsula, which is the northwest corner of Egypt, is divided from the rest of the country by the Suez Canal, linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Most of the country's territory is in the western desert, which is the edge of the Sahara. Nearly all the population, however, lives in a narrow band around the Nile, the world's largest river, which runs north from Africa for more than 4,000 mi (6,500 km) and empties into the Mediterranean. The vast, triangular Nile delta, a rich plain of river mud about 150 mi (241 km) across, is known as lower Egypt, and is the major population center. Cairo, Africa's largest city and the capital of Egypt, stands at the head of the Nile delta. Alexandria, a Mediterranean port at the western edge of the delta, is Egypt's second-largest city. Although there has been considerable industrialization since World War II, the country is still predominantly agricultural, dependent on the highly fertile land along the river. The climate is generally dry, hot, and sunny. Only the Mediterranean coast and parts of southern Sinai receive more than 2 in (5 cm) of rain a year.


Arabic is the national language. Most Egyptians are Sunni Muslims, but there is a minority (5–10%) of Christians called Copts, who use a form of the ancient Egyptian language in their religious ritual.


Agriculture is based mainly on upon irrigation. The amount of available farmland was increased appreciably by the Aswan Dam. The principal export crop is cotton, but Egypt also raises wheat, corn, millet, and rice. Mineral resources include iron ore, salt, natural gas, petroleum, and phosphates. The production of textiles and processed foods dominate the industrial sector. Tourism and the Suez Canal are important sources of foreign currency.


Egypt's history goes back thousands of years, but the modern roots of the country begin with the Arab invasion of A.D. 641, when the majority of the people embracced Islam and were integrated into Arab civilization. For about 500 years the country was ruled by caliphs based in Damascus, Baghdad, and other cities. In 1250 power was taken by a Turkish dynasty, the Mamelukes, and in 1517 it became part of the Ottoman Empire. The modern Egyptian state was formed in 1805 by Muhammad Ali, a soldier of Turkish origin. In the late 19th century Egypt fell under British influence, and during World War I London proclaimed the country a British protectorate. In 1937 a formally independent state was created, with King Farouk as monarch. He was overthrown in 1952 by a group of army officers who proclaimed a republic with Gamal Abdel Nasser as president. During Nasser's reign, Egypt was the center of Arab nationalism. There were two wars with Israel, in 1956 and 1967, during which Egypt lost much territory, including the entire Sinai peninsula.

On Nasser's death in 1970, Anwar al-Sadat became president. He joined Syria and Iraq in the War against Israel in October 1973. Shortly after that, Sadat broke Nasser's alliance with the USSR and sought closer ties with the United States. In 1979 Sadat and Menachem Begin of Israel signed a peace treaty and Israel began a phased withdrawal from the Sinai. In 1981 Sadat was assassinated by Muslim fundamentalists. He was succeeded by his vice president, Hosni Mubarak, who has continued Sadat's general policies, both foreign and domestic. In 1993, Mubarak won the presidential elections for the third time. Muslim fundamentalists are posing a threat to the country's stability.


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21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Dream to Eijkman, Christiaan