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Egypt is a country in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Western Asia. Covering an area of about 1,010,000 square kilometers (390,000 sq mi), Egypt borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west.
Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East. The great majority of its estimated 82 million live near the banks of the Nile River, in an area of about 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable agricultural land is found. The large areas of the Sahara Desert are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with the majority spread across the densely-populated centres of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most famous monuments, including the Giza pyramid complex and its Great Sphinx. The southern city of Luxor contains numerous ancient artifacts, such as the Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings. Egypt is widely regarded as an important political and cultural nation of the Middle East.
Egyptian is an Afro-Asiatic language most closely related to the Chadic, Berber, Semitic, Somali and Beja languages. It survived until the 5th century AD in the form of Demotic and until the late 17th century AD in the form of Coptic. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3200 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. The national language of modern day Egypt is Egyptian Arabic, which gradually replaced Coptic Egyptian as the language of daily life in the centuries after the Muslim conquest of Egypt. Coptic is still used as a liturgical language by the Coptic Church, and reportedly has a handful of native speakers today.
The Geography of Egypt can be split into two general sections. Egypt is located in the northern part of Africa; however, it includes the Sinai Peninsula, which is considered part of Southwest Asia. Therefore, Egypt is located in both North Africa and Southwest Asia.
Egypt has shorelines on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. It borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. Egypt, covering 1,001,449 square kilometers of land, is about the same size as Texas and New Mexico combined, four times the size of the UK and double that of France. Its longest distance from north to south is 1,024 kilometers, and from east to west is 1,240 kilometers. Egypt's natural boundaries consist of more than 2,900 kilometers of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.
At 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,660 sq mi), Egypt is the world's 38th-largest country. In terms of land area, it is approximately the same size as all of Central America, twice the size of France, four times the size of the United Kingdom, and the combined size of the US states of Texas and California.
Nevertheless, due to the aridity of Egypt's climate, population centres are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta, meaning that approximately 99% of the population uses only about 5.5% of the total land area.
Egypt is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. 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, which in turn is traversed by a navigable waterway (the Suez Canal) that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea.
Apart from the Nile Valley, the majority of Egypt's landscape is a desert. The winds blowing can create sand dunes more than 100 feet (30 m) high. Egypt includes parts of the Sahara Desert and of the Libyan Desert. These deserts were referred to as the "red land" in ancient Egypt, and they protected the Kingdom of the Pharaohs from western threats.
Towns and cities include Alexandria, one of the greatest ancient cities, Aswan, Asyut, Cairo, the modern Egyptian capital, 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 Suez Canal is located, Zagazig, and Al-Minya. Oases include Bahariya, el Dakhla, Farafra, el Kharga and Siwa. Protectorates include Ras Mohamed National Park, Zaranik Protectorate and Siwa.
Egypt does not receive much rainfall except in the winter months. South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 2 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 in) per year and at intervals of many years. On a very thin strip of the northern coast the rainfall can be as high as 410 mm (16 in), with most of the rainfall between October and March. Snow falls on Sinai's mountains and some of the north coastal cities such as Damietta, Baltim, Sidi Barrany, etc. and rarely in Alexandria, frost is also known in mid-Sinai and mid-Egypt.
Temperatures average between 80 °F (27 °C) and 90 °F (32 °C) in summer, and up to 109 °F (43 °C) on the Red Sea coast. Temperatures average between 55 °F (13 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C) in winter. A steady wind from the northwest helps hold down the temperature near the Mediterranean coast. The Khamaseen is a wind that blows from the south in Egypt in spring, bringing sand and dust, and sometimes raises the temperature in the desert to more than 100 °F (38 °C).
Every year, a predictable flooding of the Nile replenishes Egypt's soil. This gives the country consistent harvest throughout the year. Many know this event as The Gift of the Nile.
The rise in sea levels due to global warming threatens Egypt's densely populated coastal strip and could have grave consequences for the country's economy, agriculture and industry. Combined with growing demographic pressures, a rise in sea levels could turn millions of Egyptians into environmental refugees by the end of the century, according to climate experts.
Evidence of human habitation in the Nile Valley since the Paleolithic era appears in the form of artifacts and rock carvings along the Nile terraces and in the desert oases. In the 10th millennium BC, a culture of hunter-gatherers and fishers replaced a grain-grinding culture. Climate changes and/or overgrazing around 8000 BC began to desiccate the pastoral lands of Egypt, forming the Sahara. Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralized society.
By about 6000 BC the Neolithic culture rooted in the Nile Valley. During the Neolithic era, several predynastic cultures developed independently in Upper and Lower Egypt. The Badarian culture and the successor Naqada series are generally regarded as precursors to Dynastic Egyptian civilization. The earliest known Lower Egyptian site, Merimda, predates the Badarian by about seven hundred years. Contemporaneous Lower Egyptian communities coexisted with their southern counterparts for more than two thousand years, remaining somewhat culturally separate, but maintaining frequent contact through trade. The earliest known evidence of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BC.
A unified kingdom was founded circa 3150 BC by King Menes, giving rise to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia. Egyptians subsequently referred to their unified country as tawy, meaning "two lands", and later kemet (Coptic: kimi), the "black land", a reference to the fertile black soil deposited by the Nile river. Egyptian culture flourished during this long period and remained distinctively Egyptian in its religion, arts, language and customs. The first two ruling dynasties of a unified Egypt set the stage for the Old Kingdom period, c.2700-2200 BC., famous for its many pyramids, most notably the Third Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the Fourth Dynasty Giza Pyramids.
The First Intermediate Period ushered in a time of political upheaval for about 150 years. Stronger Nile floods and stabilization of government, however, brought back renewed prosperity for the country in the Middle Kingdom c. 2040 BC, reaching a peak during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. A second period of disunity heralded the arrival of the first foreign ruling dynasty in Egypt, that of the Semitic Hyksos. The Hyksos invaders took over much of Lower Egypt around 1650 BC and founded a new capital at Avaris. They were driven out by an Upper Egyptian force led by Ahmose I, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty and relocated the capital from Memphis to Thebes.
The New Kingdom (c.1550-1070 BC) began with the Eighteenth Dynasty, marking the rise of Egypt as an international power that expanded during its greatest extension to an empire as far south as Jebel Barkal in Nubia, and included parts of the Levant in the east. This period is noted for some of the most well-known Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II. The first historically attested expression of monotheism came during this period in the form of Atenism. Frequent contacts with other nations brought new ideas to the New Kingdom. The country was later invaded by Libyans, Nubians and Assyrians, but native Egyptians drove them out and regained control of their country.
The Thirtieth Dynasty was the last native ruling dynasty during the Pharaonic epoch. It fell to the Persians in 343 BC after the last native Pharaoh, King Nectanebo II, was defeated in battle. Later, Egypt fell to the Macedonians and Romans, beginning over two thousand years of foreign rule.
Before Egypt became part of the Byzantine realm, Christianity had been brought by Saint Mark the Evangelist in the AD first century. Diocletian's reign marked the transition from the Roman to the Byzantine era in Egypt, when a great number of Egyptian Christians were persecuted. The New Testament had by then been translated into Egyptian. After the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, a distinct Egyptian Coptic Church was firmly established.
The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a brief Persian invasion early in the seventh century, until in AD 639, Egypt was invaded by the Muslim Arabs. The form of Islam the Arabs brought to Egypt was Sunni. Early in this period, Egyptians began to blend their new faith with indigenous beliefs and practices that had survived through Coptic Christianity, giving rise to various Sufi orders that have flourished to this day. Muslim rulers nominated by the Islamic Caliphate remained in control of Egypt for the next six centuries, including a period for which it was the seat of the Caliphate under the Fatimids. With the end of the Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluks, a Turco-Circassian military caste, took control about AD 1250. They continued to govern even after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. The mid-14th-Century Black Death killed about 40% of the country's population.
The brief French Invasion of Egypt led by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 had a great social impact on the country and its culture. Native Egyptians became exposed to the principles of the French Revolution and had a chance to exercise self-governance. The expulsion of the French in 1801 by Ottoman, Mamluk, and British forces was followed by four years of anarchy in which Ottomans, Mamluks, and Albanians who were nominally in the service of the Ottomans, wrestled for power. Out of this chaos, the commander of the Albanian regiment, Muhammad Ali (Kavalali Mehmed Ali Pasha) emerged as a dominant figure and in 1805 was acknowledged by the Sultan in Istanbul as his pasha (viceroy) in Egypt; the title implied subordination to the Sultan but this was in fact a polite fiction: Ottoman power in Egypt was finished and Muhammad Ali, an ambitious and able leader, established a dynasty that was to rule Egypt (at first really and later as British puppets) until the revolution of 1952. His primary focus was military: he annexed Northern Sudan (1820-1824), Syria (1833), and parts of Arabia and Anatolia; but in 1841 the European powers, fearful lest he topple Byzantium itself, checked him: he had to return most of his conquests to the Ottomans, but he kept the Sudan and his title to Egypt was made hereditary. A more lasting consequence of his military ambition is that it made him the moderniser of Egypt. Anxious to learn the military (and therefore industrial) techniques of the great powers he sent students to the West and invited training missions to Egypt. He built industries, a system of canals for irrigation and transport, and reformed the civil service. For better or worse, the introduction in 1820 of long-staple cotton, the Egyptian variety of which became famous, transformed Egyptian agriculture into a cash-crop monoculture before the end of the century. The social effects of this were enormous: it led to the concentration of agriculture in the hands of large landowners, and, with the additional trigger of high cotton prices caused by the United States' civil war production drop, to a large influx of foreigners who began in earnest the exploitation of Egypt for international commodity production.
Muhammad Ali was succeeded briefly by his son Ibrahim (in September 1848), then by a grandson Abbas I (in November 1848), then by Said (in 1854), and Isma'il (in 1863). Abbas I was cautious. Said and Ismail were ambitious developers; unfortunately they spent beyond their means. The Suez Canal, built in partnership with the French, was completed in 1869. The expense of this and other projects had two effects: it led to enormous debt to European banks, and caused popular discontent because of the onerous taxation it necessitated. In 1875 Ismail was forced to sell Egypt's share in the canal to the British government. Within three years this led to the imposition of British and French controllers who sat in the Egyptian cabinet, and, "with the financial power of the bondholders behind them, were the real power in the government." Local dissatisfaction with Ismail and with European intrusion led to the formation of the first nationalist groupings in 1879, with Ahmad Urabi a prominent figure. In 1882 he became head of a nationalist-dominated ministry committed to democratic reforms including parliamentary control of the budget. Fearing a diminishment of their control, Britain and France intervened militarily, bombarding Alexandria and crushing the Egyptian army at the battle of Tel el-Kebir. They reinstalled Ismail's son Tewfik as figurehead of a de facto British protectorate. In 1914 the Protectorate was made official, and the title of the head of state, which had changed from pasha to khedive in 1867, was changed to sultan, to repudiate the vestigial suzerainty of the Ottoman sultan, who was backing the Central powers in World War I. Abbas II was deposed as khedive and replaced by his uncle, Husayn Kamil, as sultan.
In 1906, the Dinshaway Incident prompted many neutral Egyptians to join the nationalist movement. After the First World War, Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party led the Egyptian nationalist movement, gaining a majority at the local Legislative Assembly. When the British exiled Zaghlul and his associates to Malta on March 8, 1919, the country arose in its first modern revolution. Constant revolting by the Egyptian people throughout the country led Great Britain to issue a unilateral declaration of Egypt's independence on February 22, 1922.
The new Egyptian government drafted and implemented a new constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary representative system. Saad Zaghlul was popularly-elected as Prime Minister of Egypt in 1924. In 1936 the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded. Continued instability in the government due to remaining British control and increasing political involvement by the king led to the ousting of the monarchy and the dissolution of the parliament in a military coup d'état known as the 1952 Revolution. The officers, known as the Free Officers Movement, forced King Farouk to abdicate in support of his son Fuad.
On June 18, 1953, the Egyptian Republic was declared, with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic. Naguib was forced to resign in 1954 by Jamal Abdel Nasser – the real architect of the 1952 movement – and was later put under house arrest. Nasser assumed power as President and declared the full independence of Egypt from the United Kingdom on June 18, 1956. His nationalization of the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956 prompted the 1956 Suez Crisis.
Three years after the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel had invaded and occupied Sinai, Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. Sadat switched Egypt's Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. He launched the Infitah economic reform policy, while violently clamping down on religious and secular opposition alike.
In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched the October War, a surprise attack against the Israeli forces occupying the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. It was an attempt to liberate the territory Israel had captured 6 years earlier. Both the US and the USSR intervened and a cease-fire was reached. Despite not being a complete military success, most historians agree that the October War presented Sadat with a political victory that later allowed him to regain the Sinai in return with peace with Israel.
Sadat made a historic visit to Israel in 1977, which led to the 1979 peace treaty in exchange for the complete Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. Sadat's initiative sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt's expulsion from the Arab League, but it was supported by the vast majority of Egyptians. A fundamentalist military soldier assassinated Sadat in Cairo in 1981. He was succeeded by the incumbent Hosni Mubarak. In 2003, the Egyptian Movement for Change, popularly known as Kefaya, was launched to seek a return to democracy and greater civil liberties.
The Nile Valley was home to one of the oldest cultures in the world, spanning three thousand years of continuous history. When Egypt fell under a series of foreign occupations after 343 BC, each left an indelible mark on the country's cultural landscape. Egyptian identity evolved in the span of this long period of occupation to accommodate, in principle, two new religions, Christianity and Islam; and a new language, Arabic, and its spoken descendant, Egyptian Arabic. The degree to which Egyptians identify with each layer of Egypt's history in articulating a sense of collective identity can vary. Questions of identity came to fore in the last century as Egypt sought to free itself from foreign occupation for the first time in two thousand years. Three chief ideologies came to head:
ethno-territorial Egyptian nationalism, secular Arab nationalism and pan-Arabism, and Islamism. Egyptian nationalism predates its Arab counterpart by many decades, having roots in the nineteenth century and becoming the dominant mode of expression of Egyptian anti-colonial activists and intellectuals until the early 20th century. Arab nationalism reached a peak under Nasser but was once again relegated under Sadat; meanwhile, the ideology espoused by Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood is present in small segments of the lower-middle strata of Egyptian society.
Egypt has been a republic since June 18, 1953. President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has been the President of the Republic since October 14, 1981, following the assassination of former-President Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat. Mubarak is currently serving his fifth term in office. He is the leader of the ruling National Democratic Party. Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif was sworn in as Prime Minister on July 9, 2004, following the resignation of Dr. Atef Ebeid from his office.
Although power is ostensibly organized under a multi-party semi-presidential system, whereby the executive power is theoretically divided between the President and the Prime Minister, in practice it rests almost solely with the President who traditionally has been elected in single-candidate elections for more than fifty years. Egypt also holds regular multi-party parliamentary elections. The last presidential election, in which Mubarak won a fifth consecutive term, was held in September 2005.
In late February 2005, President Mubarak announced in a surprise television broadcast that he had ordered the reform of the country's presidential election law, paving the way for multi-candidate polls in the upcoming presidential election. For the first time since the 1952 movement, the Egyptian people had an apparent chance to elect a leader from a list of various candidates. The President said his initiative came "out of my full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy." However, the new law placed draconian restrictions on the filing for presidential candidacies, designed to prevent well-known candidates such as Ayman Nour from standing against Mubarak, and paved the road for his easy re-election victory. Concerns were once again expressed after the 2005 presidential elections about government interference in the election process through fraud and vote-rigging, in addition to police brutality and violence by pro-Mubarak supporters against opposition demonstrators. After the election, Egypt imprisoned Nour, and the U.S. Government stated the "conviction of Mr. Nour, the runner-up in Egypt's 2005 presidential elections, calls into question Egypt's commitment to democracy, freedom, and the rule of law."
As a result, most Egyptians are skeptical about the process of democratization and the role of the elections. Less than 25 percent of the country's 32 million registered voters (out of a population of more than 72 million) turned out for the 2005 elections. A proposed change to the constitution would limit the president to two seven-year terms in office.
Thirty-four constitutional changes voted on by parliament on March 19, 2007 prohibit parties from using religion as a basis for political activity; allow the drafting of a new anti-terrorism law to replace the emergency legislation in place since 1981, giving police wide powers of arrest and surveillance; give the president power to dissolve parliament; and end judicial monitoring of election. As opposition members of parliament withdrew from voting on the proposed changes, it was expected that the referendum would be boycotted by a great number of Egyptians in protest of what has been considered a breach of democratic practices. Eventually it was reported that only 27% of the registered voters went to the polling stations under heavy police presence and tight political control of the ruling National Democratic Party. It was officially announced on March 27, 2007 that 75.9% of those who participated in the referendum approved of the constitutional amendments introduced by President Mubarak and was endorsed by opposition free parliament, thus allowing the introduction of laws that curb the activity of certain opposition elements, particularly Islamists.
Egypt's economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum exports, and tourism; there are also more than three million Egyptians working abroad, mainly in 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 struggled to prepare the economy for the new millennium through economic reform and massive investments in communications and physical infrastructure. Egypt has been receiving U.S. foreign aid (since 1979, an average of $2.2 billion per year) and is the third-largest recipient of such funds from the United States following the Iraq war. Its main revenues however come from tourism as well as traffic that goes through the Suez Canal.
Egypt has a developed energy market based on coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro power. Substantial coal deposits are in the north-east Sinai, and are mined at the rate of about 600,000 tonnes (590,000 LT, 660,000 ST) 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 1,940 cubic kilometres, and LNG is exported to many countries.
Economic conditions have started to improve considerably after a period of stagnation from 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 IMF has rated Egypt as one of the top countries in the world undertaking economic reforms. Some major economic reforms taken by the new government since 2003 include a dramatic slashing of customs and tariffs. A new taxation law implemented in 2005 decreased corporate taxes from 40% to the current 20%, resulting in a stated 100% increase in tax revenue by the year 2006.
FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) into Egypt has increased considerably in the past few years due to the recent economic liberalization measures taken by minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieddin, exceeding $6 billion in 2006.
Although one of the main obstacles still facing the Egyptian economy is the trickle down of the 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. Often corruption is blamed by Egyptians as the main impediment to feeling the benefits of the newly attained wealth. Major reconstruction of the country's infrastructure is promised by the government, with a large portion of the sum paid for the newly acquired 3rd mobile license ($3 billion) by Etisalat.
The best known examples of Egyptian companies that have expanded regionally and globally are the Orascom Group and Raya. The IT sector has been expanding rapidly in the past few years, with many new start-ups conducting outsourcing business to North America and Europe, operating with companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and other major corporations, as well as numerous SME's. Some of these companies are the Xceed Contact Center, Raya Contact Center, E Group Connections and C3 along with other start ups in that country. The sector has been stimulated by new Egyptian entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on their country's huge potential in the sector, as well as constant government encouragement.
Egypt is the most populated country in the Middle East and the third most populous on the African continent, with an estimated 75 million people (as of mid-2008). Egypt's population was estimated at 3 million when Napoleon invaded the country. Almost all the population is concentrated along the banks of the Nile (notably Cairo and Alexandria), in the Delta and near the Suez Canal. Approximately 90% of the population adheres to Islam and most of the remainder to Christianity, primarily the Coptic Orthodox denomination. Apart from religious affiliation, Egyptians can be divided demographically into those who live in the major urban centers and the fellahin or farmers of rural villages. The last 40 years have seen a rapid increase in population due to medical advances and massive increase in agricultural productivity, made by the Green Revolution.
Egyptians are by far the largest ethnic group in Egypt at 98% of the total population. Ethnic minorities include the Bedouin Arab tribes living in the eastern deserts and the Sinai Peninsula, the Berber-speaking Siwis (Amazigh) of the Siwa Oasis, and the ancient Nubian communities clustered along the Nile. There are also tribal communities of Beja concentrated in the south-eastern-most 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.
Egypt also hosts an unknown number of refugees and asylum seekers, but they are estimated to be between 500,000 and 3 million. There are some 70,000 Palestinian refugees, and about 150,000 recently arrived Iraqi refugees, but the number of the largest group, the Sudanese, is contested. The once-vibrant Greek and Jewish communities in Egypt have virtually disappeared, with only a small number remaining in the country, but many Egyptian Jews visit on religious occasions and for tourism. Several important Jewish archaeological and historical sites are found in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities.
Egyptian media are highly influential both in Egypt and the Arab World, attributed to large audiences and increasing freedom from government control. Freedom of the media is guaranteed in the constitution; however, many laws still restrict this right. After the Egyptian presidential election of 2005, Ahmed Selim, office director for Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi, declared an era of a "free, transparent and independent Egyptian media."
Religion in Egypt controls many aspects of social life and is endorsed by law. Egypt is predominantly Muslim, with Muslims comprising about 90% of a population of around 80 million Egyptians. Almost the entirety of Egypt's Muslims are Sunnis. A significant number of Muslim Egyptians also follow native Sufi orders, and there is a minority of Shi'a.
Most of the non-Muslims in Egypt are Christians. Christians represent around 10% of the population and are the largest Christian community in the Middle East. About 90% of Christians in Egypt belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Other native Egyptian Christians are adherents of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Coptic Evangelical Church and various Coptic Protestant denominations. Non-native Christian communities are largely found in the urban regions of Cairo and Alexandria.
There is also a small, but nonetheless historically significant, non-immigrant Bahá'í population around 2000, and an even smaller community of Jews of about 200, then a tiny number of Egyptians who identify as atheist and agnostic. The non-Sunni, non-Coptic communities range in size from several hundreds to a few thousand. The original Ancient Egyptian religion has all but disappeared.
According to the constitution of Egypt, any new legislation must at least implicitly agree with Islamic law; however, the constitution bans political parties with a religious agenda.
Egypt hosts two major religious institutions. Al-Azhar University, founded in 970 A.D by the Fatimids as the first Islamic University in Egypt and the main Egyptian Church the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria established in the middle of the 1st century by Saint Mark.
In Egypt, Muslims and Christians live as neighbors, they share a common history and national identity. They also share the same ethnicity, race, culture, and language.
Religion plays a central role in most Egyptians' lives, The Adhan (Islamic call to prayer) that is heard five times a day has the informal effect of regulating the pace of everything from business to media and entertainment. Cairo is famous for its numerous mosque minarets and is justifiably dubbed "the city of 1,000 minarets", with a significant number of church towers. This religious landscape has been marred by a history of religious extremism, recently witnessing a 2006 judgement of Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court, which made a clear legal distinction between "recognized religions" (i.e., Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) and all other religious beliefs. This ruling effectively delegitimizes and forbids practice of all but the three Abrahamic religions. This judgment had made it necessary for non-Abrahamic religious communities to either commit perjury or be denied Egyptian identification cards (see Egyptian identification card controversy), until a 2008 Cairo court case ruled that unrecognized religious minorities may obtain birth certificates and identification documents, so long as they omit their religion on court documents.
In 2002, under the Mubarak government, Coptic Christmas (January the 7th) was recognized as an official holiday, though Copts complain of being minimally represented in law enforcement, state security and public office, and of being discriminated against in the workforce on the basis of their religion. The Coptic community, as well as several human rights activists and intellectuals, maintain that the number of Christians occupying government posts is not proportional to the number of Copts in Egypt.
Egyptian culture has five thousand years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilizations and for millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that influenced later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and other African countries. After the Pharaonic era, Egypt itself came under the influence of Hellenism, Christianity, and Islamic culture. Today, many aspects of Egypt's ancient culture exist in interaction with newer elements, including the influence of modern Western culture, itself with roots in ancient Egypt.
Egypt's capital city, Cairo, is Africa's largest city and has been renowned for centuries as a center of learning, culture and commerce. Egypt has the highest number of Nobel Laureates in Africa and the Arab World. Some Egyptian born politicians were or are currently at the helm of major international organizations like Boutros Boutros-Ghali of the United Nations and Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA.
The work of early nineteenth-century scholar Rifa'a et-Tahtawi gave rise to the Egyptian Renaissance, marking the transition from Medieval to Early Modern Egypt. His work renewed interest in Egyptian antiquity and exposed Egyptian society to Enlightenment principles. Tahtawi co-founded with education reformer Ali Mubarak a native Egyptology school that looked for inspiration to medieval Egyptian scholars, such as Suyuti and Maqrizi, who themselves studied the history, language and antiquities of Egypt. Egypt's renaissance peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the work of people like Muhammad Abduh, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, Tawfiq el-Hakim, Louis Awad, Qasim Amin, Salama Moussa, Taha Hussein and Mahmoud Mokhtar. They forged a liberal path for Egypt expressed as a commitment to individual freedom, secularism and faith in science to bring progress.
Art and Architecture:
The Egyptians were one of the first major civilizations to codify design elements in art and architecture. The wall paintings done in the service of the Pharaohs followed a rigid code of visual rules and meanings. Egyptian civilization is renowned for its colossal pyramids, colonnades and monumental tombs. Well-known examples are the Pyramid of Djoser designed by ancient architect and engineer Imhotep, the Sphinx, and the temple of Abu Simbel. Modern and contemporary Egyptian art can be as diverse as any works in the world art scene, from the vernacular architecture of Hassan Fathy and Ramses Wissa Wassef, to Mahmoud Mokhtar's famous sculptures, to the distinctive Coptic iconography of Isaac Fanous.
The Cairo Opera House serves as the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital. Egypt's media and arts industry has flourished since the late nineteenth century, today with more than thirty satellite channels and over one hundred motion pictures produced each year. Cairo has long been known as the "Hollywood of the Middle East;" its annual film festival, the Cairo International Film Festival, has been rated as one of 11 festivals with a top class rating worldwide by the International Federation of Film Producers' Associations. To bolster its media industry further, especially with the keen competition from the Persian Gulf Arab States and Lebanon, a large media city was built. Some Egyptian-born actors, like Omar Sharif, have achieved worldwide fame.
Literature constitutes an important cultural 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 Middle East. 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 women writers include Nawal El Saadawi, well known for her feminist activism, and Alifa Rifaat who also writes about women and tradition. Vernacular poetry is perhaps the most popular literary genre amongst Egyptians, represented by the works of Ahmed Fouad Negm (Fagumi), Salah Jaheen and Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi.
Egyptian music is a rich mixture of indigenous, Mediterranean, African and Western elements. In antiquity, Egyptians were playing harps and flutes, including two indigenous instruments: the ney and the oud. Percussion and vocal music also became an important part of the local music tradition ever since. Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings to the creative work of people such as Abdu-l Hamuli, Almaz and Mahmud Osman, who influenced the later work of Egyptian music giants such as Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Abdel Halim Hafez. From the 1970s onwards, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly important in Egyptian culture, while Egyptian folk music continues to be played during weddings and other festivities.
Football (soccer) is the de facto national sport of Egypt. Egyptian Soccer clubs El Ahly, Petrojet, ENPPI, Haras El Hodood, Police Unión, Army's Vanguards and Ismaily & El Zamalek are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time regional champions. The great rivalries keep the streets of Egypt energized as people fill the streets when their favorite team wins. Egypt is rich in soccer history as soccer has been around for over 100 years. The country is home to many African championships such as the Africa Cup of Nations. While, Egypt's national team has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1990, the Egyptian team won the Africa Cup Of Nations an unprecedented six times, including two times in a row in 1957 and 1959 and again in 2006 and 2008, setting a world record.
Squash and tennis are other popular sports in Egypt. The Egyptian squash team has been known for its fierce competition in international championships since the 1930s. Amr Shabana is Egypt's best player and the winner of the world open three times and the best player of 2006.
The Egyptian Handball team also holds another record; throughout the 34 times the African Handball Nations Championship was held, Egypt won first place five times (including 2008), five times second place, four times third place, and came in fourth place twice. The team won 6th and 7th places in 1995, 1997 at the World Men's Handball Championship, and twice won 6th place at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
In 2007, Omar Samra joined Ben Stephens (England), Victoria James (Wales) and Greg Maud (South Africa) in putting together an expedition to climb Mount Everest from its South side. The Everest expedition began on 25 March 2007 and lasted for just over 9 weeks. On the 17th of May at precisely 9:49 am Nepal time, Omar became the first and youngest Egyptian to climb 8,850m Mount Everest. He also became the first Egyptian to climb Everest from its South face, the same route taken by Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1953.
Egypt has a long history of participation at the Summer Olympics since 1912.
The Egyptian Armed forces have a combined troop strength of around 450,000 active personnel. According to the Israeli chair of the former 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. The Egyptian military has recently undergone massive military modernization mostly in their Air Force. Other than Israel, Egypt is speculated by Israel to be the first country in the region with a spy satellite, EgyptSat 1, and is planning to launch 3 more satellites (DesertSat1, EgyptSat2, DesertSat2) over the next two years. Egypt is considered to be the leading military power in the Middle East along with Israel.
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