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Arab Republic of Egypt
Jumhuriat Misr al-‘Arabiyah
CAPITAL: Cairo (Al-Qahira)
FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of three horizontal stripes—red, white, and black—with the national emblem in the center white stripe.
ANTHEM: The Arab Republic of Egypt Hymn.
MONETARY UNIT: The Egyptian pound (e£) is a paper currency of 100 piasters or 1,000 milliemes. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 20 piasters and notes of 25 and 50 piasters and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 1000 pounds. e£1 = us$0.17301 (or us$1 = e£5.78) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the official standard, but various local units also are used: 1 feddan, consisting of 333.3 kassabah, equals 0.42 hectare (1.038 acres).
HOLIDAYS: New Year‘s Day, 1 January; Evacuation Day, 18 June; Revolution Day, 23 July; Armed Forces Day, 6 October; Popular Resistance Day, 24 October; Victory Day, 23 December. Movable holidays include Sham an-Nassim (Breath of Spring), of ancient origin, as well as such Muslim religious holidays as ‘Id al-Fitr, ‘Id al’Adha’, and the 1st of Muharram (Muslim New Year).
TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.
Situated at the northeastern corner of Africa, the Arab Republic of Egypt has an area of 1,001,450 sq km (386,662 sq mi), extending 1,572 km (997 mi) se–nw and 1,196 km (743 mi) ne–sw. However, the cultivated and settled area (Nile Valley, Delta, and oases) constitutes only about 3.5% of Egypt’s land area; the Libyan and Western deserts occupy about 75% of the total. Comparatively, the area occupied by Egypt is slightly more than three times the size of the state of New Mexico. Beyond the Suez Canal in the east, the Sinai Peninsula overlaps into Asia; the Sinai was occupied by Israeli forces from 1967 to 1982.
Egypt is bounded on the n by the Mediterranean Sea, on the e by Israel and the Red Sea, on the s by Sudan, and on the w by Libya. The total land boundary length is 2,665 km (1,656 mi) and its total coastline is 2,450 km (1,522 mi). Egypt’s capital city, Cairo, is located in the northeastern part of the country.
The altitude of Egypt ranges from 133 m (436 ft) below sea level in the Libyan Desert to 2,629 m (8,625 ft) above in the Sinai Peninsula. The Nile Delta is a broad, alluvial land, sloping to the sea for some 160 km (100 mi), with a 250-km (155-mi) maritime front between Alexandria (Al-Iskandariyah) and Port Said. South of Cairo, most of the country (known as Upper Egypt) is a tableland rising to some 460 m (1,500 ft). The narrow valley of the Nile is enclosed by cliffs as high as 550 m (1,800 ft) as the river flows about 900 km (560 mi) from Aswan to Cairo. A series of cascades and rapids at Aswan, known as the First Cataract (the other cataracts are in the Sudan), forms a barrier to movement upstream.
The bulk of the country is covered by the Sahara, which north of Aswan is usually called the Libyan Desert. East of the Nile, the Arabian Desert extends to the Red Sea. The Western Desert consists of low-lying sand dunes and many depressions. Kharijah, Siwah, Farafirah, Bahariyah, and other large oases dot the landscape; another lowland, the Qattara Depression, is an inhospitable region of highly saline lakes and soils covering about 23,000 sq km (8,900 sq mi). The outstanding topographic feature is the Nile River, on which human existence depends, for its annual floods provide the water necessary for agriculture. Before the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, the floods, lasting generally from August to December, caused the river level to rise about 5 m (16 ft). Now, however, floodwaters can be stored, making it possible to provide year-round irrigation and to reclaim about 1 million feddans (about 1.04 million acres) of land. Damming the Nile resulted in the creation of Lake Nasser, a reservoir 292 km (181 mi) long and 9–18 km (6–11 mi) wide.
Most of Egypt is a dry subtropical area, but the southern part of Upper Egypt is tropical. Northern winds temper the climate along the Mediterranean, but the interior areas are very hot. The temperature sinks quickly after sunset because of the high radiation rate under cloudless skies. Annual rainfall averages 2.5 cm (1 in) south of Cairo and 20 cm (8 in) on the Mediterranean coast, but sudden storms sometimes cause devastating flash floods. Hot, dry sandstorms, known as khamsins, come off the Western Desert in the spring. In Cairo, average temperatures range from 14°c (57°f) in January to 28°c (82°f) in July. Relative humidity varies from 68% in February to over 70% in August and 77% in December.
Plants are those common in dry subtropical and tropical lands, such as papyrus. Egypt has no forests but does have date palm and citrus groves; eucalyptus and cypress have been introduced. Sheep, goats, and donkeys are found throughout the country, and camels are found in all the deserts. Egypt has some 300 types of birds, with about half of them being breeding species within the country. Wild animals are few, except for the hyena, jackal, lynx, mongoose, and wild boar, the last-named inhabiting the Nile Delta. The ibex may be found in the Sinai, and gazelles in the deserts. The Nile is adequately stocked with fish, but crocodiles have been reduced to a few along the shores of Lake Nasser. Reptiles include the horned viper and the hooded snake. In 2002, there were about 98 species of mammals,123 species of birds, and over 2,000 species of higher plants.
Egypt’s environmental problems stem from its aridity, extremely uneven population distribution, shortage of arable land, and pollution. Soil fertility has declined because of over-cultivation and agricultural land has been lost to urbanization and desert winds. In addition, the nation’s beaches, coral reefs, and wildlife habitats are threatened by oil pollution. Heavy use of pesticides, inadequate sewage disposal, and uncontrolled industrial effluents have created major water pollution problems. The expanded irrigation of desert areas after completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970 has increased soil salinity and aided the spread of waterborne diseases.
With recent improvements, about 97% of the rural population and 100% of the urban population have access to improved water sources. The National Committee for Environment, within the office of the prime minister, is the principal agency with environmental responsibilities.
Centuries of human habitation in the Nile Valley have decimated Egypt’s wildlife in that region. The hunting of any bird has been prohibited by law. As of 2003, about 9.7% of the total land area was protected. The Wadi Al-Hitan (White Valley) became a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 6 types of mammals, 17 species of birds, 6 types of reptiles, 14 species of fish, and 2 species of plants. Endangered species include the Sinai leopard, northern bald ibis, and green sea turtle. The Sahara oryx has been listed as extinct.
The population of Egypt in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 74,033,000, which placed it at number 16 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 36% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 101 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–2010 was expected to be 2.0%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 101,092,000. The population density was 74 per sq km (191 per sq mi). However, populated areas constitute only 6% of Egypt’s total area and density varies from 84,150 per sq km (32,500 per sq mi) in Cairo to 60 per sq km (23 per sq mi) in the Suez governate. Some 99% of all Egyptians live in the Nile Valley.
The UN estimated that 43% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.39%. The capital city, Cairo (Al-Qahira), had a population of 10,834,000 in that year. Alexandria’s metropolitan population was 12,036,000. Other large cities include Giza (Al-Jizah), 2,597,000; Shubra El-Khemia, 1,556,000; Port Said, 548,900; and Suez, 497,000.
In the early 1960s, most of the Greek population emigrated as the result of the government’s nationalization measures; nearly all Jews, who formed less than 0.3% of the population in 1966, left the country after the 1967 war with Israel. With the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, up to 100,000 Nubian tribesmen were moved from flooded parts of the upper Nile and resettled in the plain downstream. During the 1970s there was significant internal migration from rural to urban areas. During the 1970s and first half of the 1980s, more than three million workers took jobs in other countries. In 1992 some 2,850,000 Egyptians were living abroad, including about one million in Libya and 850,000 in Saudi Arabia. In 2003 worker remittances to Egypt were $2.9 billion.
The Egyptian government estimates that there are 3–5 million Sudanese refugees, some of whom have lived in Egypt for over 30 years. In 2000 there were 169,000 migrants living in Egypt. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -0.22 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the immigration level as satisfactory, but the emigration level as too low.
Ethnic groups of Eastern Hamitic stock make up about 99% of the population of Egypt; these include Egyptians, Bedouins, and Berbers. They are a product of the intermixture of ancient Egyptians with the invaders of many millennia from various parts of Asia and Africa. The remaining 1% of the population is made up of minorities, including mainly Nubians, Armenians, Greeks, and other Europeans, primarily Italian and French.
The language of most of the population is Arabic, a Semitic tongue; the 1971 constitution declares Arabic to be Egypt’s official language. Dialects vary from region to region and even from town to town. English and French are spoken by most educated Egyptians and by shopkeepers and others. The ancient language of Pharaonic Egypt, a Hamitic tongue, survives vestigially in the liturgy of the Copts, a sizable Christian sect dating back to the 5th century ad. The Nubians of Upper Egypt speak at least seven dialects of their own unwritten language. There are a small number of Berber-speaking villagers in the western oases.
The majority religion is Islam, of which the Sunnis are the largest sect. According to official estimates, 90% of the population are Muslim and 8–10% are Christian, with the Coptic Orthodox Church being the largest Christian denomination. Other denominations represented include Armenian Apostolic, Greek and Syrian Orthodox, Catholics (including Armenian, Chaldean, Greek, Melkite, Roman, and Syrian), and a variety of evangelical Protestant denominations. The Baha’i faith is also represented. The Jewish community is extremely small.
The 1971 constitution declares Islam to be the state religion. Though the constitution provides for religious freedom, the government has a long history of infringements upon this right. Any religious practices that can be considered in conflict to Shariah (Islamic law) are prohibited and Article 98(F) of the Penal Code allows for prosecution for unorthodox practices and beliefs that are considered to be “insulting heavenly religions.” Government discrimination extends to both Muslim fundamentalists and Christians. In 2001, two men were convicted and sentenced to five and three years imprisonment under Article 98(F) for allegedly advocating a tolerance of homosexuality in the Islamic faith. In 2002, eight individuals were convicted under the same article for holding unorthodox Islamic beliefs and practices. Sentences ranged from three years imprisonment for two of the offenders to a one year suspended sentence for those who were not accused of promoting their beliefs to others. Proselytizing is generally considered a violation of Article 98(F).
Egypt’s transportation system is well developed, with 64,000 km (39,770 mi) of roads in 2002, of which about 50,000 km (31,070 mi) were paved. In 2003, there were 2,282,760 passenger cars and 688,300 commercial vehicles registered. In 1982, in an attempt to alleviate Cairo’s notorious traffic congestion, work began on a city subway system. The first phase, 5 km (3 mi) long, was completed in 1987 at a cost of some $370 million. Cairo Metro, modeled after the Paris Metro, is the first subway to be built in Africa. Alexandria and Cairo are connected by both the Western Desert Highway, a high-speed toll road and the busier Delta Road. Railroads are managed by the state-owned Egyptian Railways, founded in 1852. As of 2004, there was some 5,063 km (3,149 mi) of standard gauge railway that linked all parts of the country. Alexandria and Port Said are the principal ports. Egypt’s oceangoing merchant fleet of 77 ships totaled 1,194,696 GRT in 2005.
As of 2004, Egypt had some 3,500 km (2,175 mi) of inland waterways that include the Nile River, the Alexandria-Cairo Waterway, Lake Nasser, the 193.5 km (120 mi) Suez Canal and many other smaller canals in the Nile River delta. However, the Nile River and the Suez Canal are the country’s main inland waterways. Steamer service on the Nile is an important means of domestic transport. The modern Suez Canal was constructed between 1859 and 1869 under the supervision of the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps. In 1875 Great Britain became the canal’s leading shareholder, and the guarantor of its neutrality in 1888 under the Constantinople Convention. Management of the canal was entrusted to the privately owned Suez Canal Co. British rights over the canal were reaffirmed in the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, then repudiated by Egypt in 1951. In 1956, Egypt nationalized the canal and placed it under the management of the Suez Canal Authority, which had paid former stockholders $64 million by 1963. The canal was closed during the 1967 war with Israel and remained closed until 5 June 1975, when it resumed operations after having been cleared of mines and debris by teams of US, UK, and Egyptian engineers. During its first six months after resuming operations, the canal provided passage for a substantial number of dry-cargo ships but was used by only a comparatively small number of oil tankers, since the newer supertankers could not navigate the canal’s 38-ft depth. The first phase of a project to widen and deepen the canal was completed in 1980, permitting ships of 53-ft draft (up to 150,000 tons) to pass through. The second phase includes increasing the navigable depth to 67 ft (up to 270,000 tons). Egypt also announced plans to build five tunnels under the canal and dig a second channel to permit the two-way passage of convoys; the first tunnel at the southern end of the canal was opened to traffic in 1980.
Cairo International Airport is used by numerous international airlines, including Egypt’s own Egypt Air. In 2003, about 4.2 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights. As of 2004, Egypt had an estimated 87 airports. In 2005 a total of 72 had paved runways, and there were 2 heliports.
Egypt has the oldest recorded history in Western civilization, dating back 5,000 years. In early times, the desert provided protection against marauders, while the Nile River provided bread. Therefore, by 3400 bc the civilization of Egypt was well developed. The country was united about 3100 bc by Menes (or Narmer), king of Upper Egypt, who conquered Lower Egypt and established the first of some 30 dynasties, ruled over by a divine king, or pharaoh. Menes created a centralized state; under his dynastic successors, trade flourished, and the hieroglyphic form of writing was perfected. During the so-called Old Kingdom, the pharaohs of the fourth dynasty (c.2613–2494 bc), of whom Cheops (Khufu) was the most notable, began to build the great pyramids as royal tombs. The twelfth dynasty of the Middle Kingdom (c.1991–1786 bc) built vast irrigation schemes and developed a thriving civilization at Thebes; under their rule, a system of cursive writing was developed. After a century of domination by Semitic peoples known as the Hyksos, who introduced the horse-drawn chariot, ancient Egypt attained its apex during the eighteenth dynasty (c.1570–1320 bc) of the New Kingdom, under pharaohs Thutmose III, who extended the empire into Asia as far as the Euphrates; Amenhotep III and his son, Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten, or Ikhnaton), who, with his queen, Nefertiti, attempted forcibly to replace Egyptian polytheism with monotheistic worship of the sun god Aten, or Aton; and the boy-king Tutankhamen.
In subsequent centuries, political instability weakened the kingdom, and Egypt was invaded by Assyria (673–663 bc), annexed by Persia (525 bc), and conquered by Alexander the Great (332 bc). Alexander established the Macedonian dynasty of the Ptolemies, which ruled Egypt from 323 to 30 bc. During this period, the city of Alexandria flourished as the intellectual center of the Hellenistic world. The best-known ruler of this dynasty was Queen Cleopatra VII (sometimes designated as VI), who was defeated, together with her lover Mark Antony, at the Battle of Actium in 31 bc by Caius Octavius, later the Roman emperor Augustus. After the official division of the Roman Empire following the death of Theodosius in ad 395, Egypt became part of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.
Egypt played an integral role in the Muslim world after the Arab conquest by ‘Amr ibn-al-‘As in 639–42. Egypt’s conquerors brought in settlers from Arabia and established firm control under the Abbasid caliphate (established in 749) and the Fatimids (909–1171), who founded Cairo as their capital in 969. The Fatimids were overthrown by Saladin (Salah ad-Din), founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, which gave way about 1250 to a local military caste, the Mamluks. The Mamluks continued to control the provinces after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517.
Egypt remained a Turkish satrapy for four centuries. In 1805, an energetic Albanian soldier, Muhammad ‘Ali, was appointed ruler (wali) of Egypt. He succeeded in establishing his own dynasty, which ruled the country, first under nominal Ottoman control and later as a British protectorate. Muhammad ‘Ali destroyed Mamluk feudalism (already weakened by Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign in 1798), stabilized the country, encouraged the planting of cotton, and opened the land to European penetration and development.
After the completion of numerous ambitious projects, including the Suez Canal (1869), Egypt became a world transportation hub and heavily burdened by debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, England seized control of Egypt’s government in 1882 and, at the time of the outbreak of World War I, made Egypt a protectorate. After the war, in 1922, the United Kingdom took account of the gathering momentum of Egyptian nationalism and recognized Egypt as a nominally sovereign country under King Fuad, but retained control over the conduct of foreign affairs, defense, security of communications, and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Militant nationalism was represented by the Wafd Party, led by Sa’ad Zaghlul Pasha and, after his death, by Nahas Pasha. The conditions of association were revised in the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, under which Britain maintained armed forces only in specified areas and especially along the Suez Canal. In that year, Faruk ascended the throne.
Egyptian nationalism gathered further momentum in World War II, during which Egypt was used as an Allied base of operations, and in 1951 the government in Cairo abrogated the 1936 treaty. Royal extravagance, government corruption, the unsuccessful Palestine campaign against Israel in 1948, and delays in long-expected social and political reforms motivated a successful coup on 23 July 1952 by a group called the Society of the Free Officers. Faruk was dethroned and replaced by his seven-month-old son. A republic was proclaimed on 18 June 1953, with Gen. Muhammad Naguib (Najib), the nominal leader of the officers, as its first president. He, in turn, was forced out of power in 1954 by a younger man, Lt. Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser (Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir), leader of the revolution.
To increase the productive capacity of his country, Nasser entered into preliminary agreements with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the UN to finance in part a new high dam at Aswan. At the same time, he also negotiated economic aid and arms shipments from the Soviet Bloc when he was unable to obtain what Egypt needed from the West. Financial backing for the dam was subsequently withheld by the United States, whereupon, on 26 July 1956, President Nasser proclaimed the nationalization of the Suez Canal and announced that profits derived from its operations would be used for the building of the dam. (The last British occupation troops had been evacuated from their Suez Canal bases a month earlier.) The dam was completed with aid and technical assistance from the USSR.
Simultaneously, a crisis erupted between Egypt and Israel. Incidents involving Egyptian and Palestinian guerrillas (fadayin ) and Israeli border patrols multiplied. On 29 October 1956, as part of a three-nation plot to bring down Nasser and reassert control over the Canal, Israeli armed forces swept into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The United Kingdom and France then issued an ultimatum to the belligerents to cease-fire. When Egypt rejected the ultimatum, Britain and France took military action in the Port Said area, at the northern end of the canal, landing troops and bombing Egyptian cities from the air. However, the intervention of the United States and the USSR, acting through the UN, led to the withdrawal of the British, French, and Israeli forces by March 1957.
On 1 February 1958, Egypt and Syria proclaimed their union in the United Arab Republic (UAR), under one head of state, one flag, a common legislature, and a unified army. The proclamation was approved by a plebiscite vote of 99.9% in Egypt and 99.98% in Syria. Nasser became president of the UAR, and a new cabinet was formed in March 1958, consisting of 2 Egyptian and 2 Syrian vice presidents, as well as 22 Egyptian and 12 Syrian ministers. Differing economic and political conditions prevented a complete fusion of the two regions, however. Nasser’s economic measures were generally accepted, but his program of socialism and nationalization of banks and other commercial establishments were resented and opposed by Syrian businessmen. Syrian opposition to the union was crystallized when Nasser eliminated the separate regional cabinets and set up a unified cabinet in August 1961. On 28 September, the Syrian army revolted, and two days later it proclaimed Syrian independence. Even after the failure of the merger with Syria, Egypt, consistent with its Arab unity ideology, persisted in its attempts to form a union with other Arab states. Cooperation agreements were signed with Iraq, Yemen, Syria again, and Libya during the 1960s and early 1970s. None of these agreements produced a lasting, meaningful political union.
One reason for these political maneuverings was the continuing tension with Israel, which again erupted into open warfare on 5 June 1967, after the UN Emergency Force had on 19 May been withdrawn from the Egyptian-Israeli border at Egypt’s demand; on 23 May, Egypt closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping. Israel quickly crippled the Egyptian air force and occupied the Gaza Strip and the Sinai to the Suez Canal, which was blocked and remained so until June 1975. A cease-fire was established on 8 June 1967. On 22 November 1967, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab territories and for the recognition by the Arab states of Israel’s right to independent existence within peaceful and secured frontiers. But neither side would agree to peace terms, and Israel continued to occupy the Gaza Strip and the Sinai. During the years after 1967, a “War of Attrition” was fought along the Canal with each side shelling the other and Israeli planes bombing Egyptian cities.
When Nasser died on 28 September 1970, his vice president, Anwar al-Sadat, became president. After a political crisis that resulted in the dismissal from office in May 1971 of ‘Ali Sabri and other left-wing leaders who had been close to Nasser (they were subsequently convicted of treason), President Sadat firmly established his hold on the government and began to implement pragmatic economic and social policies. Beginning in July 1971 with the announcement of a 10-year development program, he quickly followed with the introduction in September of a permanent constitution and a series of financial measures designed to give more freedom to the banking system and to encourage investment of foreign and domestic capital. In a surprise move on 18 July 1972, Sadat ordered the expulsion of the 15,000 Soviet military advisers and 25,000 dependents who had come to Egypt after the 1967 war. After the ouster of the Russians, Egypt was able to improve relations with the United States, Europe, and the more conservative Arab states, which provided substantial financial assistance under the Khartoum Agreement to replace Suez Canal revenues (which had ceased when the Canal was closed by the 1967 war with Israel).
Frustrated in his ambition to recover the Sinai, President Sadat broke the 1967 cease-fire agreement on 6 October 1973 by attacking Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula; this assault was coordinated with a Syrian attack on Israeli forces occupying the Syrian Golan Heights. After initial successes, the Egyptian strike forces were defeated by the rapidly mobilized Israeli troops, who then crossed the Canal south of Isma’iliyah, destroyed Egypt’s surface-to-air missile sites, and cut off the Egyptian 3d Army. A cease-fire that came into effect on 24 October left Egyptian troops in the Sinai and Israeli troops on the west bank of the Canal. A series of disengagement agreements negotiated by US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger left Egypt in full control of the Canal and established a UN-supervised buffer zone in the Sinai between the Egyptian and Israeli forces. In November 1975, the Sinai oil fields at Abu Rudeis and Ra’s Sudr were returned to Egypt.
President Sadat took a bold step toward establishing peace with Israel by going to Jerusalem in November 1977 and by receiving Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Isma’iliyah the following month. In September 1978, he entered into negotiations with Begin, mediated by US President Jimmy Carter, at Camp David, Md., where the two Middle East leaders agreed to a framework for a comprehensive settlement of the conflict. Following further negotiations, Sadat signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in Washington, DC, on 26 March 1979. The treaty provided for the staged withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai, which was completed on schedule by 25 April 1982; set limits on forces and armaments for both sides; established a UN force to supervise the terms of the treaty; and called for full normalization of relations. However, the two nations were unable to agree on the question of autonomy for the Palestinians of the West Bank of the Jordan and in Gaza, as provided for in the Camp David framework. For their roles as peacemakers, Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. But other Arab leaders denounced the accords and sought to isolate Egypt within the Arab world.
Domestically, Sadat encouraged a shift from Nasser’s socialism to greater free-market conditions and some political liberalization, one result of which was an upsurge of activity by religious extremists. In early September 1981, Sadat ordered the arrest of 1,536 Muslims, Christian Copts, leftists, and other persons accused of fomenting violent acts. One month later, on 6 October, Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by four Muslim fundamentalists. The vice president, Muhammad Hosni (Husni) Mubarak, who had been Sadat’s closest adviser, succeeded him as president, instituted a state of emergency, and immediately pledged to continue Sadat’s policies, particularly the terms of the peace treaty with Israel. Relations with Israel cooled during 1982, however, especially after Israeli troops moved into Lebanon. In 1986, renewed efforts at normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel led to the resolution in Egypt’s favor of a dispute over Taba, a tiny sliver of land, which had not been returned with the rest of the Sinai.
As a result of Arab fears of an Iranian victory over Iraq in their eight-year war (1980–88), Egypt, which has the largest army in the Arab world as well as an important arms industry, was welcomed back into the Arab fold following the ‘Ammān Arab summit conference in November 1987. Egypt quickly renewed diplomatic relations with a number of Arab states and in May 1989 ended its isolation by rejoining the Arab League, the headquarters of which returned to Cairo. Mubarak continued Sadat’s policies of moderation and peacemaking abroad and gradual political liberalization and movement towards free market reforms at home. In July 1989, he became chairman of the Organization of African Unity for one year. In 1990, Egypt played a key role in the coalition to expel Iraq from Kuwait and in 1993 and 1994 was active in promoting the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
Mubarak was reelected president in 1987 and 1993. Parliamentary elections in 1987 were termed the fairest since 1952; 100 members of the opposition were elected to the 458-seat chamber. Opposition political forces, however, had become increasingly disenfranchised over the years and after Mubarak’s third election, he conceded to their concerns and announced the government would hold a National Dialogue to hear the grievances of any legal political party. Representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, an illegal but tolerated political grouping with massive appeal, were not invited. Just before the meeting, the Nasserists and the New World Party announced they would not participate, essentially nullifying the work of the congress.
In 1995, legislative elections were again held, but, unlike the 1990 polling, the opposition parties announced they would not boycott these elections. The elections were held on 29 November and 6 December and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) won 316 seats, losing several but retaining a vast majority. Although independents won more than 100 seats, nearly all of them were in reality firmly allied with the NDP. In January 1996, Mubarak replaced the sitting prime minister, Dr. Alif Sidqi, with Kamal Ahmed al-Ganzouri.
The most serious opposition to the Mubarak government comes from outside the political system. Religious parties are banned and, as a consequence, Islamic militants have resorted to violence against the regime, singling out Christian Copts and posing a threat to tourism, a major source of foreign exchange earnings. Starting in the mid-1990s, security forces cracked down hard on the militants, resorting to authoritarian measures, including arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and torture to subdue the movement. However, it continued to gather strength, fueled by discontent with poor economic conditions, political autocracy, corruption, secularism, and Egypt’s ties with the United States and Israel. In November 1997, militants murdered over 70 persons at a popular tourist site in Luxor. It was alleged that Gamma Islamiyya, one of Egypt’s Islamic groups, was responsible for the attacks. However, in 1998 and 1999 the number of violent incidents decreased, and the government began releasing some of the jailed members of Islamist groups, said to number 20,000 by that time.
In September 1999, weeks after surviving an assassination attempt, Mubarak was elected to a fourth six-year term as president, running unopposed. Political opponents and Western observers criticized the ruling NDP’s refusal to open up the political system, one result of which, they said, would be to channel some of the political passion now given to outlawed Islamists into legal political parties, who could then use it to create a more open society—thus further marginalizing the extremists. However, the government refused to implement electoral reforms. In February 2003, the state of emergency first declared in 1981 was renewed for another three years by President Mubarak.
Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the United States called upon all states to adopt counterterrorism measures. The attacks on the United States gave Egypt a reason for increasing its restrictions on the Islamic opposition, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Gamaa Islamiyya. After 11 September, Egyptian authorities referred increasing numbers of cases of Islamic militants to military courts. One of the leaders of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Muhammad Atta, was Egyptian, as is Ayman al-Zawhiri, the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who is considered to be Osama bin Laden‘s second in command. The high-profile positions of these Egyptians in the al-Qaeda organization caused some to place increased scrutiny on Egypt’s ability to control Islamic extremism.
Terrorist attacks on tourists and others continued into 2004 and 2005. In October 2004, bomb attacks targeted Israeli tourists on the Sinai peninsula; 34 people were killed. In April 2005, a suicide bomber killed three tourists in Cairo; later that month, another bomb attack in Cairo killed an Egyptian man. On 23 July 2005, nearly 90 people were killed in bomb attacks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
In 2005 Egypt changed its constitution to allow the opposition to contest presidential elections. Potential candidates must meet strict criteria for participation, however, and religious parties remain banned. The Muslim Brotherhood—the only opposition organization with broad popular support—remains outlawed. In the presidential election held on 7 September 2005, Mubarak gained a fifth consecutive term as president. The election was the first under the new system whereby multiple candidates may stand. In previous elections, Egyptians voted yes or no for a single candidate chosen by parliament. In this election, all candidates were permitted to campaign freely and were given equal time on television. Mubarak faced nine opponents in the September election, although only two—Ayman Nour of the Tomorrow party, and Noaman Gomaa of the Wafd party—had any real following. Without monitors in place in most of the nearly 10,000 polling stations, Mubarak supporters engaged in various acts of voter intimidation. Other voting irregularities existed as well. The opposition to Mubarak came largely from a movement called “Kifaya” or “Enough.” Kifaya supporters were permitted to protest without police intervention on the day of the election. Different groups affiliated with the Kifaya movement staged demonstrations for several months prior to the election.
In parliamentary elections held in November and December 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood won 34 seats, doubling the number of seats its members held in all of the last parliament, elected in 2000. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidates run as independents, due to the outlaw status of the group. The Muslim Brotherhood solidified its position as the strongest opposition group in Egypt by winning an additional 42 seats in the second round of voting, and 12 in the third, to make a total of 88 seats in the new parliament. In total, the ruling NDP won 315 seats, noticeably fewer than the 388 it held in the outgoing parliament, but nonetheless still above the two-thirds majority necessary to control legislation. The elections were marred by clashes between voters and security forces, leaving 12 dead.
In April 2006 the parliament voted to extend the state of emergency, in place since 1981, until 2008.
On 25 March 1964, President Nasser proclaimed an interim constitution; it remained in effect until a permanent constitution, drafted by the National Assembly, was approved by the electorate in a plebiscite on 11 September 1971. The 1971 constitution declares Egypt to be a democratic socialist state and an integral part of the Arab nation. The state of emergency, in effect since the Sadat assassination in 1981, and tough new antiterrorism laws against Islamists have given the government sweeping powers of repression, reminiscent of the Nasser era.
The president of the republic is the head of state and supreme commander of the armed forces. He appoints and retires as many vice presidents and cabinet members as he wishes; he also appoints the prime minister. In addition, he appoints and retires civil, military, and diplomatic personnel in accordance with the law. The president’s power to declare war and conclude treaties with foreign countries is subject to the approval of the People’s Assembly, a unicameral legislative body consists of 444 elected and 10 appointed members serving five-year terms. A 264-member advisory body, the Shura Council, was formed in 1980. Until 2005, the People’s Assembly nominated the president, who had to be confirmed by plebiscite for a six-year term. The constitution was amended by popular referendum in 1980 to permit Sadat to serve more than two terms. Vice President Mubarak, who became president upon Sadat’s assassination, was confirmed in that office in national referendums in October 1981, 1987, 1993, and 1999.
An amendment passed by parliament in May 2005 and approved in a public referendum provides that the president is to be elected in direct public elections to be contested by more than one candidate. In the presidential election held in September 2005, Mubarak was opposed by nine candidates. Official results had Mubarak winning 88.5% of the vote, with voter turnout at 23%. Ayman Nour of the Tomorrow party, who came in second place, took 7.3% of the vote, and Noaman Gomaa of the Wafd party came in third with 2.8%.
Suffrage is universal at age 18.
Since the founding of the republic in 1953, the president and his army colleagues have dominated Egyptian politics. The Arab Socialist Union (ASU; founded by President Nasser as the Egyptian National Union in 1957) was the sole legal political party until 1976, when President Sadat allowed three minor parties to participate in parliamentary elections. In 1978, Sadat replaced the ASU with his own organization, the National Democratic Party (NDP), of which he became chairman. In elections held in June 1979, the NDP won 342 seats in the People’s Assembly; the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), 29 seats; the Liberal Socialist Party, 3; and independents, 8. In 1980, however, Sadat denounced the SLP as the “agent of a foreign power,” and 13 of the party’s deputies defected either to join the NDP or to become independent members of the legislature, thus reducing the number of SLP seats to 16.
In January 1982, President Mubarak was elected without opposition as chairman of the NDP. In elections held in May 1984, the NDP won 390 seats in the National Assembly. The New Wafd (Delegation) Party, the middle class successor of the dominant party of the pre-Nasser period allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, won 58. In the 1987 Assembly elections, the ruling NDP again won about 70% of the vote. Seventeen percent voted for an alliance of Socialist Labor, Liberal Socialist and, under their banner (religious parties are banned), the Muslim Brotherhood; 11% voted for the New Wafd. Elections in 1990 drew only some 25% of eligible voters when the opposition boycotted the poll, charging unfair and undemocratic procedures.
In 1995, the opposition contested the elections, but to little effect. Balloting was held on 29 November and the NDP won a huge majority (317) of the body’s 444 seats. Although independents won more than 100 seats, they are so closely allied with the NDP that nearly all of them joined the party after the elections. The New Wafd Party won 6 seats; the National Progressive Unionist Party won 5; the Socialists won 1; and the Nasserists won 1.
In elections for the National Assembly held in October and November 2000, the NDP took 353 of 444 elected seats. The New Wafd Party won 35; the New Delegation Party won 7; the National Progressive Unionist Party took 6; the Nasserists won 3; the Liberal Party took 1 seat; independents won 37 seats and 2 seats remained vacant.
Since the beginning of a campaign of terror against tourists and Egypt’s Coptic minority, the government has clamped down on Islamist parties, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, which had always been technically illegal. The Mubarak regime has resorted to strict authoritarian measures and holds thousands of suspected Islamic militants in prison. In November and December 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood won a total of 88 seats in the parliamentary elections; the NDP took 315 seats. Non-Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated parties took 14 seats, including the neo-liberal Wafd Party, traditionally recognized as Egypt’s largest opposition party. The rest of the seats were won by independents.
Egypt traditionally has been divided into two regions: Lower Egypt (Wagh al-Bahari), north of Cairo, and Upper Egypt (AsSa’id), south of the capital. Under the local government system established in 1960, Egypt is organized into 26 governorates, each headed by an appointed governor. The governorates are responsible for social, health, welfare, and educational services and for the social and economic development of their region. They are also required to supervise the city and village councils, which are constituted in a similar manner. Real authority resides in Cairo in a highly centralized regime, heavily burdened by bureaucracy. Since 1994, village mayors, who were previously elected, have been appointed by the Ministry of the Interior.
The judicial system is based on English common law, Islamic law, and Napoleonic codes subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court and the Council of State, which oversees the validity of administrative decisions. A tension exists between civil law derived from France and competition from promoters of Islamic law. Islamic activists succeeded in amending the constitution to state that Shariah (Islamic) law is in principle the sole source of legislation. However, Shariah applies primarily to Muslims with regard to family, personal status, and inheritance matters, and non-Muslims have been allowed to maintain separate legislation in all matters except inheritance. Egypt accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction, with reservations.
Simple police offenses, misdemeanors, and civil cases involving small amounts are subject to the jurisdiction of single-judge summary tribunals. The trial courts of the central tribunals, consisting of three justices each, sit in cases exceeding the jurisdiction of summary courts and also consider appeals. Traffic in narcotics and press offenses, considered serious crimes, are tried by the courts of appeals of the central tribunals in the first instance, sitting as assize courts. There are seven courts of appeals—at Cairo, Alexandria, Tantā, Al-Manşurah, Asyut, Bani-Souef, and Ismailia—which sit in chambers of three judges. The highest tribunal is the Court of Cassation, composed of 30 justices, which sits in panels of at least 5 justices.
The 1971 constitution declares that the judiciary is independent of other state powers and that judges are independent and not subject to enforced retirement. The Supreme Constitutional Court is responsible for enforcing adherence to laws and regulations and for interpreting legislation and the constitution. The Office of the Socialist Public Prosecutor is responsible to the People’s Assembly for the security of the people’s rights, the integrity of the political system, and other matters.
The president appoints all civilian judges, from nominations by the Supreme Judicial Council, a body designed to assure the independence of the judiciary and composed of senior judges, lawyers, law professors, and the president of the Court of Cassation. Judges are appointed for life, with mandatory retirement at age 64. The judiciary has demonstrated a good degree of independence from the executive branch.
The state of emergency in place since 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat led to detention without due process for many persons. Emergency security courts try suspected terrorists whose only recourse upon conviction is an appeal for clemency to the president or prime minister.
Total active armed forces in Egypt numbered 468,500 in 2005. There were also 497,000 reservists divided among all services. The Army had 340,000 active personnel, equipped with 3,855 main battle tanks, 412 reconnaissance vehicles, 520 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 4,750 armored personnel carriers and 4,348 artillery pieces. The Egyptian Air Force in 2005 had 30,000 active personnel, which were equipped with 572 combat capable aircraft, including 218 fighters, 223 fighter ground attack aircraft and 115 attack helicopters. The Air Defense Command is a separate service. As of 2005, active personnel numbered 80,000. Equipment included both missile and gun-based air defense batteries. The Egyptian Navy had an estimated 18,500 active personnel, including 2,000 coast guard personnel. Major naval units included four tactical submarines, one destroyer, 10 frigates, 48 patrol/coastal vessels and 15 mine warfare ships. Egypt’s paramilitary forces were estimated at 330,000 active members, including a national guard of 60,000, a central security force of 325,000, and 12,000 border guards. Egypt’s defense budget in 2005 was $2.5 billion.
Egypt joined the United Nations as a charter member on 24 October 1945 and participates in ECA, ESCWA, and all the nonregional specialized agencies. The country is a member of the WTO. It belongs to the African Development Bank, the Arab Monetary Fund, COMESA, G-15, G-24, G-77, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Council of Arab Economic Unity, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), and the African Union (AU). It is also a member in OAPEC, a permanent observer at the OAS, and a partner in the OSCE.
Between 1958 and 1973, Egypt made several attempts to establish united or federated states with its Arab neighbors. Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic from February 1958 to September 1961, when Syria broke away; the United Arab States, consisting of Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, survived formally from March 1958 through December 1961, although never a political reality; and a federation between Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, officially established in April 1963, was never implemented. On 1 January 1972, Egypt, Syria, and Libya established the Federation of Arab Republics, but to little practical effect. A formal merger attempt between Egypt and Libya, nominally consummated on 1 September 1973, dissolved in practice when relations between the two countries soured. Egypt became the first Arab state to normalize relations with Israel following the conclusion of the 1979 peace treaty. As a result of this act, however, Egypt’s membership in the League of Arab States was suspended; Egypt did not rejoin the League until 1989. Arab League headquarters are in Cairo. Egypt plays a key role in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Egypt is part of the Nonaligned Movement and a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
In environmental cooperation, Egypt is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, International tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.
The Egyptian economy has been historically agricultural, with cotton as the mainstay. Land prices are extremely high because of the shortage of arable land, and output of food is not sufficient to meet the needs of a 1.9% population growth rate over the 2001–05 period. Although Egypt has expanded its private sector in recent years, industry remains centrally controlled and for the most part government owned; since the 1950s, the government has developed the petroleum, services, and construction sectors, largely at the expense of agriculture.
Egypt’s significant economic growth rate from 1975 to 1981, made possible in large measure through foreign aid and credits, had declined to about 5% by 1986. Revenues for 1985–86 from petroleum exports, Suez Canal traffic, tourism, and remittances from Egyptians working abroad—all mainstays of the Egyptian economy—were eroded in the wake of sharp declines in international oil prices and developments in the Iran-Iraq war. The inflation rate grew from less than 5% annually in the 1960s to nearly 23% by 1986, reflecting worldwide price increases and the government’s deficit spending. Egypt’s economic position was strengthened when the Gulf states and the United States rewarded the Egyptians for their role in forming the Arab anti-Iraq coalition, reducing external debt to about $40 billion in 1990.
In the early 1990s, the collapse of world oil prices and an increasingly heavy debt burden led Egypt into negotiations with the IMF for balance-of-payments support. As a condition of the support, Egypt embarked on a comprehensive economic reform and structural adjustment program, under the aegis of the IMF and the World Bank. Egypt succeeded in stabilizing the macroeconomic fundamentals necessary for sustained economic growth: the budget deficit was around 1.3% of GDP, and the inflation rate held steady at 3.8% in 1999. However, progress toward privatizing and streamlining the public sector and liberalizing trade policy was slow. Consequently, despite the improvements, the economy has not experienced the economic growth necessary to reduce unemployment (around 10.9% in 2004, but unofficial estimates are more than twice that figure) and generate the targeted 6–7% growth rates in the GDP (GDP growth averaged 3% over the 2001–05 period). The inflation rate over the 2001–05 period averaged 5.2%, and the budget deficit had reached 6.2% of GDP in 2003.
Remittances from Egyptians working abroad have aided the Egyptian economy. Reform legislation in the areas of intellectual property rights, mortgage laws, and legislation developing banking and capital markets have made the business climate more favorable to investment. A more economically liberal cabinet was appointed in mid-2004, which announced far-reaching plans for economic reform. In September of that year, Egypt pushed through custom reforms, proposed income and corporate tax reforms, reduced energy subsidies, and privatized several enterprises. The tourism sector feared a downturn in tourist numbers when Islamic terrorists attacked resorts in the Sinai Peninsula in 2004 and 2005, but the industry performed better than expected. The development of an export market for natural gas is something for which Egypt strives, but improvement in the capital-intensive hydrocarbons sector does not ameliorate Egypt’s chronic unemployment problem.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $337.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $4,400. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 5.4%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 15% of GDP, industry 36.7%, and services 48.4%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $2.961 billion or about $44 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $894 million or about $13 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.1% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Egypt totaled $59.55 billion or about $881 per capita based on a GDP of $82.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.2%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 44% of household consumption was spent on food, 7% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 17% on education. It was estimated that in 2000 about 16.7% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.
Egypt’s civilian labor force increased from 14.8 million in 1990 to 16.8 million in 1994, to an estimated 21.34 million in 2005. In 2002, agriculture accounted for 27.5% of the workforce, with 51.9% in services, and 20.6% in industry. Unemployment was estimated at 10% in 2005.
Egyptian workers obtained the legal right to organize trade unions in 1942. However, private sector unions remain the exception, rather than the rule. In 2005, there were 23 trade unions, all of which were required to be members of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF). The ETUF in 2005 had four million members. Approximately 25% of the Egyptian workforce were union members and were employed at state-owned companies. Collective bargaining is permitted, but is handled through a labor consultative council that includes employer, worker and government representatives. Strikes are prohibited while these procedures are in effect. So-called “wildcat strikes” are prohibited. The government sets wages, benefits and job classifications for government and other public sector employees. In the private sector, employee compensation is set according to the country’s laws on minimum wages.
For children in the nonagricultural sector, the law sets the minimum working age at 14 or at the age when basic schooling is completed (which is 15), whichever is higher. In addition, minors under the age of 18 are legally limited to the type of work and the conditions under which it is performed. However, child labor remains a problem. In 2005, an estimated two million children were working. The minimum wage for public-sector employees differed among sectors. The maximum number of hours that can be worked was 48 hours per week. Overtime rates of pay begin at 36 hours, with an extra differential rate for daytime and nighttime hours. Minimum rates, in conjunction with a series of bonuses and other benefits generally triples the amount, thus offering a worker and a family with a decent living standard. Enforcement of health and safety regulations is sporadic.
During the 1970s, despite substantial investment in land reclamation, agriculture lost its position as the dominant economic sector. Agricultural exports, which accounted for 87% of all merchandise export value in 1960, fell to 35% in 1974 and to 13% by 2004. In 2003, agriculture accounted for 16% of GDP and 34% of employment.
Cotton has been the staple crop, but it is no longer important as an export. Production in 1999 was 243,000 tons. Egypt is also a substantial producer of wheat, corn, sugarcane, fruit and vegetables, fodder, and rice; substantial quantities of wheat are also imported despite increases in yield since 1970, and significant quantities of rice are exported. Citrus, dates, and grapes are the principal fruits by acreage. Agricultural output in tons in 2004 included corn, 5,800,000; wheat, 7,199,000; rice, 6,150,000; potatoes, 1,950,000; and oranges, 1,750,000. The government exercises a substantial degree of control over agriculture, not only to ensure the best use of irrigation water but also to limit the planting of cotton in favor of food grains. However, the government’s ability to achieve this objective is limited by crop rotational constraints.
Egypt’s arable area totals about 3.4 million hectares (8.4 million acres), about one-quarter of which is land reclaimed from the desert. However, the reclaimed lands only add 7% to the total value of agricultural production. Even though only 3% of the land is arable, it is extremely productive and can be cropped two or even three times per year. Most land is cropped at least twice a year, but agricultural productivity is limited by salinity, which afflicts an estimated 35% of cultivated land, and drainage problems.
Irrigation plays a major role in a country the very livelihood of which depends upon a single river; 99.9% of the arable land is irrigated. Most ambitious of all the irrigation projects is that of the Aswan High Dam, completed in 1971. A report published in March 1975 by the National Council for Production and Economic Affairs indicated that the dam was successful in controlling floodwaters and ensuring continuous water supplies, but that water consumption had been excessive and would have to be controlled. Some valuable land was lost below the dam because the flow of Nile silt was stopped, and increased salinity remains a problem. Further, five years of drought in the Ethiopian highlands—the source of the Nile River’s water—caused the water level of Lake Nasser, the Aswan High Dam’s reservoir, to drop to the lowest level ever in 1987. In 1996, however, the level of water behind the High Dam and in Lake Nasser reached the highest level since the completion of the dam. Despite this unusual abundance of water supply, Egypt can only utilize 55.5 billion cu m (1.96 trillion cu ft) annually, according to the Nile Basin Agreement signed in 1959 between Egypt and Sudan. Another spectacular project designed to address the water scarcity problem is the New Valley (the “second Nile”), aimed at development of the large artesian water supplies underlying the oases of the Western Desert. Total investment in agriculture and land reclamation for the government’s Third Plan (1993–1997) was e£16,963 million.
The agrarian reform law of 1952 provided that no one might hold more than 190 feddans for farming and that each landholder must either farm the land himself or rent it under specified conditions. Up to 95 additional feddans might be held if the owner had children, and additional land had to be sold to the government. In 1961, the upper limit of landholding was reduced to 100 feddans, and no person was allowed to lease more than 50 feddans (1 feddan = 0.42 hectares). Compensation to the former owners was in bonds bearing a low rate of interest, redeemable within 40 years. A law enacted in 1969 reduced landholdings by one person to 50 feddans. By the mid-1980s, 90% of all land titles were for holdings of less than five feddans, and about 300,000 families, or 8% of the rural population, had received land under the agrarian reform program. According to a 1990 agricultural census, there were some three million small land holdings, almost 96% of which were under five feddans (2.1 hectares/5.2 acres). Since the late 1980s, many reforms attempting to deregulate agriculture by liberalizing input and output prices and by eliminating crop area controls have been initiated. As a result, the gap between world and domestic prices for Egyptian agricultural commodities has been closed.
The government plans massive irrigation and development projects to create new communities to alleviate population intensity in the valley, with the objective of increasing the percentage of populated areas from 5.3% to 25% of Egypt’s total area. These projects are centralized in southern Egypt, by the Suez Canal, and Sinai. The government plans to create a new delta in the south of the Western Desert parallel to the Nile, adding 540,000 feddans (1,134,000 hectares/2,802,000 acres) to the cultivated area, to be irrigated by the Nile’s water.
Because of the very intensive cultivation of the soil, little land is available for animal husbandry, but efforts were made in the 1980s to increase the output of fodder per land unit and the productivity of livestock raising. In 2005, the estimated livestock population included 95,000,000 chickens, 3,960,000 goats, 5,150,000 sheep, 3,920,000 head of buffalo, 4,500,000 head of cattle, and 30,000 hogs. Livestock products in that year included 2,300,000 tons of cow milk, 1,433,000 tons of meat, and 240,000 tons of eggs.
Fishing is concentrated in the Nile Delta and River and in the Mediterranean and Red seas. The catch of sea fish amounted to 160,319,174 tons in 2003. The inland catch was 715,074 tons. Mullet and eels are caught in the Delta and sardines in the Mediterranean. Egypt’s production from aquaculture amounted to 445,181 tons. Total fish production from capture and aquaculture was 875,990 tons in 2003. There is a small-scale freezing and canning industry. Nevertheless, Egypt has been a net importer of fish. In the early 1980s, new fish-farming facilities were established at Maryut in the Delta.
There are no forests in Egypt. In 2003, Egypt imported $791.2 million in forest products. The construction and furniture-making industries rely on wood imports. Furniture production engages about 40,000 persons and is concentrated in the Damietta Governorate in the northern part of the Nile Delta. Softwood products come mostly from Russia, Sweden, and Finland; hardwood products from Romania, Croatia, and Bosnia.
In recent decades, crude oil, natural gas, and petroleum products have dominated Egypt’s mineral industry. However Egypt is also a producer of ferroalloys, gold, iron ore, primary aluminum, steel, secondary copper, lead and zinc, and construction materials such as clay, gypsum, gemstones, dimension stone and raw materials to make glass. Among nonfuel minerals, phosphate rock (around the Red Sea, along the Nile, and in the Western Desert) and iron ore were the most important in terms of value and ore grade. In 2003 Egypt also produced manganese ore, titanium, ilmenite, asbestos, barite, cement, bentonite, fire clay, kaolin, crude feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum and anhydrite, lime, nitrogen, salt, soda ash, sodium sulfate, basalt, dolomite, granite, dimension stone, gravel, limestone, marble blocks (including alabaster), glass sand, construction sand, talc, soapstone, pyrophyllite, and vermiculite, and there were occurrences of gold, ocher, sulfate of magnesia, and nitrate of soda. The government was engaged in efforts to partially privatize mining and metal assets. Although mineral resources have been exploited in Egypt since antiquity, including gemstones and zinc, some regions of the country remained geologically unexplored. Extraction of limestone, clay, and gypsum during World War II rose in response to the Allied armies’ urgent demand.
In 2003, Egypt produced 1.5 million metric tons of phosphate rock, unchanged from 2002, but up from 972,000 metric tons in 2001. Output of iron ore and concentrate was 2.5 million metric tons in 2003, unchanged since 2001. Development of an iron ore mine and steel plant near Aswan ceased in 2000 when the government charged the promoters with misappropriating public funds. Higher-quality deposits were being exploited in the Western Desert. Gold and copper deposits were not of sufficient grade to justify profitable extraction.
Egypt is an important non-OPEC energy producer. (OPEC is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.) Commercial quantities of oil were first found in 1908, and more petroleum was found in the late 1930s along the Gulf of Suez. Later, large oil fields were discovered in the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Suez, the Western Desert, and the Eastern Desert. The Abu Rudeis and Ra’s Sudr oil fields in the Sinai, captured by Israel in 1967, were returned to Egyptian control in November 1975, and the remaining Sinai oil fields reverted to Egyptian control by the end of April 1982. Egypt’s proven crude oil reserves were estimated at 3.7 billion barrels as of 1 January 2005. Oil production in 2004 was estimated at 698,000 barrels per day, (down from 922,000 barrels per day in 1996), of which crude oil accounted for 594,000 barrels per day. Approximately 50% of Egypt’s oil production comes from the Gulf of Suez, with the Western Desert, Eastern Desert, and the Sinai Peninsula as country’s three other primary producing areas. Domestic consumption was estimated at 564,000 barrels per day in 2004. Net oil exports in that same year were estimated at 134,000 barrels per day. The Suez Canal and the 322-km (200-mi) Sumed Pipeline from the Gulf of Suez to the Mediterranean Sea are two routes for oil from the Persian Gulf, which makes Egypt a strategic point of interest in world energy markets. Although the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has deepened the canal so that it can accommodate the largest bulk freight carriers, the canal was scheduled to be deepened a further 20 m (66 ft) by the end of 2006 to accommodate very large crude carriers (VLCCs).
Egypt operates nine refineries that are capable of processing crude oil at an estimated rate of 726,250 barrels per day, as of 1 January 2005. The largest refinery is the El-Nasr facility located at Suez. It is able to process 146,300 barrels per day.
Major discoveries in the 1990s have given natural gas increasing importance as an energy source. According to data from Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum, the country’s reserves of natural gas are estimated at 66 trillion cu ft, as of 1 January 2005, but probable reserves have been placed at or more than 120 trillion cu ft. Since the early 1990s, significant deposits of natural gas have been found in the Western Desert, in the Nile Delta and offshore from the Nile Delta. Domestic consumption of natural gas has also risen as a result of thermal power plants converting from oil to natural gas. As of 2002, Egypt’s production and consumption of natural gas are each estimated at 941 billion cu ft.
The Egyptian electric power system is almost entirely integrated, with thermal stations in Cairo and Alexandria and generators at Aswan. In 2002, output was estimated at 81.3 billion kWh, of which nearly 85% was from fossil fuels and 15% was from hydropower (mostly from the Aswan High Dam). In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 75.719 billion kWh. Total installed capacity was estimated at 17.6 million kW, as of 1 January 2002.
A $239 million electricity network link with Jordan was completed in 1998. In late 2002 Egypt announced that it would coordinate a regional energy distribution center to coordinate energy distribution among the nations of the region, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.
Egypt at the time of the 1952 revolution was much further advanced industrially than any other Arab country or indeed any country in Africa except South Africa. Under the socialist Nasser administration, the government coordinated industrial expansion and the establishment of an industrial base. As a result, bureaucracy and a dependence on political directives from the government became common to Egyptian industry. Since the early 1990s the government has promoted privatization as a way to eventually increase industrial output.
Industry accounted for 33% of GDP in 2004, and employed 17% of the labor force. The industrial production growth rate in 2004 was 2.5%. Major industrial products included textiles, chemicals (including fertilizers, polymers, and petrochemicals), pharmaceuticals, food processing, petroleum, construction, cement, metals, and light consumer goods. The clothing and textiles sector is the largest industrial employer.
Greater Cairo, Alexandria, and Helwan are Egypt’s main industrial centers, producing iron and steel, textiles, refined petroleum products, plastics, building materials, electronics, paper, trucks and automobiles, and chemicals. The Helwan iron and steel plant, 29 km (18 mi) south of Cairo, using imported coke, processes iron ore mined near Aswan into sheets, bars, billets, plates, and blooms.
The petroleum industry accounts for approximately 40% of export earnings. Egypt is encouraging oil exploration, but natural gas is becoming the focus of the country’s oil and gas industries. In 2005, the country’s first liquefied gas export terminal began operations. A large natural gas field off the Mediterranean coast of the Egyptian city of Damietta was discovered in 2002. Natural gas reserves in the country were estimated at 66 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2005, based on new finds.
Egypt’s industrial sector has undergone major reforms since World Bank adjustment programs went into effect during 1991, privatizing and restructuring state owned enterprises. Some of the companies in important non-oil industries are technically in the private sector, but control still remains with the government.
Founded in 1971, the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology in Cairo is the national body responsible for science and technology. Egypt also has 12 specialized learned societies in the fields of agriculture, medicine, science, and technology. The National Research Center, also in Cairo, carries out research in pure and applied sciences. The Ministry of Agriculture has 20 attached research institutes in Cairo and Giza. Twenty other institutes conduct research in medicine, science, and technology.
In 2000, (the latest year for which the following data is available) research and development (R&D) expenditures totaled $438.522 million or 0.19% of GDP. In 2002, high technology exports totaled $13 million, or 1% of manufactured exports. For the period 1990-01 there were 366 technicians and 493 researchers per million people actively engaged in R&D.
Located in Cairo are museums devoted to agriculture, geology, railways, and marine technology. In addition to polytechnic institutes in Cairo and Mansoura, Egypt in 1996 had 13 universities offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 12% of college and university enrollments.
Cairo and Alexandria are the most important commercial centers. Virtually all importers, exporters, and wholesalers have offices in one or both of these cities. Egypt’s retail trade is dominated by a large number of small privately-owned shops and vendors. Government cooperatives with hundreds of outlets also combine wholesale and retail activities. The principal retail centers have general and specialized stores as well as large bazaars. Smaller bazaars and open markets are found in the towns and villages. There are large wholesaling markets for meat and produce in Cairo, Alexandria, and Mansoura. The franchising of fast food restaurants and retail chains continues to grow quickly, with both American- and Egyptian-based companies holding franchises.
Though most farms are privately owned, manufacturing is largely controlled by the public sector. Domestic industries include textiles (especially in cotton), food processing, and vehicle assembly. In 2001, about 51% of the work force was employed in the service sector, which also accounts for about 50% of GDP.
Government hours are 8 am to 2 pm, Saturday to Wednesday. Business hours vary widely. Typically, a business schedule in summer would be 8 am to 2 pm; in the winter, from 9 am to 1 pm and from 5 to 7 pm, Saturday through Wednesday. Friday is the Muslim holy day, and most people do not work on Thursdays. While the official language is Arabic, commercial firms frequently employ English or French for business correspondence. Haggling or in Arabic, momarsa (auction), is a standard business process for determining a fair price for goods and services in Egypt. The Cairo International Trade Fair, held every spring, has been an important promotional event for a number of years.
Before 1973, when Egypt was linked to the then-Soviet Union, 55% of its exports went to Soviet bloc countries, which supplied 30% of its imports. In 1999, the EU countries were the market for about 35% of Egypt’s exports, and provided Egypt with 36% of its imports. The US provided some 14% of Egypt’s imports and received
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over 12% of its exports. Trade with Libya and Saudi Arabia has increased in recent years. Petroleum replaced cotton and cotton products as Egypt’s principal export in 1976. Fuel exports accounted for 37% of Egypt’s estimated $3.5 billion in merchandise exports in 1999. Other exports included textile yarn and cotton (7%), and fabric, and finished garments (7.9%).
In 2004, Egypt’s major exports were: finished products (38.4% of all exports); petroleum and petroleum products (38.3%); semifinished products (7.1%); and cotton, textiles, and garments (4.1%). Major imports were intermediate goods (29.5% of all imports); investment goods (22%); petroleum and petroleum products (14.1%); and consumer goods (durables and nondurables, 14%).
Egypt’s leading markets in 2004 were: the United States (35.7% of all exports); the EU (34.6%); Arab countries (12.3%); and Asia (8.7%). Leading suppliers that year were: the EU (30.5% of all imports); the United States (23.5%); Asia (14.7%); and Arab countries (7.9%).
Structural reforms instituted in the early 1990s have helped Egypt to slowly try to take care of its debt. Total outstanding debt stood at $33.75 billion in 2004. However, Egypt’s annual trade deficit has increased steadily during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The structural trade deficit stood at $9.3 billion in 2004. Merchandise exports, which continue to be dominated by oil, rose strongly to $12.3 billion in 2004, from $9 billion in 2003. However, imports soared by more than 40% to $21.6 billion. The wider trade deficit was offset by a considerable strengthening of the services (fueled by tourism and Suez Canal revenues) and current transfers surpluses, leaving the current-account surplus little changed at 4.7% of GDP. The current-account surplus averaged 2.8% of GDP over the 2001–05 period.
|Balance on goods||-4,201.0|
|Balance on services||4,599.0|
|Balance on income||-254.0|
|Direct investment abroad||-21.0|
|Direct investment in Egypt||237.0|
|Portfolio investment assets||-25.0|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||-18.0|
|Other investment assets||-4,651.0|
|Other investment liabilities||-1,248.0|
|Net Errors and Omissions||1,575.0|
|Reserves and Related Items||407.0|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
policies that have kept interest rates high and made access to credit and foreign exchange for imports difficult. These policies, while improving the balance of payments situation, have had an overall negative impact on economic growth and the country’s ability to encourage foreign investment.
The National Bank of Egypt, founded in 1898, had as a private institution the exclusive right to issue currency and act as the government’s banker. In January 1961, although permitted to retain its commercial banking business, it was divested of its central banking function, which was given to the newly established Central Bank of Egypt. In 1957, when foreign banks refused to finance Egypt’s cotton crop after the Suez Canal was nationalized, the government took over foreign banks and insurance companies. By the end of 1962, all banks had been nationalized. The number of registered banks dwindled to only four by 1971.
As of 1999, there were 69 banks operating in Egypt: 4 stateowned commercial banks; 29 commercial banks; 33 investment banks, and 7 specialized banks; including 20 foreign bank branches. The four state-owned commercial banks-the National Bank of Egypt, the Bank of Alexandria, the Banque du Caire, and the Banque Misr-dominate the sector due to their size in terms of assets, deposit base, and branches (an average of 200 branches each), accounting for 55% of the banking system’s total assets. The Central Bank of Egypt supervises all banks in Egypt except for Misr African International Bank, the Arab International Bank, and the Egypt Export Development Bank. The national stronghold on the system becomes apparent when the public-sector banks’ shares in joint-venture banks are taken into account, which reveals the big four to be holders of over 90% of the total assets of commercial banks. The dominance of the public sector is heightened if the National Investment Bank (NIB) is included. Holding the long-term resources mobilized by the social security system, the NIB possesses roughly 25% of total bank deposits. Private sector ownership accounted for less than 30% of the banking sector in 2002, while the total assets of Egypt’s banks in the same year amounted to $72 billion.
In 1975, the public sector was allowed to perform transactions freely with all banks, which became largely free to exercise all banking functions. The government’s “open door” policy toward banking permitted international banks of good standing to establish branches in Egypt and exempted those banks from regulations governing the control of foreign exchange. In 1991, foreign exchange rates were liberalized. In 1992 and 1993, laws were passed allowing foreign bank branches to deal in Egyptian currency. In order to bring the Egyptian banking sector into line with international banking norms, banking law 155 of 1998 established a legal basis for the privatization of the four public-sector banks, but by 2002 this process was just getting started.
The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $14.9 billion. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $65.8 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 11%.
Egyptians habitually have invested their funds in real estate, in foreign countries, or in gold. In June 1992, a comprehensive Capital Markets Law was passed, sparking a revival of the Cairo and Alexandria exchanges that had been dormant since 1961 nationalization. In 1994, Egypt had one of the world’s best-performing stock markets, but the primary stock market remained thin. Most investors preferred to establish closed companies and to resort to bank loans. Stock trading in the secondary market was also limited. Nevertheless, Egypt’s first corporate bond since 1951, issued by the German-Egyptian Hoechst Orient in May 1994, was almost three times oversubscribed. In 2004, the Egyptian stock market’s capitalization totaled $38.516 billion. In that same year, a combined total of 792 companies where listed on the Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchanges. Trading volume (by value) in 2004 totaled $5.608 billion, up from $3.278 billion in 2003.
Until the 1950s, insurance companies operating in Egypt were mostly branches of foreign institutions. In July 1961, Egypt promulgated laws nationalizing all insurance companies. From 1996, the insurance market was dominated by four public-sector insurance companies (one of which was a re-insurance company), although three private-sector companies existed. Two joint ventures with foreign firms operated in the free zones. The domestic insurance market was closed to foreign companies, although they were able to operate as minority partners in Egypt’s eight free zones.
As part of its IMF agreement, the government pushed a new, if still restrictive, insurance law through the People’s Assembly in early May 1995. This allowed foreign access to the domestic market on condition that the foreign company owned no more than a 49% stake in the insurance company, that the manager of the company was Egyptian, and that the company met the capitalization requirement of $9 million. By 1998, the Egyptian parliament had passed a law allowing 100% ownership by foreign insurance companies, and complete privatization of public-sector insurance companies, but little progress has been made towards these goals. In 1999, there were 12 national insurance companies practicing in Egypt, and by 2003 there was $566 million in direct insurance premiums written, with nonlife premiums accounting for $386 million. Misr was the country’s top nonlife insurer, with gross nonlife written premiums of $139.2 million in 2003. Al Chark was the top life insurer in that same year, with gross life premiums written of $55.2 million.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Egypt’s central government took in revenues of approximately $18 billion and had expenditures of $24.5 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$6.5 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 93.6% of GDP. Total external debt was $28.95 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were e£77,773 million and expenditures were e£100,739 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$17,283 million and expenditures $22,386 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of us$ = e£4.5000 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 35.7%; defense, 10.1%; public order and safety, 5.7%; economic affairs, 9.8%; housing and community amenities, 4.0%; health, 4.9%; recreation, culture, and religion, 9.6%; education, 19.2%; and social protection, 0.9%.
As of 2005, Egypt’s standard corporate tax rate was 40%, although there was a reduced rate of 32% for industrial companies, and profits made through export operations. Branches of foreign companies are treated the same as domestic companies. Oil production and prospecting companies are subject to a 40.55% tax on their profits.
Personal income tax is assessed according to a progressive schedule with a top rate of 40%.
The main indirect tax is the general sales tax (GST), set at 10% for most products, and 25% on a few others. Services are taxed at lower rates of 5% and 10%. There are also stamp duties that range from ranging from e£100 to e£600 (roughly, $15 to $100).
Customs duties in Egypt serve not merely for protection but also for revenue. Under-invoicing is common, prompting customs officials to add 10–30% of invoice value to calculate the true value. In September 2004, Egypt’s president issued a decree that reduced administrative fees and tariffs on imported goods. Generally, primary foodstuffs and raw materials were subject to a 2% ad valorem duty, followed by a 5% duty on capital goods, a 12% duty on intermediate goods, a 22% duty on nondurable consumer goods, a 32% duty on nondurable consumer goods, a 32% duty on semidurable consumer goods, and a 40% duty on durable consumer goods. In addition, customs fees and tariffs on information technology machines, spare parts and equipment have been. However, items such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco and automobiles with engines larger than 2000 cc are subject to higher rates. Egypt assesses a 2% or 4% service fee on imports (depending on the customs
|Revenue and Grants||77,773||100.0%|
|General public services||36,014||35.7%|
|Public order and safety||5,759||5.7%|
|Housing and community amenities||4,068||4.0%|
|Recreational, culture, and religion||9,709||9.6%|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
duty assigned to the commodity) and a 5–25% sales tax is added to the final customs value of imports.
Free zones have been established in Alexandria, Cairo (Nasr City), Port Said, Ismailia, Damietta, Safaga, Sohag, and Suez; these are exempt from customs duties.
Egypt has declared that foreign private capital is both desired and welcome and that foreign capital investment has a place in the country’s economic development. Investors in approved enterprises are assured of facilities for transfer of profits, withdrawal of capital, and employment of necessary foreign personnel. In 1974, Egypt sought specifically to encourage capital investments from multinational corporations in the West, so new projects financed with foreign capital were protected, capital was freed for reexport within five years of its investment in Egypt, and investment profits earned within Egypt were allowed transfer abroad. In 1991, all foreign exchange transfer restrictions were lifted.
The main laws governing foreign investment are the Capital Market Law of 1992, as amended to increase stock market regulation in 1998; the Investment Incentives and Guarantees Law of 1997, establishing the regime for free trade zones (FTZs); and a series of laws in 1998 setting conditions for private (including foreign) participation in public banks, insurance, maritime transport, electricity distribution, and telecommunications.
Depending on their size, location, and other characteristics, new projects financed with foreign capital are exempt from taxation for five to ten years; in addition, payments of interest on foreign loans are not taxable and investors are exempt from certain customs duties. There is one basic condition for approval: the project must be on an approved list in the fields of industrialization, mining, energy, tourism, transportation, reclamation and cultivation of barren land, or animal husbandry. Applications must be made to the General Authority for Arab Investment and the Free Zones, which consists of the minister of state for Arab and foreign economic cooperation and seven other members. The bidding process for contracts has been made more transparent, but Egyptian bids have preference up to 15% above foreign bids. Since 1991, Egypt has liberalized its foreign trade by reducing the number of items on its list of banned imports. In 1990, the list covered 37% of all imports; in 1992, 11%; and in 1999, only apparel was banned. The use of other nontariff barriers on imports and export restrictions has also been reduced. Bureaucratic barriers, however, still hamper investment. FTZs offer exemption from import duties, sales taxes, and taxes and fees on capital goods. A 1% tax is charged on warehoused goods and on exports from assembly plants. Investments are often located in the free zones of Alexandria, Cairo (Nasr City), Port Said, Ismailia, Damietta, Safaga, Sohag, and Suez. In 2003, to deal with the chronic shortage in foreign exchange, a law was passed requiring that 75% of foreign exchange earnings be converted into local currency.
A new Ministry of Investment was created in July 2004 to oversee investment policy, coordinating among the various ministries with investment-related areas of responsibility.
From 1992, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was about $1 billion a year. As of 2005, FDI stock totaled $15–$20 billion. Inflows of FDI peaked in 1999 at nearly $3 billion, but then fell to $1.2 billion in 2000, to $510 million in 2001, and to only $184 million in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2003/04. In terms of portfolio investment, the Egyptian stock market declined nearly 60% in 2001, and did not recover by 2004.
The United Kingdom is Egypt’s largest foreign investor, followed by the United States; both countries are very active in investing in the oil and gas sector. Other major investing countries are France, Italy, and Arab countries.
At the time of the 1952 revolution, Egypt presented the familiar picture of a dual economy, having a small modern sector developed within a tradition-bound society. A rapidly expanding population was pressing hard on limited agricultural resources; there were severe problems of poverty, unemployment, unequal distribution of income and wealth, disease, political corruption, and illiteracy. Rapid industrialization was viewed as essential to economic improvement. The revolution was both a national revolution, Egyptianizing the economy by ridding it of foreign influence, and a social revolution, developing a “democratic, cooperative, socialist” society. The promised “socialism” was not at that time doctrinaire; it was pragmatically selective in its application. A major objective was the diversion of private investment from land into industry. In this earlier period, industrialization also was fostered through government creation and expansion of industrial firms.
In July 1961, in a major policy shift, socialist decrees brought virtually all economic activity under government ownership or control. The Charter for National Action, which elaborated the philosophy of Arab socialism, was approved by the National Congress of Popular Forces on 1 July 1962. It is clear that the Egyptian government had decided that industrialization and improvement of living standards could come only through central planning and direct government ownership and control of virtually the entire system of production and foreign trade.
Egypt inaugurated its first five-year development program in 1960. By the end of 1965, national income had increased in the five-year period by 39.6%; 171,000 new jobs had been created; and wages and salaries had increased by 54%. A second five-year development plan (1966–70) was canceled in 1967 because of the Arab-Israeli war, and annual plans were instituted. Shortly after the 1973 war, President Sadat introduced an “open door” economic development program that confirmed Egypt’s socialist policy but decentralized decision making in the public sector, removed government constraints on the private sector, and attracted foreign private capital by liberalizing financial and trade regulations. As a result, most public-sector industries developed rapidly during the 1973–79 period. A five-year development plan (1980–84) was replaced in 1982 by the new plan for 1982–87, of which the public sector was allocated 76.5% of the total funds. Of fixed investments in development projects, the industrial and mining sector was to receive 26%, transport and communications 16%, agriculture 12%, housing 11%, and electric power 8%. By 1987/88–1991/92 investment allocation for the public sector dropped to 62% and to 42% in the 1992/93–1996/97 plan. It aimed at the privatization of several sectors by encouraging the private sector to invest more capital. Egypt at the end of the 1990s was able to attract more foreign investment, cut the inflation rate, and decrease budget deficits.
As of the early 2000s, the state still controlled virtually all heavy industry, although agriculture was in private hands, and has been deregulated, with the exception of the cotton and sugar sectors. This and other efforts at privatization have increased the growth of the economy. At the end of 2004, total public debt amounted to 102.74% of gross domestic product (GDP), and foreign debt amounted to $33.75 billion. A general sales tax was extended to the wholesale and retail levels of business in 2001. Increased spending on infrastructure projects in the early 2000s widened budget deficits once more. In 2003, after a series of currency devaluations, Egypt adopted a floating exchange rate mechanism—the Egyptian pound was no longer pegged to the dollar.
Although such events as the 1997 terrorist attacks at Luxor, the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dampened the growth of tourism in Egypt, which experienced below-average growth rates in this sector, tourist arrivals were 10 times higher than global averages over the 2000–03 period, and attracted some 25% of tourist arrivals to the Middle East. There were more than six million visitors to Egypt in 2003. This growth in arrivals generated $4.6 billion in tourism receipts, accounting for 22% of total exports of goods and services, and 39% of services exports, making tourism the largest foreign currency earner in Egypt. In 2004, tourism was estimated to generate some $6.1 billion in revenue, although terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula in 2004 and 2005 contributed to below-target tourist arrivals.
Employees pay 10–13% of their wages toward old age, disability, and survivor pensions. Retirement is set at age 60. A death grant and a funeral grant is also available. Employed persons aged 18 or older are covered by work injury insurance, except for casual workers, domestic workers, and the self-employed. Unemployment legislation has been in place since 1959 and covers all employed persons in the public and private sectors. It is funded by contributions from employers with deficits covered by the government.
Equality of the sexes is provided by law, but many aspects of law and traditional practice discriminate against women. Under Egyptian law, only males can transmit citizenship to their children or spouses. Women have won employment opportunities in a number of fields, but Egyptian feminists fear these gains will be halted by resurgent Islamic fundamentalism. Muslim female heirs receive half of the amount of a male heir, and Christian widows of Muslims retain no inheritance rights. The government continues its efforts to eradicate the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Domestic abuse and violence is common. Because the concept of family integrity supersedes the well-being of the woman, few women seek redress from authorities.
Christian minorities in Egypt are often subject to discrimination and harassment. Extremists have attacked churches and have killed Christians. They sometimes face discrimination in obtaining higher education and employment. Muslim converts to Christianity have been subject to harassment by police and have been charged under the Penal Code.
Human rights abuses of torture, extrajudicial killings, and prolonged pretrial detentions are on the decline. Arbitrary arrest and detention continue, and prison conditions remain poor. The government restricts freedom of press, assembly, religion, and expression. Islamic extremists also engaged in terrorist attacks, killing civilians. Human rights organizations do not have legal recognition, but they do operate openly.
Nearly all Egyptians have access to health care. Between 1982 and 1987 (during the first five-year plan), the government established 14 public and central hospitals, 115 rural health units, and 39 rural hospitals. The total number of beds increased by 9,257 during this period (to a total in 1985 of 96,700). In 1987, 190 general and central hospitals were established (26,200 beds), as well as 2,082 rural health units, and 78 village hospitals. In 2000, 95% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 94% had adequate sanitation. As of 2004, there were an estimated 212 physicians, 276 nurses, 27 dentists, and 68 pharmacists per 100,000 people.
Serious diseases in Egypt include schistosomiasis, malaria, hookworm, trachoma, tuberculosis, dysentery, beriberi, and typhus. Although malaria and polio cases were small in number, nearly 1,444 measles cases were reported in 1994. In 1999, Egypt vaccinated children up to one year old against tuberculosis; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (94%); polio; and measles (95%). Of children under age five, 4% were malnourished as of 2000.
As of 2000, 56% of reproductive-age women practiced contraception. Abortion is legal only for medical reasons. The overall death rate was estimated at 7.6 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2002 and the infant mortality rate in 2005 was 32.59 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy in 2005 was 71 years.
A full 80% of all Egyptian women undergo female genital mutilation. There are no specific laws against this practice. Egypt planned to expand its health insurance, with the target of covering 75% of the population. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 3.8% of GDP.
The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 12,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 900 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
Prior to 1952, most Egyptians lived in mud huts. Post revolutionary governments, however, have actively concerned themselves with housing. In order to encourage rural housing activities on unfertile soil, “extension areas” have been allocated for villages. Efforts have been made to provide low-rent housing in towns; the units were constructed in cooperation with the Reconstruction and Popular Dwellings Co., in which the government held a share. Assisted by the state, which grants long-term and low-interest loans, cooperative societies also engage in housing construction. The state affords facilities for cooperatives to acquire land from the religious foundations.
Despite these efforts, Egypt’s housing shortage remains acute, with about one million units needed in urban areas. Housing construction was a major priority of development plans in the 1980s, but it was considered likely that it would take many years for Egypt’s housing deficit to be met. The greatest shortage is in lowcost housing.
According to the 1996 census, there were about 9.6 million apartments and 4.5 million rural homes throughout the country. About 2.6 million units were built in the period 1981–1999. There were nearly 400 slum/squatter areas housing over seven million people. In 1998, government subsidies helped build about 63,000 housing units. The new housing demand has been estimated at about 750,000 per year. In 2004, only about 260,000 units were available for sale. About 1.8 million housing units are vacant, partly because tenants can not afford the cost of rent, but also because rent controls translate into low rents in some areas and landlords feel that the cost of maintenance would be higher than their return.
The Education Act of 1953 provided free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 6 and 15. The nine years of basic education is split into six years of primary education and three years of preparatory studies. Secondary schools cover threeyear programs in either general or technical studies. Some students opt for a five-year advanced technical studies program for secondary school. The curriculum was updated in 1995 and includes a greater emphasis on vocational training, as well as on physics and foreign languages. The general secondary education certificate entitles the holder to enter a university.
In 2001, about 13% of children between the ages of four and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 91% of age-eligible students. In 2001, secondary school enrollment was about 78% of age-eligible students; 80% for boys and 76% for girls. It is estimated that about 91% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 22:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 17:1.
A decree of 23 July 1962 provided free tuition at all Egyptian universities. The traditional center for religious education in the Muslim world is Al-Azhar in Cairo, which in 1983 celebrated 1,000 years of teaching as the oldest continuously operating school in the world. Al-Azhar offers instruction in three faculties and 14 affiliated institutes and maintains its own primary and secondary schools. There are a total of 13 universities, and numerous institutes of higher learning.
There is also the American University in Cairo, which offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as an American school in Cairo and one in Alexandria. The American Research Center in Cairo is supported by US universities and museums. It was established in 1948 to encourage the exchange of archaeologists and other researchers in almost all fields of interest.
Adult education, under the Ministry of Education, is increasingly important. Since 1993 the government conducted a campaign against illiteracy. Business firms are required to combat illiteracy among their employees. Recent university graduates are being hired to lead literacy classes, and armed forces recruits are also expected to teach. In addition, the government has set up 3,000 oneclass schools to teach a nontraditional study plan. These schools are aimed at girls who are unlikely to attend formal schooling, and as a result, are likely to remain illiterate. The schools provide vocational training and lessons on income generating businesses, in addition to the more traditional classes in Arabic, religion, sciences and arithmetic. In 2003, about 19% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 55.6%, with 67.2% for men and 43.6% for women. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.7% of GDP.
In 2003 the Bibliotheca Alexandria was established on the same site of the ancient library destroyed in a fire 2,000 years before. Bibliotheca Alexandria is the largest library in the Middle East and serves as a cultural center with exhibit areas, planetarium, and conference center. Egypt’s other major libraries are the Egyptian National Library (2.5 million volumes), Alexandria University Library (with 15 collections, of which the largest—belonging to the Faculty of Arts—numbers 141,300 volumes), and the Cairo University Library (more than 1.4 million volumes). The National Library also functions as the main public library for the nation’s capital and supervises 11 branch libraries located throughout the country. The Municipal Library in Alexandria contains one of the country’s largest public library collections, with 23,390 Arabic and 35,400 European volumes.
One of the most important special libraries is the Scientific and Technical Documentation Division of the National Research Center at Cairo, which has the best collection of scientific and technical material in the Arab world. American University in Cairo sponsors a library system of nearly 400,000 volumes (primarily English language) and holds the Creswell Collection of Islamic art and architecture, comprising about 3,200 bound volumes. In all, Egyptian libraries affiliated with institutions of higher education hold over 35 million volumes. Assuit University sponsors 16 libraries with an approximate total of 177,274 Arabic volumes and 167,120 foreign books, as well as hundreds of periodicals.
The Egyptian National Museum, founded in 1902, contains unique exhibits from prehistoric times up to the 3rd century ad, and it also has a notable Department of Antiquities, established in 1835, which supervises excavations and administers archaeological museums. There are many specialized museums, including the Coptic Museum, devoted to the history of the old Christian Monophysites; the Museum of Islamic Art; the Greco-Roman Museum; the Agricultural Museum; the State Museum of Modern Art; the Islamic Archaeological Museum; the Railway Museum; and the Cotton Museum. There is a museum dedicated exclusively to the work of Mohmoud Mokhtar in Cairo. Several former royal palaces have been transformed into museums: the Al-Gawhara Palace in Cairo (a converted 19th-century Ottoman palace), Ras at-Tin Palace in Alexandria, and Al-Montazah Palace in Montazah-Alexandria.
Telephone, telegraph, radio, and television services are operated by the state-owned Telecommunication Organization. In 2003, there were an estimated 127 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 99,500 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 84 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
As of 1999, there were 42 AM and 14 FM radio stations and 42 television stations, broadcasting mostly in Arabic. In 2003, there were an estimated 339 radios and 229 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 21.9 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 39 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 28 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.
The two leading newspapers, with their estimated 2002 daily circulations, are Al-Ahram (The Pyramid ; 900,000) and Al-Akhbar (The News ; 780,000). Al-Jumhuriyah (The Republic ; 900,000) is the official publication of the government; Al-Ahram is the unofficial publication. The leading evening paper is Al-Misa’a (405,000). There is also an English-language newspaper, the Egyptian Gazette (40,000). Arev is a daily Armenian paper. There are two weekly Greek publications, Phos (20,000) and Tachydromos-Egyptos (2,000). Le Journal D’Egypte (weekly, 72,000) and La Reforme (daily) are the leading French publications.
On 23 May 1960, all Egyptian newspapers were nationalized and subjected to censorship. President Sadat ended formal press censorship in 1974, but the following year he set up a government council to supervise the newspapers. In 1981, President Mubarak revoked the ban on opposition newspapers, but the press remains sensitive to the wishes of the government. The Middle East News Agency is under the supervision of the information section of the Ministry of National Guidance. The constitution does provide for freedom of speech and press, though the government exercises control through media ownership, oversight, and a monopoly on resources such as newsprint.
Most organizations in Egypt serve occupational and professional (particularly agricultural) goals. The land reform law makes it compulsory for landholders who have obtained land under it to join cooperative societies (such as the Egyptian Seed Association) to help supply them with tested seeds, tools if available, and possibly markets. Several multinational organizations are based in Egypt, including the African Farmers Association and the Arab Labor Organization. The International Labour Organization has an office in Cairo. There are many chambers of commerce, representing various cities and various economic groups. The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce is in Cairo.
There are scholastic and archaeological, accounting, economic, historical, and other learned organizations. A national Academy of Scientific Research and Technology was established in 1971. The Egyptian Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are also several associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.
Egypt serves as a multinational center for many sports organizations, including Arab federations for boxing, fishing, basketball, judo, gymnastics, and fencing, to name a few. Many youth organizations are affiliated with religious institutions. Scouting programs are active, as are chapters of the YMCA/YWCA. The Egyptian Association of Women promotes higher education and professional training for women.
The multinational Arab Organization for Human Rights is based in Cairo. There are national chapters of the Red Crescent Society, CARE, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, UNICEF, and Caritas.
Passports and visas are required of tourists. Visitors arriving from most African, American, and Caribbean countries need either a certificate of vaccinations against yellow fever or a location certificate from the Sudanese government stating that they have not been in southern Sudan within the previous six days.
Tourism has been a major foreign exchange earner. It grew steadily after the end of the Iran-Iraq war. There were 6,044,160 foreign visitors in 2003, almost 69% of whom came from Europe. The 136,510 hotel rooms with 273,020 beds had an occupancy rate of 59%. Tourism receipts totaled $4.7 billion. The average length of stay that year was eight nights. Principal tourist attractions include the pyramids and Great Sphinx at Giza, the Abu Simbel temples south of Aswan, the Valley of the Kings at Luxor, and the Muhammad Ali Mosque in Cairo. Rides are available on fellucas, traditional sailing boats of the Nile. Popular pastimes among Egyptians include card playing, movie-going, and sports such as football (soccer), swimming, tennis, and horse racing.
In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Cairo at $239. Expenses in Alexandria were $242 per day.
Egypt’s first recorded ruler, or pharaoh, was Menes (or Narmer, fl.3100? bc), who united the southern and northern kingdoms and founded the capital at Memphis. Notable successor pharaohs included Cheops (Khufu, fl.26th cent. bc), who built the Great Pyramid at Giza; Thutmose III (r.1504?–1450 bc), who greatly extended the empire through conquest; Amenhotep III (r.1417–1379 bc), who ruled at the summit of ancient Egyptian civilization and built extensive monuments; his son Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten, or Ikhnaton, r.1379–1362 bc), who, with his queen, Nefertiti, instituted a brief period of monotheism; and Tutankhamen (r.1361–1352 bc), whose tomb containing valuable treasures was found practically intact in 1922. Cleopatra VII (69–30 bc) was involved in the political conflicts of the Romans.
Philo Judaeus (13? bc–ad 50?) attempted to combine Greek philosophy with Judaism. Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus, fl.2d cent. ad) was the foremost astronomer of ancient times. Egyptian-born Plotinus (ad 205?–270) was a neoplatonic philosopher in Rome.
The most notable of Egypt’s rulers under the Muslim caliphate was Saladin (Salah ad-Din, 1138–93), sultan of Egypt and Syria and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. The founder of Egypt as a part of the Ottoman Empire was Muhammad ‘Ali (1769–1849), of Albanian origin, the first of a dynasty that ended with the deposition of Faruk in 1952. ‘Arabi Pasha (Ahmad ‘Arabi, 1841?–1911) led a popular uprising against British intervention in 1882 but was defeated. Later, the fiery political fight against British rule was waged by Sa’ad Zaghlul Pasha (1860?–1927), a founder of the Nationalist Party, Wafd.
No one had greater influence on Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s than Gamal Abdel Nasser (Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir, 1918–70), the moving spirit of the army’s revolt against the monarchy in 1952. As prime minister (1954–56) and president (1956–70), Nasser set Egypt on its socialist course and attempted to unify the Arab world through confederation. His successor as president, Anwar al-Sadat (as-Sadat, 1918–81), continued Nasser’s policies but with important modifications, especially in relation to Israel; with Menachem Begin he shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 and negotiated the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979. Upon Sadat’s assassination in 1981, Muhammad Hosni (Husni) Mubarak (b.1928), who had been air force chief of staff (1969–72) and vice-president (1975–81), became president of Egypt. Mohamed ElBaradei (b.1942) is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
The poet Sami al-Barudi (1839–1904) wrote popular and highly regarded verses about Islam’s heroic early age. ‘Abbas al-Aqqad (1889–1964) has been called the greatest contemporary Arab poet and the most original Arab writer. Involved in a political plot, he was jailed and composed an Arab “De Profundis” about his life in prison. Taha Husayn (1889–1973), the most widely known modern Egyptian intellectual leader, was minister of education from 1950 to 1952. The poet and essayist Malak Hifni Nasif (1886–1918) sought an improvement in the status of women. Ahmad Zaki Abu Shadi (1892–1955) was a renowned poet, essayist, and dramatist. Mahmud Taymur (1894–1973), a leading dramatist, wrote popular social satires and comedies. Um Kalthum (Fatma al-Zahraa Ibrahim, 1898?–1975) was the most famous singer of the Arab world. Mohammed Hassanein Heikal (b.1923), journalist and author, was the outspoken editor of the influential newspaper Al-Ahram (1957–74) until he was forced by the government to resign. In 1988, Naguib Mahfouz (b.1912) won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Ahmed Hassan Zewail (b.1946) is an Egyptian-American chemist, and the winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on femtochemistry.
Egypt has no territories or colonies.
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