For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 1,001,450 sq. km. (386,000 sq. mi.); approximately equal to Texas and New Mexico combined.
Cities: Capital--Cairo (pop. estimated at 16 million). Other cities--Alexandria (6 million), Aswan, Asyut, Port Said, Suez, Ismailia.
Terrain: Desert plateau, except Nile valley and delta.
Climate: Dry, hot summers; moderate winters.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Egyptian(s).
Population (July 2011 est.): 82,079,636.
Annual population growth rate (2011 est.): 1.96%.
Ethnic groups (2006 census): Egyptian 99.6%, other 0.4%.
Religions: Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic Christian 9%, other Christian 1%.
Languages: Arabic (official), English, French.
Education: Years compulsory--ages 6-15. Literacy--total adult 71.4%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2011 est.)--25.2 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2011 est.)--72.66 years.
Constitution: Egypt is operating under a constitutional decree from March 2011. A new constitution is set to be drafted in 2012.
Branches: Executive—President (The Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has held presidential authority since February 2011 and is slated to hand over that function to a new president once presidential elections are held, likely by June 30, 2012), Prime Minister, Cabinet. Legislative--People's Assembly (498 elected members and up to 10 presidentially appointed), and Shura (consultative) Council (180 elected members, and 90 presidentially appointed). The two houses of Egypt’s parliament—the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council—were dissolved in February 2011, but will be seated again in 2012 after elections are completed for each house.
Administrative subdivisions: 27 governorates.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (OER) (FY 2010 est.): $218.5 billion.
GDP (PPP) (FY 2010 est.): $497.8 billion.
Annual growth rate (Projected FY 2011 est.): 1.2%.
Per capita GDP (PPP, FY 2010 est.): $6,200.
Natural resources: Petroleum and natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, zinc.
Agriculture: Products--cotton, rice, onions, beans, citrus fruits, wheat, corn, barley, sugar.
Industry: Types--food processing, textiles, tourism, chemicals, petrochemicals, construction, light manufacturing, iron and steel products, aluminum, cement, military equipment.
Trade (FY 2010): Exports--$25.34 billion: petroleum, clothing and textiles, cotton, fruits and vegetables, manufactured goods. Major markets--EU, U.S., Middle East. Imports--$51.54 billion: machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products, livestock, food and beverages, paper and wood products, chemicals. Major suppliers--EU, U.S., China.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and the second-most populous on the African continent. Nearly all of the country's 80 million people live in the following locations: Cairo and Alexandria; elsewhere on the banks of the Nile; in the Nile delta, which fans out north of Cairo; and along the Suez Canal. These regions are among the world's most densely populated, containing an average of over 3,820 persons per square mile (1,540 per sq. km.), as compared to about 200 persons per sq. mi. for the country as a whole.
Small communities spread throughout the desert regions of Egypt are clustered around oases and historic trade and transportation routes. The government has tried with mixed success to encourage migration to newly irrigated land reclaimed from the desert. However, the proportion of the population living in rural areas has continued to decrease as people move to the cities in search of employment and a higher standard of living.
The Egyptians are a fairly homogeneous people of Hamitic origin. Mediterranean and Arab influences appear in the north, and there is some mixing in the south with the Nubians of northern Sudan. Ethnic minorities include a small number of Bedouin Arab nomads in the eastern and western deserts and in the Sinai, as well as some 50,000-100,000 Nubians clustered along the Nile in Upper (southern) Egypt.
The literacy rate is about 71.4% of the adult population. Education is free through university and compulsory from ages 6 through 15. Rates of primary and secondary education have strengthened in recent years. 93% of children enter primary school today, compared with 87% in 1994. Major universities include Cairo University (100,000 students), Alexandria University, and the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar University, one of the world's major centers of Islamic learning.
Egypt's vast and rich literature constitutes an important cultural element in the life of the country and in the Arab world as a whole. Egyptian novelists and poets were among the first to experiment with modern styles of Arabic literature, and the forms they developed have been widely imitated. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arab to win the Nobel prize for literature. Egyptian books and films are available throughout the Middle East.
Egypt has endured as a unified state for more than 5,000 years, and archeological evidence indicates that a developed Egyptian society has existed for much longer. Egyptians take pride in their "pharaonic heritage" and in their descent from what they consider mankind's earliest civilization. The Arabic word for Egypt is Misr, which originally connoted "civilization" or "metropolis."
Archeological findings show that primitive tribes lived along the Nile long before the dynastic history of the pharaohs began. By 6000 B.C., organized agriculture had appeared.
In about 3100 B.C., Egypt was united under a ruler known as Mena, or Menes, who inaugurated the 30 pharaonic dynasties into which Egypt's ancient history is divided--the Old and the Middle Kingdoms and the New Empire. The pyramids at Giza (near Cairo), which were built in the fourth dynasty, testify to the power of the pharaonic religion and state. The Great Pyramid, the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops), is the only surviving monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ancient Egypt reached the peak of its power, wealth, and territorial extent in the period called the New Empire (1567-1085 B.C.).
Persian, Greek, Roman, and Arab Conquerors
In 525 B.C., Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, led a Persian invasion force that dethroned the last pharaoh of the 26th dynasty. The country remained a Persian province until conquered by Alexander the Great in 322 B.C., ushering in Ptolemaic rule in Egypt that lasted for nearly 300 years.
Following a brief Persian reconquest, Egypt was invaded and conquered by Arab forces in 642 A.D. A process of Arabization and Islamization ensued. Although a Coptic Christian minority remained--and constitutes about 10% of the population today--the Arab language inexorably supplanted the indigenous Coptic tongue. For the next 1,300 years, a succession of Arab, Mameluke, and Ottoman caliphs, beys, and sultans ruled the country.
The Ottoman Turks controlled Egypt from 1517 until 1882, except for a brief period of French rule under Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1805, Mohammed Ali, commander of an Albanian contingent of Ottoman troops, won autonomy from the Ottoman Empire and foundedthe dynasty that ruled Egypt until his great-great grandson, Farouk , was overthrown in 1952. Mohammed Ali ruled Egypt until 1848, ushering in the modern history of Egypt. The rapid growth of Cairo as an urban center began in the reign of Ismail (1863-79). Eager to modernize the capital, he ordered the construction of a European-style city to the west of the medieval core. The Suez Canal was completed in Ismail’s reign in 1869, and its completion was celebrated by many events, including the commissioning of Verdi's "Aida" for a new opera house and the building of great palaces, such as the Omar Khayyam (originally constructed to entertain the French Empress Eugenie, and now the central section of the Cairo Marriott Hotel).
In 1882, British expeditionary forces crushed an Egyptian revolt led by Ahmed Orabi Pasha, marking the beginning of British occupation and the virtual inclusion of Egypt within the British Empire. Egypt became independent from the British Empire in 1922. British influence, however, continued to dominate Egypt's political life.
Between 1922 and 1952, three main political forces competed with one another: the Wafd, a broadly-based nationalist political organization strongly opposed to British influence; King Fuad, whom the British had installed during World War I; and the British themselves, who were determined to maintain control over the Suez Canal. Other political forces emerging in this period included the Communist Party (1925) and the Muslim Brotherhood (1928), which eventually became a potent political and religious force.
During World War II, British troops used Egypt as a base for Allied operations throughout the region. British troops were withdrawn to the Suez Canal area in 1947, but nationalist, anti-British feelings continued to grow after the war. On July 22-23, 1952, a group of disaffected army officers (the "Free Officers") led by Lt. Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew King Farouk, whom the military blamed for Egypt's poor performance in the 1948 war with Israel. Following a brief experiment with civilian rule, they abrogated the 1923 constitution and declared Egypt a republic on June 19, 1953. Nasser evolved into a charismatic leader, not only of Egypt, but of the Arab world, promoting and implementing "Arab socialism." He nationalized much of Egypt's economy.
Nasser helped establish the Non-Aligned Movement of developing countries in September 1961, and continued to be a leading force in the movement until his death in 1970. When the United States held up military sales in reaction to Egyptian neutrality toward Moscow, Nasser concluded a seminal arms deal with Czechoslovakia in September 1955.
When the U.S. and the World Bank withdrew their offer to help finance the Aswan High Dam in mid-1956, Nasser nationalized the privately owned Suez Canal Company. The crisis that followed, exacerbated by growing tensions with Israel over guerrilla attacks from Gaza and Israeli reprisals, resulted in the invasion of Egypt that October by France, Britain, and Israel; U.S. political intervention helped reverse the invasion, and the Canal remained nationalized.
Nasser's domestic policies were frequently oppressive, yet generally popular. All opposition was stamped out, and opponents of the regime frequently were imprisoned without trial. Nasser's foreign and military policies helped provoke the Israeli attack of June 1967 that virtually destroyed Egypt's armed forces along with those of Jordan and Syria. Israel also occupied the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. Nasser, however, was revered by the masses in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world until his death in 1970.
After Nasser's death, another of the original "Free Officers," Vice President Anwar el-Sadat, was elected President. In 1971, Sadat concluded a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union, but a year later, ordered Soviet advisers to leave. In 1973, he launched the October war with Israel, in which Egypt's armed forces achieved initial successes but were driven back by Israeli counterattacks.
Camp David and the Peace Process
In a momentous change from the Nasser era, President Sadat shifted Egypt from a policy of confrontation with Israel to one of peaceful accommodation through negotiations. Following the Sinai Disengagement Agreements of 1974 and 1975, Sadat created a fresh opening for progress by his dramatic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977. This led to President Jimmy Carter's invitation to President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to join him in trilateral negotiations at Camp David.
The historic Camp David accords were signed by Egypt and Israel and witnessed by the United States on September 17, 1978. The accords led to the March 26, 1979 signing of the Egypt-Israel Treaty of Peace, by which Egypt regained control of the Sinai in May 1982. Throughout this period, U.S.-Egyptian relations steadily improved, but Sadat's willingness to break ranks by making peace with Israel antagonized most other Arab states.
Domestic Politics after Camp David
Sadat introduced greater political freedom and a new economic policy, the most important aspect of which was the “infitah” or "open door." This relaxed government controls over the economy and encouraged private, including foreign, investment. Sadat dismantled much of the existing political machine and brought to trial a number of former government officials accused of criminal excesses during the Nasser era.
On October 6, 1981, Islamic extremists assassinated President Sadat. Hosni Mubarak, Vice President since 1975 and an air force commander during the October 1973 war, was elected President later that month. He was subsequently confirmed by popular referendum for four more 6-year terms; the most recent referendum took place in September 2005. Egypt was readmitted to the Arab League in 1989 after being expelled for reaching a peace agreement with Israel.
Between 1991 and 2011, Egypt undertook a domestic economic reform program to reduce the size of the public sector and expand the role of the private sector. Political reform stalled, however. The government repressed civil society and opposition groups and maintained Egypt’s longstanding state of emergency. The first competitive presidential elections, held in 2005, were marked by low voter turnout and charges of fraud. Parliamentary elections in 2005 saw significant opposition gains but also violence, low turnout, fraud, and vote rigging. In one notable case, Ayman Nour, member of parliament and popular leader of the opposition Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, was arrested in 2005 and ultimately sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He was released in 2009. Following parliamentary elections in 2010 that saw significant irregularities and pre-election restrictions, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) continued to dominate national politics by maintaining an overriding majority in the People’s Assembly and Shura Council.
The Arab Spring in Egypt: Revolution at Tahrir Square
After an 18-day massive, popular revolution centered on Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign as the President of Egypt on February 11, 2011. He relinquished the administration of power first to his Vice President and then to a transitional government led by the Egyptian military’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which then appointed a civilian prime minister and cabinet to run the Egyptian government.
In a March 19, 2011 referendum, Egyptians voted overwhelmingly to amend Egypt’s constitution, thus setting the legal groundwork for democratic parliamentary and presidential elections. The referendum included amendments that set term limits for the president, affirmed judicial oversight of elections, and prevented the state of emergency from remaining in effect for longer than six months unless approved by a public referendum. It also provided for the establishment of a 100-member constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. In November 2011, Egyptians began voting in elections for Egypt’s People’s Assembly.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Egypt’s March 19, 2011 public referendum produced a temporary constitutional framework that empowers the SCAF to govern Egypt in the interim, with the goal of transferring power to a civilian government and drafting a new constitution in 2012.
Egypt’s parliament is made up of a 508-seat People’s Assembly (498 elected) and a 270-seat Shura Council (180 elected). Egyptians now vote in a mixed parallel proportional representation (PR) and individual candidate (IC) system, where two thirds of the parliament is elected by PR party lists and one third is elected by IC districts.
Egypt's judicial system is similar to European (primarily French) legal concepts and methods. The courts have demonstrated increasing independence, and the principles of due process and judicial review have gained greater respect since the January 25 Revolution. Egypt’s legal code is derived largely from the Napoleonic Code. Marriage and personal status (family law) are primarily based on the religious law of the individual concerned, which for most Egyptians is Islamic Law (Sharia).
Principal Government Officials
Presidential authority is currently held by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
Prime Minister—Kamal El Ganzouri
Minister of Foreign Affairs—Mohamed Kamel Amr
Ambassador to the United States—Sameh Shoukry
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Maged Abdel Fattah Abdelaziz
Egypt maintains an embassy in the United States at 3521 International Court NW, Washington, DC, 20008 (tel. 202-895-5400). The Washington consulate has the same address (tel. 202-966-6342). The Egyptian Mission to the United Nations is located at 304 East 44th Street, New York, NY (tel. 212-305-0300). Egyptian consulates general are located at: 1110 Second Avenue, New York, NY, 10022 (tel. 212-759-7120); 1990 Post Oak Boulevard, Suite 2180, Houston, TX, 77056 (tel. 713-961-4915); 500 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1900, Chicago, IL, 60611 (tel. 312-828-9162); and 3001 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco, CA, 94115 (tel. 415-346-9700).
Egypt's armed forces, among the largest in the region, include the army, air defense, air force, and navy. The armed forces inventory includes equipment from the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the former Soviet Union, and China. Equipment from the former Soviet Union is being progressively replaced by more modern American, French, and British equipment, a significant portion of which is built under license in Egypt. To bolster stability and moderation in the region, Egypt has provided military assistance and training to a number of African and Arab states. Egypt remains a strong military and strategic partner of the United States.
With the installation of the 2004 Egyptian cabinet and the 2005 presidential election, the Government of Egypt began a new reform movement, following a stalled economic reform program begun in 1991, but moribund since the mid-1990s. Since 2004, the cabinet economic team has simplified and reduced tariffs and taxes, improved the transparency of the national budget, revived stalled privatizations of public enterprises and implemented economic legislation designed to foster private sector-driven economic growth and improve Egypt's competitiveness. The Egyptian economy experienced steady GDP growth rates around 7% between 2005 and 2008, before dropping below 5% during the global economic crisis. The economy is still hampered by government intervention, substantial subsidies for food, housing, and energy, and bloated public sector payrolls. Limited energy subsidy reform began in 2007 but has stalled since the 2008 global economic crisis. Agriculture is mainly in private hands, and has been largely deregulated, with the exception of cotton, sugar, and rice production. Construction, non-financial services, and domestic marketing are also largely private. The Egyptian economy, however, relies heavily on tourism, oil and gas exports, and Suez Canal revenues, much of which is controlled by the public sector and is also vulnerable to outside factors. The tourism sector suffered tremendously following a terrorist attack in Luxor in October 1997. As a result of the global economic crisis, annual revenues for the Suez Canal fell sharply in 2008 and began only a partial recovery in 2009. The drop in Canal traffic and revenues has been partially offset by high international oil prices, as the shorter Suez route cuts costs for some shippers.
The World Bank ranked Egypt 94 out of 183 economies in its 2011 Doing Business report; among Arab countries it is likewise in the middle— eight out of 20. Egypt has made many improvements to its business and regulatory environment since 2004, when the most recent round of liberalizing reforms began, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Egypt’s tourism industry, which is $10 billion per year (approximately 6% of GDP), suffered a major blow as a result of the Arab Spring revolution in January and February 2011, and its slow recovery is highly vulnerable to perceptions about Egypt’s internal political stability and security. Egypt’s economy contracted seven percent between January and March 2011. High inflation, low consumer confidence, and labor unrest are among the challenges facing Egypt’s current transitional government. Subsequent labor strikes, factory closures, and disruptions in the stock market greatly contributed to the increase in debt and inflation.
The proliferation of independent labor unions in Egypt has been one of the significant results of Egypt’s democratic revolution in January and February 2011. Between March 11 and June 1, the Egyptian government registered 26 new independent unions as part of its declared commitment to freedom of association in the new Egypt.
For nearly three decades, the United States has worked with Egyptians to support their economy and quality of life through programs focused on economic development and good governance. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s programs have used benchmarks that aim to stimulate the small and microenterprise sectors, improve budget transparency to increase macroeconomic stability, and improve the trade regime and business climate. USAID’s economic support program provides up to $100 million to support job creation, humanitarian assistance, and poverty alleviation for those negatively affected by the recent economic downturn. To support the Middle East peace process through regional economic integration, the United States also permits products to be imported from Egypt without tariffs if they have been produced by factories registered in Qualified Industrial Zones and 10.5% of the inputs of these products originate from Israel.
Approximately one-third of Egyptian labor is engaged directly in farming, and many others work in the processing or trading of agricultural products. Nearly all of Egypt's agricultural production takes place in some 2.5 million hectares (6 million acres) of fertile soil in the Nile Valley and Delta. Some desert lands are being developed for agriculture, including the ambitious Toshka project in Upper Egypt, but some other fertile lands in the Nile Valley and Delta are being lost to urbanization and erosion.
Warm weather and plentiful water permit several crops a year. Further improvement is possible, but land is worked intensively and yields are high. Cotton, rice, wheat, corn, sugarcane, sugar beets, onions, and beans are the principal crops. Increasingly, a few modern operations are producing fruits, vegetables and flowers, in addition to cotton, for export. While the desert hosts some large, modern farms, more common traditional farms occupy one acre each, typically in a canal-irrigated area along the banks of the Nile. Many small farmers also have cows, water buffaloes, and chickens, although larger modern farms are becoming more important.
The United States is a major supplier of wheat, corn, and soybean products to Egypt, almost all through commercial sales. Egypt is one of the U.S.'s largest markets for wheat sales. U.S. agricultural sales to Egypt average $2 billion annually. U.S. food assistance programs to Egypt ended in 1992 as Egypt became more prosperous. Egypt continues to receive modest food assistance through the World Food Program and from France.
"Egypt," wrote the Greek historian Herodotus 25 centuries ago, "is the gift of the Nile." The land's seemingly inexhaustible resources of water and soil carried by this mighty river created in the Nile Valley and Delta the world's most extensive oasis. Without the Nile, Egypt would be little more than a desert wasteland.
The river carves a narrow, cultivated floodplain, never more than 20 kilometers wide, as it travels northward toward Cairo from Lake Nasser on the Sudanese border, behind the Aswan High Dam. Just north of Cairo, the Nile spreads out over what was once a broad estuary that has been filled by river deposits to form a fertile delta about 250 kilometers wide (150 mi.) at the seaward base and about 160 kilometers (96 mi.) from south to north.
Before the construction of dams on the Nile, particularly the Aswan High Dam (started in 1952, completed in 1970), the fertility of the Nile Valley was sustained by the water flow and the silt deposited by the annual flood. Sediment is now obstructed by the Aswan High Dam and retained in Lake Nasser. The interruption of yearly, natural fertilization and the increasing salinity of the soil has been a manageable problem resulting from the dam. The benefits remain impressive: more intensive farming on millions of acres of land made possible by improved irrigation, prevention of flood damage, and the generation of billions of low-cost kilowatt hours of electricity.
Due to climate change and rising sea levels, the lower delta faces issues with soil salinity. Waters from the Mediterranean infiltrate the soil, spoiling hundreds of acres of previously lush farm lands. Though the sea rise is gradual and Egypt has time to adapt, the population cannot afford losing more farm land seeing how thousands of acres have already been swallowed up by urban sprawl. Farmers in affected areas have to pump in more fresh water and purchase expensive sand and fertilizer to save their lands, which leads many to abandon the land and become climate refugees.
The Western Desert accounts for about two-thirds of the country's land area. For the most part, it is a massive sandy plateau marked by seven major depressions. One of these, Fayoum, was connected about 3,600 years ago to the Nile by canals. Today, it is an important irrigated agricultural area.
In addition to the agricultural capacity of the Nile Valley and Delta, Egypt's natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, phosphates, and iron ore. Crude oil is found primarily in the Gulf of Suez and in the Western Desert. Natural gas is found mainly in the Nile Delta, off the Mediterranean seashore, and in the Western Desert. Oil and gas accounts for approximately 12% of GDP. Export of petroleum and related products (including bunker and aviation sales) amounted to approximately $11.4 billion in fiscal year 2008-2009.
Crude oil production has been in decline for over a decade, from a high of more than 920,000 barrels per day (BPD) in 1995 to less than 550,000 BPD as of October 2009. To minimize the growing domestic demand for oil-based products, estimated in July 2009 at more than 31 million metric tons per year, Egypt is encouraging the production of natural gas. Production of natural gas doubled from 21 million metric tons in mid-2003 to 43 million metric tons in July 2008. In FY 2008-2009, natural gas production amounted to 6.4 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day. In March 2009 the Egyptian Gas Holding Company announced plans for 23 new exploration wells with total investments of $1.1 billion during fiscal year 2009-2010.
As of July 2009, crude oil and condensates reserves were estimated at 4.4 billion barrels, and proven natural gas reserves were estimated at 77 trillion cubic feet (TCF) with possible additional reserves totaling another 40-50 TCF. However, independent oil and gas experts indicated that Egypt’s proven natural gas reserves may be as high as 70 TCF, of which more than 80% (i.e., 57 TCF) is from the cone of the Nile Delta. Texas-based Apache Oil Company is the largest American investor in Egypt, with a total investment of more than $7 billion since 1995.
The Ministry of Petroleum regards expansion of the Egyptian petrochemical industry and increased exports of natural gas as significant strategic objectives. Three liquefied natural gas (LNG) trains are operating in Egypt. The first is in Damietta on the eastern side of the Nile Delta and is operated by the Spanish electric utility Union Fenosa; the second is a project located at Idku in the western Delta, with British Gas (BG) Group and the Malaysian state oil company Petronas as the major investors; and the third, the Mediterranean Gas Complex in Port Said, utilizes gas for export and domestic consumption, with the Italian company AGIP and BP as the main shareholders.
Egypt and Jordan established the Eastern Gas Company to export natural gas to Jordan, and then later to Syria and Lebanon. In summer 2003 Egypt completed the first phase of the project by exporting gas to Jordan via a new pipeline from El Arish on Egypt's north Sinai cost to Taba on the Gulf of Aqaba, and then underwater to the Jordanian city of Aqaba. The second phase was completed in 2005, connecting the pipeline to the Jordanian town of Rihab, north of the capital Amman. While by 2008 gas exports grew to 12.6 million metric tons of oil equivalent, the Government of Egypt may have to import natural gas within 3 to 4 years in order to meet domestic demand, particularly for producing electricity. In the wake of higher world market gas prices, the Government of Egypt in 2009 succeeded in renegotiating upward the price received under existing long-term gas export contracts with purchasers in Europe, Jordan, and Israel. The pipeline that carries gas through Egypt to Israel and Jordan was attacked on at least 10 separate occasions in 2011, resulting in the frequent disruption of supplies.
Transport and Communication
Transportation facilities in Egypt are centered in Cairo and largely follow the pattern of settlement along the Nile. The main line of the nation's 5,500-kilometer (3,400-mi.) railway network runs from Alexandria to Aswan and the Suez Canal. The well-maintained road network has expanded rapidly to over 47,500 kilometers (29,515 mi.), covering the Nile Valley and Delta, Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, the Sinai, and the Western oases.
Egypt Air provides reliable domestic air service to major tourist destinations from its Cairo hub, in addition to overseas routes. As a recently-joined member of the Star Alliance, government-owned Egypt Air is expanding its air fleet and its international routes, in keeping with the Government of Egypt’s overall vision of Egypt as a growing and increasingly key regional transportation hub. The Nile River system (about 1,000 km. or 620 mi.) and the principal canals (1,600 km. almost 1,000 mi.) are important locally for transportation. The Suez Canal is a major waterway for global and regional commerce and navigation, linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Major ports are Alexandria, Port Said, the East Port Said container terminal and Damietta on the Mediterranean, and Ain El Sukhna, Suez and Safraga on the Red Sea, with major infrastructure and capacity modernizations and upgrades ongoing since 2008 in most of these ports.
Egypt has long been the cultural and informational center of the Arab world, and Cairo is the region's largest publishing and broadcasting center. There are tens of daily newspapers with a total circulation of more than 4 million, and a number of monthly newspapers, magazines, and journals. Daily and weekly newspapers are a mix of independent, political party, and pro-government publications, and these papers conduct a lively, often highly partisan, debate on public issues. Recently, online publications have been on the rise, along with the online versions of major independent publications. Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) is the state-run entity that controls Egyptian TV (ETV), Nile TV, and Nile News, as well as the specialized channels (7 channels, including sports, culture, comedy, and children’s programming) and most radio frequencies in Egypt. ETV controls terrestrial (free-to-air) broadcasts throughout Egypt, broadcasting Channel 1 and Channel 2 nationwide, as well as six regional channels and depends heavily on commercial revenue. ETV sells its specially produced programs and soap operas to the entire Arab world. In addition to Egyptian programming, Al Arabia, Al Jazeera, the Middle East Broadcast Company, a Saudi television station transmitting from London (MBC), Lebanese networks (Future and LBC), Arab Radio and Television (ART), and other Gulf stations as well as Western networks such as CNN, BBC, Fox News, and Al Hurra provide access to more international programs to Egyptians who own satellite receivers. NileSat, one of the three main providers of satellite TV to the region, is effectively controlled by ERTU and hosts a wide variety of channels.
Beginning in 2001, private satellite TV and radio has entered the Egyptian media marketplace. Three new private satellite-based TV stations were launched in November 2001, marking a significant change in Egyptian government policy. Dream TV 1 and 2 produce talk shows, cultural programming, broadcast contemporary video clips and films featuring Arab and international actors, as well as soap operas; another private station, El-Mehwar, focuses on business and general news. Other new independent TV stations include Al Hayat TV, O TV and ONTV (owned by the Orascom conglomerate), El Saa and Modern TV. These private channels also transmit on NileSat. Recently, there has been a proliferation of religious themed channels catering to Salafis (ultra-conservative Muslims).
Radio in Egypt is almost all government-controlled and uses 44 short-wave frequencies, 18 medium-wave stations, and four FM stations. There are seven regional radio stations covering the country. Egyptian Radio transmits 60 hours daily overseas in 33 languages and three hundred hours daily within Egypt. In 2000, Radio Cairo introduced new specialized (thematic) channels on its FM station. These stations, known as Radio El Nile, include news and music.
Both traditional journalists and bloggers played critical roles reporting on the events of the January 2011 Revolution. Activists also organized heavily through social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. In the revolution’s early days, the government blocked access to social networking websites, followed by a near complete shutdown of Internet and cell phone access across the country for several days, before it was finally restored.
Geography, population, history, military strength, and diplomatic expertise give Egypt extensive political influence in the Middle East and within the Non-Aligned Movement as a whole. Cairo has been a crossroads of Arab commerce and culture for millennia, and its intellectual and Islamic institutions are at the center of the region's social and cultural development.
The Arab League headquarters is in Cairo, and the Secretary General of the League is traditionally an Egyptian. Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Araby is the present Secretary General of the Arab League. Former Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali served as Secretary General of the United Nations from 1991 to 1996.
Egypt is a key partner in the search for peace in the Middle East and resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sadat's groundbreaking trip to Israel in 1977, the 1978 Camp David Accords, and the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty represented a fundamental shift in the politics of the region--from a strategy of confrontation to one of peace as a strategic choice. Egypt was subsequently ostracized by other Arab states and ejected from the Arab League from 1979 to 1989. Egypt played an important role in the negotiations leading to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, which, under U.S. and Russian sponsorship, brought together all parties in the region to discuss Middle East peace. In 1996, then-President Mubarak hosted the Sharm El-Sheikh "Summit of the Peacemakers" attended by President Bill Clinton and other world leaders. In 2000, he hosted two summits at Sharm El-Sheikh and one at Taba in an effort to resume the Camp David negotiations suspended in July of 2000, and in June 2003, Mubarak hosted President George W. Bush for another summit on the Middle East peace process. Throughout mid-2004, Egypt worked closely with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to facilitate stability following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, which occurred in August and September of 2005. Prior to this, Egypt and Israel reached an agreement that allowed Egypt to deploy additional forces along the Philadelphi Corridor in an attempt to control the border and prevent the smuggling of weapons.
Egypt played a key role during the 1990-91 Gulf crisis. Egypt helped assemble the international coalition and deployed 35,000 Egyptian troops against Iraq to liberate Kuwait. The Egyptian contingent was the third-largest in the coalition forces, after the U.S. and U.K. In the aftermath of the Gulf war, Egypt signed the Damascus declaration with Syria and the Gulf states to strengthen Gulf security. Egypt continues to contribute regularly to UN peacekeeping missions, most recently in East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. In August 2004, Egypt was actively engaged in seeking a solution to the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, including the dispatch of military monitors. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Egypt, which has itself been the target of terrorist attacks, has been a key supporter of U.S. efforts against terrorists and terrorist organizations.
The United States and Egypt enjoy a strong and friendly relationship based on shared mutual interest in Middle East peace and stability, revitalizing the Egyptian economy and strengthening trade relations, and promoting regional security. Over the years, Egypt and the United States have worked together to expand Middle East peace negotiations, hosting talks, negotiations, and the Middle East and North Africa Economic (MENA) Conference. Multinational exercises, U.S. assistance to Egypt's military modernization program, and Egypt's role as a contributor to various UN peacekeeping operations continually reinforce the U.S.-Egyptian military relationship.
An important pillar of the bilateral relationship remains U.S. security and economic assistance to Egypt, which expanded significantly in the wake of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1979. U.S. military aid to Egypt totals over $1.3 billion annually. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided over $28 billion in economic and development assistance to Egypt since 1975. Early assistance focused on infrastructure, health, food supply, and agriculture. The Commodity Import Program, through which USAID provided hundreds of millions of dollars in financing to enable the Egyptian private sector to import U.S. goods between 1986 and 2008, was one of the largest and most popular USAID programs. Current programs focus on trade and investment; utilities; education; healthier, planned families; natural resources; democracy and governance; and other programs supported by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).
U.S. military cooperation has helped Egypt modernize its armed forces and strengthen regional security and stability. Under Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs, the United States has provided F-4 jet aircraft, F-16 jet fighters, M-60A3 and M1A1 tanks, armored personnel carriers, Apache helicopters, antiaircraft missile batteries, aerial surveillance aircraft, and other equipment. The United States and Egypt also participate in combined military exercises, including deployments of U.S. troops to Egypt. Every other year, Egypt hosts Operation Bright Star, a multilateral military exercise with the U.S., and the largest military exercise in the region. Units of the U.S. 6th Fleet are regular visitors to Egyptian ports.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Marc Sievers
Economic/Political Affairs--Donald Blome
Consular Affairs--Roberto Powers
Management Affairs--Amy Hyatt
Public Affairs—Pat Kabra
Defense Attache/Office of Military Cooperation—Maj. Gen. Joseph Lengyel
Foreign Commercial Service—Margaret Keshishian
Foreign Agricultural Service—Jonathan Gressel
The U.S. Embassy is located at 8 Kamal ElDin Salah St., Garden City, Cairo, Egypt, tel:   797-3300, fax   797-3200.