Egypt country profile

Map of Egypt

Egypt is the largest Arab country, and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics.

In the 1950s President Gamal Abdul Nasser pioneered Arab nationalism and the non-aligned movement, while his successor Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel and turned back to the West.

Egypt’s great cities – and almost all agricultural activity – are concentrated along the banks of the Nile and its delta.

The economy depends heavily on agriculture, tourism, and cash remittances from Egyptians working abroad – mainly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.

However, rapid population growth and the limited amount of arable land are straining the country’s resources and economy, and political unrest has often paralysed government efforts to address the problems.


  • Capital: Cairo
  • Area: 1,010,408 sq km
  • Population: 107.7 million
  • Language: Arabic
  • Life expectancy: 69 years (men) 74 years (women)


President: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Egypt's President Sisi

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi won a third six-year term in December 2023. The former army chief beat three low-profile candidates – the leading opposition candidate Ahmed Tantawy had pulled out before the poll, claiming intimidation and violence against his campaign.

Egypt’s faltering economy and the war in Gaza were key electoral issues.

Mr Sisi first became president in 2014, a year after he led the military’s overthrow of his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi. He won again in 2018. He will be in power until 2030, when he is barred by the constitution from running again.

Under his leadership, huge sums of money have been spent on big infrastructure projects. Roads have been expanded and flyovers built. A new capital costing billions of dollars has been constructed near Cairo but is barely inhabited.

Critics say this has drained much of the country’s economic resources and created unprecedented levels of debt that have crippled the economy.


Cairo skyline
Image caption,Cairo has been Egypt’s most important city since the 12th Century

Egypt is a major regional media player. Its TV and film industries supply much of the Arab-speaking world with content and its press is influential.

TV is the favourite medium and there are several big hitters in the sector, including the state broadcaster.

The authorities have been increasing controls over traditional and social media to an unprecedented degree.

Reporters Without Borders says Egypt is “one of the world’s biggest prisons” for journalists.


Egypt's president Nasser
Image caption,The 1956 Suez crisis made Egypt’s President Nasser a hero in Arab eyes

Some key dates in Egypt’s history:

3150BC – Egypt is unified under Menes, leading to a series of dynasties that rule the country for the next three millennia.

c. 2700-2200BC – Old Kingdom. Sees building of numerous pyramids, most notably the Third Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the Fourth Dynasty Giza pyramids.

c. 2181-2055 BC – First Intermediate Period. End of Old Kingdom and period of political instability.

c. 2040-1782 BC – Middle Kingdom. Sees political reunification.

c. 1700-1550BC – Second Intermediate Period. Renewed politcal instability. Hyksos, from the Levant, rule Egypt from the Delta.

c. 1550-1070BC – New Kingdom. Marks rise of Egypt as an international power expanding pharaonic rule to Nubia and the Levant. Noted for some of the most well known Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II.

525BC – Achaemenid Persians, led by Cambyses II, began their conquest of Egypt.

332BC – Egypt falls to Alexander the Great as part of his conquest of Achaemenid Persia.

323BC – Alexander dies.

305-30BC – Greek general Ptolemy and his descendants rule as pharaohs.

30BC – Egypt falls to Octavian – the future Roman emperor Augustus – after his forces defeat those of rival Mark Anthony and Egyptian Queen Cleopatra at the naval battle of Actium in 27BC.

Egypt is a key province of the Roman, and later the Byzantine empires.

639-642AD – Byzantine Egypt conquered by Muslim Arab armies. Muslim rulers remain in control of Egypt for the next six centuries.

1250-1517 – Mamluk Egypt. The country is ruled by a caste of freed slave soldiers.

1260 – The Mamluks under Sultan Qutuz and Baybars rout the Mongols halting their southward expansion.

1517 – Ottoman Turks conquer Egypt, which becomes part of the Ottoman empire, but a semi-autonomous province under the Mamluks.

1798 – French troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte invade.

1801 – Defeat of French forces by Ottomans and British.

1805 – Ottoman Albanian commander Muhammad Ali establishes dynasty that rules until 1952, although nominally part of the Ottoman Empire.

1867 – Egypt becomes a Khedivate with the Ottoman Empire

1869 – Suez Canal is completed in partnership with France, but it and other infrastructure projects nearly bankrupt the country and lead to gradual British takeover.

1882 – British troops defeat Egyptian army and take control of country.

1914 – World War One. Egypt formally becomes a British protectorate. Period is marked by growing nationalism and discontent with British rule .

1919 – Egyptian Revolution – a countrywide revolution against the British occupation of Egypt and Sudan triggered by the exiling of nationalist leaders.

1922 – Egypt gains independence, although British influence remains significant until mid-1950s.

1949 – Committee of the Free Officers’ Movement formed to overthrow the monarchy.

1952 – Coup sees Gamal Abdel Nasser become prime minister in 1954 and president in 1956. He sets up Egypt in opposition to the conservative Arab monarchies of the Gulf and Western interests in the Middle East.

1954 – Evacuation Treaty signed. British forces, who began a gradual withdrawal under 1936 treaty, finally leave Egypt.

1956 – President Nasser nationalises the Suez Canal to fund the Aswan High Dam, after Britain and US withdraw financing. Britain, France and Israel invade over nationalisation of Suez Canal, but withdraw at US insistence.

1958-61 – Egypt and Syria form the short-lived United Arab Republic.

1967 – Israeli pre-emptive attack defeats Egypt, Jordan and Syria, leaving it in control of Sinai up to the Suez Canal and Egyptian-occupied Gaza.

1970 – Nasser dies.

1973 – Egypt and Syria go to war with Israel to reclaim land lost in 1967.

1975 – Suez Canal is re-opened for first time since 1967 war.

1978 – President Anwar Sadat makes peace with Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from Sinai.

1981 – President Sadat is assassinated by Islamist extremists.

1997 – 62 people, mostly tourists, are massacred near Luxor.

2011 – Arab Spring popular uprising sees the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak.

2012 – Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, is elected president.

2013 – Country sees widespread turmoil between liberals and Islamists over Egypt’s future direction After public discontent with autocratic moves Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government, the army carries out a coup to oust Morsi. Army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi takes over.

Luxor temple site
Image caption,Ancient sites like Luxor draw millions of tourists to Egypt

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