Egypt

Egypt

Imagine stepping into a time machine and traveling back to an era filled with immense sand dunes, enigmatic pyramids, and powerful pharaohs. A land shrouded in mystery and steeped in culture, where the sun casts its warm embrace on the golden sands, and the ancient air whispers tales of an extraordinary past. You'd likely find yourself right in the heart of Egypt - a cradle of civilization that has captivated the imagination and inspired awe since the dawn of t ... Read More

Egypt

Egypt

Imagine stepping into a time machine and traveling back to an era filled with immense sand dunes, enigmatic pyramids, and powerful pharaohs. A land shrouded in mystery and steeped in culture, where the sun casts its warm embrace on the golden sands, and the ancient air whispers tales of an extraordinary past. You'd likely find yourself right in the heart of Egypt - a cradle of civilization that has captivated the imagination and inspired awe since the dawn of time. With every turn along the Nile River, every hieroglyph etched into age-old monuments, Egypt unravels its mesmerizing story, inviting us to delve deeper into a world that has enthralled historians, treasure-seekers, and travelers alike. Are you intrigued? Well, you should be! Join me as we embark on a riveting journey through the sands of time, exploring the vibrant history, culture, and heritage of this remarkable land - Egypt.

1. Location and Borders

Egypt, situated mainly in the northeastern corner of the African continent, shares its borders with numerous countries. To the north, it borders the Mediterranean Sea, while it shares its eastern border with the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea. This eastern portion of the country, known as the Sinai Peninsula, lies within the region referred to as the Middle East. Egypt's land borders include the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip to the northeast and Libya to the west. Additionally, Egypt shares maritime borders with Cyprus, Greece, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.

With its rich history and significant influence on the Arab and Muslim worlds, modern-day Egypt, also known as the Arab Republic of Egypt, occupies a territory of 1 million square kilometers. This makes Egypt almost twice the size of France or more than twice the size of the US state of Texas. The country has a population of over 102 million people (in 2021), making it the most populous country in the Arab world.

The capital city of Egypt is Cairo, which is also its largest city by far. The metropolitan area of Cairo, which includes the governorate of Giza, is home to approximately 20 million people. The official language spoken in Egypt is Modern Standard Arabic, while its colloquial dialect is Egyptian Arabic. The majority religion is Sunni Islam, consisting of 85-90% of the population, whereas Coptic Christians make up around 10-15% of the population.

The Nile River Valley is an essential part of Egypt's geography, with the majority of its population residing along the fertile valley, its delta, and the coastal plains of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. This contrasts sharply with the country's vast desert areas, which are sparsely populated. The Upper Nile, in particular, has played a significant role in the development of Egyptian culture and civilization, providing a life-sustaining artery for agriculture and urbanization.

2. History and Cultural Heritage

Ancient Egypt holds an unparalleled place in the annals of history. Spanning nearly 30 centuries, from its unification around 3100 B.C. to its conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C., this remarkable civilization left an indelible mark on the world. Through captivating pieces of art, impressive architectural creations, and an enduring religious tradition, Egypt has long been a subject of fascination for archaeologists and historians alike. This has given rise to a vibrant field of study known as Egyptology, delving deep into the mysteries of this ancient land.

The foundations of Egyptian society took shape over a prolonged period, starting from the Predynastic Period, which saw the gradual development of the Egyptian civilization over a span of at least 2,000 years. It was during this time that northeastern African communities began trading hunting practices for agriculture, paving the way for the eventual advancement of Egyptian arts, crafts, and religion.

With the establishment of two separate kingdoms around 3400 B.C. – the Red Land in the north and the White Land in the south – Egypt started taking recognizable shape. Over a century later, King Menes would succeed in overthrowing the northern kingdom, ultimately uniting the realms and earning his place as the first king of the first dynasty. As the first king, Menes contributed significantly to the establishment of the ancient Egyptian capital of White Walls (later known as Memphis), which would later become a metropolitan hub dominating Egyptian society during the Old Kingdom period.

During this era, Egypt reached the peak of its pyramid-building capabilities. The construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza, built for King Khufu (known as Cheops in Greek), was a monumental feat of human engineering. The pyramid was later acknowledged by historians as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which boasts an incredible combination of architectural skill and human effort.

The rich history and cultural heritage of ancient Egypt are preserved in the numerous monuments, artifacts, and objects that have been recovered from archaeological sites across the country. These priceless treasures, adorned with hieroglyphs that have only recently been deciphered, are testaments to the ingenuity and resilience of an ancient people who forged an enduring legacy.

3. Religion and Political Situation

Religion plays a significant role in the political landscape of Egypt, with Islam being recognized as the state religion and Sharia principles dominating legislation. The constitution, while granting freedom of belief and religious practices for divine religions, dictates that only those defined by the government can publicly practice and build houses of worship. This extends to the three officially recognized religions: Sunni Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Furthermore, political parties and activities founded on religious bases are prohibited.

Among the key religious institutions in Egypt is Al-Azhar, the principal authority on theology and Islamic affairs. The Grand Imam, who is elected by Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars, is appointed by the President for a lifetime term and can only be dismissed by the Council. The Grand Mufti, the highest Islamic legal official, is consulted for capital sentences but does not hold binding authority over such decisions. Of note, the canonical laws for Jews and Christians act as the foundation for legislation regarding their personal status, religious affairs, and selection of spiritual leaders.

Religion also features in civil affairs and identification for Egyptians, as national ID cards list religious designations limited to Muslim, Christian, or Jewish options. While the law maintains that individuals may change their religion, the government mainly recognizes conversions to Islam, with the exception of individuals who converted to Islam later in life. Those reverting from Islam to Christianity are subject to a meticulous legal process and documentation. There are notable instances of discrimination in terms of religious conversions and religious-based laws, which can lead to social and political tensions in the country.

4. Demography and Language

Egypt, located in North Africa, is the fourth-most populous country in the continent. With over 102 million people as of July 2021, most Egyptians reside near the banks of the Nile River, in the Nile Delta, and along the Suez Canal. These regions are among the world's most densely populated, containing an average of over 1540 persons per square kilometer, compared to a global average of 96 persons per square kilometer. The Egyptian government has attempted to encourage migration to newly reclaimed land from the desert, but the proportion of the population living in rural areas continues to decline as people move to megacities in search of employment and a higher standard of living.

Egyptians have a long history of mobility, primarily across the Arab world. In recent times, emigration has become much more popular due to increasing recognition as a right in the Egyptian constitution. Approximately 2.7 million Egyptians live abroad and actively contribute to their country's development through remittances, human and social capital, and investment. Most Egyptian migrants reside in Arab countries, with 70% living in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. The remaining 30% mostly live in North America and Europe.

Egypt has a very youthful population, with 51.2% of Egyptians being under the age of 25 and just 4.3% over the age of 65. The official language of Egypt is Arabic, a member of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. The vast majority of Egyptians are Muslim, constituting approximately 90% of the population, while Christians comprise the remaining 10%, with Coptic Christians being the largest religious minority.

In terms of literacy and education, modern Egyptian society has an adult literacy rate of about 57%. Education is free and compulsory for children from ages six through 15, and the country's educational institutions range from primary and secondary schools to major universities like Alexandria University and Al-Azhar University, which is one of the world's leading centers of Islamic learning.

5. Economy and Industry

Egypt's economy is a diverse one, mainly relying on agriculture, media, petroleum imports, natural gas, and tourism. It stands as the second-largest in Africa with regard to purchasing power and nominal GDP as of 2022. The country has made notable efforts in implementing structural reforms aimed at diversifying its economy and driving foreign investment. These efforts include changes in fiscal and monetary policies, taxation, and new business legislation, which have resulted in improved annual growth figures. As a consequence, pressing issues like unemployment and inflation have experienced a significant decline.

The country's strategic location near Europe and its growing exports provide added benefits for Egypt's economy. Additionally, it boasts a stable exchange rate and well-supported external finances, which make it an attractive destination for investors. In the past decade, the pace of economic reforms has accelerated, helping Egypt shift towards a more market-oriented economy. This has not only spurred increased foreign investment, but also strengthened domestic industries.

Historically, Egypt's economy was heavily reliant on agriculture, particularly cotton, which was introduced in the 1820s. The transition to modern irrigation techniques played a significant role in cotton cultivation and was a crucial factor in the country's ambitious economic development program. However, until the 1930s, Egypt's industrialization attempts proved to be less than successful primarily due to Britain's imposed restrictions on tariffs.

Egypt's economic growth accelerated in the 19th century, but it was mainly confined to the cotton sector and supporting facilities like transportation and finance. Little revenue from cotton production was invested in economic development, resulting in a stagnation of per capita gross national product (GNP) between the end of World War I and the 1950s. The revolutionary regime in the 1950s shifted its focus on tackling the economic and political crises, giving greater priority to industrialization efforts, which ultimately contributed to the country's overall growth.

Despite these challenges, Egypt's economy has shown impressive resilience in recent years. The diversification of its economic sectors, coupled with favorable government policies and reforms, has successfully transformed the nation's growth trajectory. As a result, Egypt is now well-positioned to become a major player in the global market and a hub for trade and investment in the African region.

6. Travel and Entry Requirements

Egypt has specific entry and travel requirements that all individuals, including U.S. citizens, must adhere to before visiting the country. Firstly, U.S. citizens must obtain a visa to enter Egypt, which can be a renewable single-entry 30-day tourist visa available on arrival at Egyptian airports for a $25 USD fee. Alternatively, U.S. citizens can opt for a multiple-entry visa for $60 USD. The Government of Egypt has also established an official website dedicated to the issuance of electronic visas.

It is essential for travelers to be aware of Egypt's COVID-19 guidelines and related entry requirements. While the country has lifted its entry restrictions, and negative COVID-19 tests are no longer required for travel to Egypt, visitors should remain informed about ongoing measures and potential changes. Health screening procedures are in place at airports and other ports of entry to ensure passenger safety.

Visitors should also know that there is no quarantine requirement for U.S. citizens entering Egypt. However, if a person tests positive for COVID-19 while in Egypt, they will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period. To adhere to precautionary measures, such as wearing a mask indoors, individuals must comply with local laws to avoid incurring fines or facing prosecution.

For COVID-19 testing, several private testing centers and the Central Public Health Lab are available in Egypt. Testing costs may vary, and faster service may be offered for an additional fee. It is important to note that the cost of COVID-19 testing is the responsibility of the individual traveler and is not covered by the Government of Egypt.

Lastly, travelers should stay updated on the availability of vaccines in Egypt. The country's Ministry of Health has reported that anyone over 18 years of age is eligible for vaccination, including foreign residents. As the situation evolves, it is crucial for U.S. citizens planning to visit Egypt to regularly check for updates on entry and travel requirements to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey.

7. Security and Terrorism Threats

Egypt faces a significant risk of terrorist attacks from various extremist groups, with the majority of these incidents occurring in the Sinai Peninsula. While these attacks largely target security forces, civilians, tourists, and religious minorities are also at risk. The issue of terrorism remains a major concern, with incidents occurring throughout the country and affecting both locals and foreigners. The main groups responsible for terrorist activities in Egypt are ISIS-Sinai Province (ISIS-SP), Harakat Sawa'd Misr (HASM), and al-Qa’ida allied groups such as Ansar al-Islam.

The methods of terrorist attacks in Egypt include small arms attacks, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), Vehicle-Borne IEDs (VBIEDs), kidnappings, executions, targeted assassinations, and complex assaults. One notable attack in 2019 involved an IED under a tour bus carrying foreigners near the Great Pyramids at Giza. Tourist sites and large gatherings, especially during religious festivals, face an increased risk of terrorist attacks.

In response to these threats, the Egyptian authorities maintain a substantial security presence throughout the country. Armed security officers are stationed at important sites, critical infrastructure, and road checkpoints, with additional measures in place for tourist sites. Despite these precautions, however, terrorist groups continue to pose a significant threat to the country.

In order to further combat terrorism, the Egyptian Parliament has introduced new amendments to the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Law and formed a new counterterrorism committee to revise national legislation. The aim is to develop a more effective strategy against terrorism, keeping the safety and security of both locals and visitors in mind.

While visiting Egypt, tourists must remain vigilant and maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in crowded places and at large gatherings. Cooperation with security officials and observance of any additional security measures is essential to minimize the risk of being caught up in a terrorist attack.

8. Infrastructure and Public Holidays

Egypt boasts an elaborate and well-developed infrastructure to support its growing population and tourism sector. The country's transportation network includes a vast road system, railways, waterways, and several international airports. Egyptians rely on various modes of transport, such as cars, buses, trains, and even boats to navigate the country. The government has invested heavily in infrastructure projects in recent years to improve connectivity and provide better services to its citizens and tourists.

One of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in Egypt is the construction of the New Administrative Capital, which is expected to alleviate the congestion and pollution in Cairo. This new capital city, located 45 kilometers east of Cairo, is designed to house government institutions, foreign embassies, and residential areas. The government plans to complete the construction of this city by the end of 2022, highlighting the rapid pace of development in the country.

Besides its transportation infrastructure, Egypt also excels in providing reliable utilities and telecommunication services. The country's power supply is generally stable, and the government continues to invest in renewable energy projects such as solar and wind farms. Internet penetration in Egypt is steadily increasing, and the government has set a target to expand 4G and 5G coverage in the coming years.

Moving on to public holidays, Egypt has a mix of national secular and religious holidays celebrated throughout the year. Government offices, ministries, and some businesses close during these occasions. Among the national secular holidays are the July 23rd Revolution Day, marking the establishment of the modern republic of Egypt, and Sinai Liberation Day, which commemorates the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula.

Religious holidays in Egypt primarily follow the Islamic lunar calendar, leading to some variability in their dates each year. Key Islamic holidays include the Islamic New Year, the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, commemorating the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Another notable holiday is Sham El Nessim, which has ancient Egyptian roots and marks the beginning of spring. While its date is not fixed in any calendar, it is usually celebrated on the Monday following the Coptic Christian Easter.

In conclusion, Egypt has a robust infrastructure that continues to grow and meet the needs of its population and visitors. The country's public holidays showcase a rich blend of national, historical, and religious celebrations that bring people together throughout the year.

9. Flight and Aviation Risks

In recent years, Egypt has faced various threats in terms of flight and aviation risks, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, where active airspace warnings remain from both the UK and Germany. Both countries have advised against overflights below 25,000ft in the northern part of the region due to ongoing terrorist activities and a history of attacks on aircraft.

The Sinai Peninsula presents a heightened risk for overflights and landings, with a focus on the northern part of the region. In March 2022, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) canceled its airspace warning for the Sinai Peninsula below 25,000ft. However, the risk for aircraft operating in this region remains, with threats arising from extremist militants using anti-aviation and ground-to-ground weaponry.

Civil German air operators have been recommended not to enter the Cairo Flight Information Region within the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula below 25,000ft due to the ongoing risk of extremist militant attacks involving anti-aircraft weapons such as man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), and small arms fire.

In the past, the militant group ISIS-Sinai has targeted aviation-related targets, including a Russian A321 in 2015 that was brought down by a bomb loaded at Sharm El Sheikh Airport, as well as a military VIP helicopter in 2017. The group has also demonstrated the capability to conduct attacks in southern Sinai, such as the 2017 rocket attack fired towards Eilat, Israel.

Not only are there threats from terrorism, but maintenance and safety lapses have also been revealed in Egyptian aviation, leading to multiple accidents. One such example is the 2016 EgyptAir flight, where a French judicial probe indicated that the airline ignored serious mechanical issues on the aircraft, ultimately resulting in a crash that killed all 66 people on board.

In conclusion, Egypt continues to face flight and aviation risks arising from various threats, including terrorism, maintenance, and safety issues. Both travelers and airline operators should remain vigilant when flying in or near the Sinai Peninsula and stay updated on current warnings and advisories.

10. Laws and Local Customs

Egypt, known for its rich history and cultural heritage, is a popular destination for travelers worldwide. However, as a predominantly Islamic country, it is essential for tourists to respect local laws and customs. This not only ensures a trouble-free trip but also allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the fascinating culture of this beautiful land.

One of the aspects to be aware of while in Egypt is the importance of modest clothing, particularly in rural areas, mosques, and markets. Both men and women are expected to cover up, with women advised to cover their heads and hands when entering sacred places such as mosques and churches. Additionally, public displays of affection are frowned upon and can even lead to trouble with the authorities in some cases.

Religious practices are an essential part of Egyptian daily life, and tourists should be respectful of this. For example, during the holy month of Ramadan, it is advised to avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public places. When visiting sacred sites, visitors are often required to remove their shoes and follow other religious customs, such as women covering their heads.

In Egypt, consuming alcohol is generally restricted to licensed restaurants and bars. Drinking in public or on the streets can lead to arrest and legal trouble. Similarly, the possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs is a severe offense, potentially resulting in long prison sentences or even the death penalty.

Photography is another area where tourists should tread carefully. It is vital to seek permission before taking pictures of locals, particularly children, and official installations such as military bases, government buildings, and infrastructure. Drones are also banned without prior authorization from the Egyptian Ministry of Defense.

While same-sex sexual activity is not explicitly criminalized in Egypt, the charge of debauchery has been used to prosecute LGBT individuals. Public expressions of homosexuality or public displays of affection between same-sex couples are likely to receive a high degree of unwelcome attention. Travelers are advised to be cautious about engaging in discussions of a sexual nature on social media or sharing content that may be considered illegal.

Finally, Egyptian family law differs from that of the UK and other western countries, particularly concerning child custody. Tourists should be aware of this and exercise caution when such issues arise. By understanding and respecting the local laws and customs of Egypt, travelers can fully enjoy the rich cultural experience this incredible country has to offer.

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