Flag of Egypt


The Arab Republic of Egypt is a country in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west. The country covers an area of just over 1 million square kilometres, and is home to nearly 80 million people, making it the fifteenth most populous country in the world. The vast majority live near the banks of the Nile River where the only arable agricultural land is found, and the large areas of land that form part of the Sahara Desert are sparsely inhabited. Around half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with the majority spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo (the largest city in Africa and the Middle East), Alexandria and other major towns in the Nile Delta.

With high levels of heat, confusion, hassle and stomach bugs to contend with, Egypt may not be an easy country for travellers; however, greatly improved security measures mean anti-Western activities have been largely curtailed. And for those prepared to brave a few discomforts, this extraordinary country assaults the senses.

Egypt is famous for its ancient civilisation and some of the world's most ancient and important monuments, including the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza; the southern city of Luxor contains a particularly large number of ancient artefacts such as the astonishingly beautiful temples of Karnak or the painted tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Today, Egypt is widely regarded as a main political and cultural centre of the Middle East.

The life-giving Nile pours across the map, feeding an emerald ribbon of irrigated fields adjacent to villages shaded by date palms. Whether on a cruise ship or traditional felucca, life on the water is a constant visual feast, while the few huge, dusty cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Aswan and Luxor are a babble of exotic sounds and smells.

Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheik, on the Red Sea coast, are doors to a magical underwater world of technicolour fish and coral favoured by divers, whilst other adventurous travellers head inland. Here, visitors can discover monasteries amid the arid mountains of Sinai or the distant desert oases, homes of the hardy nomads whose camel trains still wander the Saharan sands.

The English name 'Egypt' is thought to have come from the ancient Greek word Aigyptos, meaning 'below the Aegean'. It has also been suggested that the word is a corruption of the ancient Egyptian phrase that meant 'home of the Ka (Soul) of Ptah', the name of a temple of the god Ptah at Memphis.

Map of Egypt