Driving Directions Egypt
EGYPT is a republic in northeast Africa situated between Africa and Asia. The country’s outstanding physical feature is the River Nile, the valley and delta of which cover about 35,580 square kilometers or 13,737 square miles. Although over 90 percent of the Arab Republic of Egypt consists of desert, most of which are uninhabited, the country was the birthplace of one of the most astonishing, ancient civilizations in the world, with a written record dating back to about 3,200 years BC.
The development of this civilization was made possible by the presence of the River Nile. Then, as now, human settlement was concentrated along the banks of the Nile, whose annual flooding deposited rich alluvial sediments which could be cultivated. At its lower end, the Nile divides to form a fan-shaped delta where the greatest amount of alluvial silt deposited, making this the most fertile area. However, construction of the Aswan High Dam at the head of Lake Nasser has greatly reduced the silt deposits and led to a consequent loss of fertility. Also, coastal erosion along the country’s Mediterranean shores has resulted in increased salinization of its water supplies.
The deserts of Egypt are far from uniform, varying from the huge Great Sand Sea in the Libyan or Western Desert to rocky, mountainous regions in the Eastern Desert along the shores of the Red Sea and the southern Sinai Peninsula. Mount Sinai or Jebel Musa (2,285 meters or 7,500 feet) located in Sinai which is separated from the rest of Egypt by the Suez Canal. In the Western or Libyan Desert, there are several areas which lie well below sea level, the greatest being the Qattara Depression. Descending to 133 meters or 436 feet below sea level and covering an area of 18,000 square kilometers or 7,000 square miles, it is the lowest place in Africa.
Also in this region are several oases which provide small areas for human settlement. Archaeological evidence has revealed that the climate and environment of Egypt were once more hospitable and widely settled and the oases are the remnants of this period. Natural vegetation is limited to the Nile Valley and oases and includes the date palm, tamarisk, and acacia. Papyrus, a type of reed which was used to make ‘paper’ by the ancient Egyptians and was once widespread along the Nile, is now found only near the southern border. Mammal species are relatively few but other wildlife, especially reptiles, birds and invertebrates, are well represented.
All of Egypt experiences hot summers and mild winters. There is some rainfall in winter on the Mediterranean coast where sea breezes moderate temperatures. Conditions become drier and more extreme southwards, particularly in the desert where great fluctuations in daily temperature occur from very hot during the day to freezing at night. Around 99 percent of the population lives in the Nile river valley and delta, and this concentration makes it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The rich soils deposited by floodwaters along the banks of the Nile can support a large population, and the delta is one of the world’s most fertile agricultural regions where main tire crops are rice, cotton, sugar cane, maize, tomatoes, and wheat. The main industries are food processing and textiles.
The discovery of oil has boosted the economy, and there is enough to supply tire country’s needs and leave a surplus for export. Natural gas production is increasing for domestic use, and Egypt has a significant fishing industry, mainly in the shallow lakes and the Red Sea. The Suez Canal, shipping and tourism (connected with the ancient sites) are also important revenue earners.
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