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Egypt or theArab Republic of Egypt (جمهورية مصر العربية) is the most populous Arab country, the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, and the third most populous predominantly Islamic country after Indonesia and Pakistan. In 2000 the population of Egypt was approximately 67.78 million. Consistent with demographic trends across Arab, across African, and across predominantly Islamic countries, the population is expected to increase to 103.16 million by 2025.

The infant mortality rate in 2001 was 35 per 1000, compared with 6 in neighboring Israel, 16 in neighboring Libya, and 65 in neighboring Sudan. The infant mortality rate in Egypt is the same as in Iran: 35 per 1000.

The 2003 per capita Gross National Income in Egypt is $1,390 compared to $16,240 in neighboring Israel and $460 in neighboring Sudan. The figure for Libya is unavilable or unreliable. In Iran According to the is $2,010. Source: "World Development Indicators, 2003". World Bank. Unemployment and underemployment are high Egypt.

The population is approximately 94% Sunni Muslim and 6% Coptic Orthodox Christian. The dominant Hanafi school of Sunni Islam is largely organised by the state, through Wizaret Al-Awkaf (Ministry of Religious Affairs). Al-Awkaf controls all mosques and overviews Muslim clerics. Imams are trained in Imam vocational schools and at Al-Azhar University. The department supports Sunni Islam and has commissions authorised to give Fatwa judgements on Islamic issues. Egypt hosts two major religious institutions. Al-Azhar University (Arabic: جامعة الأزهر) is the oldest Islamic institution of higher studies, founded in 970 A.D.

Egypts Christian heritage predates Islam. The Coptic Orthodox Church headed by the Patriarch of Alexandria has a following of approximately 50 million Christians worldwide (one of the famous Coptic Orthodox Churches is Saint Takla Haimanot Church in Alexandria [1]).

There are also gutsy Egyptians who identify as atheist and agnostic, but their numbers are largely unknown as openly advocating such positions risks legal sanction. In 2000, an openly atheist Egyptian writer, who called for the establishment of a local association for atheists, was tried on charges of insulting Islam and its prophet in four of his books [2]. There are also tiny Jewish and Bahai populations.

Although the country has an area of 386,000 square miles, or the size of Spain and France combined, most of the population lives on less the 5% of the land--the narrow strip of land along the Nile River and the Nile Delta. The Nile River is no wider than 9 miles across until after it flows north of the capital city of Cairo. The Aswan High Dam, which was built in 1971 to control the release of irrigation water, resulted in an increase in the ttal area of irrigated land by one-third. However it has also deprived the other soils of the regular deposits of soil, with a resulting loss of fertility. Egypt's fellahin or rural peasantry traditionally have large families to provide child farm labor. When the small plots of land fail to sustain these former child farm laborers as adults they usually migrate to crowded urabn areas in seach of work.


Recent Political History

Egypt was a classic hydralic state for millennia, with a hereditary monarchy and state and religious bureaucracies exploiting a large peasantry. Construction of the Suez Canal using conscripted Egyptian peasant labor and French engineering and investment capital gave the Egyptian state (nominally under the control of the Ottoman Sultan but actually de facto independent under the Khedive) a new source of economic rents from the movement of ships and goods from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and beyond to the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. In 1882 Britain took indirect control of Egypt to safegurad its stratagic and economic interests in the Suez Canal. With the completion of the Suez Canal, British ships could move between Britain and British colonial India much quicker. Together with France, Britain also owned the Suez Canal Company after the Khedive went bankrupt and was forced to sell out.

In 1914 Britain declared Egypt a protectorate and ended the legal fiction that the Ottoman Empire was still sovereign. In 1922 Egypt was granted independence of sorts under a hand-picked Khedive but continued to be ruled indorectly by the British.


The Egyptian government is a presidential dictatorship wearing the thin disguise of a presidential democracy.

September 7, 2005 Presidential Election Returns

The outcome of Egypt's September 7, 2005 presidential election--victory of President Hosni Mubarak-was widely perceived as having been the product of electoral fraud and vote rigging by the government. Daring to challenge Mubarak and the legitimacy of his election victory earned opposition leader Ayman Abdel Aziz Nour a conviction of fraud for supposedly falsifying signatures to register his Tomorrow Party and a five year jail sentence. The second Bush adminsitration US responded to the judicial decisison by commenting that it cast doubt on Cairo's democratic credentials. Source: "U.S. Wants Egypt Politician Freed." BBC. December 24, 2005. No one except senior foreign policy decision-makers in the second Bush administration ever took "Cairo's democratic credentials" seriously. Official Washington's neo-conservatives appear ever surprised when wishful-thinking and cheap public relations fails to be effective. Only they appear to ahve beleived that calling the Egyptian government a democracy would turn it into one. But then they need to claim that democracies are springing up all over the Middle East to support the even sillier belief that the Republican War In Iraq will result in a regional wave of democratization.

Voter Turnout in the presidential contest was a relatively low 22.95% of registered voters. Public protests were held to the government's electoral electoral fraud.

Parliamentary elections held in November for 444 of the 454 seats in the People's Assembly or Majlis al-Sha'b, the lower chamber of parliament, were widely believed to be a freer and fairer reflection of popular preferences in Egypt. The other 10 seats are filled by presidential appointment. candidates of the banned Muslim Brotherhood were successful in winning some 88 parliamentary seats, a marked increase from 15 seats in the last parliamentary election. According to Egypt's Ambassador to the U.S. Nabil Fahmy Egypt is not going Islamist. He claimed that voters were instead voting for change.

Another 176 seats of the 274 seat Advisory Council or Majlis al-Shura, the parliamentary upper chamber, are also popularly elected. The remining 88 seats are filled by presidential appointment.

Facade Democracy

Egyptians are ruled by the best faux democratic political system that the United States will buy. Since the 2005 elections, the Egytian state has been squeezing closed the political space for opposition:

  • Fear of the organizational strength of the Muslim Brotherhood caused Hosni Mubarak to make the decisison on February 13, 2006 to postpone local elections for two years.
  • The most important opposition politican, Ayman Abdel Aziz Nour, was given a 5 year prison sentence.
  • Judges who reported election fraud were punished.
  • Citizens have been denied the right to organize new political parties.
  • On April 30, 2006 Mubarak pushed legislation through the Egyptian parliament extending for another two years the emergency law allowing the indefinite detention of political prisoners without charge or trial. The government has already had that power for 25 years.
  • On March 18, 2007 Mubarak pushed through constitutional amendments that give Mubarak power to bypass ordinary crimianl courts and refer anyone suspected of terrorism to military and special courts.


Contemporary Politics

  • Michael Slackman. "Egypt Renews Emergency Detention Law'." The New York Times. May 1, 2006. Page A3.
  • Michael Slackman. "Egypt's Leader Moves to Delay Local Elections." The New York Times. February 14, 2006. Page A1.
  • Barry Schweid. "Ambassador: Egypt Not Going Islamist." Associated Press. December 15, 2005.
  • Mary Anne Weaver. 1999, 2000. A Portrait of Egypt: A Journey Through the World of Militant Islam. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. ISBN 0374527105.

Suez Crisis

  • Michael T Thornhill. 2006. Road to Suez: The Battle of the Canal Zone. Sutton.
  • Barry Turner. 2006. Suez 1956: The Inside Story of the First Oil War. Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Roger Louis. 2006. Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez and Decolonization. IB Tauris.
  • Martin Wollacott. 2006. After Suez: Adrift in the American Century. IB Tauris.

External Links

Guides, News Portals, Bibliographies, and General Information

  • Country Guides: Egypt
  • - Expatriate commentary on current affairs in Egypt (focus on culture, domestic politics, the Egyptian Left, the Muslim Brotherhood, and opposition to the Mubarak regime)

News Articles and Essays

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