Introduction to Geography of Egypt

Egypt, or Arab Republic of Egypt, a country in the Middle East, mostly in northeastern Africa but partly in southwestern Asia. Egyptians call their country Misr.

Egypt fronts on the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered by Libya, Sudan, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba, and Israel. The area of Egypt is 386,662 square miles (1,001,450 km2). Except for the Nile Valley, almost all of it is desert—part of the vast Sahara that spans the African continent in the north. Egypt's maximum dimensions are about 680 miles (1,090 km) north-south and 660 miles (1,060 km) east-west.

Physical Geography

EgyptEgypt is a Middle Eastern country that lies in the northeast corner of Africa.

The Nile Valley, including the delta, is Egypt's most notable physical feature. For thousands of years this narrow, densely settled ribbon of land, with its fertile soils and its reliable supply of water, has nurtured Egyptian civilization. South of Cairo, in the area known as Upper Egypt, the valley varies from 1 to 13 miles (1.6 to 21 km) in width and in many places is flanked by high cliffs. North of Cairo, in Lower Egypt, the flat delta begins; it gradually fans out to a maximum width of about 150 miles (240 km) along the Mediterranean coast.

West of the Nile Valley are the vast tracts of sand, shifting dunes, gravel, and rocky outcrops that make up the Western and Libyan deserts. Here, too, are scattered oases, chief of which are the Faiyum, Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, Kharga, and Siwa oases. Elevations throughout the west are generally less than 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level. On the Gilf Kebir Plateau, in the southwest, they reach more than 3,300 feet (1,000 m). There are also scattered areas of below-sea-level land in the west. The Qattara Depression, at the edge of the Libyan Plateau, descends to 436 feet (133 m) below sea level, one of the lowest points in Africa.

East of the Nile is the Eastern Desert. It consists mainly of desolate, rough plateaus rising gradually eastward and reaching their greatest height in mountainous areas near the Red Sea coast. A few peaks rise 5,000 to 7,000 feet (1,500 to 2,100 m) above sea level.

The Sinai Peninsula, a triangular block of land, has terrain resembling that of the Eastern Desert. It is highest and most rugged in the south. Mount Katherina rises here to 8,652 feet (2,637 m), which is Egypt's highest point. Elevations decline northward in the Sinai as the land gradually flattens and becomes sandy desert along the Mediterranean coast.


The Nile, fed by countless streams originating in the more humid parts of Africa, is Egypt's only river and the source of practically all its water. Elsewhere, there are only wadis, stream beds that are dry except for brief periods following rare thunderstorms in the desert. Limited amounts of subterranean and artesian water are available in the scattered oases.


Egypt is a developing country that faces a number of economic problems, such as that of foreign debt, which arises out of the cost of its imports being in excess of its income from exports. Service Industries have become increasingly important to the Egyptian economy, many Egyptians work in such services as banking, government, and trade, as well as communication, education, and transportation. Food processing and textile production are among the most important industries in Egypt, apart from cement, chemicals, fertilizers, motor vehicles, and steel. Cairo and Alexandria are the leading manufacturing centers of Egypt. Egypt has about six and a half million acres (2.6 million hectares) of farmland, situated mostly along the Nile, and primarily under private ownership. About 70 percent of Egypt’s farms are 1 acre (0.4 hectare) or less in area. Cotton is Egypt's most valuable cash crop, as the country is a world leader in the production, of high quality long-staple (long-fibered) cotton, which is known for its strength and durability. Important crops of Egypt include corn, potatoes, rice, sugar cane, tomatoes and wheat. The most important fruits grown in Egypt include apples, bananas, grapes, oranges and other citrus fruits, and watermelons. Egypt leads the world in the production of dates, which are cultivated mainly in the desert oases. Livestock including goats and sheep are raised for meat, milk, and wool. Cattle and water buffaloes are kept chiefly as work animals, though they also provide some milk.

Egypt's most important minerals are petroleum and natural gas, apart from iron ore, manganese, and phosphate rock. Egypt imports more goods than it exports, which has led to foreign debt. The major imports of Egypt include food, machinery, and transportation equipment with its major suppliers being China, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. Egyptian exports include cotton fibers and products, fruits, and petroleum, which are chiefly marketed to India, Italy, and the United States. Alexandria, on the Mediterranean Sea, ranks as Egypt's leading port, with two other key ports, Port Said and Suez, lying on the Suez Canal.


Egypt is a democratic and socialist society, as per the Constitution adopted in 1971. It is a republic with a strong national government that has three branches, an executive branch headed by a president, a legislative branch called the People's Assembly, and a judicial branch, or court system. The president serves as the center of power in Egypt, and can be in power for an unlimited number of six-year terms. The president may appoint one or more vice presidents, the prime minister and the council of ministers (cabinet). In addition, the president also commands Egypt's armed forces. The president, thus, holds great influence and authority at all levels of government. The central government, in its turn, selects all local administrators. The People's Assembly has 444 members elected by Egyptian voters, along with 10 more members that may be appointed by the president. Egypt also has a 264-member Shura Council that functions as an advisory body. Two-thirds of the members are elected by the people, and the rest are appointed by the President to serve six-year terms. Egypt is divided into 27 political units called governorates, headed by a governor, who has been appointed by the President.

The National Democratic Party is Egypt's largest political party, consisting of the president, as well as a majority of top government officials. The National Democratic Party supports a mixture of public and private ownership. All Egyptian citizens aged 18 or older are eligible to vote. The highest court in Egypt is the supreme constitutional court. The lower courts include the appeals courts, tribunals of first instance (regional courts), and district courts. About 450,000 people serve in Egypt's armed forces, apart from the 250,000 members who are enlisted in the military reserves.