Literary Arabic is the sole official language. Egyptian Arabic is the national spoken language. Other dialects and minority languages are spoken regionally.
“Among the peoples of the ancient Near East, only the Egyptians have stayed where they were and remained what they were, although they have changed their language once and their religion twice. In a sense, they constitute the world’s oldest nation”.
Officially the Arab Republic of Egypt is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, the Red Sea to the east and south, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west.
Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, and across from the Sinai Peninsula lies Saudi Arabia, although Jordan and Saudi Arabia do not share a land border with Egypt.
Egypt emerged as one of the world’s first nation states in the tenth millennium BC. Considered a cradle of civilisation, Ancient Egypt saw some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organised religion and central government.
Iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy and remain a significant focus of scientific and popular interest.
Egypt’s long and rich cultural heritage is an integral part of its national identity, which has endured, and often assimilated, various foreign influences, including Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and European.
Egypt was an early and important centre of Christianity but was largely made Muslims in the seventh century and remains a predominantly Muslim country, albeit with a significant Christian minority.
Modern Egypt dates back to 1922, when it gained independence from the British Empire as a monarchy. Following the 1952 revolution, Egypt declared itself a republic, and in 1958 it merged with Syria to form the United Arab Republic, which dissolved in 1961.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Egypt endured social and religious strife and political instability, fighting several armed conflicts with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, and occupying the Gaza Strip intermittently until 1967.
In 1980, Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and recognising Israel. The country continues to face challenges from terrorism, political unrest, and economic underdevelopment.
With over 95 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa (after Nigeria and Ethiopia), and the fifteenth-most populous in the world.
The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found.
The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of Egypt’s territory, are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt’s residents live in urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Egypt is considered to be a regional power in North Africa, the Middle East and the Muslim world, and a middle power worldwide. Egypt’s economy is one of the largest and most diversified in the Middle East, and is projected to become one of the largest in the 21st century.
In 2016, Egypt overtook South Africa and became Africa’s second largest economy. Egypt is a founding member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, African Union, and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The English name Egypt is derived from the Ancient Greek Aígyptos via Middle French Egypte and Latin Aegyptus. It is reflected in early Greek Linear B tablets as a-ku-pi-ti-yo.
The adjective aigýpti-, aigýptios was borrowed into Coptic as gyptios, and from there into Arabic as qubṭī, back formed into qubṭ, whence English Copt.
The Greek forms were borrowed from Late Egyptian (Amarna) Hikuptah “Memphis”, a corruption of the earlier Egyptian name meaning “home of the ka (soul) of Ptah”, the name of a temple to the god Ptah at Memphis.
Strabo attributed the word to a folk etymology in which Aigyptos evolved as a compound from Aigaiou huptiōs, meaning “below the Aegean”.
Miṣr or Egyptia is the Classical Quranic Arabic and modern official name of Egypt, while Maṣr or Masar is the local pronunciation in Egyptian Arabic.
The name is of Semitic origin, directly cognate with other Semitic words for Egypt such as the Hebrew.
The oldest attestation of this name for Egypt is the Akkadian mi-iṣ-ru miṣru, related to miṣru/miṣirru/miṣaru, meaning “border” or “frontier”.
The ancient Egyptian name of the country was km.t, which means black land, likely referring to the fertile black soils of the Nile flood plains, distinct from the deshret, or “red land” of the desert.
This name is commonly vocalised as Kemet, but was probably pronounced [kuːmat] in ancient Egyptian. The name is realised as kēme and kēmə in the Coptic stage of the Egyptian language, and appeared in early Greek as Χημία (Khēmía).
Another name was “land of the riverbank”. The names of Upper and Lower Egypt were Ta-Sheme’aw “sedgeland” and Ta Mehew “north land”, respectively.