Long known for its pyramids and ancient civilisation, Egypt is the largest Arab country and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics in modern times.
In the 1950s President Gamal Abdul Nasser pioneered Arab nationalism and the non-aligned movement, while his successor Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel and turned back to the West.
Egypt’s teeming cities – and almost all agricultural activity – are concentrated along the banks of the Nile, and on the river’s delta. Deserts occupy most of the country.
The economy depends heavily on agriculture, tourism and cash remittances from Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.
However, rapid population growth and the limited amount of arable land are straining the country’s resources and economy, and political unrest has often paralysed government efforts to address the problems.
President: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Retired Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected president in May 2014, almost a year after he removed his predecessor, President Mohammed Morsi, from office in a popularly-backed coup.
He had served as armed forced chief under Mr Morsi, and was a key figure in the interim government which took over after the ouster.
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Egypt is a major regional media player. Its press is one of the most influential and widely-read in the region, and its TV and film industry supplies much of the Arab-speaking world with shows from its Media Production City.
Former President Hosni Mubarak’s departure in early 2011 precipitated an editorial u-turn among state media that had served for decades as government mouthpieces.
But despite the freedoms ushered in by the uprising, state and private news outlets have struggled to provide genuinely independent coverage.
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Some key dates in Egypt’s history:
circa 3000 BC – Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt unite. Successive dynasties witness flourishing trade, prosperity and the development of great cultural traditions.
332 BC – Alexander the Great, of ancient Macedonia, conquers Egypt, founds Alexandria. A Macedonian dynasty rules until 31 BC.
31 BC – Egypt comes under Roman rule; Queen Cleopatra commits suicide after Octavian’s army defeats her forces.
33 AD – Christianity comes to Egypt, and by 4th century has largely displaced Egyptian religion.
4th-6th centuries – Roman province of Egypt becomes part of the Byzantine or eastern Roman Empire.
642 – Arab conquest of Egypt.
1517 – Egypt absorbed into the Turkish Ottoman empire.
1805 – Ottoman Albanian commander Muhammad Ali establishes dynasty that rules until 1952, although nominally part of the Ottoman Empire.
1869 – Suez Canal is completed, but it and other infrastructure projects nearly bankrupt the country and lead to gradual British takeover.
1882 – Britain takes control of country.
1922 – Fuad I becomes King and Egypt gains independence, although British influence remains significant until mid-1950s.
1948 – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria attack the new state of Israel.
1956 – Britain, France and Israel invade over nationalisation of Suez Canal.
1981 – President Sadat assassinated by Islamist extremists. He is succeeded by his vice-president Hosni Mubarak.
2011 – “Arab Spring” popular uprising topples Mr Mubarak.
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