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Learn more about doing successful business in Egypt. This page has information about Egypt’s economy, history and even some useful Arabic phrases. Expand your international business expertise with Lingo24’s International Business Knowledge Base.

Facts and figures

Official name: Arab Republic of Egypt
Language: Arabic
Currency: Egyptian pound
Capital: Cairo
Population: 74,718,797 (2003)
Area: 997,739 sq km (385,229 sq mi.)

Egypt, commonly known as “The Motherland of the World”, “Land of Civilisations” and “The Greatest Power in Human History”, is reputed worldwide for its distinct 7,000-year-old record of civilisation and immense wealth of knowledge. This has made Egypt a master and pioneer of science, arts, culture, architecture as well as almost all fields of human knowledge.

Amongst all civilisations and nations, Egypt has always maintained a unique position. Historically, Egypt is universally acknowledged as the world’s most ancient state with a unified societal entity within its current geographical borders.

Egypt borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and Palestine to the northeast; on the north and the east are the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, respectively.

Egypt is the fifteenth most populous country in the world. The vast majority of its 78.8 million population live near the banks of the Nile River (about 40,000 km² or 15,450 sq. miles), where the only arable agricultural land is found. Large areas of land are part of the Sahara Desert and are sparsely inhabited. About half of the Egyptian people today are urban, living in the densely populated centers of greater Cairo, the largest city in Africa and the Middle East, and Alexandria.

Egypt is famous for its ancient civilisation and some of the world’s most ancient and important monuments, including the Gisa Pyramids, the Karnak Temple, the Valley of the Kings and the Great Sphinx of Gisa; the southern city of Luxor contains a particularly large number of ancient artifacts. Today, Egypt is widely regarded as the main political and cultural centre of the Arab and Middle Eastern regions.

Location

Egypt enjoys a distinguished geographical location at the juncture of the ancient world continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. It has always been a place of inter-civilisation reactivation between East and West as well as North and South. Egypt was also the crossroads of the heavenly religions of the world.

Climate

Throughout Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, and nights are cool. Egypt has only two seasons: a mild winter from November to April and a hot summer from May to October. The only differences between the seasons are variations in daytime temperatures and changes in prevailing winds.

History

Egypt enjoys a deep-rooted civilisation which began when the ancient Egyptians established on the bank of the River Nile the first central state. Throughout centuries, the Egyptians interacted with other civilisations and peoples.

Yet, Egypt kept its cultural peculiarity which historians divide into Pharaonic Era which lasted for 3000 years, Greek Era which also lasted for 3000 years, Roman Era which interacted with Coptic Era after Christianity entered Egypt, and finally the Islamic Conquest of Egypt and the Ottoman Rule till the Modern Era launched by Mohamed Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt.

Each civilisation left eternal impacts which characterised various fields of architecture, arts and science. Therefore, Egypt looked as an open museum that included one-third of the world monuments.

Economy

Egypt’s economy is the most varied of the Middle East economies, where sectors of tourism, agriculture, industry and service contribute at almost equal rates in the national production. Consequently, Egypt’s economy is picking up development at increasing rates, based on a climate luring investments represented in proper legislation, convenient policy, internal stability, and trade and market liberalisation. This is besides what Egypt possesses of solid infrastructure of transportation, communication, energy sources, skillful manpower, modern industrial communities, banking system and stock market.

Egypt possesses an industrial wealth, which is constantly enhanced by the government efforts. Three new factories are set up daily and 75 industrial zones spread throughout the country with 20,000 factories according to recent statistics, and scores of thousands of workshops that produce manufactured products using highly sophisticated technologies.

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Skills

Egypt has a large base of university graduates capable of innovation, creativity, and hard work. Their skills can be fully exploited through education and training.

Egypt possesses new urban communities, industrial communities, and reclaimed lands which can serve as infrastructure for industrial, agricultural and handicraft production.

Partnerships

A partnership agreement with the US and cooperation agreements with Japan, China, South Korea and India have been sought. Positive indicators of Egyptian economic performance reflect strengths of the economy and sustained implementation of development plans and building of modern Egypt.

Arts

With its ancient history, cosmopolitanism, strong Islamic traditions, modern pan-Arab political and intellectual history and relative freedom, Egypt is the cultural capital of the Arab world. The Arab television and cinema is dominated by the Egyptian television and film industry, as is popular Arabic music.

River Nile

“Egypt is the gift of the River Nile”, said Herodotus, the great Greek historian, on his only visit to Egypt. There is no better way to trace the course of Egyptian history than to follow the course of the Nile.

The Nile is the longest single river and the second longest continuous waterway in the world. From time immemorial the Nile flooded its valley annually. Crops were grown on the mud flats left by the water as it subsided and, at a very early period, a system of basin irrigation was developed. Cereals (barley, wheat and sorghum), legumes (faba bean, lentil and chick-pea), flax, berseem clover and onion were cultivated for thousands of years. This remarkable river has exercised a unique influence on the history of civilisation.

The Nile was the lifeline of the ancient Egyptian civilisation, with most of the population and all of the cities of Egypt resting along those parts of the Nile valley lying north of Aswan. The Nile has been the lifeline for Egyptian culture since the Stone Age. Climate change – or perhaps overgrazing – around 8000 BC desiccated the pastoral lands of Egypt to form the Sahara, and the tribes naturally migrated to the river, where they developed a settled agricultural economy and a more centralised society.

Suez Canal

This year Egypt celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Suez Canal nationalisation. The Suez Canal has linked the whole world and became the main connecting point among countries of the world.

The Suez Canal, west of the Sinai Peninsula, is 163 km long (101 miles) and, at its narrowest point, 300m wide (984 ft). The maritime canal in Egypt lies between Port Said (Bur Sa’id) on the Mediterranean Sea, and Suez (al-Suways) on the Red Sea.

The canal allows two-way north-to-south water transport between Europe and Asia without circumnavigation of Africa. Before the opening of the canal, goods were sometimes transported by being offloaded from ships and carried overland between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

The canal comprises two parts, north and south of the Great Bitter Lake, linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Suez on the Red Sea.

The canal is extensively used by modern ships, as it is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. Taxes paid by the vessels represent an important source of income for the Egyptian government.

Great Pyramids of Gisa and the Sphinx

The pyramids are one of the seventh wonders of the world. The 4,600-year-old Khufu, ranging 137.2 metres up from its base, the 4,500-year-old Khafre, ranging 136.5 metres up from the base, and Menkaure, 62 metres high. In front of the three lies the 22-metre high and 50-metre long Great Sphinx, whose age is disputed, but the most commonly accepted theory places it in Khafre’s reign; it is even suggested to have (had) the face of Khafre.

Cairo (capital)

Capital of Egypt with 8.5 million people. The infrastructure of Cairo is well developed, but it is designed for a population of about 2 million. Although the infrastructure is somewhat sophisticated, it can no longer cope with the growth of the city.

Still, new projects have aided the city – in the metro, in city tunnels and with general improvements. Electricity, water, and public transportation work well within metropolitan Cairo.

The main centre of Cairo is just across the bridges from Gisa and Gezira. The most popular places to live are on Gezira, the less densely populated Gisa, the southern centre of Maadi and the northern centre of Heliopolis.

Today Cairo covers almost 300 km². Industrial areas prevent further growth of the city in many directions.

Gisa

City in Egypt with 2.7 million inhabitants (2005 estimate), but Gisa is often referred to as part of the urban area of Cairo.

Industries here include films, chemicals, machinery and cigarettes.

While not being the capital, but only across the Nile from it, many countries have established their foreign embassies here. The government has also put many of its offices in Gisa.

Gisa has many luxury apartment buildings along the Nile, making it a popular place to live.

Alexandria

City and port in northern Egypt with about 4 million inhabitants (2005 estimate), situated on the Mediterranean Sea.

The city is a commercial and economic centre, and about 80% of all of Egypt’s imports and exports go through its harbours. Alexandria is also a very important tourist resort, with a 20 km-long waterfront.

Ancient Alexandria’s heyday stretched over a period of about 1,000 years, while the period of decline of its importance covers centuries. During the city’s three early centuries, it was perhaps the leading cultural centre of the world, housing people of different religions and philosophical orientations. Alexandria was famous for the extensive library, which in the 3rd century BCE was said to contain 500,000 volumes. Additionally, Alexandria was renowned for the lighthouse of Pharos.

Scholars like Euclid and Erasthosthenes worked here. With its architecture at that time, Alexandria could easily compete with Rome and Athens.

Tourist cities

Besides the main cities (Cairo, Gisa, and Alexandria), Egypt has several cities that are full of tourist sights whether they are full of ancient monuments (like Luxor and Aswan) or have long beaches and wonderful natural environment (like Sharm El Sheik and Hurghada)

Luxor

As the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterised as the “world’s greatest open air museum”, the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor standing within the modern city. Immediately opposite, across the Nile River, lie the monuments, temples and tombs on the West Bank Necropolis, which include the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Thousands of international tourists arrive each year to visit these monuments, their presence forming a large part of the economic basis for the modern city. As a result, Luxor represents an excellent base for touring Upper Egypt, and is a popular holiday destination, both in its own right and as a starting or finishing point for Nile cruises.

Sharm El Sheikh

Sharm El-Sheikh is the administrative hub of Egypt’s Southern Sinai province which includes the smaller coastal towns of Dahab and Nuweiba as well as the mountainous interior, Saint Catherine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai. Sharm el-Sheikh is known as The City of Peace in reference to the large number of international peace conferences that have been held there.

New cities

People in Egypt only live in about 5% of the total land as they stick to the narrow valley of the River Nile. The government in Egypt is working to expand the populated land and build many new cities to redistribute people to these areas to avoid overpopulation in Cairo and other main cities. Also, there are a lot of industrial zones with many renowned international companies and factories to encourage investment and to help in reducing the number of unemployed.

Some of the new cities that were built during the last 2 decades are 6th of October, 10th of Ramadan, Obour, New Cairo, Al Shorouk, New Bani Suef, New Minia, and Toshka.

Things to do/see

  • Egyptian people are very kind and friendly and they like smiling and having fun most of the time, so be simple and don’t complicate things when dealing with people.
  • Be sure to visit the monuments and ancient areas at least in Cairo and try the local food.
  • Be sure to also visit the River Nile and open areas that surround it.
  • Try to cruise around the Nile River especially at night; it is truly fantastic.
  • There are many colourful flower gardens in Egypt. Strolling around there is delightful.
  • Call the Tourist Police Office in case of trouble.
  • Learning some simple Arabic enables you to have fun. Egyptians like those that take an interest in their culture.

Things to avoid

  • Egypt is an Arabic Islamic country, so you must respect all traditions and religious symbols.
  • Try to be more thoughtful for others. Never eat in public at daytime of Ramadan.
  • Don’t harm others either in words or in actions.
  • Don’t throw waste into the Nile; everyone should keep the Nile water clean and pure.
  • Do not panic if someone gives you a long look or you feel like people are talking about you, especially in rural areas. They simply like acting that way.
  • Egyptian society is conservative in nature, so avoid wearing clothing that could be construed as indecent.

Glossary

Phrase   Translation
Hello    أهلاً
Welcome    صباح الخير
Good Afternoon    تحية بعد الظهر
Good Evening    مساء الخير
Good Night    ليلة سعيدة
Thank you    شكرًا
Goodbye    مع السلامة
Can you help me?    هل من الممكن أن تساعدني من فضلك؟
Taxi    تاكسي
How much is it?    ما ثمن هذا الشيء؟
That is too much    هذا كثير جدا
I want to…    أنا أريد أن….
Yes    نعم
No    لا
I only speak English    أنا أتحدث الإنجليزية فقط
I don’t speak Arabic    أنا لا أتحدث العربية

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