Egypt i/ˈiːdʒɪpt/ (Arabic: مصر Miṣr), is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia, via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Most of its territory of 1,010,000 square kilometers (390,000 sq mi) lies within the Nile Valley of North Africa and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, 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.
With over 84 million inhabitants, Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East, and the 15th-most populated in the world. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000 square kilometers (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 has one of the longest histories of any modern state, having been continuously inhabited since the 10th millennium BC. Its monuments, such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, were constructed by its ancient civilization, which was one of the most powerful of its time. Its ancient ruins, such as those of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings outside Luxor, are a significant focus of archaeological study and popular interest from around the world. Egypt’s rich cultural legacy, as well as the attraction of its Red Sea Riviera, have made tourism a vital part of the economy, employing about 12 percent of the country’s workforce.
The economy of Egypt is one of the most diversified in the Middle East, with sectors such as tourism, agriculture, industry and services at almost equal production levels. Egypt is considered to be a regional and middle power, with significant cultural, political, and military influence in North Africa, the Middle East and the Muslim world.
Tensions grew between the Wafd Party and the monarchy following independence, and in 1952, the army, led by Gen. Mohammed Naguib, seized power. Three days later, King Farouk abdicated in favor of his infant son. The monarchy was abolished and a republic proclaimed on June 18, 1953, with Naguib becoming president and prime minister. He relinquished the prime ministership in 1954 to Gamal Abdel Nasser, leader of the ruling military junta. Nasser also assumed the presidency in 1956.
Nasser’s policies embroiled his country in continual conflict. In 1956, the U.S. and Britain withdrew their pledges of financial aid for the building of the Aswan High Dam. In response, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and expelled British oil and embassy officials. The Soviet Union then agreed to finance the dam and would come to exert increasing influence over Egypt in the coming decade. Israel, barred from the canal and exasperated by terrorist raids, invaded the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Britain and France, after demanding Egyptian evacuation of the canal zone, attacked Egypt on Oct. 31, 1956. Worldwide pressure forced Britain, France, and Israel to halt the hostilities. A UN emergency force occupied the canal zone, and all troops were evacuated in the spring of 1957.
From 1956 to 1961, Egypt and Syria united to form a single country called the United Arab Republic (UAR). Syria ended this relationship in 1961 after a military coup, but Egypt continued to call itself the UAR until 1971.