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Geography, climate and population


Egypt lies in the northeastern corner of the African continent and has a total area of about 1 million km². It is bordered in the north by the Mediterranean Sea, in the east by the Gaza Strip, Israel and the Red Sea, in the south by Sudan and in the west by Libya. Its north-south extent is about 1 080 km, and its maximum east-west extent about 1 100 km. The Egyptian terrain consists of a vast desert plateau interrupted by the Nile Valley and Delta, which occupy about 4 percent of the total country area. The land surface rises on both sides of the Valley reaching about 1 000 m above sea level in the east and about 800 m above sea level in the west. The highest point of the country, at Mount Catherine in Sinai, is 2 629 m above sea level and the lowest point, at the Qattara Depression in the northwest, is 133 m below mean sea level.

The majority of the country area is desert land. Most of the cultivated land is located close to the banks of the Nile river, its main branches and canals, and in the Nile Delta. Rangeland is restricted to a narrow strip, only a few kilometres wide, along the Mediterranean coast and its bearing capacity is quite low. There is no forest land. The total cultivated area (arable land plus permanent crops) is 3.8 million ha in 2013, or about 4 percent of the total area of the country. Arable land is about 2.7 million ha, or 73 percent of the total cultivated area, and permanent crops occupy the remaining 1 million ha (Table 1).


Hot dry summers from May to October and mild winters from November to April characterize Egypt’s climate. Rainfall is very low, irregular and unpredictable. Annual rainfall ranges between a maximum of about 200 mm in the northern coastal region to a minimum of nearly zero in the south, with an annual average of 51 mm. Sinai receives somewhat more rainfall than the other desert areas (about 120 mm annually in the north) so the region is dotted with numerous wells and oases (MWRI, 2005). Summer temperatures are high, reaching 38°C to 43°C with extremes of 49°C in the southern and western deserts. The northern areas on the Mediterranean coast are cooler, with 32°C as a maximum.


Population is estimated at 83.4 million in 2014 with an average annual growth rate of 1.7 percent over the period 2004-2014. The rural population is 56 percent of the total population. Overall population density is 83 inhabitants/km²; however, with about 95 percent of all people living in the Nile Valley and Delta (MWRI, 2005), population density reaches more than 1 165 inhabitants/km² in these areas, while in the desert it drops to only 1.2 inhabitants/km².

In 2014, with 1 meaning being ranked best, the Human Development Index ranks Egypt 108 among 188 countries, while the Gender Inequality Index ranks Egypt only 131 among 155 countries. Life expectancy in Egypt is 71 years in 2013 and the under-five mortality is 24 per 1000 births in 2015, both progressing from 67 years and 60 per 1000 in the 1990s. Around 95 percent of the children in 2011 are enrolled in primary education, and 85 percent for secondary education with no distinction between boys and girls (WB, 2015). Adult literacy is 75 percent in 2013, with a gap between female literacy (67 percent) and male literacy (83 percent). Poverty concerns one quarter of the population in 2010 and is mainly a rural phenomenon (32 and 15 percent respectively in rural and urban areas). In 2015, 100 percent of the urban and 99 percent of the rural population were using improved drinking water sources, which is equal to 99.4 percent of the total population. The same year, 94.7 percent of the population were using improved sanitation facilities (96.8 and 93.1 percent respectively in urban and rural areas) (JMP, 2015).


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