The gift of the Nile
Land of an extraordinary civilization, marked by delicate geographical conditions, with an almost miraculous balance, Egypt is experiencing a modernization whose first results are visible, despite the difficulties and widespread poverty. Always open to the rest of the Arab and Mediterranean world, it is even more so today, thanks to the numerous emigration and tourist flows
A great river
The huge Egyptian territory (more than three times Italy) is completely desert, but it is crossed from south to north by the great river Nile, which allows to irrigate the neighboring lands for a width of a few tens of kilometers. The country’s long history and life therefore depend on the Nile, which flows into the Mediterranean forming a vast, fertile and populous delta. The lands distant from the river, on the other hand, have no water and are uninhabited, except for some oases, such as the Qattara depression or the Farafra oasis. To the west of the river is the immense Western Desert, a continuation of the Libyan Desert, that is the Sahara, flat, but with plateaus reaching almost 2,000 m. To the east, the Eastern Desert is somewhat higher and more rugged and reaches the Red Sea forming a rocky coast. Finally, the Sinai Peninsula in Asia is a set of mountain massifs (Mount Caterina, 2,637 m). For Egypt 2007, please check extrareference.com.
The Nile flows in Egypt for about 1,500 km, bringing you the water that the climate – desert and very hot – does not provide. It has been barred in several places to produce electricity and form artificial lakes from which more water can be obtained for irrigation; among these, the most important is Lake Nasser, on the border with Sudan, formed by the great Aswan dam. The dams now prevent the periodic overflows of the Nile, fundamental in the life of Egypt because they left a layer of mud (silt) that fertilized the cultivated land and allowed three harvests a year. Today, artificial fertilizers must be used instead. To irrigate other desert lands, a kind of ‘artificial Nile’ is being dug, which will flow west of the river; but the concern is well founded that most of the
The large population is almost entirely concentrated around the Nile, especially along the lower reaches and delta, in the north of the country: here there are the Cairo, the huge capital with its satellite cities, Alexandria, the second city and main port in the country, and nearly all other major centers, including Port Said and Suez, which lie at the ends of the Suez Canal. The population has grown very rapidly compared to the available resources (and many Egyptians have had to emigrate abroad, even to Italy), but it is stabilizing. Furthermore, the country is experiencing a general improvement in health and school conditions, even if socio-economic differences are still very strong. The population descends from the ancient Egyptians, but over time it has merged with the Arabs: Arabic is the language and Islamic the dominant religion – however, about one in ten Egyptian is a Coptic Christian.
Still in the lower Nile area, the industrial production of Egypt is concentrated, which does not have large mineral resources (there is oil, but it is almost all for internal use); However, it has developed engineering, chemical, textile industries – which process the cotton produced in the country – and food. Tourism is important, attracted both by the Egyptian archaeological wonders and by the seaside resorts of the Red Sea.