Egypt Geography

Geography in Egypt

Egypt’s national territory between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea is almost square in shape and is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the south and Gaza, Israel and Jordan to the north-east. The landscape alternates between the steppe or thorn savannah, the northern coastal landscape, deserts, semi-deserts, many oases, sea areas and the river landscape of the Nile, which forms the main lifeline of the otherwise hostile desert areas south of the capital Cairo. Apart from a few oases and small harbors on the coasts, the water of the Nile is the sole basis for agriculture and settlement of its fertile riverside regions. The area of this fertile bank zone makes up about five percent of the country’s area of over 1.1 million km² and forms one of the five types of landscape in Egypt.

The Mediterranean coast is characterized by gently rolling dunes that merge into a fertile cultural landscape in the Mümdung area of the Nile, criss-crossed by numerous estuaries and canals. Of the five arms of the river that the Nile formed in its estuary delta, documented from ancient writings, only the two Rosette and Damietta arms in the west and east of the Nile delta, named after their neighboring towns in the estuary, have been preserved. The remaining river arms and estuaries have fallen victim to extensive hydraulic engineering measures in the course of historical time. Due to the interventions in the natural dewatering of the Nile that began in the early 1900s and the associated damming in the upper Nile valley, the Nile no longer carries sufficient sediments into its delta.

The Libyan Desert, west of the Nile, takes up around two thirds of the Egyptian state. The wide and relatively flat stratified plateau of the Libyan Plateau, which in Egypt reaches a height of 241 m, sinks in the Qattara Depression, which is filled with salt marshes, to up to 133 m below sea level. In the southwest of Egypt, on the other hand, the sand and dune landscape, interrupted only by individual basins and oases, rises to 1098 m. About 100 km southwest of Cairo is the 1827 km² large Fayyum Basin, a basin-like oasis landscape, in the northern part of which is the Qarun Lake.

The Arabian Desert, east of the Nile, is dominated by a mountain range heavily furrowed by wadis, which in the central section reaches a height of more than 2000 m and forms the western section of an upward zone that continues on the Sinai Peninsula. The central part of this mountain range collapsed in the course of the earth’s history and today forms the over 1000 m deep rift of the Red Sea, which in turn represents a section of the African rift valley system that extends far south to Mozambique. The coast of the Red Sea is mostly lined with rugged rocky landscapes with offshore coral reefs.

The Sinai Peninsula is home to the Katharinen Mountain (Jabal Katrina), which reaches up to 2637 meters above sea level, the highest elevation in Egypt and is surrounded by the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba. The Suez Canal, completed in 1869, has since formed an artificial water connection from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

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Flora and fauna in Egypt

Due to the desert-like land surface and climatic conditions, large parts of Egypt have no vegetation, apart from a few isolated tamarisks, acacias and thorn bushes. Where the desert turns into desert steppe, some hard grasses can develop.

In the fertile areas along the banks of the Nile, Nile acacias, date palms, sycamore figs and carob trees as well as introduced casuarinas are grouped. Lotus plums, bamboo cane and reeds are typical of the Nile Delta. The papyrus bushes that were cultivated here in antiquity have largely disappeared. Hardly anything has survived from the vegetation that originally existed in Egypt because of the overexploitation and arable farming that has continued since ancient times.

The fauna of Egypt is particularly rich in water birds such as herons, cranes and Egyptian geese, which are at home on the Nile and in its delta area. Many European migratory birds join in during the winter months. Kites, bearded vultures and hawks are native to birds of prey and carrion. In addition to the domesticated camels, donkeys, sheep and goats, jackals, hyenas, fennecs and wild cats are some of the larger mammal species in the country. Syrian ibex can be found in the mountainous regions. The desert is animated by hares, jerboa, several species of lizards and scorpions. Beware of the poisonous uraeus snake (Egyptian cobra) in the rural Nile floodplains. A few crocodiles still live on Lake Nasser. More than 190 different fish species have been registered in the Nile and in the lakes on the delta coast.

Flora in Egypt

National parks and nature conservation in Egypt

Three national parks have been designated in Egypt, all of which are distributed along the coast of the Red Sea.

The 35,600 km² Gebel Elba National Park is located in the far south in the politically controversial Hala’ib triangle and is home to mangrove areas and coral reefs, the only natural forest in Egypt.

The Ras Mohammed National Park , located on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula on an area of 480 km², is primarily known among divers for its impressive maritime inventory.

The Wadi_al-Gimal National Park Finally, it offers mostly desert landscape with a lively desert fauna on an area of 7450 km². In the area of the national park there are several shipwrecks that have become popular destinations for recreational divers.

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