As the oldest nation on Earth, Egypt has left a lasting mark on the world beyond the Nile. From the mysteries of the pyramids to Egyptian lore, Egypt has come a long way from what we know today. Take a closer look at the deep-rooted history of Egyptian culture with these facts about Egypt.
- Egypt dates back to the 3rd Millennium BC.
- Modern Egypt covers an area of over 1 million km².
- Egypt’s population today numbers just over 100 million people.
- There are 100 people in Egypt for every square kilometer of land.
- Egypt’s time zone is GMT+2.
- Humans lived in Egypt’s location as early as 600,000 BC.
- King Menes founded the first Egyptian nation in 3150 BC
- Ancient Egypt’s Golden Age lasted from 2750 BC to 1070 BC.
- Christianity arrived in Egypt in the 1st Century AD.
- Islam arrived in Egypt in the 7th Century AD.
- Mamluks controlled Egypt starting from the 13th Century.
- The Ottoman Turks conquered Egypt in the 16th Century.
- The French invaded Egypt in the 18th Century.
- Egypt became a British protectorate in the 19th Century.
- Egypt regained its independence in 1922.
- Egypt’s capital and largest city is Cairo.
- Egyptian Arabic is the official language of Egypt.
- Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the President of Egypt right now.
- Moustafa Madbouly is the current Prime Minister of Egypt.
- The Egyptian Pound (EGP) is the legal currency of Egypt.
Egypt is one of the driest places on Earth.
Considering it’s mostly desert, this is one of the more unsurprising facts about Egypt. Egypt only experiences a scarce inch of rain every year, which makes it depend heavily on the Nile river for water.
Egypt wasn’t always desert.
During the last Ice Age, the Egyptian desert and the rest of the greater Sahara Desert was a grass-grown plain dotted with trees and small lakes. Here, the prehistoric ancestors of the Ancient Egyptians hunted and gathered food.
When the Ice Age ended, the changing climate caused temperatures to rise. In a few centuries, the region turned from a moist grassland into a scorching desert. Man and animals alike migrated to the Nile, which eventually birthed the Ancient Egyptian civilization.
Egypt divides its desert into 2 categories.
The first part is the larger Libyan Desert, also known as the Western Desert, located to the west of the Nile and country of Egypt. Meanwhile, the Eastern Desert or Arabian Desert, lies east of the Nile.
Egypt has 2 seasons.
Although it seems unlikely, Egypt also experiences winter. Winters in Egypt bring cooler weather with storms from the Mediterranean. The winter lasts from November to April, while summer lasts from May to October.
The Ancient Egyptians divided their land into the black earth and the red earth.
The black earth referred to the dark-colored silt left behind by the Nile’s annual floods, which made the soil ideal for agriculture and livestock. In contrast, the red earth referred to the reddish rock expanse of the desert,which was mostly dry and barely able to support life.
This division struck such a great contrast that a man could stand with 1 foot on the black earth and with their other foot on the red earth. How’s that for neat facts about Egypt?
Ancient Egypt had 2 main regions.
Ancient Egypt divided their civilization into two parts: Upper and Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt referred to the Nile valley south of the delta, up to the first rapids of the Nile. Meanwhile, Lower Egypt referred to the Nile delta, where the river flowed into the Mediterranean Sea.
King Menes may not have actually existed.
Archaeologists and historians base this on the fact that he seems to exist only in legends and myths. Despite his reputation as the great ruler, no historical records or other evidence exists for his reign. Instead, experts believe that King Menes’ legend comes from an existing historical figure.
Narmer hails as the founder of the First Dynasty, and first Pharaoh of Egypt. Unlike King Menes, plenty of historical records and evidence confirm Narmer’s feat of uniting Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom.
Egyptian pyramids are tombs.
One of the first things you’d associate with Egypt are its pyramids. Originally, the Ancient Egyptians built them as a final resting place for Egyptian royalty. Pyramids symbolize how light descends from the Sun to the Earth, the same way that a pyramid descends from its peak to the ground.
The Ancient Egyptians also built all their pyramids along the west bank of the Nile, referencing the setting Sun. This symbolizes the afterlife in Ancient Egyptian mythology.
The Great Pyramid of Egypt took centuries to build.
When people think of pyramids, they most likely picture the perfectly triangular Great Pyramid of Giza. However, pyramids weren’t always this refined.
The first pyramids built during the First Dynasty actually resembled the ziggurats of nearby Mesopotamia, which were stepped, terrace-like structures of stone. After a few centuries, the Egyptians refined their architecture to build the picturesque pyramids we know today.
Slaves didn’t build the pyramids in Egypt.
Contrary to the Biblical legend, slaves did not build the pyramids of Egypt. Instead, labor brigades drawn from peasantry built the pyramids, marshaled by the Egyptian government during the dry seasons.
As they couldn’t work on the fields at the time, they worked on the pyramids instead. While building the pyramids, they received food and pay, as well as a place in the afterlife.
The Great Pyramid is actually incomplete.
Despite counting among the Wonders of the World, over 100 Ancient Egyptian pyramids have its details stripped away. In the case of the Great Pyramid, what we see today is only a remnant of what it once was, with weathering and looters stripping away its details.
Among these fine elements were a golden, pyramid-shaped capstone set at the pyramid’s peak. Polished limestone blocks once lined its sides, before crumbling away during an earthquake in the 14th Century.
The original architect of the pyramids was a priest named Imhotep.
The name almost certainly brings up the Mummy franchise, but in reality, Imhotep was a fairly common name in Ancient Egypt. While the Imhotep who designed the pyramid was a priest, as well as an intelligent and influential man, he didn’t actually have magical powers. He wasn’t immortal either, nor was he cursed for treason in life. On the contrary, after his death, Imhotep’s achievements led to the Ancient Egyptians worshiping him as a god in his own right.
Egypt’s pyramids aren’t the biggest in the world.
Egypt’s pyramids may be the most famous ones, but they’re definitely not the biggest in the world. This honor goes to the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent in Mexico, covering an area of over 200 km². In contrast, the Great Pyramid of Giza only covers an area of approximately 21 km². That said, the Great Pyramid is taller than the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, at 137 meters against 66 meters respectively.
The afterlife was very important to ancient Egyptians.
The Egyptians valued the afterlife so much that they spent most of their lives preparing for it. The rich and powerful built elaborate tombs, which they believed they could reside in for the afterlife.
The poor weren’t as privileged, but they also made preparations of their own, usually making funeral offerings so they wouldn’t arrive empty-handed in the afterlife. Both rich and poor also made a point of living a good life as much as they could, in order to get into the afterlife.
The Egyptians valued mummification as an important part of preparing for the afterlife.
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the body needed to stay intact after death, as it’d get resurrected as soon as a person’s soul entered the afterlife. This is why the ancient Egyptians prohibited cremation, and used it as the worst punishment for criminals.
Mummification was a complex process.
The poor simply buried their dead in the desert, where the heat and the dry earth kept it from rotting away. Meanwhile, the rich had their organs preserved in special canopic jars. They left their hearts in their bodies, though they removed and threw away their brains.
The bodies were then dried with natron salt, before adding more preservatives followed by mummy wrappings made of linen and papyrus. They also inserted protective spells and charms between the wrappings to protect the person on their journey to the afterlife.
The Ancient Egyptians once buried people alive.
Specifically, some of the earliest Pharaohs had their servants buried with them, so they could continue to serve in the afterlife. Succeeding Pharaohs instead had figurines called shabti made in their servants’ likeness, and had them buried with them to serve in the afterlife.
The Egyptians believed that mot everyone could enter the afterlife.
Much like other religions, the Ancient Egyptians believed in the idea of final judgment after death. Before they could enter the afterlife, the god Anubis weighed their hearts against the Feather of Truth.
If the heart weighed more than the feather, Anubis would feed it to the crocodile monster Ammit, with the person losing their soul forever. However, if the feather weighed more than the heart, then Anubis would lead the person’s soul to Osiris in the afterlife.
The Ancient Egyptians believed in a simple form of immortality.
Aside from the afterlife, the Ancient Egyptians believed that as long as people remembered and spoke of a dead person, then they would never truly die. For this reason, another punishment reserved for the worst criminals in Ancient Egypt was to have their names erased from all records, and forbidden to speak of. In that way, they would truly die and never live again.
There’s no such thing as the curse of the mummy.
Instead, the Ancient Egyptian priests could place prayers calling down misfortune on anyone who disturbed the dead’s rest.While misfortune did befall many, most archaeologists haven’t found themselves facing divine retribution for their life’s work.
The so-called curse of the mummy results from popular fiction, and the death of certain high-profile archaeologists, such as Lord Carnarvon, who died from blood poisoning through an infected wound shortly after opening King Tut’s tomb. Popular media hyped it up as a curse, but his fellow archaeologist Howard Carter never suffered from such a curse even with his involvement.
The Ancient Egyptians used certain minerals for makeup.
One of these minerals was malachite, a copper ore that produces green powder. The Egyptians used it as eye makeup along with kohl, a black powder made from the lead ore galena. To color their lips, the Egyptians used red ochre, or clay rich in iron oxide.
The Ancient Egyptians also made perfume.
A popular perfume for men included cardamon, cinnamon, myrrh, and olive oil. This perfume had a scent not too dissimilar from the modern Old Spice brand. Definitely one of the cooler facts about Egypt.
Plant and animal products were also used for cosmetics and skincare in Egypt.
The Ancient Egyptian used henna made from the tree of the same name to color their nails. For lotion, they used a cream made from animal fat to keep their skin moist in the dry air of the desert, mixed with floral scents to keep themselves fresh.
Ancient Egyptians usually shaved off all their body hair.
This includes the hair on their eyebrows, as well as their eyelashes. Although it may seem strange, the Ancient Egyptians practiced this to avoid getting lice.
Ancient Egyptians made wigs from different materials.
These materials also tended to reflect their customers’ social classes. Poorer Ancient Egyptians could usually only afford wigs made wool or even papyrus. However, the rich would often use wigs woven from actual human hair.
Beer was very important in Ancient Egypt.
Beer was actually the most popular and common alcoholic drink for the Ancient Egyptians. In fact, the minimum wage for laborers in Ancient Egypt was 1 gallon of beer per day. Tombs of the rich and powerful also included figurines of brewers, along with beer recipes, provided for their convenience in the afterlife.
The modern calendar comes from the Ancient Egyptian calendar.
The 365-day, solar-based calendar we use today is fundamentally the same as what the Ancient Egyptians used. The only difference is the name of the days and months of the year. Originally, the Egyptians created the calendar to help predict the Nile’s annual floods.
People in ancient Egypt used stone pillows.
Back then, the Ancient Egyptians used headrests made from wood or stone in their slumber.
The traditions of wedding rings go back to Ancient Egypt.
To the Ancient Egyptians, wedding rings and their circular shape symbolized unending love between spouses. In Ancient Egypt, circles represented the concept of eternity.
Eventually, the tradition of wedding rings passed on to the Greeks and Romans, which lasts until today.
The Ancient Egyptians also wore wedding rings on their left ring finger.
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the left ring finger had a vein that connects directly to the heart. As such, they believed that rings should be worn there, in the hope of a lasting marriage. While this may not be scientifically accurate, many people still traditionally wear their wedding rings on their left ring fingers.
Women held a respected place in Ancient Egypt.
In Ancient Egypt, women certainly enjoyed more rights and privileges compared to any other ancient civilization. Women could own and inherit property, open and run their own businesses, and even divorce their husbands without stigma.
While few queens ever ruled Egypt in their own names, many other women rose to power and influence in Ancient Egyptian society, usually either as doctors or as priestesses.
The Ancient Egyptians had two alphabets.
The first and most famous is the hieroglyphs, an alphabet composed of over 100 pictograms, each one representing a concept. Pictograms were then put together to merge concepts into meaningful words and sentences. However, this script was used only for ceremonial and religious purposes.
Instead, government documents and literary materials tended to be written in hieratic script, a simplified alphabet based on hieroglyphs. Hieratic later evolved into the demotic script by the 1st Millennium BC, and then into Coptic in the Hellenistic Era.
One example of a hieroglyph is a tadpole.
The Ancient Egyptians used it to denote large numbers, particularly 100,000. The Ancient Egyptians chose this symbol to reference how frogs lay thousands of eggs in a single batch.
Ancient Egyptian alphabets influenced several later alphabets.
Hieroglyphs influenced the development of the Phoenician alphabet, which the Greeks later used as a basis for their new alphabet after the Greek Dark Age. This, in turn, became the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet used in Eastern Europe and Russia from medieval times to this day.
The evolution of hieratic script also later influenced the development of the Old Nubian alphabet used in Northeast Africa.
Ancient Egyptian was a lost language until the 18th Century.
From the Hellenistic Era onwards, people stopped using Ancient Egyptian for Greek, Latin, and Arabic. The rise of Christianity and Islam also influenced the fall of paganism and converted the Egyptians from their ancient roots.
This led to academic knowledge of the old language getting deliberately lost or even destroyed as a legacy of their pagan past. It wasn’t until archaeologists discovered the Rosetta Stone in 1799 that they could begin learning about the Ancient Egyptian language again.
The Rosetta Stone was the key to understanding the Ancient Egyptian alphabets.
The Rosetta Stone is a stone slab dating back to the Hellenistic Era, bearing inscriptions of a decree from Pharaoh Ptolemy V Epiphanes. The decree featured 4 different alphabets, with hieroglyphs, hieratic, demotic, and Ancient Greek.
This allowed archaeologists to use the known Ancient Greek language as a means to translate the other alphabets and build up experience in understanding Ancient Egyptian. From there, they could also begin translating other recovered texts from Ancient Egypt.
Pronouncing Ancient Egyptian remains a lost knowledge.
This is unfortunately because Ancient Egyptian alphabets lack vowels, forcing archaeologists to guess how words are actually pronounced. Unless a breakthrough is found, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know how Ancient Egyptian actually sounds like. Definitely one of the sadder facts about Egypt.
Ancient Egypt worshiped more than 2000 gods and goddesses.
Each of these gods and goddesses embodied one aspect of the cosmos and their lives. The ancient Egyptians believed that these deities handled the balance and harmony of the universe, which was a major aspect of their religion.
Ra was the most important of the Ancient Egyptians’ gods.
Also known as Amon-Ra or Amun-Ra, Ra is the god of the Sun. Ancient Egyptians believed that Ra traveled the skies in a great ship and created the Sun. Each day, he would cross the sky, setting below the horizon to bring light to the afterlife before returning to our world with the rising of the Sun.
Osiris, Isis, and Horus were other important Ancient Egyptian deities.
According to the myth, Osiris ruled over Egypt with his wife Isis. His brother Seth envied him so much that he betrayed and murdered Osiris, chopping up his body afterward. However, Isis escaped and raised her and Osiris’ son Horus in secret. After growing up, Horus avenged his father and defeated Seth before reclaiming his father’s throne.
This is where the symbolism of the Pharaohs being the god Horus in Human form comes from. Isis also later recovered the pieces of Osiris’ body and revived him by putting him back together. As Horus already ruled Egypt, Osiris instead ruled over the afterlife.
The Eye of Horus was an important symbol in Ancient Egypt.
The Ancient Egyptians used it as a good luck charm, and as protection against the evil eye and other malign influences. It comes from the legend of Horus and Seth’s battle against each other, where Seth tore out Horus’ eye. The eye fell to the Earth, where men found it and used it to protect themselves.
Seth was not actually an evil god.
Despite his vicious feud with his brother’s family, Ancient Egyptians still worshiped Seth as a god. Seth was the god of the desert, and thus the protector of Egypt against invaders, reflecting how the deserts that surrounded Egypt helped protect them from invasion.
He was also the god of foreigners, guaranteeing them safe passage and hospitality, again referencing how travelers had to pass through the desert to reach Egypt. Finally, he was also the protector of Ra’s solar barge against the demons of the night such as the serpent Apophis, and thus ensured the continuation of the cycle of night and day.
Many ancient Egyptian gods had animal aspects.
The Ancient Egyptians associated the gods with certain animals that symbolized the gods’ aspects. Horus became associated with the falcon, a symbol of royalty in Ancient Egypt. Horus’ wife Hathor became associated with the cow, representing her maternal and nurturing nature. The war goddess Sekhmet was fittingly associated with the scorpion, and the guide of the dead Anubis to the jackal.
Ancient Egyptians considered cats as sacred animals.
Since cats are natural predators who hunted and killed poisonous snakes, the ancient Egyptians saw them as protectors of the home and the family. Before, it was customary for each Egyptians household to own at least 1 cat. This also influenced religion, with the protector goddess Bastet becoming associated with cats.
The death of a cat was a cause for mourning among Ancient Egyptians, with many cats getting mummified and buried so they could have a place in the afterlife. Additionally, deliberately harming and killing a cat, warranted execution in Ancient Egypt.
The Egyptians worshiped Sobek for a bountiful harvest.
As the god of the Nile, the Ancient Egyptians associated Sobek with the crocodile. The Ancient Egyptians prayed to him for good harvests and gentle floods. It was for this reason that children received amulets carved in the shape of crocodiles, in the hope that Sobek would protect them from the crocodiles of the Nile.
One Pharaoh tried to abandon the worship of many gods.
Centuries ago, the Pharaoh Akhenaten abandoned the worship of many gods in favor of the one god Aten. He killed and banished priests, burned the temples of the gods, and moved the capital from Thebes to Amarna.
After he died, the Ancient Egyptians abandoned Amarna and restored the worship of the old gods. They also destroyed Akhenaten’s monuments and removed his name from most public documents and inscriptions.
The Ancient Egyptians feared and hated hippos.
Their large size and tendency to move in herds made them dangerous to meet while traveling on the Nile. Hippos could break and sink boats, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves on the water. That said, for all that they hated and feared hippos, the Ancient Egyptians hunted them much like medieval European nobles hunted deer.
Pharaoh Pepi II had the longest reign out of any of Ancient Egypt’s Pharaohs.
Since his young ascension to the throne at 6 years old, Pepi II reigned peacefully over Egypt for 94 years. Ironically, it was also the same peace and prosperity that helped bring down his kingdom. Towards the end of his reign, local governors called nomarchs became richer and more powerful, allowing them to act freely and defy the Pharaoh’s authority.
Pharaoh Pepi II smeared his slaves in honey.
Specifically, he had slaves smeared with honey before having them attend to his presence. He allegedly did this so the sweet scent of the honey would attract flies away from him, and towards the slaves.
Pharaoh didn’t actually mean king.
Instead, the title actually translated to Great House. This comes from how the Ancient Egyptians saw the Pharaohs as incarnations of the god Horus. The title thus references how a Pharaoh was a god in human form.
The Ancient Egyptians didn’t know about sugar.
At the time, sugar’s use in sweetening food had yet to reach Europe and Africa. In fact, it wouldn’t reach either continent from Asia until the conquests of Alexander the Great, when traders from India followed in his footsteps and brought sugar with them. So instead, the Ancient Egyptians along with other Mediterranean peoples used honey to sweeten their food.
The Ancient Egyptians had a sweet tooth.
Just about every meal they had involved honey in varying amounts. This made honey production a big business in Ancient Egypt, and also caused dental issues for its residents. The latter was also made worse by small amounts of sand contaminating the Ancient Egyptians’ food. Eaten with their food, the grains of sand damaged their teeth over time.
The Ancient Egyptians also made breath mints.
One popular recipe included cashew nuts, cinnamon, frankincense, honey, and pine seeds.
Most Pharaohs were very fat.
Despite what their official depictions in records and tomb paintings among others might claim, Pharaohs in general weren’t very athletic. In reality, their luxurious lifestyles led to most Pharaohs growing fat – if not outright obese, based on studies done on their mummified corpses.
The oldest recorded death sentence in history comes from Ancient Egypt.
Recorded in the Amherst papyrus, the sentence belongs to a young man from approximately 1500 BC. The young man had the choice of either hanging or suicide for the crime of practicing magic.
The Ancient Egyptians were the first people in the world to use sutures.
The practice dates back to at least 4000 years ago. Evidence for this comes in the form of sewing needles belonging to a doctor at the time, kept in a storage case made from a hollowed-out bone.
The Ancient Egyptians invented toothpaste.
The Ancient Egyptians created toothpaste with the powdered hooves of oxen, burnt eggshells, and volcanic ash. Archaeologists have also found toothpicks and toothbrushes in Ancient Egyptian tombs, indicating that they took dental hygiene quite seriously.
The Ancient Egyptians knew about antibiotics.
However, they didn’t fully understand the principles of antibiotics. Instead, the Ancient Egyptians only knew that spreading certain molds from bread on wounds kept them from getting infected and let them heal faster. Thousands of years later, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered this mold and put it to use as the first antibiotic: Penicillin.
The Ancient Egyptians invented the first prosthetic.
History’s earliest record of a prosthetic was a wooden toe made as a replacement for a woman in Egypt. Found in her tomb, it dates back to around 1000 BC, being the first prosthetic of any kind in the world.
Cleopatra wasn’t very beautiful at all.
Records of the time and depictions of Cleopatra in wall carvings and on coins actually show her as having average features, and a large nose. It was actually her intelligence and charming personality that allowed her to earn the support of powerful men like Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. This also factored into Augustus’ refusal to meet her personally, as he feared she might distract and mislead him if they did meet.
Foreign conquerors repeatedly conquered Egypt in the 1st Millennium BC.
The first to conquer Egypt were the Assyrians who conquered Egypt in the 7th Century BC. Egypt then became one of the Assyrian Empire’s many vassals, until the empire’s fall later in the same century.
After a brief period of independence, the Persian Empire conquered Egypt in the 6th Century BC, and ruled Egypt as a province until Alexander the Great conquered it in the 4th Century BC. After his death, the Greek general Ptolemy crowned himself Pharaoh, and his descendants ruled Egypt until the death of Cleopatra and the Roman conquest of Egypt in the 1st Century BC.
The Romans ruled Egypt for over 600 years.
Under Roman rule, Egypt became one of the most important Roman provinces, thanks to its rich gold deposits and annual harvests. The first Emperor of Rome, Augustus, even made Egypt his personal province.
The Egyptian Revolution began on January 25, 2011.
The Egyptian Revolution began with protests against the lack of free speech and democracy, as well as police brutality and government corruption. A series of crackdowns followed as the government tried to stop the protests, killing over 800 people and injuring over a thousand more. They only stopped with President Mubarak’s resignation on February 11, 2011.
A girl in Egypt was once named Facebook.
Born Facebook Jamal Ibrahim, her father named her to commemorate Facebook’s role in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak.
More people use Facebook in Egypt than anywhere else in the world.
Egypt ranks 21st among the countries of the world when it comes to Facebook use. Out of over 20 million internet users in the country, there are 5 million Facebook users in Egypt.
The colors of the Egyptian flag each have their own meaning.
The Egyptian flag has 3 colors: red, white, and black. The red symbolizes struggle against oppression, the white the hope for a bright tomorrow, and the black represents oppression that’s fought against.
Egypt has a high literacy rate.
It’s also marked with a sharp difference between genders. The literacy rate for men is 83%, while for women it’s only 59.4%.
Egypt ranks 124th among Earth’s countries in terms of life expectancy.
Egyptian men have a life expectancy of 70 years, while Egyptian women have a life expectancy of 75 years.
Egypt ranks 66th among Earth’s countries in terms of fertility rate.
Currently, Egypt’s fertility rate is 3 children for every 1 Egyptian woman. This is greater than the USA’s, which is 2 children for every 1 American woman. However, it’s far lower compared to Nigerian women, who hold the top spot at 8 children for every 1 Nigerian woman.
An actual Egyptian Obelisk stands in New York City.
It has the name of Cleopatra’s Needle. Despite the name, it doesn’t actually have a connection with the famous Cleopatra, last of the Pharaohs of Egypt. In fact, by the time of her reign, the needle had existed for over a thousand years. There’s also more than 1 Cleopatra’s Needle, 2 more sharing the name in London and Paris. Each obelisk has also endured more pollution in the 100 years and more since their relocation than in thousands of years standing in the Egyptian desert.
Napoleon didn’t blow off the Sphinx’s nose.
There’s a popular theory that Napoleon used a cannon to blow away the Sphinx’s nose. According to the story, Napoleon did it out of frustration at his inability to find any secret passages leading into the Sphinx and a treasure hidden inside. Instead, official records actually state that it was a Muslim man in 14th Century Egypt who destroyed the Sphinx’s nose. The man was then hanged for the crime of vandalism.
There aren’t any secret passages in the Sphinx.
The Sphinx is a single, solid sculpture, carved from a large piece of limestone. And for centuries, could only see its head. Sand buried its body until 1905 when archaeologists finally cleared it away.
3 countries border Egypt today.
To the west, Egypt’s border runs along Libya’s eastern border. To the south, Egypt’s border runs along Sudan’s northern border. And finally, to the east Egypt’s border runs along Israel’s southern border. The only direction where Egypt doesn’t share a border with another country is the north, where Egypt faces the Mediterranean Sea.
Egypt faces 2 seas.
One of those is the Mediterranean Sea, as we’ve previously mentioned. The other is the Red Sea, to the east of the country. Egypt might share a border with Israel, but it’s actually quite short, with most of Egypt’s east facing the open waters of the Red Sea.
Egypt’s tallest mountain is to the east.
Gebel Katherina stands in the Sinai Peninsula, near the Israeli border. As the tallest mountain in Egypt, it rises approximately 2.78 km high.
The Nile is the longest river on Earth.
The Nile river is so long that Ancient Egyptians never reached its source. Today, we know it’s over 3000 km to the south of the Mediterranean Sea, in Rwanda and Burundi. Out of the river’s 3000 km length, nearly a third or over 900 km lies in Egypt, making up the last stretch of the river before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.
Egypt used to have a land connection with Asia.
This lasted from prehistoric times until 1869, when the Suez Canal finished construction. Running almost 200 km from north to south along the western edge of the Sinai Peninsula, the canal connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas together. This allows ships to pass through the canal from one sea to another and removes the need for ships to go around Africa when heading to Asia from Europe and vice versa.
Egypt has rich natural resources available.
In ancient times, the most valuable minerals in Egypt included copper, tin, and gold. The Ancient Egyptians used copper and tin to make bronze, which made Egypt a military power in the Bronze Age. The Ancient Egyptians valued gold for its use in currency and for making jewelry and other items. Today, Egypt’s known and valuable natural resources include oil and gas, as well as lead, manganese, and phosphates among others.
Egypt is Muslim-majority.
Around 90% of its population practice Islam, following the Sunni sect of the Islamic faith. Most of the remaining 10% follow the Coptic denomination of Christianity, though other denominations like Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants are also present in Egypt.
Cairo isn’t just Egypt’s capital city.
It’s also the biggest city not just in Africa and the Middle East. It currently covers an area of over 17,000 km² and has a population of over 20 million people.
Cairo has several sister cities around the world.
The first is New York, going back to 1982. Ottawa followed New York in becoming Cairo’s sister city in 1989, followed by Dallas in 1996.
Alexandria is probably more famous than Cairo.
Its fame comes from the city’s history of being founded by Alexander the Great himself over 2000 years ago. In fact, that’s the origin of the city’s name: Alexandria, City of Alexander.
Alexandria once had another 1 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
This was the Lighthouse, or Pharos, of Alexandria, built in the 3rd Century BC by Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Standing around 100 meters high, it lasted for over a thousand years, taking a series of earthquakes from the 9th to 14th Centuries AD to finally bring it down.
Archaeologists succeeded in finding the lighthouse’s foundations in 1994. Together with the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Pharos of Alexandria makes Egypt the only country in the world to have more than 1 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
Eratosthenes once lived in Alexandria.
Eratosthenes was a Greek mathematician, geographer, and astronomer who holds the honor of being the first man to calculate the Earth’s circumference. He did this using geometric equations with distances between the cities of Alexandria and Syene as a reference point.
The result of his calculations placed Earth’s circumference at 250,000 stadia or the equivalent of 39,375 km. This is only 1.4% incorrect from the actual circumference we know today, at 40,076 km. Truly a brilliant example of facts about Egypt.
Alexandria once boasted the greatest library in the ancient world.
This was the Great Library of Alexandria, built and supported by the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt. At its height, the library held an estimated 400,000 original works from across the known world. Scholars and philosophers from around the Mediterranean visited the library to study and consult its contents.
Sadly, half the library burned down during Julius Caesar’s attack on Alexandria in 48 BC and steadily declined over the following centuries. The fall of the Ptolemaic Dynasty was a factor in this decline, with the library finally abandoned by the 3rd Century AD, and its ruins destroyed by order of the Pope in the 4th Century AD.
The modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina stands in honor of the Great Library of Alexandria.
Based in Alexandria like its ancient predecessor, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina dates back to 1974. However, work on its building only started in 1995, before finishing and opening in 2002. Today, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina boasts a collection of over 8 million books alone, along with archived copies of all web pages known to exist going back to 1996.
Egypt also has the world’s biggest dam.
This is the Aswan High Dam, built over 10 years from 1960 to 1970. Designed and built with Soviet help, the dam stands over 100 meters high, and nearly 3 km long. The dam’s construction ensured that flooding would no longer become a problem, and also ensured a steady supply of water for drinking and farming.
The Aswan Dam’s construction would have flooded many historical sites.
One of those was the Great Temple at Abu Simbel. To save the Great Temple and other sites, archaeologists had them taken apart, stone by stone, and moved to higher ground. There, they rebuilt the temple, as they once stood, preserving them from the rising waters of the Nile.
The Aswan Dam’s construction also forced the relocation of many people.
This included between 100,000 to 120,000 people across Egypt and Sudan. The Egyptian government built modern houses with electricity and plumbing for the relocated people, as well as schools and hospitals. They also provided modern irrigation systems to help the relocated people start up farms and other projects.
The Aswan Dam produces vast amounts of electrical power.
The dam features 12 generators, producing a total of 2.1 gigawatts of electrical power. This is already half of Egypt’s total electrical output, and enough to supply most of Egypt’s rural communities with electricity.
The Aswan Dam cut off the Nile’s previously-annual deposits of silt.
This forces farmers in Egypt to use synthetic fertilizer for their crops, as they could no longer count on the Nile fertilizing the ground for them. Every year, an estimated 1 million tons of synthetic fertilizer gets used in Egyptian farms.
President Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979.
This was in contrast to other Arab countries, which stayed committed to destroying Israel and establishing a Palestinian state in their place. Sadat received a Nobel Peace Prize for his actions, but the Arab League responded with a suspension of Egypt’s membership in the Arab League. It also led to Sadat’s assassination 2 years later in 1981.
Egypt currently faces the problem of losing land.
Specifically, land for agriculture, whether it’s growing crops or providing pasture for livestock. The biggest cause of this is desertification, the slow but steady growth of the Sahara Desert as a result of climate change.
Another reason is the increasing urbanization of Egyptian society. As more people leave the countryside for the cities, the cities grow, expanding into former farmland, and depriving farmers of usable land.
Egypt has a large and powerful military.
The army alone numbers over 300,000 men, with more than 100,000 more serving between the navy and air force. Egypt produces much of their needed military equipment but also buys a lot from other countries. This includes France, Germany, Russia, and the USA.
The Egyptian military participates in several UN peacekeeping operations in Africa.
The biggest are in Mali and the Central African Republic, as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Over 2000 Egyptian troops serve as part of MINUSMA, out of a total force of over 15,000 troops.
Other countries part of MINUSMA includes Algeria, Canada, France, Germany, Jordan, Norway, Pakistan, Spain, and the USA among others. The Egyptians also have over 100 men as part of the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in Sudan.
Egypt opposes the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Both the Egyptian military and local militias from the Sinai have fought against ISIS forces, primarily in the Sinai. For its part, ISIS seeks to destroy the Egyptian government and claims the Sinai as part of a planned Islamic Emirate in the region.
Egypt opposes other terrorist organizations beyond ISIS.
This includes al-Qaeda, which seeks to overthrow the Egyptian government and impose Sharia Law on Egypt. Another terrorist organization opposed by Egypt is the Army of Islam, a terrorist group allied with ISIS and also seeking to establish an Islamic Emirate in the Sinai.
Egyptians have interesting superstitions for good luck.
One of those is to bury a weasel under your house’s front step. Making the first step into another person’s house with your right foot is another way to get good luck. Even accidentally spilling your coffee is a good omen in Egypt.
Egyptians also have some interesting superstitions about bad luck.
Egyptians traditionally believe that a black crow perching on a person’s roof brings bad luck to the house and everyone inside. Another bad omen is if a person’s left eye twitches. Turning a slipper upside down is an especially bad omen: apparently, it’s an invitation for the devil to come to your house.
In Egypt, stepping on your cut hair will make you bald.
According to the belief, you must never step on cut hair on the floor. If you do, you’ll lose your hair and it’ll never grow back.