Egypt is a land of many wonders; one of the world’s oldest countries, in the past two centuries it has begun to emerge as a political, economic, and military power in North Africa and the Middle East. Its position as a bridge between Africa and Asia have made it an important center of business and international trade for over 5,000 years.
The first known unified kingdom in world history, Ancient Egypt arose in the fourth millennium BCE with the merging of Upper and Lower Egypt. Under the rule of the pharaohs, Egypt became a major cultural force in the Mediterranean, shaping the formation of many surrounding civilizations, until its conquest by the Persians in 343 BCE. The modern nation-state of Egypt emerged in the 19th century, after 2000 years of foreign rule, but didn’t gain full independence until 1952.
Today, Egypt has grown into a stable, modernizing country and a leader in the region that struggles to maintain its glorious past while devoting itself to advancement. Agriculture, driven by the annual flooding of the Nile River, remains as important a part of the Egyptian economy today as it was in ages past. Fossil fuels contribute significantly to the country’s GDP as well, and the IT sector has seen rapid expansion in the past few years. Egyptian media is huge; television programs and films are so popular throughout the Arab world that Egyptian has become the most widely spoken Arabic dialect. And, of course, the country relies heavily on tourism. The Pyramids of Giza, the many ruins of the city of Luxor, and the tombs in the Valley of the Kings attract millions of sightseers every year, and lately developers have been taking advantage of the pleasant Mediterranean coast to construct resorts. The government promotes tourism extensively, and the Egyptian people have earned a reputation for their warm, welcoming attitudes toward visiting foreigners.
Many expatriates are drawn to Egypt by its rich culture, low crime rate, and friendly populace. Work opportunities are plentiful, particularly in journalism and development work. Egyptian companies are eager to hire foreign professionals, especially those with a good command of English. English teaching, the old standard for expatriate job seekers, has a wide market, but there are many qualified Egyptian teachers, so certification and experience are important. As far as educational opportunities, a number of universities in Egypt attract foreign students, particularly from the fields of political science, history, and archaeology. Most foreigners live in Cairo; the largest city in Africa, it features numerous neighborhoods with large expatriate communities.
Standard Arabic is the official language of Egypt, and the Egyptian dialect is the most common spoken language. English and French are widely spoken as second languages; due to the traditionally French-speaking educated class in Egypt, the country is a member of La Francophonie. Coptic, a variant of the Ancient Egyptian language, is used as a liturgical language by Coptic Christians, and may still be spoken by a very small minority.