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Geography of Egypt

Geography of Egypt:
Egypt is located in the northeastern fringes of Africa and shares international boundaries with Libya to the west (692 miles), Sudan to the south (791 miles), and Israel to the north-east (165 miles). The Mediterranean Sea to the north of Egypt and the Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez, and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east endow the country with a coastline stretching over 1820 miles in all. Egypt covers an area of 386,660 sq mi and is the 30th largest country in the world.

The highest elevations in Egypt are in the southern part of the country. The southern regions of the Sinai Peninsula are also mountainous. Most of Egypt is an arid desert with little or no vegetation. The Nile, the longest river in the world, flowing from the south to the north, cuts through this desert plateau and renders the county habitable. In fact, the Nile endows its delta with fertility unheard of in desert regions. With the exception of the Nile basin, the rest of the country is an arid desert with little or no vegetation. The ancient Egyptians called the Nile basin Black Land due to its rich alluvial deposits. In contrast, they referred to the desert land as Red Land.

The river Nile is fed by the White Nile, the Blue Nile and the Atbara rivers of central Africa. Nile enters Egypt near Wadi Halfa in Sudan.

Lake Nasser to the south of Egypt is a man-made reservoir resultant from the construction of the Aswan Dam across the Nile. The Aswan Low Dam was constructed at the First Cataract of the Nile in 1902. The High Dam was constructed between 1960 and 1970. The region extending from the Aswan Dam to the city of Cairo is referred to as the Nile Valley. The region further up north is the Nile Delta. Low-lying, flat, and rich in silt deposits, the Nile Delta's agricultural products support the entire country. The Nile is said to have had seven distributaries creating the fan-shaped valley. At present only two of these distributaries, the Damietta and the Rosetta carry the Nile waters to the Mediterranean Sea. An extensive network of canals now crisscrosses the delta region and assists the flow of the waters into the agricultural fields. A number of lakes and marshes dot the Nile Delta.

In early Egypt, the Nile went through cycles of inundation and relinquishment. When the Nile would flood its banks it irrigated the crops on its banks and endowed the land with great fertility. But the floods could just as easily wreak havoc on the agriculture and spell a year of economic low. The most fertile regions were those where the elevation was high or those where the primary products were tree crops. The relinquishment of the Nile spelt an enhancement of the land's fertility since the floods left behind a rich deposit of alluvial silt. The flooding of the Nile also depended largely on the amount of rainfall received by Central Africa where the tributaries of the Nile arise.

The construction of an irrigation system and the dams on the Nile, especially the Aswan dams, has changed a lot. The flow of the Nile no longer depends quite as heavily on the rainfall received by Central Africa. The deposit of silt is now around Lake Nasser. This has also significantly affected the fertility of the Nile basin.

Two major deserts make up the Egyptian desert region - the Eastern Desert and the Libyan Desert. The Eastern Desert, thus called due to its location to the east of the Nile, extends upto the Red Sea. The mountain range traversing this region is called the Eastern Desert. Shaiyb al-Banat is the highest peak of the range. To the west of the Nile is the portion of the Sahara Desert which is referred to as the Libyan Desert. The Libyan Desert is characterized by massive sand dunes and eight great depressions. The desert is mostly uninhabited except for sporadic settlements such as those in the Siwa Oasis near the Qattara Depression. The lowest point of Egypt (133 meters below sea level) is in the Qattara Depression. The Temple of Amun in the Siwa Oasis is known for its prophetic oracles. The Fayyum Oasis is another oasis in the Libyan Desert which is cultivable at certain points. Mount Catherine (2,642 meters) in the Sinai Peninsula is the highest elevation in Egypt.

Temperatures in most of Egypt range from 80°F to 90°F in summer and from 55°F to 70°F in winter. The Mediterranean coast enjoys a cooler temperature in comparison to the rest of the country. Frequent dust storms called 'Khamaseen' blow south-north in summers. Rainfall is scanty and unpredictable. The higher elevations in the Sinai Peninsula face snowfall occasionally in winters. February-March and October-November are the tourist-friendly months in the country.