Long known for its pyramids and ancient civilisation, Egypt is the largest Arab country and has played a central role in Middle Eastern politics in modern times.
• Full name: Arab Republic of Egypt
• Population: 84.5 million (UN, 2010)
• Capital: Cairo
• Area: 1 million sq km (386,874 sq miles)
• Major language: Arabic
• Major religions: Islam, Christianity
• Life expectancy: 69 years (men), 73 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 Egyptian Pound = 100 piastres
• Main exports: Petroleum, petroleum products and cotton
• GNI per capita: US $2,070 (World Bank, 2009)
• Internet domain: .eg
• International dialling code: +20
In the 1950s President Gamal Abdul Nasser pioneered Arab nationalism and the non-aligned movement, while his successor Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel and turned back to the West. The protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 put Egypt at the crossroads once again.
Egypt's ancient past and the fact that it was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to open up to the West following Napoleon's invasion have given it a claim to be the intellectual and cultural leader in the region. The head of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam.
But the historic step by President Anwar Sadat to make peace with Israel in the 1979 Camp David agreement led to Egypt being expelled from the Arab League until 1989, and in 1981 Mr Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists angry at his moves to clamp down on their activities.
President Hosni Mubarak then took a more moderate line, but Islamic groups have continued their campaigns sporadically. They have been responsible for deadly attacks that have often targeted tourists and resort areas, and more recently have begun to target Egypt's Coptic Christian community.BBC