19 July 2007

EG “Presearch”: Geography

I’ve started my pre-trip research into Egypt and Cairo. It’s amazing what you can find on the internet with just a few easy searches, a few minutes and no money. ‘Course, there’s also the old saying that says you get what you pay for…I never know how much to believe of what I find on the internet. Still, it’s background and that’s a place to start.

Egypt has a land area of over 995,000 square kilometers…that’s larger than Texas (696,621 km2) but smaller than Alaska (1,717,855 km2). The city of Cairo has a land area of about 214 km2…the same size as Port Arthur, TX, our 105th largest city. Not familiar with Port Arthur?? Me, neither. It’s right in between Seattle, WA (104th largest city with 217 km2) and Baltimore, MD (#106 with 210).

The kicker here is population. The city of Cairo has about 16.5 million people. Contrast that with Seattle, a marginally larger city by land area, which has a little over half a million. Our largest city, New York City, has only half as many people. Cairo has 15% of Egypt’s population, yet only .02% of its land area.

I found one description of Cairo which said it was “an all-out assault on the senses. Chaotic, noisy, polluted, totally unpredictable and seething with people, the sheer intensity of the city will either seduce or appall.”

Put me in the "appall" category.

And I’m going to go there?!?!?


What is commonly referred to as “Cairo” is actually 2 cities on either side of the Nile River. Cairo is on the east bank and Giza on the west. Giza is where the pyramids and Sphinx are located, in the southwest part of the city.

Yes, I said “in the…city.” In all the photos I’ve seen of the pyramids, they look like they’re out in the middle of the desert…nothing but sand and sky as far as you can see. And, at one time, maybe they were. However, the city has grown out to meet them and to get those remote-looking photos now, you have to be standing in just the right spot.

The north-African country of Egypt is bordered on the west by Libya, to the south by Sudan, to the north by the Mediterranean Sea and to the east by the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. The Nile River flows north to the Mediterranean through the length of Egypt, forming a green valley in the eastern quarter of the country. As it approaches the Mediterranean, the river broadens into a wide delta that, on the coastal edge, stretches from the Sinai Peninsula to Alexandria. Cairo sits at the beginning of that delta, at about 30ºN…the same as Houston, TX.

My contacts in the Egypt office have often referred to “North Egypt” and “Upper Egypt” as 2 separate regions. A lifetime of public education and map-reading has me equating “north” with “up” and so I was very confused until I remembered that the Nile flows north…meaning that if you go ‘up’ the river, you’re going south. And since the Nile is what brings life to Egypt, it makes sense that it also defines it. So “North Egypt” is what it says but “Upper Egypt” is the southern part of the country.