Egypt's armed forces are the largest in the region, totaling roughly 450,000 personnel divided into four services. The army is by far the largest-315,000- followed by air defense with 85,000, air force with 27,000 and navy with 32,000. By the end of the Cold War military equipment ws primarily of Soviet origin, reflecting the long period of almost exclusively Soviet supply from the late 1950s until the 1973 war with Israel. Much of this equipment was obsolete. Egypt's inventory also includes equipment from European sources - France, Italy, the United Kingdom - and China. Beginning in 1979, the United States entered into a military supply relationship with Egypt, resulting in major deliveries that continued throughout the 1980s. Equipment from the former Soviet Union is being progressively replaced by more modern American, French, and British equipment, a significant portion of which is built under license in Egypt. To bolster stability and moderation in the region, Egypt has provided military assistance and training to a number of African and Arab states. Egypt remains a strong military and strategic partner of the United States.
Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and the second-most populous on the African Continent. Nearly all of the country's 79 million people live in Cairo and Alexandria; elsewhere on the banks of the Nile; in the Nile delta, which fans out north of Cairo; and along the Suez Canal. These regions are among the world's most densely populated, containing an average of over 3,820 persons per square mile (1,540 per sq. km.), as compared to 181 persons per sq. mi. for the country as a whole.
Small communities spread throughout the desert regions of Egypt are clustered around oases and historic trade and transportation routes. The government has tried with mixed success to encourage migration to newly irrigated land reclaimed from the desert. However, the proportion of the population living in rural areas has continued to decrease as people move to the cities in search of employment and a higher standard of living.
The Egyptians are a fairly homogeneous people of Hamitic origin. Mediterranean and Arab influences appear in the north, and there is some mixing in the south with the Nubians of northern Sudan. Ethnic minorities include a small number of Bedouin Arab nomads in the eastern and western deserts and in the Sinai, as well as some 50,000-100,000 Nubians clustered along the Nile in Upper (southern) Egypt.
The literacy rate is about 58% of the adult population. Education is free through university and compulsory from ages six through 15. Rates for primary and secondary education have strengthened in recent years. Ninety-three percent of children enter primary school today, compared with 87% in 1994. Major universities include Cairo University (100,000 students), Alexandria University, and the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar University, one of the world's major centers of Islamic learning.
Egypt's vast and rich literature constitutes an important cultural element in the life of the country and in the Arab world as a whole. Egyptian novelists and poets were among the first to experiment with modern styles of Arabic literature, and the forms they developed have been widely imitated. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arab to win the Nobel prize for literature. Egyptian books and films are available throughout the Middle East.
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