Egypt is sometimes described as the gateway to Africa. The surface of the Arab Republic of Egypt is 1 million sq km (about four times the size of the UK). Egypt borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Red Sea to the east, which is divided into the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez by the Sinai Peninsula. It borders Sudan to the South and Libya to the west. Thanks to the mighty River Nile, Egypt enjoys three harvests per year. In the valley of the Nile crops like corn, cotton, clover and sugarcane are grown. North of Cairo the Nile turns into a 200 km wide delta leading into the Mediterranean. The fertile Nile Valley runs through the endless sand and rocks of the Libyan Desert to the west and the Arab Desert to the east. These natural barriers helped the culture of the pharaohs to remain intact for around 3000 years. As much as 95% of the land surface is made up of desert. There are several oases that enable the subsistence of small settlements in the desert.
The most characteristic and ubiquitous tree is the date palm. On the banks of the Nile you will find banana plantations as well as 100 different kinds of grass. Unfortunately the papyrus reeds, which used to grow everywhere, are no longer found in the wild. Traditionally, papyrus was processed to be used as writing paper. The many papyrus museums in Cairo, where the process is explained in detail, are very interesting and well worth a visit.
Egypt has a rich population of around 430 species of birds that come and go all year round. About one third actually breed in Egypt, while the overwhelming majority migrate between Europe and Africa through Egypt. There are various kinds of herons, pelicans, storks, cranes and flamingos. The big game that once lived in the desert has unfortunately disappeared. You will now often find camels, donkeys and water buffalos there. The Red Sea is the home of many brightly-coloured tropical fish, reef sharks, dolphins, turtles, rays and beautifully shaped coral. The Red Sea is a paradise for scuba-divers and skin-divers alike and is widely known as one of the most stunning underwater sites in the world.