Heat–it comes in many forms and quite honestly I am perpetually cold so I am always pleased when I find some. Well, not all the time now that I think about it. At this very moment the people in Egypt are in a completely different form of heat–not the Sahara Desert kind, but the heat that comes from being fighting mad. You know the feeling: Some guy slams you into a locker and steals your lunch money. Your face gets red, you can hear your heartbeat pounding in your ears, and the blood starts boiling. What you wouldn’t give to put that fellow in his place. Now imagine that guy was an even bigger bully, like say, a repressive authoritarian leader. And imagine that it was not just you demanding your lunch money be returned, but an entire country wanting its taxes back and saying “NO MORE, LET’S RUMBLE”. Welcome to Egypt since January 25, 2011.
Egypt is known for having some very well-known tourist attractions, so I bet you are picturing something along the lines of the Pyramids at Giza and the Great Sphinx. But let’s dig a bit deeper into the geography: Modern Egypt is a nation located in Northeast Africa along the Mediterranean Sea, where it shares borders with Libya, Sudan and Israel. Most of the country is desert except the Nile Valley and Delta. Within this country that is about three times the size of the state of New Mexico, there are about 80 million people–primarily ethnic Egyptians, with Nubian and Bedouin Arab ethnic minorities.
The country has several natural resources including petroleum, natural gas, and iron ore, but the cold-hard fact is that Egypt’s economy is struggling. Most economic activity occurs in the Nile Valley, where over half of the work force is employed in service occupations, and about 30% is involved in agricultural pursuits. The country’s unemployment rate is about 10%, with higher rates for some key segments of the population, including young people under the age of 30. Dependence on the Nile, coupled with a rapidly expanding population, has contributed to a stressed and overtaxed economic system. Reforms put in place by current President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak have lessened the burden a little, but the global economic crisis has slowed what progress was made previously, and the country’s GDP growth is still below its pre-recession levels.