There are certain countries that some people struggle to locate in a continent. One of them is Egypt. What continent is Egypt in, Africa or Asia?
The answer to that question may seem complex but it is, in fact, rather simple to explain. Modern day Egypt is a transcontinental country. That is a country whose national territory spans more than one continent.
In the case of Egypt, its national landmass goes from the Northwest corner of Africa to Southwest Asia.
Transcontinental Countries in the Word
Egypt is far from being the only transcontinental country in the world, as there exist several others.
- Turkey spans from Western Asia to Southeastern Europe.
- Russia shares its landmass between Europe and Asia.
- Kazakhstan is mostly in Central Asia but has a small part of its territory in Europe.
- Azerbaijan has part of its landmass in Europe and part of it in Asia.
There are also many non-contiguous transcontinental nations, which are those that have overseas territories (very often islands) in other continents, such is the case of Spain (Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla in Africa), Portugal (Madeira in Africa and the Azores mid Atlantic Ocean), Denmark (Greenland in North America), France (Mayotte in Africa, French Guiana in South America, Guadeloupe in North America, and many others), the United Kingdom, Greece the United States, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Is Egypt an African or an Asian Country?
The Suez Canal is considered the “border” that divides Africa from Asia. This is a dividing line between continents, but it runs through Egypt.
The Arab Republic of Egypt (Egypt’s official name) has an important part of its landmass in the Sinai Peninsula where it borders to the North East with the State of Israel.
The Sinai Peninsula is separated from Jordan and Saudi Arabia by the Gulf of Aqaba. Part of the southern coast of the Sinai Peninsula, where the popular tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is located, is washed by the Red Sea.
The Sinai Peninsula is the only part of Egypt that is located in Asia. It is separated from the rest of the country by the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Suez.
The Suez Canal was man-made with the purpose of connecting the Red Sea (through the Gulf of Suez) with the Mediterranean Sea. That is why the Suez Canal, which was officially opened in 1869, is even today often referred to as the highway to India. It is still the fastest sea route between Europe and the Indian subcontinent.
Before the creation of the Suez Canal, the fastest way to content Europe and India for the transportation of goods was by circumnavigating Africa.
Africa or Asia? Most of the landmass is in Africa and the capital city of Cairo and other major cities are located in the African portion of the country. Compared to the country as a whole, whose landmass is almost one million square kilometers (just under 4.000.000 square miles), the Sinai Peninsula has a total landmass of only 60,000 square kilometers (about 23,000 square miles).
Politically, Egypt is More African than Asian
When discussing whether a country is more African or more Asian, geography should never be the other consideration. There should also be other factors that must be part of the discussion.
One of those factors is politics. From a broadly geopolitical standpoint, it seems clear that Egypt is more integrated into Africa than it is into Asia. This can be seen, for example, in the number of African organizations the Arab Republic of Egypt is part a part of, such as The African Collaboration League, the African Union, and many others. In contrast, Egypt does not belong to any pan Asian organizations.
Also, in terms of how the country is organized politically, Egypt also has more in common with other African countries than it does with its Asian counterparts). Like many African nations, Egypt is organized following a republican system. This is a major difference between Egypt and the Middle Eastern nations in Asia.
How About Ethnicity and Religion?
Egypt is an ancient country with a long and fascinating history and culture. The country has gone from being a polytheistic nation where many gods were honored in rituals, like many of its African neighbors, to become a monotheistic Muslim-majority nation as Islam spread west from the Arab peninsula. Although Islam links it to Asia, it now shares the religion with several countries in Africa to where it also spread.
The people of Egypt are an intelligent people with a glorious history who left their mark on civilization. – Fidel Castro
As a result of all those historical changes, Egypt is largely considered an Arab country today. Because of this, it is also often thought of as part of the Middle East (despite having most of its landmass in Africa). Egypt is the only country that it is not fully in Asia that would be part of the Middle East although it is true that Turkey is also a transcontinental nation having part of its landmass in Europe. But the overwhelming majority of Middle Eastern countries are in Asia: Bahrain, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
So, could we conclude that Egypt is in African or in Asia? You will get a different answer depending on who you ask. In this article, we have presented all the facts that you need to decide for yourself. There is a very strong argument to be made for Egypt being in Africa but it is also undeniable that an important (if relatively small) part of its territory is in Asia and that the country also has relevant cultural and religious links to its neighbors to the East.