The world's most populous Arab nation with about 70 million people, Egypt has been led since 1981 by democratically elected President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt has a constitutional ban against religious-based parties, but its largest fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, is among Mubarak's most formidable political opponents. The president has moved in recent years to limit its influence.
Egypt and Israel signed a historic treaty in the United States in 1979 aimed establishing "a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East." The United States counts on Egypt's help with its anti-terrorism efforts in the region.
Egypt was a member of the coalition put together by then-President Bush to liberate the oil-producing kingdom of Kuwait after neighboring Iraq's 1990 invasion.
That cooperation led to massive debt relief by the International Monetary Fund that helped Cairo solidify its economy over the past decade. Egypt's steps toward market reforms prompted increased foreign investment.
Tourism is a significant engine of Egypt's economy. Textiles, food processing and oil are also important. Agriculture in the Nile River valley was significantly changed with the 1971 completion of the Aswan High Dam.