Every twenty-seven seconds he is born an Egyptian. In this country, we can no longer say that demography is growing: it gallops. Population growth is so rapid that agriculture can no longer provide a solution to the food problem. Due to a birth rate that is too high, Egypt is at a dead end.
This situation is the result of a slow evolution. At the end of the eighteenth century, the population of Egypt was estimated at 2,500,000. It still reached only 6,500,000 people in the first census, conducted in 1882. While the demographic curve drawn from these figures shows a moderate slope, things get worse during the last hundred years. For example, in the 1976 census, the population increased to 38,228,000. In fact, the annual growth rate remained fixed at between 1.3% and 1.6% of the population until around the Second World War. The relative weakness of this rate depended mainly on high mortality, especially infant mortality. With advances in hygiene and medicine, the annual growth rate then increased dramatically. By 1965 it reached a maximum of 2.8%, which is almost equivalent to a tripling of the population in half a century. This figure is the result of both an explosive birth rate of 4.3% and a mortality rate of 1.5%.
In the years 1971-1973, the economic situation is reducing the growth rate. It is the war with Israel, the mobilization of the young people, the exodus of the populations living near the Suez Canal. The population growth rate is only 2% per year. Peace returned, the rate has risen. Since 1977, it seems to have stabilized at 2.4% per year. Egypt today has 100,000,000 inhabitants.
Of course, you should not compare these figures with those of another country. In Egypt, living conditions are not the same as elsewhere. Taking into account the actual living space, less than 40 000 km2, an area smaller than that of Switzerland, the average real density of Egypt far exceeds 1000 inhabitants per square kilometer.
Evolution of demography and its consequences
Population growth is such that agriculture can no longer offer a way out. The population, which at that time was only 6,500,000 in 1882, increased to 38,288,000 in the 1976 census. The annual growth rate, at 2.8% around 1965, dropped to 2% in the years 1970-1973 as a result of a military mobilization effort, has since recovered to 2.4%. Nowadays, Egypt is close to 100,000,000 inhabitants.
This galloping population poses serious problems for Egyptian society. Given the actual living space - less than 40,000 km2 - the average population density is 1,000 per square kilometer. The average! Because the record, it is located in Cairo where each square kilometer sees pile up 18 000 people. Yet this dramatic figure - the highest density in the world - is pulverized in some populous neighborhoods of this overflowing capital city.
Cairo and its suburbs together form an agglomeration of 10 to 12 million inhabitants, the largest metropolis in Africa. So many people gather in a dozen provincial towns, another ten million in the Delta and almost as many in the Nilotic villages.
Urban hypertrophy is responsible for side-effects that are so many social anomalies: rubbing shoulders with misery and luxury, anachronism of equipment and means of transport, persistence of illiteracy despite efforts. In this respect, if primary school enrollment affects 80% of children, in reality 50% of them drop out of school after one year. In Egypt, the demographic problem is considered a scourge.
Birth planning, advocated by successive governments, runs up against deeply held beliefs. In nilotic campaigns, having children and especially boys is a security.
The Egyptian woman and her problems
Muslim or Christian, the Egyptian woman is not veiled. Today, the appearance of the Egyptian city dweller resembles that of European women, wearing clothes that highlight it. But in the country, the fellaha turns away her face or conceals it behind a part of her veil. The rigid laws of tradition are not forgotten everywhere, they who shaved from the married woman a being legally dependent on her husband ... and her stepmother, in the absence of the latter.
The emancipation of the Egyptian woman is recent. It was in 1923 that two feminists, Hoda Charrâwi and Cesa Nabàrawi, dared the first to appear without a veil. 1952 was also for the Egyptian woman the year of the revolution; political rights were recognized in the first Constitution of the young Republic. In 1956, she became eligible and eligible. Six years later, a woman was entering the ministerial position for the first time, Social Affairs. Such changes also raised the indignation of the Muslim fundamentalists. This did not prevent Egyptian women from entering the local, regional and national assemblies, as well as political, administrative and trade union organizations after the promulgation of the new Constitution in September 1971.
Emancipation is not everyone's taste, however. A minority of women are walking around wearing hoods today, with the tahraf expressing their disagreement with what they see as lax.
This reluctance perhaps explains why the evolution of morals was generally slower in the family relationships. Thus, it was not until 1976 that the law allowed women to initiate divorce proceedings themselves and forced divorced husbands to pay financial assistance to their ex-wife. Previously, the husband could repudiate his wife.
Today, the situation has changed. Egyptian television even broadcast interviews of divorced women exposing their individual case. One example among others. But unthinkable twenty years ago.
Despite this release, the same 1976 law did not abolish polygamy. She simply allowed the wife to file for divorce if the husband takes a second wife.
The old taboos remain firmly rooted. The proof ? Despite 2,400 family planning centers, the birth rate has barely decreased in 10 years. As for excision, subsistence of African tribal rites, it seems that it would still be practiced in Upper Egypt, not to say in Cairo.
Among the innumerable social problems posed by such a high density is that of religious minorities. The vast majority of the Egyptian population is Muslim. But there is also a Christian minority of Coptic rite. In the 1976 census, the Copts officially represented 2,315,000 people. Some experts, however, believe that this minority is actually approaching 4 million.
Peasants, artisans, artists or intellectuals, they are several million to want "Gypt". This name means "Ancient Egyptian". It covers a religion whose name, in French, has become "Coptic".
The Coptic patriarchs were the first to succeed the pharaohs. According to the hagiographies, the apostle Marc evangelized Egypt around the year 40. The population who adored Amon-Re, Aton, Horus, converted to Christian monotheism. Then it was necessary to fight to preserve the new belief. Repulsed by the Arabs, the Copts took refuge in Upper Egypt, in the Fayum or in the then depopulated areas of the Delta. Most are fellahs, but there is a Coptic neighborhood in old Cairo. It is located around the cathedral surmounted by the cross, symbol of the Coptic faith.
In Egypt, where Islam is a state religion, the Copts are just tolerated. The law forbids Muslims to convert to Christianity and marriage between Copts and Muslims is forbidden. The Coptic fellahs still wear a tattooed blue cross on the back of their hands.