* LAND -- Egypt, with an area of 386,659 square miles, is about the size of California, Nevada and Arizona combined, but only 3.5 percent of its land is suitable for growing crops. The arable land is chiefly along the Nile River, which bisects the country from the Sudanese border in the south to the Mediterranean Sea in the north; in the exceptionally fertile Nile Delta, and in sections of the Red Sea coast and inland oases. The rest of Egypt is desert, with high plains in the south and rugged hills on the eastern coast.

* PEOPLE -- With approximately 48 million people, Egypt is the most populous Arab country and the second most populous in Africa, after Nigeria. But 99 percent of the people live on 3.5 percent of the land, giving Egypt some of the world's most densely populated areas. Cairo, the capital, has 10 million people, and Alexandria, on the Mediterranean, has 2.5 million. The Egyptian people are of Hamitic origin, with small numbers of Nubians, in the south, and Bedouins. About 90 percent of the population is Sunni Moslem, and most of the rest is Coptic Christian.

* HISTORY -- Egypt has 5,000 years of recorded history, highlighted by a kingdom that lasted from 3200 B.C. until it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. After that, Egypt was dominated by a series of foreign powers -- Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs (who brought the Islamic faith) and Turks. In 1882 Britain replaced the Ottoman Turks and declared Egypt a protectorate in 1914. Nominal independence was granted in 1922, and Egypt became a monarchy, with a continued British presence for several years. In 1952, young Egyptian Army officers, including Gamal Abdel Nasser, overthrew King Farouk and established what became a republic based on Arab nationalism. When Nasser died in 1970, he was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who eased many of the police-state restrictions. Sadat was assassinated by Islamic militants in 1981 and succeeded by Hosni Mubarak.

* GOVERNMENT -- Under its 1971 constitution, power in Egypt is vested in a strong president, nominated by the People's Assembly and elected by popular referendum for six-year terms. The role of the People's Assembly, a one-house legislature, is largely to approve policies, not to initiate them. Egypt has a limited multiparty system, but in practice, the ruling National Democratic Party dominates. It won 390 of 448 seats in last year's election after electoral regulations were used to exclude all leftist opposition groups, leaving only a reconstituted prerevolutionary party, the Wafd, as an alternative. Recent legislation has declared sharia, the Islamic law, to be the principal source of Egyptian law.

* ECONOMY -- Egypt remains chiefly an agricultural economy, although petroleum and associated industries now account for more than one-fifth of the gross domestic product. Principal crops are cotton, wheat and rice, but Egypt has been importing wheat in recent years. Besides petrochemicals, the leading industries are textiles, chemicals and light manufacturing. The United States is the major trading partner, with other trade conducted with Western Europe and the Soviet Union. The Egyptian economy, drained by wars and a tradition of heavily subsidizing food and other commodities for domestic consumers, relies on foreign aid and remittances from 2 million Egyptians living abroad. U.S. aid has totaled about $10 billion in the past decade.