This culminated in the construction of the Aswān High Dam, completed in 1971 but which first held back the floodwaters in 1964.
Control of the Nile has made it possible to cultivate year round. About 96 percent of Egypt's population lives in the Nile Valley, which comprises about 4 percent of the area of the country; most of the economic and social activity occurs there. This includes the scrub desert along the Mediterranean coast between the Nile Delta and Libya, and along the north coast of the Sinai Peninsula; the mountainous desert between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea; and the western desert west of the Nile Valley. Only the Mediterranean coast has rain that is reliable enough to support marginal human activity, with some agriculture and animal husbandry.
The 1996 population represented a 21.7 percent increase over the 1986 population.
There are smaller oases in the Sinai peninsula (Firan), and even in the arid Eastern desert there are occasional springs, two of which provide water to Christian monasteries.To the north is the Mediterranean Sea, and to the east the Red Sea.Egypt is separated from Libya and North Africa by the western desert, from Palestine and Israel by the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, and from the centers of population in the Sudan by desert except along the narrow Nile River.The lower growth rate was also reflected in the figure for those under 15 years of age, which was 35 percent of the overall population in 1996 as against 38.8 percent in 1986.Egypt's population is predicted to double between 19.About 6 percent are Christians, who are indistinguishable in other respects from the Muslims.