What is now Egypt has been a nation for much longer than most. Menes, the first Pharaoh, united Upper and Lower Egypt in 3050 BC, creating an empire whose legacy is unmatched in recorded history. Elaborate tombs were designed, magnificent pyramids constructed, and a vast and impressive pantheon of deities was honoured in huge temples. Hieroglyphs were etched in stone, detailing everything from the lives of the gods to the lives of the lowest slaves. The Nile was harnessed for irrigation. By any standard, this dynastic society was very successful. Geographically, Egypt is dominated by sand and water. Nearly all of Egypt is desert, but the small part that isn’t, the valley of the Nile River is vital to the nation (95% of the population lives within a few kilometres of the Nile’s banks). Most tours of Egypt, whether by cruise, via train, on a bus or in a private car, never stray too far from the river’s shores. Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world, and among African nations, is second in population only to Nigeria (Cairo, the continent’s most populous city, alone has 10 million people). Cairo is also the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, since 969 AD.