What is Egypt's History?
Kings and their kingdoms started to form in the area that became known as
Egypt around 3,200 BC. The Age of the Pharaohs dates from approximately 3,000 BC to the time
that Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire in 30 BC. The Pharaohs’
reign extended over 30 dynasties that reached their peak in the Golden Age
during the 18th and 19th dynasties around 1500 BC.
Alexander the Great ended the reign of the "true" Egyptian pharaohs when he conquered the country in 332 BC. After his death, the line of
"foreigners" known as the Ptolemy line, ruled Egypt and in
the process blended Egyptian
and Greek heritages. In order to placate the Egyptians, the Ptolemies
acted, dressed and lived as true pharaohs.
Later, the Romans
accepted the lead of the Greeks and, also, ruled as pharaohs. Many of the
temples in Luxor and along the Nile bear Egyptian, Greek and Roman imprints,
although the pyramids are distinctly Egyptian.
Arabs introduced Islam and the Arabic language to Egypt in the 7th century and they ruled the country for the next six centuries. The Mamluks
(then a military class of Egyptian society) took control about 1250 and
continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in
Following the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt became an
important world transportation hub, but also fell heavily into debt.
Ostensibly to protect its investments, Britain seized control of Egypt's
government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued
until 1914. Partially independent from the UK in 1922, Egypt acquired full
sovereignty with the overthrow of its British-backed monarchy in 1952.
From 1952 until 2012 the country was ruled by the military. Elections for a new parliament took place between November 2011 and January 2012. Presidential elections held in May and June witnessed the victory of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi over former Prime Minister Ahmed
President Morsi was later removed from office by the military, which is
the power behind the new President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Although
President Sisi was democratically elected it was clear how the voting would
turn out before any of the candidates opted to run for office.
Egypt is predominately Muslim (90%) with Coptic Christians accounting for
10% of the population.
Arabic is the official language of the country, although English and French are spoken
in most tourist destinations.
Why is Egypt is considered the “Gift of the Nile?"
The majority of Egypt’s population lives in the Nile Valley, a narrow
strip of land along the banks of the Nile River that extends from the Delta,
where the Nile enters the Mediterranean Sea, south to Aswan. The Nile valley
is the historical, cultural, economic and agricultural forge that
helped to create the Egypt of the pharaohs and the country as we
know it today.
Egypt’s agriculture is tied to the Nile which provides water to irrigate
crops. This agricultural valley drew its incredible fertility
from the replenishment of the soil during the Nile’s annual flooding, which
allowed irrigated crops to flourish in midst of a desert. It was within this
cradle of Egyptian civilization that centers of power were able to evolve.
These rulers, whom we call the pharaohs, were able create powerful kingdoms
and began building extravagant and amazing palaces, as well as unusual
monuments to their gods and, in many cases, to themselves.
Historic Egypt was considered as being comprised of Upper and Lower
Egypt. The names derive from the direction of the flow of the Nile from
south to north through the county. Lower Egypt ranged from the Nile Delta to
just south of modern Cairo, where the historic capital of Memphis once
existed. Upper Egypt ran south to Luxor (near the historic capital of
Thebes) and from there to Aswan. To the south of Aswan was an country known as Nubia
that, eventually, was subjugated by the pharaohs. Early in Egypt’s
history a pharaoh, thought to be Narmer united Upper and
Lower Egypt. From this point on Pharaohs wore a double crown to symbolize
they were rulers of Upper and Lower Egypt.
What can be found south
of Aswan and what is the Significance of the Aswan Dam ?Egypt from city
of Aswan south to
border with Sudan is desolate and now dominated by Lake
Nasser, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. This massive
water body extends beyond
the border with Sudan, where it is called Lake Nubia.
In the past, the Nile
River flowed uninterrupted from its source in tropical Africa though Aswan (which was the site of a cataract in
the Nile) and north to the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the Nile flows
into Lake Nubia in Sudan and begins to flow again as a river, only after it
passes through the Aswan High Dam.
Lake Nasser was formed by
the construction of the High Dam at Aswan in the 1960s. Building the High
Dam controlled the Nile, helped regulate water for irrigation, removed the
threat of the annual flood, and created a hydroelectric facility that
generates considerable amounts of
Unfortunately, the filling of Lake Nasser flooded areas of large areas of Egypt and Sudan that were the home of
the Nubian people, who were relocated, but lost much of their heritage.
Another influence of the construction of the Aswan Dam was that regulating
the flow of the Nile stopped the replenishment of the soil that accompanied
the annual flood, although doing so prevented significant damage and numerous deaths
associated with the annual flooding. As a result of the lack of
replenishment of the soil during the annual
floods today’s farmers in the Nile Valley use
chemical fertilizers to enrich the lands used for agriculture.
Finally, many historic temples,
that were located along the course of Nile south of Aswan,
Abu Simbel, had to be moved to preserve them from flooding. Numerous temples and
monuments were not rescued due to time, condition and economic constraints.
However, these issues were known before the construction of the dam, which
was approved in a referendum voted on by the Egyptian people.
Top of Page
Click the index at the top right of this page to
explore our travel guide to Egypt.
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.