History of Egypt


Egypt has endured as unified state for more than 5000 years, and archeological evidence indicates that a developed Egyptian society has existed for much longer. Egyptians take pridein their “Pharaonic heritage” and in their descent from what they consider mankind’s earliest civilization.  The arabic word fro Egypt is Misr, which originally connoted “civilization” or “metropolis”.

Archeological findings show that primitive tribes lived along the Nile long before the dynastic history of the pharaohs began. By 6000 B.C organized agriculture had appeared.

In about 3100B.C, Egypt was united under a ruler known as Mena, or Menes, who inaugurated the 30 pharaonic dynasties into which Egypt’s ancient history is divided—the Old and the Middle Kingdoms and the New Empire. The pyramids at Giza (near Cairo), which were built in the fourth dynasty, testify to the power of the pharaonic religion and state. The great Pyramid, the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Kheops) is the only surviving monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ancient Egypt reached the peak of its power, wealth and territorial extent in the period called the New Empire (1567-1085 B.C)

Persian, Greek, Roman and Arab conqueror of Egypt. Mongolian empire almost reached Egypt.

In 525 BC, Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, led a Persian invasion force
























British Intervention in Egypt


The British increasingly intervened in Egyptian politics and soon took control of Egypt. In World War I the English were afraid that the Suez Canal might be occupied by German forces, severing communications to the east. So the British declared Egypt a "protectorate." A protectorate is a relationship between two nations whereby a stronger nation controls the politics and economy of a weaker nation under the guise that they want to protect that country. It is simply a way for a stronger country to exploit a weaker country. Egyptian nationalism, however, continued to grow. There was a steady increase in the people's desire for independence from British control, Ottoman rule and the rule of the pasha. The British responded to Egypt's desire to become independent and gave them a constitution and established a parliamentary government. Unfortunately, in 1922 the parliament gave complete power to the king, Khedive Fuad, who died in 1936. During World War II the Germans, led by General Rommel, invaded Egypt and made their way through the desert from the west to within 70 miles of Alexandria. They were defeated by the British in a famous desert battle. Many places in the Egyptian desert are still filled with the litter of war, including an astronomical number of landmines. People who drive uncharted across the desert are frequently killed by these mines. It is extraordinarily dangerous to drive off the road in some parts of Egypt.

In 1945 Egypt became a leading member of the Arab League which was headquartered in Cairo. Egyptian nationalism continued to increase as did her discontent. The king and his wealth drew increased criticism. In 1952 mobs burned European centers in Cairo; the people could not be controlled. Egyptian army officers seized the government and, on the 25th of July, King Faruq was forced to abdicate. Egypt was under Egyptian control for the first time in over 2600 years.


Independence of Egypt (1952 to present)




The Revolutionary Command Council tried to bring peace and prosperity in the early years of independence but these are things better left to politicians than to army officers. By 1954, one of the leading army officers, a Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser became sole leader in Egypt. He established a number of government relief programs. People left the villages for the city in search of work. He worked closely with the Soviet Union for technical assistance after the United States and the World Bank refused to finance the Aswan High Dam Project. He also brought the Suez Canal under Egyptian control. In 1956 the English, French and Israelis attacked and occupied the Sinai, taking it from Egypt. By 1957, the United States and the United Nations persuaded Israel to withdraw. Although Egypt had lost a skirmish with Israel, Nasser was seen as a hero for reoccupying the Sinai. Israel would increasingly become a problem to Egypt. In 1964 the Arab League formed the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which was controlled by Egypt until 1969 when it was taken over by Yasir Arafat. In 1967 the Israelis invaded Egypt and several other nations, overran the Sinai and destroyed Egypt's Air Force while it was still on the ground. In the face of defeat, Nasser overhauled the army and moved forward to advance Egypt. He was always concerned about the unity of the Arab people. He died in 1970 of a heart attack.



The Vice President, Anwar al-Sadat, was elected president. He broke ties with the Soviet Union and established relationships with the west. With the Syrians, he launched an attack against Israel in 1973. A temporary cease-fire led to a partial withdraw from the Sinai. Sadat was a hero. He restructured the constitution and began open elections for president. In 1979 he met with US President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David and signed a treaty which established peace between Israel and Egypt and returned the Sinai to Egypt. He was condemned by the Arabs for making peace with Israel but praised by the west. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League. On the 6th of October, 1981, Sadat was assassinated by extremists and his successor, Husni Mubarak, was elected president



Mubarak consolidated power and turned his attention to domestic problems. Under his direction, Egypt is considered a moderate Arab nation and President Mubarak has worked hard to revive the economy, to keep peace with other Arab nations and strong relations with the west. He has also worked to bring domestic peace with an active campaign to root out terrorists. In 1989, Egypt was welcomed back to the Arab League. Mubarak still reigns as President of Egypt.

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Egypt Under French Control (1798-1801)

Egypt had always been, since antiquity, an important land route to the east. In 1798 the French, led by a young general named Napoleon Bonaparte, invaded Egypt and quickly conquered northern Egypt. They wanted to control trade with the east. Napoleon brought with him a number of educated people interested in recording Egypt's past. Teams of artists drew pictures of flora, fauna and antiquities. Their efforts were published in 1801 in a classic 20 volume work called The Description of Egypt which is still a standard reference work on Egypt filled with marvelous drawings. This and other efforts would introduce Europe to the marvels of Egyptian antiquities. Grave robbers, antiquities dealers and explorers came to Egypt to search for hidden treasures. Egyptology and archaeology were born. A number of important discoveries were actually made by Napoleon's French troops. Napoleon, however, ran into a number of problems in Egypt. Grain supply from Upper Egypt was cut off and the British occupied the ports to the north. Napoleon's ships, filled with antiquities, were captured by the British under the direction of Admiral Nelson. The British Museum now has one of the most extraordinary collections of Egyptian antiquities in the world, outside of Egypt. Napoleon and the French army eventually evacuated Egypt but left a strong cultural impact and reintroduced Egypt to Europe.


Dynastic Rule 1801-1952


Mohammed Ali


At that time a young Turkish officer named Mohammed Ali worked his way into power in Egypt. He was placed by the Ottoman Turks as the pasha of Egypt. He proved to be a very strong ruler, shrewd in domestic and international affairs and oftentimes cruel. The office would become hereditary. In 1811 he invited a number of his opponents to the Citadel for a feast, trapped them within the gates and slaughtered them. He confiscated land in Upper Egypt and set up state monopolies. He improved irrigation, transportation and agriculture. One of his largest public works was a canal that connected Alexandria and the Nile, during its construction 20,000 men died. He encouraged young Egyptians to obtain their education in Europe and to bring back to Eypt new scientific knowledge and technology. He conquered the Arabian Peninsula and invaded Sudan. Finally, he placed a number of Egyptians in the highest places in government and created an elite class in Egypt. The Egyptians had a new sense of pride. Egyptian nationalism was born. Like many "dynasties" the first ruler is usually the strongest. Technically the Ottoman Turks continued to rule Egypt until 1922. Mohammed Ali was succeeded by several weak rulers that sent Egypt headlong into economic and political problems.