homeEgypt travel guide > Egypt history
Egypt guide
Regions
Traveler café 
Travel directory
 
Last updated : Nov 2009
Egypt History
Egypt History - TravelPuppy.com
The history of Egypt is one of the oldest, richest and most varied of any country in the world and the country’s place in the Middle East is as central now as it was during the fourth millennium BC.

The unification of the Lower and the Upper Kingdoms, in approximately 3180 BC, marks a good starting point for Egyptian history. This dynamic, culturally sophisticated and powerful kingdom located on the banks of the Nile grew into one of the greatest civilisations in the ancient world. The pre-Hellenic period is counted in Kingdoms (Old, Middle and New) and subdivided into dynasties. The IVth dynasty saw the construction of architectural masterpieces such as the Great Pyramid, while the XIth and XIIth saw the zenith of Egyptian power at the start of the 2nd millennium.

Tutankhamun, whose very famous tomb was discovered in 1922, ruled briefly in the XVIIIth dynasty.

From the XXth dynasty onwards, the power of Egypt was declining and the country was overrun on several occasions by foreign powers.

The latest and most permanent of these invasions, which brought the Pharaonic period to a close, was that of Alexander the Great, in 332 BC. Throughout the Hellenic and Augustan Roman period (circa AD 30), the emergence of law and literature in Alexandria allowed for 7 centuries of comparative peace and the economic stability.

From the middle of the fourth century, Egypt was part of the Eastern Empire. Then, in AD 642, an invading Arab army – 1 manifestation of the rapid Islamic conquests that followed the death of Muhammad – was welcomed by the Coptic Christians in inclination to their Greek rulers. The Fatamids obtained control of the country in the late 10th century, however, their power declined. The subsequent revival of Muslim fortunes and the reawakening of the spirit of Jihad (holy war) was hugely associated with the career of Saladin, whose control enabled him to reunite much of the Muslim world.

Under Ottoman rule, Egypt became a somewhat neglected part of a large and gradually declining empire. The arrival of Napoleon in AD 1798 brought Egypt once more into vicious contact with a European power. By 1805, the fight for independence had been won, with Muhammad Ali being recognised as Sultan. This was a period of great rivalry between European powers, during which Egypt was battered between them.

The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, although consequent financial problems and internal struggles led to British occupation during 1882, which lasted until 1936. Egypt was formally independent but severely constrained by the British, who maintained ultimate political and economic control. Discontentment against the Government culminated during the 1952 revolution, arranged by young army officers led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser. After securing his position as President of the new Government, Nasser took the Suez Canal into public ownership with all revenues directed to the Egyptian treasury and this led to the Suez Crisis of 1956, in which a combined Anglo-French-Israeli military operation challenged to seize and depose Nasser.

The failure of that operation greatly enhanced Nasser’s standing and inspired supporters throughout the Middle East who shared his vision of a united Arab world and free from foreign interference. Disputes between Arab countries scuppered the plans. The defeat of Arab forces by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War deprived Egypt of the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip, land that was recovered only after an additional defeat by the Israelis in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the subsequent Egyptian-Israeli peace initiative, which culminated in the 1979 Camp David accord. The treaty was signed on the Egyptian side by Nasser’s successor, Anwar El-Sadat, and this, along with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt after the Iranian revolution, accounted for his elimination during 1981. Sadat was succeeded by his deputy, Hosni Mubarak, who practiced similar policies. However, the rapprochement with the Arab world at the Amman Summit in 1987 initiated a new phase of diplomatic relations within the Middle East and marked the rehabilitation of the Mubarak government into the wider Arab community.

Egypt was involved in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations during the early 1990s and largely supportive of the 1994 Oslo agreement between the two sides and since then, it has played a largely back-seat role in the Arab-Israel dispute. Not least, this is because it is disinclined to do anything to disturb relations with the United States of America, after Israel, Egypt is the world’s largest single recipient of US aid. More immediate concern has been the domestic rise of militant Islam.

Mubarak
is aware that Egypt’s deep-rooted social and economic problems render fundamentalism an attractive option for several young Egyptians. The government’s strategy has been to resolve the movement by holding controlled elections, at which selected Islamic candidates are allowed to stand (although the pro-government National Democratic Party won the October 2000 elections to the Majlis) coupled with fierce domination of Islamic paramilitaries. Several of the leading militants have since left Egypt: a number of these, including senior figures in Jema’a Islamiya, the most prominent of the militant groups, subsequently linked up with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organisation.

President Mubarak, in power for 24 years, won with 88.6% of the votes - in the 1st presidential election held in September 2005. The election was marked by a low turnout of just 23%. Mr Mubarak, who beforehand had been elected only in single-candidate referendums, changed the system under pressure from the United States and domestic political groups.