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The History of Egypt

Bringing Egypt closer to you.

The history of Egypt is the longest continuous history, as a unified state, of any country in the world. The Nile valley forms a natural geographic and economic unit, being bounded to the east and west by deserts, to the north by the sea and to the south by the Cataracts of the Nile. The need to have a single authority to manage the waters of the Nile led to the creation of the world's first state in Egypt in about 3000 BC . Egypt's peculiar geography made it a difficult country to attack, which is why Pharaonic Egypt was for so long an independent and self contained state.

Once Egypt did succumb to foreign rule, however, it proved unable to escape from it, and for 2,300 years Egypt was governed by foreigners: Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks and British. When President Nasser once said that he was the first native Egyptian to exercise sovereign power in Egypt since the last Pharaoh, Nectanebo II, was deposed by the Persians in 343 BC, he was only slightly exaggerating.

Misr

Misr, the Arabic name for Egypt, is of Semitic origin, and possibly means 'a country' or 'a state'.

The regularity and richness of the annual Nile River flood, coupled with semi-isolation provided by deserts to the east and west, allowed for the development of one of the world's great civilizations. A unified kingdom arose circa 3200 BC and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 BC, who in turn were replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines.

The more than 3000 year long history of Ancient Egypt has been divided into 8 or 9 periods, sometimes called Kingdoms. This modern day division is somewhat arbitrarily based on the country's unity and wealth and the power of the central government. The Ancient Egyptians themselves did not group their rulers according to such criteria. They rather seem to have developed the notion of dynasties throughout their history. The Palermo Stone simply lists the kings one after the other, without any apparent need of grouping them. The Turin Kinglist, which is more recent, has grouped the kings according to their descendance or origin. Thus, Amenemhat I and his descendants, are described as the kings of Itj-Tawi, the capital whence they ruled. We owe the division into 30 dynasties as we use it now to Manetho, the Egyptian priest who lived at the beginning of the Ptolemaic Era. In many cases, however, it is not clear why Manetho has grouped some kings into one dynasty and other kings into another. The 18th Dynasty, for instance, starts with Ahmose, a brother of the last king in Manetho's 17th Dynasty. Theoritically, Ahmose and Kamose should thus have been grouped in the same dynasty. Thutmosis I, on the other hand, does not appear to have been related to his predecessor, Amenhotep I, but still both kings are grouped in the 18th Dynasty.

Islam and the Arabic Language

It was the Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the 7th century changing Egypt into an "Arab" country once and for all. Arab rulers nominated by the Islamic Caliphate remained in control for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 and continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517.

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 following World War II. In 1952 Gamal Abdel Nasser assumed power and nationalized the Suez Canal leading to the 1956 Suez Crisis . Between 1958 and 1961 Egypt was in a union with Syria known as the United Arab Republic.

Custom Trip Planning

Road to Egypt works with you to plan your Egypt experience at a pace and taste that suits your wish list and your budget. Choose from our suggested private tours or let us customize a program just for you. Contact us and speak to one of our tour designers.

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