Egypt emerged as one of the world’s first nation states in the tenth millennium BC.Considered a cradle of civilisation, Ancient Egypt saw some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organised religion and central government. Iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy and remain a significant focus of scientific and popular interest. Egypt’s long and rich cultural heritage is an integral part of its national identity, which has endured, and often assimilated, various foreign influences, including Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and Nubian. Egypt was an early and important centre of Christianity, but was largely Islamised in the seventh century and remains a predominantly Muslim country, albeit with a significant Christian minority, the Copts, who reject the Pan-Arab identity that has characterized post-colonial Egypt in the 20th century.
From the 16th to the beginning of the 20th century, Egypt was ruled by foreign imperial powers: The Ottoman Empire and the British Empire. Modern Egypt dates back to 1922, when it gained nominal independence from the British Empire as a monarchy. However, British military occupation of Egypt continued, and many Egyptians believed that the monarchy was an instrument of British colonialism. Following the 1952 revolution, Egypt expelled British soldiers and bureaucrats and ended British occupation, nationalized the British-held Suez Canal, exiled King Farouk and his family, and declared itself a republic. In 1958 it merged with Syria to form the United Arab Republic, which dissolved in 1961. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Egypt endured social and religious strife and political instability, fighting several armed conflicts with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, and occupying the Gaza Strip intermittently until 1967. In 1980, Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and recognising Israel. The country continues to face challenges from terrorism, political unrest, and economic underdevelopment.
Islam is the official religion of Egypt and Arabic is its official language. With over 95 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa (after Nigeria and Ethiopia), and the fifteenth-most populous in the world. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found. The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of Egypt’s territory, are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt’s residents live in urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Egypt is considered to be a regional power in North Africa, the Middle East and the Muslim world, and a middle power worldwide.Egypt’s economy is one of the largest and most diversified in the Middle East, and is projected to become one of the largest in the 21st century. In 2016, Egypt overtook South Africa and became Africa’s second largest economy (after Nigeria).Egypt is a founding member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, African Union, and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The English name Egypt is derived from the Ancient Greek Aígyptos (Αἴγυπτος), via Middle French Egypte and Latin Aegyptus. It is reflected in early Greek Linear B tablets as a-ku-pi-ti-yo. The adjective aigýpti-, aigýptios was borrowed into Coptic as gyptios, and from there into Arabic as qubṭī, back formed into قبط qubṭ, whence English Copt. The Greek forms were borrowed from Late Egyptian (Amarna) Hikuptah “Memphis”, a corruption of the earlier Egyptian name[O6] [t] [pr] [D28] [Z1] [p] [t] [H]
(⟨ḥwt-kȝ-ptḥ⟩), meaning “home of the ka (soul) of Ptah”, the name of a temple to the god Ptah at Memphis. Strabo attributed the word to a folk etymology in which Aígyptos (Αἴγυπτος) evolved as a compound from Aigaiou huptiōs (Aἰγαίου ὑπτίως), meaning “below the Aegean”.
Miṣr (IPA: [mi̠sˤr] or Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [mesˤɾ]; Arabic: مِصر) is the Classical Quranic Arabic and modern official name of Egypt, while Maṣr or Masar (IPA: [mɑsˤɾ]; Egyptian Arabic: مَصر) is the local pronunciation in Egyptian Arabic. The name is of Semitic origin, directly cognate with other Semitic words for Egypt such as the Hebrew מִצְרַיִם (Mitzráyim). The oldest attestation of this name for Egypt is the Akkadian mi-iṣ-ru miṣru, related to miṣru/miṣirru/miṣaru, meaning “border” or “frontier”.
The ancient Egyptian name of the country was[km] [m] [t] [O49]
km.t, which means black land, likely referring to the fertile black soils of the Nile flood plains, distinct from the deshret (⟨dšṛt⟩), or “red land” of the desert. This name is commonly vocalised as Kemet, but was probably pronounced [kuːmat] in ancient Egyptian. The name is realised as kēme and kēmə in the Coptic stage of the Egyptian language, and appeared in early Greek as Χημία (Khēmía). Another name was ⟨tꜣ-mry⟩ “land of the riverbank”. The names of Upper and Lower Egypt were Ta-Sheme’aw (⟨tꜣ-šmꜥw⟩) “sedgeland” and Ta-Mehew (⟨tꜣ mḥw⟩) “northland”, respectively.
History of Egypt
There is evidence of rock carvings along the Nile terraces and in desert oases. In the 10th millennium BC, a culture of hunter-gatherers and fishers was replaced by a grain-grinding culture. Climate changes or overgrazing around 8000 BC began to desiccate the pastoral lands of Egypt, forming the Sahara. Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralised society.
By about 6000 BC, a Neolithic culture rooted in the Nile Valley. During the Neolithic era, several predynastic cultures developed independently in Upper and Lower Egypt. The Badarian culture and the successor Naqada series are generally regarded as precursors to dynastic Egypt. The earliest known Lower Egyptian site, Merimda, predates the Badarian by about seven hundred years. Contemporaneous Lower Egyptian communities coexisted with their southern counterparts for more than two thousand years, remaining culturally distinct, but maintaining frequent contact through trade. The earliest known evidence of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BC.
A unified kingdom was founded c. 3150 BC by King Menes, leading to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia. Egyptian culture flourished during this long period and remained distinctively Egyptian in its religion, arts, language and customs. The first two ruling dynasties of a unified Egypt set the stage for the Old Kingdom period, c. 2700–2200 BC., which constructed many pyramids, most notably the Third Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the Fourth Dynasty Giza pyramids.
The First Intermediate Period ushered in a time of political upheaval for about 150 years. Stronger Nile floods and stabilisation of government, however, brought back renewed prosperity for the country in the Middle Kingdom c. 2040 BC, reaching a peak during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. A second period of disunity heralded the arrival of the first foreign ruling dynasty in Egypt, that of the Semitic Hyksos. The Hyksos invaders took over much of Lower Egypt around 1650 BC and founded a new capital at Avaris. They were driven out by an Upper Egyptian force led by Ahmose I, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty and relocated the capital from Memphis to Thebes.
The New Kingdom c. 1550–1070 BC began with the Eighteenth Dynasty, marking the rise of Egypt as an international power that expanded during its greatest extension to an empire as far south as Tombos in Nubia, and included parts of the Levant in the east. This period is noted for some of the most well known Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II. The first historically attested expression of monotheism came during this period as Atenism. Frequent contacts with other nations brought new ideas to the New Kingdom. The country was later invaded and conquered by Libyans, Nubians and Assyrians, but native Egyptians eventually drove them out and regained control of their country.
In 525 BC, the powerful Achaemenid Persians, led by Cambyses II, began their conquest of Egypt, eventually capturing the pharaoh Psamtik III at the battle of Pelusium. Cambyses II then assumed the formal title of pharaoh, but ruled Egypt from his home of Susa in Persia (modern Iran), leaving Egypt under the control of a satrapy. The entire Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt, from 525 BC to 402 BC, save for Petubastis III, was an entirely Persian ruled period, with the Achaemenid Emperors all being granted the title of pharaoh. A few temporarily successful revolts against the Persians marked the fifth century BC, but Egypt was never able to permanently overthrow the Persians.
The Thirtieth Dynasty was the last native ruling dynasty during the Pharaonic epoch. It fell to the Persians again in 343 BC after the last native Pharaoh, King Nectanebo II, was defeated in battle. This Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt, however, did not last long, for the Persians were toppled several decades later by Alexander the Great. The Macedonian Greek general of Alexander, Ptolemy I Soter, founded the Ptolemaic dynasty.