- About Egypt
- What does Egypt mean?
- What was Egypt called before it was called Egypt?
- Historical Background
- Pharaohs Time
- Greek Period to Medieval Period
- THE ARABS
- Language and Ethnicity
- POPULAR CITIES OF EGYPT
- Present Situation
Egypt, the most dynamic and vibrant country in the world, is situated in the northeast part of the African continent. Egypt holds a unique position in the context of its rich culture and diversity from time immemorial. From the prehistoric period to the modern times, the country has gone through different phases. In fact, in the aspect of culture, politics, history, and many more, the state always exhibits its predominance. Moreover, the country with the most extensive historical background and cultural richness is still a fascination place. Many factors have helped in the formation of Egypt. Undoubtedly, the Nile river plays a vital role in the creation and development of Egypt. Similarly, there are a lot of many things about Egypt that are worth discussing. However, let’s look at a few interesting facts and details about Egypt.
What does Egypt mean?
It started with the name ‘Hwt-Ka-Ptah’ which means (palace or mansion of the spirit of God Ptah), this was a title of the ancient Egyptian capital Memphis. ‘Hwt-Ka-Ptah’ became Aegyptos in Greek and was used as a term of Egypt in general. From Aegyptos was derived the word Egypt in modern languages.
What was Egypt called before it was called Egypt?
In ancient times, the Egyptians called their country Kemet, which means the Black Land referring to the color of the fertile soil of the Nile Valley and the Delta. It was a distinction from Deshert, which means the Red Land, referring to the desert.
Egypt is one of the countries in the world with the most protracted historical background. The old records are available from the rock-cut caves found in different parts of the country. Though many solid pieces of evidence of the hunter and gatherer community are not available. But it is evident that in the Nile river basin gathering community developed. Indeed, it paved the way for further development in Egyptian culture.
In the following passages, the history and archaeology of Egyptian monuments have been traced starting from the earliest times till the contemporary times.
Egyptian monuments looked by people today with such awe were quite an enigma even in the past. These were an admiration by the later Egyptians (who came after construction of monuments) and the Arabs and Europeans who invaded Egypt. One graffito written by an Egyptian of dynasty 18 is about how a day spent admiring the Great step pyramid complex of Djoser. By that time, the pyramid was already 1200 years old. One can imagine the splendor and magnificence of Egyptian culture reflected in its monumental architecture. It continued to exist as an unrivaled masterpiece just a thousand years after its construction and even now. The Egyptian kings post the creation of impressive structures like the pyramids, made efforts to preserve the monuments like King Thutmose 4.
The earliest foreign interests in Egypt were Greeks and Romans. It was quite famous for Greek intellectuals to come to Egypt to study with priests. Alexander the Great marched into the Persians, controlled Egypt in 332 BC. He was so much impressed by Egypt that he wished to be buried in Siwa.
Ancient Egyptian culture reached its final decline in 30 BC. Around 30 BC Octavian Caesar marched into Egypt. Cleopatra was the ruling queen of Egypt then, and she committed suicide under fear of public humiliation. Today she is one of the most famous personalities of Ancient Egypt renowned for her beauty and intelligence. Cleopatra belonged to the Ptolemaic dynasty. Ptolemy founded the Ptolemaic dynasty I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general who was a companion of Alexander the Great. After Cleopatra’s death, Egypt became a vassal state under the Roman Empire.
Romans improved lines of communication in Egypt. They built roads and ensured the safety of those traveling in Egypt. Furthermore, the streets made Egypt a hotspot for visitors from different regions outside Egypt. Egypt had an international reputation for being a hub of scholars, medicine, and entertainment of all types. Romans were thoroughly fascinated by Egyptian culture, and it was a fashion statement to own Egyptian artifacts. The rise of Christianity marked the end of the old way of life. Christians wanted to erase the old ‘heretical’ ideas deliberately.
The Egyptian kings are known as pharaohs. For the first time in human history, the proper unification of a kingdom occurred in Egypt in the last phase of the 4th millennium BC. According to archaeological findings, it was Pharaoh Menes,aka Narmer that unified the country in the year 3150 BC. Also, this led to a series of many dynasties that laid the foundation of Egypt. Moreover, it was in this period development of wealthy Egyptian culture formation took place. The time frame of the pharaohs divided into three kingdoms. The old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the new Kingdom. Besides, many dynasties are subdivisions of these kingdoms.
It is time of part of the the old Kingdom (2700-2500), when the most beautiful and fascinating pyramids and other structures were built. The initial beginning of many pyramidal structures took place during the old Kingdom. Notably, the great pyramid complex of Giza, the sphinx were constructed in the fourth dynasty of the ancient Kingdom.
After the old Kingdom and before the starting of the Middle Kingdom comes the first intermediate period. The intermediate period is known as the period of instability, economic, social, and political instability. Many reasons resulted in the intermediate phase that lasted for 150 years. However, the primary factor is the overflow and flood by the river Nile.
So, after this phase comes the Middle kingdom (2040-1560 BC). Before looking into the middle Kingdom, it is essential to understand Egyptian societal stratification. There was a classification in a society based on lifestyle and standards. Mostly, it was upper, middle, and lower Egypt. The elite classes lived in upper Egypt, the traders, and business people in the middle and the laborers and slaves in lower Egypt. It was in the reign of Amenemhat, the middle Kingdom flourished and developed. Later, the successors of Amenemhat were not able to maintain political stability. Indeed, It resulted in the first invasion of a foreign power in Egypt. Hyksos, the alien invaders, took the disunity prevailed in Egypt as an opportunity to establish their authority. They took control of Lower Egypt and established a capital in Avaris in 1650 BC. However, Hyksos were thrown out by Pharaoh Ahmose and re-established the unity and power of Egypt.
The New Kindom (1550-1070 BC) marked a significant change and progress for Egypt. Major highlighting part of this period is that Egypt gained international attention. Also, trade relations with many countries got establish during this phase. Moreover, the all-time celebrated kings of Egypt Thutmose III, Hatshepsut, Ramesses II, belong to this period. On the other hand, many invasions from Assyrians, Nubians took place in the later phase of the New Kingdom.
Greek Period to Medieval Period
The impact of the Persian invasion was so dominant that it paved to establish foreign power on Egypt in 525 BC. Cambyses Achaemenid of Persia ruled Egypt for an extended period and took the title of pharaoh. At times there were conflicts and rebel from the natives and invaders. But during the last pharaoh of Egypt in 334 BC, the native powers became weak. Understanding the real possibilities of Egypt, many foreign forces constantly invaded Egypt. Let’s look at the significant powers that ruled Egypt and influenced its culture.
Ptolemy, the army chief of Alexander, established the power in Egypt. The Hellenistic style and culture thus influenced the country. The Ptolemaic period changed religion and learning and also remained for a more extended period
The Arabs conquered North Africa in AD 640, and with them, they brought a fresh wave of interest in Egyptian culture. While Europe was in the Dark ages, Arabs were the most enlightened people of that time. They had a passion for astronomy, literature, geography, and mathematics. They also engaged in intense treasure hunting, and guidebooks made on how to find treasure. More devastating was the fact that they broke many monuments to build mosques and fortification walls.
Many European people who came to Egypt collected manuscripts and brought them to Europe, which stirred a lot of curiosity and interest among European scholars. Many called this phase ‘Egyptomania.’ Mummy became a household word. And mummies were once eaten and sold to Europeans because mummies believed to have medicinal value.
Scientific investigations to study Egyptian monuments and their culture began in 1639. But Europeans had their nationalist interests and took Egyptian antiquities for their national museums. In the mid-nineteenth century, Egyptians realized the importance of preserving their cultural heritage—restrictions imposed on excavations and other research works.
Egypt went through many chaoses and gained full independence from the British in 1956.
The geography of Egypt differs from each prominent region. Egypt consists of desert, river region, and agrarian area. The Nile river constitutes a significant geographical area of Egypt. Furthermore, 98% of the population resides in the Nile delta region. Though the country has a 1,001,450 sq km area, a large part of the country constitute desert and is not an excellent place to reside.
Looking at the boundaries shared by Egypt, in the west with Libya, Sudan in the south, Gaza narrows, and Israel in East. In geography, Egypt is the 30th largest country in the world. The geography of Egypt has always favored its trade and other relationship with countries. There is land-bridge that is navigable connects the Meditteranean sea and Indian ocean. Besides, in the desert region consisting of the vast Sahara and Libyan deserts. Most ancient mesmerizing Egyptian structures like Giza pyramids, sphinx, mortuary temples, etc. are built in the desert and arid regions.
In the modern context, Egypt’s major cities include the capital Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, and Alexandria. Most of the major cities are in routine areas. Also, the population and city linked near the Egyptian ports.
The Egyptian climate is moderate, that is suitable for human sustainability. Apart from the hot summer temperature in the summer, its environment is ideal for adaptation. The usual rainfall happens in winter times, with average rainfall. Furthermore, the northern part consists of the Mediterranean sea coast. The cool breeze from the north of part results in the county’s moderate climate. In contrast, the desert in the southern part of Egypt produces dry and humid wind known as khamseen. It makes the summer more humid, and the temperature rises more 40 degrees Celsius.
Recent ecological problems have affected Egypt’s climate. Due to global warming, there is a rise in the atmospheric temperature, which increases sea level. However, the increase in sea level can be a threat to Egyptian people. Due to the variations in climate, the Nile river got flooded many times, making adverse effects on people’s lives before the construction of the High Dam.
Since the historical period, the economy of Egypt was linked with few significant aspects. Agriculture is the main backbone of the country’s economy. Even though the area preferable for agrarian purposes is limited, the country has always flourished in this sector. The Nile river is the core reason for its agricultural field to develop.
Apart from the agrarian sector, tourism, petroleum, and natural gas are other fields of the Egyptian economy. The limited area of arable land is one of the main hindrances of its economy. An estimation that 30 % of Egyptian population works abroad. However, in the past few years, a significant development in the country’s economy is seen very evidently. Many foreign investments made mainly in the country. The stocks and exchange markets have improved in the last few years. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Egypt is one such country to make rapid economic reforms.
The accumulation of tangible and intangible elements becomes a part of a lifestyle and is known as culture. Culture varies according to different geographical locations. Egyptian culture is rich and varied because of its concrete and vivid history. Also, the country has been a land for Romans, Greeks, Islam, and Christianity. Indeed, these aspects have shaped in diverse forms of Egyptian culture. Let’s look at a few vital elements of Egyptian culture.
- Arts: Since from prehistoric rock caves, the artistic shreds of evidence of Egypt are available. However, it became more evident during the dynastic period. The pyramids exhibit excellent creative skills of Egyptians. Furthermore, in later phases, when Ptolemy established his power over the country, Hellenistic art developed. Egypt became the place of cultural exchange, and many artistic styles incorporated in the structures, monuments, and so on. Besides, when Islam entered the county, it has also paved the way for developing Islamic art.
- Literature: The earliest writings/literature can be traced back to Egyptian Papyrus sheet times. Also, the earliest trace of writing credit is exclusive to Egypt. However, in later phases, much literature developed. Besides, Arabic literature holds a unique position in Egypt.
- Music: Egyptians often associate the origin of tune with Gods. According to mythology, Hathor, goddess that invented music. Also, the Egyptian god Osiris used music to civilize the world. In the modern context, contemporary music has more popularity in the country. Many world-famous musicians belong to Egypt like Sayed Darwish, Mohammad Abdel Wahab, etc. In the present-day context, pop singers like Mohammad Mounir, Amr Diab of Egypt are famous globally.
- Dance: The architectural carvings in ancient Egypt give an idea regarding the antiquity of Egyptian dance forms. However, there is no concrete evidence, and only a few dance style exists in contemporary context. The belly dance form is the famous dance developed in the later Islamic period. Furthermore, among the Sufi community, Tanoura is widely practiced.
- Museum: The Egyptian cultural treasures primarily lie in the museums of Egypt. Many museums spread across different parts of Egypt; to be specific, there is a total of 60 museums. Also, these museums contain many archaeological artifacts that help to reconstruct the history of the country. So it is very apt to say that museums are the doorways to understand the past.
One of the leading museums in Egypt is the Grand Egyptian Museum, located in Giza, which consists of many many historical and archaeological evidence. Furthermore, an estimation of 12,000 artifacts is there in the Giza museum.
Language and Ethnicity
Many scripts and styles prevailed in Egypt from ancient times. However, Arabic is the official language of Egypt. There are many variations in Arabic dialects spoken in the country like the Egyptian Arabic, Saudi Arabic, Sudanese Arabic, and so on.
Talking about the country’s ethnicity, the vast majority of the country are Egyptians, which constitutes 99% of the population. Apart from the native Egyptians, other minor groups like Greeks, Turks, Nubian communities also represent the Egyptian population.
Today the prevalent religion in Egypt is Islam. Around 80% of the population is that of Muslims. The next largest religious group is that of Coptic Christians. They comprise 15-25% of the community.
Let’s look a the leading education centers of Egypt that attract international students. Al-Azhar University is present in Cairo. It is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university and is renowned for providing Sunni Islamic learning. It propagates Islam and Islamic culture. Its scholars deal with issues presented to them from all over the Islamic world regarding the conduct of Muslim individuals. Gamal Abdal Naseer played a crucial role in modernizing Al-Azhar University and introduced many secular faculties like a business, economics, science, pharmacy, etc.
Tourism is considered the backbone of the Egyptian economy. After the agriculture sector, tourism provides considerable revenue to the country. An estimated 13 million people across the globe visit Egypt for tourism purposes. The mesmerizing pyramids and other giant structures attract visitors. However, the Giza pyramid complex, giants sphinx, ancient temples, are the few prominent tourist attraction spots.
The government of Egypt has taken many initiatives to promote tourism. As part of that, many cities have developed that ensures tourists a great comfortable experience. The average annual revenue made by Egypt through tourism is $12 billion.
POPULAR CITIES OF EGYPT
It is the biggest city in Egypt. It houses over 20 million people and is the capital city of Egypt. It houses the Al-Azhar University. Cairo’s old town is lovely as it houses stunning ancient mosques, churches, soaring minarets, and various old buildings. Historic Cairo is the UNESCO World Heritage site. Citadel of Saladin is also a must-visit. On top of this, there is a mosque of Mohammed Ali from where one can get the best view of Old Cairo. The mosque itself is magnificent and splendid. Cairo also called the city of the thousand minarets. The International Park, Al Horreya Park, and Aquarium Grotto Garden are some of Cairo’s must-visit parks.
Alexandria located 183 km northwest of Cairo in Lower Egypt. It is a major seaport and industrial center. ‘Bibliotheca Alexandrina’ is a famous library, a re-imagination of the ancient library of Alexandria. Below the main library, there are art and antiquity collections and exhibits, making it a must-visit for history and book lovers. Another place for history is Alexandria’s National Museum. Fort Qaitbey and Corniche, the vast waterfront road, is also a must-visit.
Giza is the third-largest city in Egypt. The fame of Giza is especially immense owing to The Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx. The best time to visit Giza is from October to April. The Giza Museum is also a must go. It mainly exhibits the culture of Ancient Egypt. The Wissa Wassef Art Center is another place for tourists to view artwork in terracotta and weaving
Other important cities are
Aswan ( has the famous Philae Temple of god Isis and the Abu Simbel temple complex),
Luxor (the ancient name is Thebes, houses many museums and monuments),
Hurghada (a place for beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise waters a must-go place for enjoying water sports),
Sharm El Sheikh (has gorgeous beaches and luxury hotels)
Egypt is one of the most developing countries in the world. The country has made several economic reforms and policies that lead to its development and progress. Also, the semi-presidential government system under President Abdel Fattah el Sisi exhibits well governorship in the country. Besides, the capital of Egypt, Cairo, is the largest developing city in Arab nations.
In contrast, presently, Egypt faces many issues like air and water pollution. Also, the encroachment of water and urbanization are the few current environmental problems in Egypt.
Is it possible to write everything about Egypt in an article? It is possible to write, but certain things need to be felt and experienced. Egypt is one such country in the world that a person must visit at least once in a lifetime. However, the fascinating facts and information about the country draw people from a distinct part of the world to explore Egypt. If you get a chance to visit Egypt, make sure that you don’t miss the opportunity to visit and explore the beauty of Egypt!!