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See also: Dynasties of Ancient Egypt (table)Dynasties of Ancient Egypt

Old Kingdom (or Old Empire)
Dynasty Years Famous Rulers
I 3110–2884 B.C. Menes
II 2884–2780 B.C.  
III 2780–2680 B.C. Snefru
IV 2680–2565 B.C. Khufu (Cheops), Khafre, Menkaure. Age of the great pyramids.
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(ē`jĭpt), Arab. Misr, biblical Mizraim, officially Arab Republic of Egypt, republic (2015 est. pop. 93,778,000), 386,659 sq mi (1,001,449 sq km), NE Africa and SW Asia. It borders on the Mediterranean Sea in the north, Israel and the Red Sea in the east, Sudan in the south, and Libya in the west. Egypt's capital and largest city is CairoCairo
, Arab. Al Qahirah, city (1996 pop. 6,789,479), capital of Egypt and the Cairo governorate, NE Egypt, a port on the Nile River near the head of its delta, at the boundary of ancient Upper and Lower Egypt.
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. In addition to the capital, major cities include AlexandriaAlexandria,
Arabic Al Iskandariyah, city (1996 pop. 3,328,196), N Egypt, on the Mediterranean Sea. It is at the western extremity of the Nile River delta, situated on a narrow isthmus between the sea and Lake Mareotis (Maryut).
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, Port SaidPort Said
or Bur Said
, city (1986 pop. 469,533), NE Egypt, a port on the Mediterranean Sea at the entrance to the Suez Canal. It is a fueling point for ships using the canal and is the site of the main workshops of the canal administration.
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, SuezSuez
, city (1996 pop. 417,610), NE Egypt, at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez and at the southern terminus of the Suez Canal. An important port with extensive facilities, it is also a refueling station, a holding area for ships entering the canal, and a center for the
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, TantaTanta
, city (1986 pop. 336,517), capital of Gharbiyah governorate, N Egypt, in the Nile River delta. It is a cotton-ginning center and the main railroad hub of the delta.
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, and AswanAswan
or Assuan
, city (1986 pop. 190,579), capital of Aswan governorate, S Egypt, on the Nile River at the First Cataract. It is one of the driest cities in the world.
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The great mass of Egypt is located in Africa; the SinaiSinai
, triangular peninsula, c.23,000 sq mi (59,570 sq km), NE Egypt. It is c.230 mi (370 km) long and 150 mi (240 km) wide and extends north into a broad isthmus linking Africa and Asia.
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 peninsula is the only portion situated in Asia and is separated from the rest of the country by the Suez CanalSuez Canal,
Arab. Qanat as Suways, waterway of Egypt extending from Port Said to Port Tawfiq (near Suez) and connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez and thence with the Red Sea. The canal is somewhat more than 100 mi (160 km) long.
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. Egypt N of Cairo is often called Lower Egypt and S of Cairo, Upper Egypt. The principal physiographic feature of the country is the Nile River, which flows from south to north through E Egypt for c.900 mi (1,450 km). In the far south is Lake Nasser, a vast artificial lake impounded by the Aswan High Dam (built 1960–70), and in the north, below Cairo, is the great Nile delta (c.8,500 sq mi/22,000 sq km). Bordering the Nile between Aswan and Cairo are narrow strips (on the average 5 mi/8 km wide) of cultivated land; there are broad regions of tilled land in the delta.

West of the Nile is the extremely arid Libyan (or Western) Desert, a generally low-lying region (maximum alt. c.1,000 ft/300 m), largely covered with sand dunes or barren rocky plains. The desert contains a few oases, notably Siwah, Farafra, and Kharga. In SW Egypt the desert rises to the Jilf al-Kabir plateau. East of the Nile is the Arabian (or Eastern) Desert, a dissected highland area (rising to c.7,150 ft/2,180 m) that is mostly barren and virtually uninhabited except for a few settlements along the Red Sea coast.

The Sinai peninsula is a plateau broken by deep valleys; Mount Catherine, or Jabal Katrinah (8,652 ft/2,637 m), Egypt's loftiest point, and Mount Sinai, or Jabal Musa (7,497 ft/2,285 m), are located in the south. Northern Sinai, largely a sandy desert, contains most of the peninsula's small population, which lives mainly in towns built around wells.


The vast majority of Egypt's inhabitants live in the Nile valley and delta, and the rest of the country (about 96% of Egypt's total land area) is sparsely populated. Most modern Egyptians are of a complex ethnic mixture, being descended from the ancient Egyptians, Berbers, sub-Saharan Africans, Arabs, Greeks, and Turks. Arabic is the official language; many educated Egyptians also speak English and French. About 90% of the people are Sunni Muslims, and most of the rest are Coptic Christians (see CoptsCopts
, the native Christian minority of Egypt; estimates of the number of Copts in Egypt range from 5% to 17% of the population. Copts are not ethnically distinct from other Egyptians; they are a cultural remnant, i.e.
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Economic growth in Egypt has been held back by a severely limited amount of arable land (less than 5% of the total area) as well as a large and rapidly growing population. After 1945, a large proportion of funds and energy were devoted to preparing the country for warfare with Israel and later to rebuilding after the destruction incurred in the Arab-Israeli WarsArab-Israeli Wars,
conflicts in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973–74, and 1982 between Israel and the Arab states. Tensions between Israel and the Arabs have been complicated and heightened by the political, strategic, and economic interests in the area of the great powers.
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. The country's industrial base increased considerably in the 20th cent., especially after 1952. The state owns much of the economy and plays a decisive role in its planning; however, in recent years Egypt has moved toward a more decentralized, market-oriented economy, and there has been an increase in foreign investment.

The country's farmland is intensively cultivated (usually two, and sometimes three, crops are produced annually) and yields-per-acre are extremely high. Control of the Nile waters by the Aswan High Dam brought considerable additional land into cultivation, but the needs of the growing population have prevented the accumulation of significant agricultural surpluses. Most farms in Egypt are small and labor-intensive. Nonetheless, about a third of Egypt's workers are employed in farming. The principal crop is cotton; rice, corn, wheat, beans, tomatoes, sugarcane, citrus fruit, and dates are also produced. Cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, and donkeys are raised, and there is a fishing industry.

Petroleum and natural gas (found mainly in the Gulf of Suez) are produced; the principal minerals are iron ore, phosphates, salt, manganese, limestone, gypsum, and gold. Cairo and Alexandria are the main industrial centers; major manufacturing plants are also located in the other cities of the Nile valley and delta and at Port Said and Suez. The leading manufactures are refined petroleum, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbons, construction materials, and metals. Food processing and tourism are also important industries, and navigation transit fees from the Suez Canal are another important source of foreign exchange. The country's rail and road networks are largely found along the Mediterranean coast and in the Nile valley.

The principal exports are crude and refined petroleum, cotton, textiles, metal products, and chemicals. Leading imports include machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, wood products, fuels, and consumer goods. The chief trade partners are the United States, Italy, Germany, France, and Saudi Arabia.

Since the 1970s billions of dollars in economic aid have poured into Egypt from the United States, Arab neighbors, and European nations. However, the country's inefficient state-run industries, its bloated public sector, and its large military investments resulted in inflation, unemployment, a severe trade deficit, and heavy public debt. A series of economic and fiscal reforms was undertaken in the 1990s with support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but by the mid-2010s a new round of reforms, forced by the IMF, was undertaken. Poverty, the nation's most pressing problem, has increased in the 21st cent., and economic reforms, when undertaken, have often been ineffective in alleviating it or even aggravated it. Social inequities have heightened societal tensions, and authoritarian rule has fostered corruption.


Egypt is governed under the constitution approved in 2014 as amended. Executive power is held by the president, who is the head of state and is elected by popular vote for a six-year term; a president may serve two terms. The head of government is the prime minister, who is appointed by the president and approved by the House of Representatives. The bicameral Parliament consist of the House of Representatives and Senate. The former has 450 members; they are largely elected, with up to 5% appointed by the president. The Senate, an advisory body reestablished in 2020, has 300 members, two thirds of which are elected; the rest are appointed by the president. Members of both houses serve five-year terms. Administratively, Egypt is divided into 27 governorates.


The Ancient Empire of the Nile

The valley of the "long river between the deserts," with the annual floods, deposits of life-giving silt, and year-long growing season, was the seat of one of the earliest civilizations built by humankind. The antiquity of this civilization is almost staggering, and whereas the history of other lands is measured in centuries, that of ancient Egypt is measured in millennia. Much is known of the period even before the actual historic records began. Those records are abundant and, because of Egypt's dry climate, have been well preserved. Inscriptions have unlocked a wealth of information; for example, the existing fragments of the Palermo stonePalermo stone,
ancient Egyptian stone of black diorite engraved toward the end of the 5th dynasty (2565–2420 B.C.) and containing the earliest extant annals. The stone is only a small fragment of what was once a large slab.
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 are engraved with the records of the kings of the first five dynasties. The great papyrus dumps offer an enormous amount of information, especially on the later periods of ancient Egyptian history.

Among the many problems encountered in Egyptology, one of the most controversial is that of dating events. The following dates have a margin of plus or minus 100 years for the time prior to 3000 B.C. Fairly precise dates are possible beginning with the Persian conquest (525 B.C.) of Egypt. The division of Egyptian history into 30 dynasties up to the time of Alexander the Great (a system worked out by Manetho) is a convenient frame upon which to hang the succession of the kings and a record of events. In the table entitled Dynasties of Ancient EgyptDynasties of Ancient Egypt

Old Kingdom (or Old Empire)
Dynasty Years Famous Rulers
I 3110–2884 B.C. Menes
II 2884–2780 B.C.  
III 2780–2680 B.C. Snefru
IV 2680–2565 B.C. Khufu (Cheops), Khafre, Menkaure. Age of the great pyramids.
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, the numbers of the dynasties are given in Roman numerals, and the numeral is followed by the dates of the dynasty and a notation of famous monarchs of the era (each of whom has a separate article in the encyclopedia). Since there are many gaps and periods without well-known rulers (occasionally without known rulers at all), those are given simply with dates or are combined with better-recorded periods.

The Old and Middle Kingdoms

A high culture developed early, and the Old Kingdom is notable for artistic and intellectual achievements (see Egyptian architectureEgyptian architecture,
the architecture of the ancient Egyptians, formulated prior to 3000 B.C. and lasting through the Ptolemaic period (323–30 B.C.). Characteristics of Egyptian Architecture
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; Egyptian artEgyptian art,
works of art created in the geographic area constituting the nation of Egypt. It is one of the world's oldest arts. Earliest History

The art of predynastic Egypt (c.4000–3200 B.C.
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; Egyptian religionEgyptian religion,
the religious beliefs of the ancient inhabitants of Egypt. Information concerning ancient Egyptian religion is abundant but unsatisfactory. Only certain parts of Egyptian religious life and thought are known; whole periods remain in the dark.
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). From the beginning there was a concept of the divinity or quasi-divinity of the king (pharaoh), which lasted from the time that Egypt was first united (c.3200 B.C.) under one ruler until the ultimate fall of Egypt to the Romans. According to tradition, it was MenesMenes
, fl. 3200 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, of the first dynasty, the first Egyptian ruler for whom there are historical records. According to tradition, he seems to have united the southern and northern kingdoms and to have settled on a new capital, later known as Memphis.
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 (or Narmer) who as king of Upper Egypt conquered the rival kingdom of Lower Egypt in the Nile delta, thus forming the single kingdom of Egypt. In the unified and centralized state created by Menes, the memory of the two ancient kingdoms was preserved in formalities of administration. Trade flourished, and the kings of the I dynasty appear to have sent trading expeditions under military escort to Sinai to obtain copper. Indications show that under the II dynasty, trade existed with areas as far north as the Black Sea.

The III dynasty was one of the landmarks of Egyptian history, the time during which sun-worship, a new form of religion that later became the religion of the upper classes, was introduced. At the same time mummification and the building of stone monuments began. The kings of the IV dynasty (which may be said to begin the Old Kingdom proper) were the builders of the great pyramidspyramid.
The true pyramid exists only in Egypt and Sudan, though the term has also been applied to similar structures in other countries. Egyptian pyramids are square in plan and their triangular sides, which directly face the points of the compass, slope upwards at
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 at Giza. The great pyramid of KhufuKhufu
or Cheops
, fl. c.2680 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, founder of the IV dynasty. He was king for 23 years and was famous as the builder of the greatest pyramid at Giza.
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 is a monument not only to the king but also to the unified organization of ancient Egyptian society. The V to the VII dynasties are remarkable for their records of trading expeditions with armed escorts. Although Egypt flourished culturally and commercially during this period, it started to become less centralized and weaker politically. The priests of the sun-god at Heliopolis gained increasing power; the office of provincial rulers became hereditary, and their local influence was thereafter always a threat to the state.

In the 23d cent. B.C. the Old Kingdom, after a long and flourishing existence, fell apart. The local rulers became dominant, and the records, kept by the central government, tended to disappear. Some order was restored by the IX dynasty, but it was not until 2134 B.C. that power was again centralized, this time at ThebesThebes
, city of ancient Egypt. Luxor and Karnak now occupy parts of its site. The city developed at a very early date from a number of small villages, particularly one around modern Luxor (then called Epet), but remained relatively obscure until the rise of the Theban family
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. That city was to be the capital for most of the next millennium.

The Middle Kingdom, founded at the end of the XI dynasty, reached its zenith under the XII. The Pharaoh, however, was not then an absolute monarch but rather a feudal lord, and his vassals held their land in their own power. The XII dynasty advanced the border up the Nile to the Second Cataract. Order was preserved, the draining of El Faiyum was begun (adding a new and fertile province), a uniform system of writing was adopted, and civilization reached a new peak. After 214 years the XII dynasty came to an end in 1786 B.C. In the dimly known period that followed, Egypt passed for more than a century under the HyksosHyksos
[Egyptian,=rulers of foreign lands], invaders of ancient Egypt, now substantiated as the XV–XVIII dynasties. They were a northwestern Semitic (Canaanite or Amorite) people who entered Egypt sometime between 1720 and 1710 B.C.
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 (the so-called shepherd kings), who were apparently Semites from Syria. They were expelled from Egypt by Amasis IAmasis I
, d. c.1545 B.C., king of ancient Egypt (c.1570–1545 B.C.), founder of the XVIII dynasty. He drove the Hyksos out of the Nile delta and pursued them into Palestine. His name also appears as Ahmose.
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 (Ahmose I), founder of the XVIII dynasty, and the New Kingdom was established.

The New Kingdom

The XVIII dynasty is the most important and the best-recorded period in Egyptian history. The local governors generally opposed both the Hyksos and the new dynasty; those who survived were now made mere administrators, their lands passing to the crown. Ancient Egypt reached its height. Its boundaries were extended into Asia, with a foreign province reaching the Euphrates (see Thutmose IThutmose I
or Thothmes I
, d. 1495 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, third ruler of the XVIII dynasty; successor of Amenhotep I. He became king c.1525. In a great campaign he subjugated the valley of the Nile up to the Third Cataract (below the present Dongola).
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). Letters known as the Tell el AmarnaTell el Amarna
or Tel el Amarna
, ancient locality, Egypt, near the Nile and c.60 mi (100 km) N of Asyut. Ikhnaton's capital, Akhetaton, was in Tell el Amarna. About 400 tablets with inscriptions in Akkadian cuneiform were found there in 1887.
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 tablets are dated to this dynasty and furnish the details of the reigns of Amenhotep IIIAmenhotep III
or Amenophis III
, d. c.1372 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, of the XVIII dynasty. He succeeded his father, Thutmose IV, c.1411 B.C. His reign marks the culmination and the start of the decline of the XVIII dynasty.
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 and his son, IkhnatonIkhnaton
or Akhenaton
[Egyptian,=Aton is satisfied], d. c.1354 B.C., king of ancient Egypt (c.1372–1354 B.C.), of the XVIII dynasty; son and successor of Amenhotep III. His name at his accession was Amenhotep IV, but he changed it to honor the god Aton.
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. As Ikhnaton neglected his rule in the pursuit of religion, letters from local rulers became increasingly urgent in begging help, especially against the HittitesHittites
, ancient people of Asia Minor and Syria, who flourished from 1600 to 1200 B.C. The Hittites, a people of Indo-European connection, were supposed to have entered Cappadocia c.1800 B.C.
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. Of the rulers following Ikhnaton in this dynasty, TutankhamenTutankhamen
or Tutenkhamon
, fl. c.1350 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, of the XVIII dynasty. He was the son-in-law of Ikhnaton and succeeded to the throne after a brief reign by Ikhnaton's successor.
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 is important for his law code and his enforcement of those laws through the courts. Architecture was at its zenith with the enormous and impressive buildings at and around Thebes.

Egyptian civilization seems to have worn out rapidly after conflicts with the Hittites under the XIX dynasty and with sea raiders under the XX dynasty. With a succession of weak kings, the Theban priesthood practically ruled the country and continued to maintain a sort of theocracy for 450 years. In the delta the Libyan element had been growing, and with the disappearance of the weak XXI dynasty, which had governed from Tanis, a Libyan dynasty came to power. This was succeeded by the alien rule of Nubians, black Africans who advanced from the south to the delta under PiankhiPiankhi
, king of ancient Nubia (c.741–c.715 B.C.). After subduing Upper Egypt, he defeated (c.721 B.C.) Tefnakhte, lord of Saïs, who had just completed the conquest of Lower Egypt. Piankhi was also victorious at Memphis. He returned (c.718 B.C.
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 and later conquered the land. The rising power of Assyria threatened Egypt by absorbing the petty states of Syria and Palestine, and Assyrian kings had reached the borders of Egypt several times before Esar-HaddonEsar-Haddon
, king of ancient Assyria (681–668 B.C.), son of Sennacherib. Immediately upon ascending the throne he had to put down serious revolts and defeat the Chaldaeans. He was successful in both enterprises.
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 actually invaded (673 B.C.) the land of the Nile.

Assyrian rule was, however, short-lived; by 650 B.C., under PsamtikPsamtik
, Lat. Psammetichus, d. 609 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, founder of the XXVI dynasty. When his father, Necho, lord of Saïs under the Assyrians, was defeated and killed (663 B.C.
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, Egypt was once more independent and orderly. Greek traders became important, and their city of Naucratis, founded by Amasis IIAmasis II,
d. 525 B.C., king of ancient Egypt (569–525 B.C.), of the XXVI dynasty. In a military revolt he dethroned Apries. He erected temples and other buildings at Memphis and Saïs and encouraged Greek merchants and artisans to settle at Naucratis.
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, thrived. Attempts to reestablish Egyptian power in Asia were turned back (605 B.C.) by the Babylonian king NebuchadnezzarNebuchadnezzar
, d. 562 B.C., king of Babylonia (c.605–562 B.C.), son and successor of Nabopolassar. In his father's reign he was sent to oppose the Egyptians, who were occupying W Syria and Palestine. At Carchemish he met and defeated (605 B.C.
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, and Egypt fell easy prey (525 B.C.) to the armies of CambysesCambyses
, two kings of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia. Cambyses I was king (c.600 B.C.) of Ansham, ruling as a vassal of Media. According to Herodotus he married the daughter of the Median king Astyages; some scholars dispute this. Cambyses' son was Cyrus the Great.
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 of Persia. Despite occasional troubles, the Persians maintained their hegemony until 405 B.C. New dynasties were then established, but they did not regain the old splendor. The Persians again became dominant in 341 B.C. Egypt, rich and ill-defended, fell to Alexander the GreatAlexander the Great
or Alexander III,
356–323 B.C., king of Macedon, conqueror of much of Asia. Youth and Kingship

The son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, he had Aristotle as his tutor and was given a classical education.
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 without resistance in 332 B.C.

When Alexander's brief empire faded, Egypt in the wars of his successors (the Diadochi) fell to his general Ptolemy, who became king as Ptolemy IPtolemy I
(Ptolemy Soter) , d. 284 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, the first ruler of the Macedonian dynasty (or Lagid dynasty), son of a Macedonian named Lagus. He was one of the leading generals of Alexander the Great, and after Alexander's death (323 B.C.
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. All the succeeding kings of the dynasty were also named Ptolemy. The great city of Alexandria became the intellectual center and fountainhead of the Hellenistic world. The Ptolemies maintained a formidable empire for more than two centuries and exercised great power in the E Mediterranean. The Jewish population was large—perhaps as much as a seventh of the total population—and even the Palestinian Jews looked to the Alexandrian Jews for guidance.

The rising power of Rome soon overshadowed Egypt, but it was not until Ptolemy XIIPtolemy XII
(Ptolemy Auletes) , d. 51 B.C., king of ancient Egypt (80–58 B.C., 55–51 B.C.), of the Macedonian dynasty, illegitimate son of Ptolemy IX. He is also called Ptolemy Neos Dionysus.
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 sought Roman aid through PompeyPompey
(Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus) , 106 B.C.–48 B.C., Roman general, the rival of Julius Caesar. Sometimes called Pompey the Great, he was the son of Cnaeus Pompeius Strabo (consul in 89 B.C.), a commander of equivocal reputation.
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 to regain his throne that Rome actually obtained (58 B.C.) a foothold in Egypt itself. CleopatraCleopatra
, 69 B.C.–30 B.C., queen of Egypt, one of the great romantic heroines of all time. Her name was widely used in the Ptolemaic family; she was Cleopatra VII.
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, the daughter of Ptolemy XII, tried to win back power for Egypt, especially through Julius CaesarCaesar, Julius
(Caius Julius Caesar), 100? B.C.–44 B.C., Roman statesman and general. Rise to Power

Although he was born into the Julian gens, one of the oldest patrician families in Rome, Caesar was always a member of the democratic or popular party.
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 and Marc AntonyAntony
or Marc Antony,
Lat. Marcus Antonius, c.83 B.C.–30 B.C., Roman politican and soldier. He was of a distinguished family; his mother was a relative of Julius Caesar.
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. Octavian (later Emperor AugustusAugustus
, 63 B.C.–A.D. 14, first Roman emperor, a grandson of the sister of Julius Caesar. Named at first Caius Octavius, he became on adoption by the Julian gens (44 B.C.) Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian); Augustus was a title of honor granted (27 B.C.
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) actually annexed Egypt to Rome, putting to death Cleopatra's son, Ptolemy XV, who was the last of the Ptolemies. Egypt became a granary for Rome; the emperors from Augustus to Hadrian raised the irrigation system to great efficiency, and Trajan reopened the ancient Nile–Red Sea canal. In the 2d cent. A.D., strife between Jews and Greeks in Alexandria brought massacres.

Christianity was welcomed in Egypt, and several of the most celebrated Doctors of the Church, notably St. AthanasiusAthanasius, Saint
, c.297–373, patriarch of Alexandria (328–73), Doctor of the Church, great champion of orthodoxy during the Arian crisis of the 4th cent. (see Arianism).
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, St. CyrilCyril, Saint
(Saint Cyril of Alexandria) , d. A.D. 444, patriarch of Alexandria (412–44), Doctor of the Church, known for his animosity toward heretics and heathens. He drove the Jews from Alexandria, and under his rule Hypatia was killed.
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 of Alexandria, and OrigenOrigen
, 185?–254?, Christian philosopher and scholar. His full name was Origines Adamantius, and he was born in Egypt, probably in Alexandria. When he was quite young, his father was martyred.
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, were Egyptians. Egypt gave rise to the Arian and Nestorian heresies, and GnosticismGnosticism
, dualistic religious and philosophical movement of the late Hellenistic and early Christian eras. The term designates a wide assortment of sects, numerous by the 2d cent. A.D.
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 flourished there for a time. The patriarch of Alexandria was probably the most important figure in Egypt. After St. Cyril, MonophysitismMonophysitism
[Gr.,=belief in a single nature], a heresy of the 5th and 6th cent., which grew out of a reaction against Nestorianism. It was anticipated by Apollinarianism and was continuous with the principles of Eutyches, whose doctrine had been rejected in 451 at Chalcedon
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 became the national faith; out of this arose the Coptic Church. The hostility of the people to the Orthodox Byzantine emperors and officials probably helped Khosru II of Persia to gain Egypt in 616. It was recovered (c.628) by Heraclius, but the Persian invasion proved to be only a forerunner of the more serious Arabian invasion.

Islamic Egypt

The Arab conquest of Egypt (639–42), only some 20 years after the rise of Islam, made the country an integral part of the Muslim world. Until the 19th cent., Egyptian history was intimately involved with the general political development of IslamIslam
, [Arab.,=submission to God], world religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad. Founded in the 7th cent., Islam is the youngest of the three monotheistic world religions (with Judaism and Christianity). An adherent to Islam is a Muslim [Arab.,=one who submits].
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, whether unified or divided into warring states. Under the UmayyadUmayyad
, the first Islamic dynasty (661–750). Their reign witnessed the return to leadership roles of the pre-Islamic Arab elite, and the rejuvenation of tribal loyalties. The Banu Ummaya constituted the higher stratum of the pre-Islamic Meccan elite.
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 caliphate many of the people continued their adherence to Coptic Christianity despite the special tax exacted from infidels. Eventually, the settling of colonists from Arabia and the increased conversion of peoples to Islam reduced the Christian population to a small minority. The Greek and Coptic languages went out of use, and Arabic became the predominant language.

The AbbasidAbbasid
or Abbaside
, Arab family descended from Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad. The Abbasids held the caliphate from 749 to 1258, but they were recognized neither in Spain nor (after 787) W of Egypt.
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 caliphate (founded c.750) at first held Egypt under complete subjection, but the unwieldiness of its vast domain encouraged provincial governors to revolt and to assert their own rule. In the 10th cent., Egypt fell to the FatimidFatimid
or Fatimite
, dynasty claiming to hold the caliphate on the basis of descent from Fatima, a daughter of Muhammad the Prophet. In doctrine the Fatimids were related to other Shiite sects.
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 claimants to the caliphate, who invaded from the west. The Fatimids founded (969) Cairo as their capital, and with the establishment (972) there of the Mosque of Al-Azhar as a great (and still active) Muslim university, they further emphasized the change of Egypt from an outpost of Islam to one of its centers.

The strain of the CrusadesCrusades
, series of wars undertaken by European Christians between the 11th and 14th cent. to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. First Crusade

In the 7th cent., Jerusalem was taken by the caliph Umar.
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 and internal political disorder led to the fall of the Fatimids and to the founding by SaladinSaladin
, Arabic Salah ad-Din, 1137?–1193, Muslim warrior and Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, the great opponent of the Crusaders, b. Mesopotamia, of Kurdish descent.
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 of the Ayyubid dynasty. The strategic position of Egypt made it a logical target of the Crusaders, who twice (1219–21, 1249–50) held Damietta, then the chief Mediterranean port, but could advance no farther.

The later Ayyubid rulers came excessively under the control of their slave soldiers and advisers, the MamluksMamluk
or Mameluke
[Arab.,=slaves], a warrior caste dominant in Egypt and influential in the Middle East for over 700 years. Islamic rulers created this warrior caste by collecting non-Muslim slave boys and training them as cavalry soldiers especially loyal to their
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, who in 1250 seized the country. Until 1517, when Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, the Mamluks maintained their turbulent rule, with frequent revolts and extremely short tenures for most of the sultans. Nevertheless, they built many great architectural monuments. Their importance by no means disappeared with the establishment of Ottoman power, for the Egyptian pasha (governor) was compelled to consult the Mamluk beys (princes), who continued in control of the provinces.

Ottoman control had become almost nominal by the administration (1768–73) of Ali Bey, who termed himself sultan. The Ottoman Turks, however, continually attempted to assert power over the unruly beys. On the pretext of establishing order there, Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon INapoleon I
, 1769–1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal." Early Life

The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under Bonaparte, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at
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) undertook the French occupation of Egypt (1798–1801); yet his real object was to cut off British trade lines and, eventually, to detach India from the British Empire. All his efforts were bent to establishing French power in the region. The Ottoman Turks, however, ultimately joined the British in forcing out the French.

The French withdrawal was followed by the rise of Muhammad AliMuhammad Ali,
1769?–1849, pasha of Egypt after 1805. He was a common soldier who rose to leadership by his military skill and political acumen. In 1799 he commanded a Turkish army in an unsuccessful attempt to drive Napoleon from Egypt.
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, a former commander, who was appointed (1805) Egyptian pasha by the Ottoman emperor. He permanently destroyed (1811) the Mamluks' power by massacring their leaders. Using Europe as a model, Muhammad Ali laid the foundations of the modern Egyptian state. He introduced political, social, and educational reforms and developed an effective bureaucracy; he also undertook massive economic development by expanding and modernizing agriculture and by starting large-scale industry. Under his rule the empire eventually extended from Sudan in the south to Arabia in the east and Syria in the northeast. Abbas I (reigned 1848–54), Muhammad Ali's successor, undid some of his reforms and was followed by Muhammad Said Pasha.

European Domination

In 1854, Said granted Ferdinand de LessepsLesseps, Ferdinand Marie, vicomte de
, 1805–94, French diplomat and engineer. He entered the consular service in 1825 and was minister to Spain (1848–49). Later, while serving in Egypt, he conceived the idea of a Suez Canal, and in 1854 he obtained from Said Pasha,
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 a concession for the construction of the Suez Canal, a project that put Egypt into deep financial debt and robbed it of its thriving transit-trade on the Alexandria-Cairo railroad. In addition, the strategic nature of the canal, which opened in 1867, shifted Great Britain's focus in the Middle East from Constantinople to Cairo and opened the door to British intervention in Egyptian affairs. Said was followed by Khedive (viceroy) Ismail PashaIsmail Pasha
, 1830–95, ruler of Egypt (1863–79), son of Ibrahim Pasha. He succeeded his uncle Said Pasha as ruler. Ismail used the Egyptian cotton crop, enormously enhanced in value by the American Civil War, to obtain credits for grandiose schemes, including
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, whose rule was characterized by accelerated economic development, Westernization, and the establishment of Egyptian autonomy. The cost of Said's reforms, of the construction of the Suez Canal, and of his conquests in Africa, however, put Egypt deep into debt and forced Ismail to sell (1875) his Suez Canal shares to the British. Egypt's financial problems led to further subordination of the country to great-power interests. Ismail was forced to accept the establishment of a French-British Debt Commission.

In 1879, Ismail was compelled to abdicate in favor of his son Tewfik PashaTewfik Pasha
(Muhammad Tewfik) , 1852–92, khedive of Egypt (1879–92). He acceded to office when his father, Ismail Pasha, was deposed. In 1880, Tewfik accepted joint French-British control over the nation's finances.
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, who was confronted with financial and political chaos; his situation was complicated by the outbreak of a nationalist and military revolt (1881–82) under Arabi Pasha. The British reacted to the revolt with a naval bombardment of Alexandria in July, 1882, and by landing British troops, who defeated Arabi Pasha at the battle of Tell el Kabir and went on to occupy Cairo.

The British consolidated their control during the period (1883–1907) when Lord CromerCromer, Evelyn Baring, 1st earl of
, 1841–1917, British administrator in Egypt. Appointed (1877) first British commissioner of the Egyptian public debt office, he directed investigations by France and England into
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 was consul general and de facto ruler. By 1904 the governments of France, Austria, and Italy agreed not to obstruct Britain in its intention to stay in Egypt indefinitely. During World War I, after Turkey joined the Central Powers, Great Britain declared Egypt a British protectorate and deposed Abbas IIAbbas II
(Abbas Hilmi) , 1874–1944, last khedive of Egypt (1892–1914); son and successor of Tewfik Pasha. Nominally he ruled in subordination to the Ottoman Empire, but in fact Egypt was controlled by the British resident—at first Lord Cromer, and later Lord
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, the allegedly pro-German khedive, substituting Husein Kamil (1914–17), a member of his family. After the war Egyptian nationalists of the WafdWafd
, in modern Egyptian history, a political party. It arose out of the delegation [Arabic wafd=delegation] headed by Zaghlul Pasha that was to have visited Great Britain in 1918 to urge Egypt's independence. Zaghlul formed the party in 1919.
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 party, led by Zaghlul PashaZaghlul Pasha, Saad
, c.1850–1927, Egyptian nationalist leader, founder of the Wafd party. He suffered both arrest (1882) and exile (1919) for his attempts to end foreign domination in Egypt.
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, were especially vigorous in their demands for freedom.


Under the rule of Ahmad Fuad (who later became Fuad IFuad I
(Ahmed Fuad Pasha) , 1868–1936, first king of modern Egypt, son of the khedive Ismail Pasha. Educated in Europe, Fuad returned to Egypt in 1880. He was particularly concerned with military and cultural affairs and founded the Univ. of Cairo in 1906.
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), a treaty providing for Egypt's independence was concluded (1922). It went into effect in 1923 following the proclamation of a constitution that made Egypt a kingdom under Fuad and established a parliament. Great Britain, however, retained the right to station troops in Egypt and refused to consider Egyptian claims to the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (see SudanSudan
, officially Republic of the Sudan, republic (2015 est. pop. 38,648,000), 718,723 sq mi (1,861,484 sq km), NE Africa. It borders on Egypt in the north, on the Red Sea in the northeast, on Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east, on South Sudan in the south, and on the Central
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). The British protectorate was maintained until the promulgation of a new treaty in 1936, which made the two countries allies and promised the eventual withdrawal of British troops. Fuad was succeeded by his son FaroukFarouk
, 1920–65, king of Egypt (1936–52), son and successor of Fuad I. After a short regency he acceded (1937) to the throne. A constitutional monarch, Farouk was frequently at odds with the Wafd, the largest Egyptian party.
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. In 1937 a further step toward sovereignty was accomplished by an agreement (which went into effect in 1949) to end extraterritorialityextraterritoriality
or exterritoriality,
privilege of immunity from local law enforcement enjoyed by certain aliens. Although physically present upon the territory of a foreign nation, those aliens possessing extraterritoriality are considered by customary
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 in Egypt.

In the postindependence years, Egypt's internal political life was largely a struggle for power between the Wafd party and the throne. The constitution was suspended in 1930, and Egypt was under a virtual royal dictatorship until the Wafdists forced the readoption of the constitution in 1935. During World War II, Egypt remained officially neutral. However, Egyptian facilities were put at the disposal of the British and several battles were fought on Egyptian soil (for details of the military engagements, see North Africa, campaigns inNorth Africa, campaigns in,
series of military contests for control of North Africa during World War II. The desert war started in 1940 and for more than two years thereafter seesawed between NE Libya and NW Egypt.
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After the war, demands were made for a revision of the treaty of 1936. Repeated talks failed because of Egyptian insistence that Great Britain allow incorporation of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan into Egypt. An Egyptian appeal (1947) on this subject to the Security Council of the United Nations was also in vain. Egypt actively opposed the UN partition of Palestine in 1948 and, joining its forces with the other members of the Arab LeagueArab League,
popular name for the League of Arab States,
formed in 1945 in an attempt to give political expression to the Arab nations. The original charter members were Egypt, Iraq, Jordan (then known as Transjordan), Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
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, sent troops into the S Negev. Israeli forces, however, repelled the Egyptians in bitter fighting (see Arab-Israeli WarsArab-Israeli Wars,
conflicts in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973–74, and 1982 between Israel and the Arab states. Tensions between Israel and the Arabs have been complicated and heightened by the political, strategic, and economic interests in the area of the great powers.
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In domestic politics, the Wafd acquired a majority in 1950 and formed a one-party cabinet. The struggle between King Farouk and the Wafdist government intensified, and several political uprisings led to violence. On July 23, 1952, the military, headed by Gen. Muhammad Naguib, took power by coup. Farouk abdicated in favor of his infant son, Ahmad Fuad II, but in 1953 the monarchy was abolished and a republic was declared. Naguib assumed the presidency, but, in his attempts to move toward a parliamentary republic, he met with opposition from other members of the Revolutionary Command Committee (RCC). Increasing difficulties led to the extension of martial law. Col. Gamal Abdal NasserNasser, Gamal Abdal
, 1918–70, Egyptian army officer and political leader, first president of the republic of Egypt (1956–70). A revolutionary since youth, he was wounded by the police and expelled (1935) from secondary school in Cairo for leading an anti-British
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 emerged as a rival to Naguib, and in Feb., 1954, Naguib resigned.

Egypt under Nasser

Nasser took full power in Nov., 1954. Under the new constitution, he was elected president for a six-year term. The long-standing dispute over Sudan was ended on Jan. 1, 1956, when Sudan announced its independence, recognized by both Egypt and Great Britain. British troops, by previous agreement (July, 1954), completed their evacuation of the Suez Canal Zone in June, 1956. Tension increased in July, 1956, when, after the United States and Great Britain withdrew their pledges of financial aid for the building of the Aswan High Dam, the Soviet Union stepped in to finance the dam. Nasser then nationalized the Suez Canal and expelled British oil and embassy officials from Egypt.

On Oct. 29, Israel, barred from the canal and antagonized by continued guerrilla attacks from Gaza, invaded Gaza and the Sinai peninsula in joint arrangement with Britain and France, who attacked Egypt by air on Oct. 31. Within a week Great Britain, France, and Israel yielded to international political pressure, especially that of the United States, and a cease-fire was pronounced. A UN emergency force then occupied the Canal Zone in Dec., 1956. Israeli troops evacuated Egyptian territory in the spring of 1957.

In Feb., 1958, Syria and Egypt merged as the United Arab RepublicUnited Arab Republic,
political union (1958–61) of Egypt and Syria. The capital was Cairo. The two countries were merged (1958) into a single unit comprising the Southern (Egypt) and the Northern (Syria) Regions, with Gamal Abdal Nasser as president.
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. They were joined by Yemen in March, creating the United Arab States. The union was soon torn by personal and political differences, and a Syrian revolt (1961) led to its virtual dissolution.

Egypt embarked on a program of industrialization, chiefly through Soviet technical and economic aid. Both industry and agriculture were almost completely nationalized by 1962. In the early 1960s, Nasser strove to make Egypt the undisputed leader of a united Arab world; his chief and most effective rallying cry for Arab unity remained his denunciation of Israel and his call for that country's extinction. From 1962 to 1967, Egyptian forces provided the chief strength of the republican government in YemenYemen
, officially Republic of Yemen, republic (2015 est. pop. 26,916,000), 207,300 sq mi (535,800 sq km), SW Asia, at the southern edge of the Arabian peninsula. The present nation of Yemen was formed in 1990, when the Yemen Arab Republic (the former Yemen or Northern Yemen)
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, where the royalists were backed by Saudi Arabia. Heavy losses finally moved Egypt to withdraw, and the republicans ultimately gained control. Egyptian military might continued to increase with the acquisition of powerful modern weapons, many of which were supplied by the USSR. In 1965 and 1966 two anti-Nasser plots were discovered and crushed. Nasser assumed near absolute control in 1967 by taking over the premiership and the leadership of the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), the country's sole political party.

In the spring of 1967, Egyptian troops were ordered to positions on the Israeli border, and Nasser demanded that the UN peacekeeping force stationed on the Egyptian side of the border since 1956 be withdrawn. Following the UN evacuation, Arab troops massed on the frontier, and Nasser announced (May 22) that the Gulf of Aqaba was closed to Israeli shipping. Other Arab states rallied to Egypt's support.

On June 5, Israel launched air and ground attacks against Arab positions and after six days achieved a rapid and decisive victory despite the Arab superiority in numbers and armaments. When the UN cease-fire went into effect, Israel held the Sinai peninsula, Gaza, and the east bank of the Suez Canal. After the war, Egypt received a massive infusion of Soviet military and economic aid in a program designed to rebuild its armed forces and economy, both shattered by the war. Egypt's postwar policy was based on two principles: no direct negotiations with Israel and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which, in part, called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories.

After Nasser's sudden death in Sept., 1970, Vice President Anwar al-SadatSadat, Anwar al-
, 1918–81, Egyptian political leader and president (1970–81). He entered (1936) Abbasia Military Academy, where he became friendly with Gamal Abdal Nasser and other fellow cadets committed to Egyptian nationalism.
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 succeeded him as president. An abortive coup took place in May, 1971, but Sadat emerged in control. A new constitution was ratified in Sept., 1971, when the country changed its name to the Arab Republic of Egypt. Sadat modified somewhat Nasser's hard line toward Israel but continued to demand Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and threatened to renew the war in order to regain the lands. In 1972, Sadat ousted all Soviet military personnel stationed in Egypt and placed Soviet bases and equipment under Egyptian control, thus reversing a 20-year trend of increasing dependence on the USSR. Unrest in 1973 led to the forced resignation of the governmental cabinet and to Sadat's assumption of the premiership.

The 1973 War

Another war with Israel broke out on Oct. 6, 1973, when Egyptian forces attacked Israel on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Israeli forces were caught off guard as Egyptian units progressed into the Sinai, and fighting broke out between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights. The fighting escalated both on the ground and in the air.

After Israel had stabilized the Syrian front, its troops crossed the Suez Canal and toward the end of the war were in control of some 475 sq mi (1,230 sq km) on the west bank of the canal between Ismailia and Adabiya, surrounding the city of Suez and trapping Egypt's Third Army on the east side of the canal. Sadat called for a cease-fire coupled with the withdrawal of Israel from territories it had occupied since 1967. At the same time, Arab countries, by reducing—and later stopping—oil exports to selected countries supporting Israel, put pressure on the United States to get Israel to pull back from the occupied lands.

On Oct. 22 the United States and the USSR submitted a joint resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire and the beginning of peace negotiations. The Security Council voted to establish a UN emergency force made up of troops from the smaller nations to supervise the cease-fire. Through the mediation efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. KissingerKissinger, Henry Alfred
, 1923–, American political scientist and U.S. secretary of state (1973–77), b. Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1938. A leading expert on international relations and nuclear defense policy, Kissinger taught (1957–69) at
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, Egypt and Israel agreed to face-to-face negotiations on implementing the cease-fire. On Nov. 9, Israel accepted a proposal, worked out by Kissinger and Sadat.

Peace and Internal Unrest

A result of the intense U.S. effort to secure a settlement was the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Egypt, which had been severed since the 1967 war. This marked the beginning of closer relations with the West. After regaining both banks of the Suez Canal as a result of the postwar agreement, Egypt, with U.S. assistance, began to clear the canal of mines and sunken ships left from the 1967 war. In 1974, following a visit to Egypt by U.S. President Richard Nixon, a treaty was signed providing U.S. aid to Egypt of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

In 1977, Sadat surprised the world with his visit to Jerusalem and plans for peace with Israel. On Mar. 26, 1979, Egypt signed a formal peace treaty with Israel in Washington, D.C. By 1982, Israel had withdrawn from nearly all the Sinai. Egypt was suspended from the Arab League as a result of the peace treaty. A boycott by Arab countries was imposed on Egypt, and Libya, which had cut ties with Egypt in 1977, provoked border clashes.

Domestic unrest between Muslims and Christians in 1981 led to a crackdown by the government. Tensions heightened, and Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981, by Muslim extemists. He was succeeded by Vice President Hosni MubarakMubarak, Muhammad Hosni
, 1928–2020, president of Egypt (1981–2011). Air force commander (1972–75) and vice president (1975–81) of Egypt, he became president after Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981.
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, who faced growing economic problems as well as continued opposition from militant Muslim fundamentalists. A state of emergency, imposed after Sadat's murder, was ultimately extended by Egypt's parliament throughout Mubarak's presidency, finally lapsing in mid-2012.

President Mubarak continued amicable relations with Israel and the United States and remained active in the Middle East peace process. In 1989, Israel returned the last portion of the Sinai that it held, the Taba Strip, to Egypt. Relations with the rest of the Arab world improved, and Egypt was readmitted into the Arab League in 1989.

In return for Egypt's anti-Iraq stance and its sending of troops in the Persian Gulf WarPersian Gulf Wars,
two conflicts involving Iraq and U.S.-led coalitions in the late 20th and early 21st cent.

The First Persian Gulf War, also known as the Gulf War, Jan.–Feb.
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 (1991), the United States dismissed $7 billion in Egyptian debt. Participation in the war strengthened Western ties and enhanced Egypt's regional leadership role but was not popular domestically. Opposition from Islamic fundamentalists heightened during the 1990s; from 1992 to 1997, more than 1,200 people, mostly Egyptian Christians, were killed in terrorist violence. A 1997 attack on tourists visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut at Luxor claimed some 70 lives. During the same period, an estimated 26,000 Islamic militants were jailed and dozens were sentenced to death.

In 1999, Mubarak was returned to office for a fourth six-year term. Islamic militancy and terrorism, most dramatically demonstrated by the Oct., 2004, July, 2005, and Apr., 2006, bombings of several Sinai resorts, was a major challenge to Mubarak's government, as were liberal reformers who became more vocal and move visible in calling for constitutional reform. In Feb., 2005, Mubarak called for a constitutional amendment to permit the direct election of the president from among a multiparty slate, but the restrictions in the amendment on who might run prevent the contest from being open to all challengers. After passage by parliament, the amendment was approved (May) in a referendum whose results were denounced as fraudulent by the opposition. At the same time, however, the government was trying Ayman Nour, a leading opposition figure, on charges that his lawyers claimed were fabricated in an attempt to derail his presidential candidacy. In the election in September, Mubarak was reelected and Nour placed second. Observers said that the election was marred by irregularities but also that they would not have affected the result; the turnout was only 23% of the nation's voters.

In the subsequent (November–December) parliamentary elections the government secured a more than two thirds of the seats, but candidates aligned with the Muslim BrotherhoodMuslim Brotherhood,
officially Jamiat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun [Arab.,=Society of Muslim Brothers], religious and political organization founded (1928) in Egypt by Hasan al-Banna.
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 won roughly a fifth of the seats a record number. The voting was marred by violence and intimidation that seemed clearly directed by the government at opposition voters. In Dec., 2005, Nour was convicted on charges related to the forgery of signatures on electoral petitions, which most nongovernment observers regarded as improbable, and was sentenced to five years; he was released for health reasons in Feb., 2009. In 2006 there was increasingly vocal public support for establishment of a truly independent judiciary, as protestors rallied in in May support of two judges who had called for reform and faced dismissal for having criticized the presidential election. the police violently suppressed the rallies, however, and the reforms that were passed in June were widely criticized as inadequate.

In Mar., 2007, a referendum approved amendments to the constitution, earlier approved by parliament, that were generally regarded as antidemocratic (one of the amendments replaced judicial supervision of elections with an electoral committee, another banned religious-based parties). The government claimed that roughly a quarter of the electorate voted, but several independent groups estimated the turnout at roughly 5%, and they and opposition groups accused the government of vote rigging. The following month Amnesty International accused Egypt of systematic human-rights abuses and as acting as an international center for abusive interrogation and prolonged detention in the "war on terror."

Elections in June, 2007, for seats in parliament's upper house, which the governing party, the National Democratic party (NDP), handily won, were marred by police interference and vote rigging. Subsequently in 2007 the government launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The 2010 upper house (June) and subsequent lower house (November–December) elections were also marred by electoral abuses and irregularities; most of the seats were won by the NDP, and nearly all opposition parties called for a boycott of the second round of the lower house elections.

In early 2011, young Egyptians, inspired by events in Tunisia that led to the ouster of its entrenched president, mounted massive nonviolent anti-Mubarak demonstrations, most prominently in Cairo but also in other cities. Over 18 days the protesters won the support of major opposition figures and groups while surviving a number of government moves against them, including violence that killed more than 800 people and injured several thousand. The army largely remained on the sidelines and, in the face of growing protests, finally forced Mubarak to resign.

An interim military government headed by Defense Minister Hussein TantawiTantawi, Hussein
(Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman), 1935–, Egyptian field marshal. Joining the army in 1956, he became defense minister (1991) and commander-in-chief of the armed forces (1995).
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 suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, and promised constitutional and political reforms prior to new elections in six months. In March a number of constitutional changes, including limits on the number of years a president may serve, were approved in a referendum. The changes were supported by the NDP and the Muslim Brotherhood, but a number of prodemocracy groups opposed them as insufficient. In April the Egyptian courts ordered the dissolution of the NDP.

Slow progress toward reforms and a new government—elections were ultimately scheduled for Nov., 2011–Feb., 2012—and concerns about the military government, led at times in the second half of 2011 to significant new protests in Cairo and other cities. In August, Mubarak was put on trial on charges of corruption and of ordering the killing of protesters. The elections for the lower house of parliament resulted in a significant victory for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party (FJP), which won the largest bloc of seats; the hardline Islamist party Al Nour placed second. In March, the assembly to write a new constitution was elected by parliament; it also was dominated by Islamists.

Mubarak and his former interior minister were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in June, 2012, for being accessories to murder (for having failed to stop the killing of protesters), but other security officials more directly responsible for the police involved in the killings were acquitted. At the same time, the judge dismissed corruption charges against Mubarak and his sons on technical grounds. The verdicts led to a public outcry in Egypt, but a number of other former government officials were subsequently convicted of or charged with various offenses mainly relating to corruption. A retrial of Mubarak and the former interior minister ended in 2014 with the dismissal of or acquittal on all charges against them. Mubarak and his sons were tried and convicted (2014) of embezzlement, and a retrial returned the same judgment in 2015.

Mohamed MorsiMorsi, Mohamed
, 1951–2019, Egyptian engineer and political leader, grad. Cairo Univ. (B.A. 1975. M.A. 1978), Univ. of Southern California (Ph.D. 1982). He taught engineering at California State Univ., Northridge, and after returning to Egypt in 1985, at Zagazig Univ.
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, the FJP candidate, was elected president after a runoff in late June, 2012. Before the runoff, however, the supreme court ruled that the newly elected parliament had to be dissolved because many members had been elected illegally, and the military government subsequently declared a new interim constitution that severely restricted the president's powers and reserved legislative powers to the military government until after a new parliament was elected. In July, President Morsi decreed that parliament be recalled, but the supreme court overturned his decree. In August a new government, consisting mainly of Islamists and technocrats, was appointed by Morsi. Morsi also ordered the retirement of Tantawi and the army chief of staff, ended the restriction on presidential powers, and assumed legislative powers.

In November a new presidential decree gave Morsi essentially unchecked power, sparking demonstrations against him by liberals and others who saw him as a new dictator and clashes between them and Morsi's supporters; parts of the decree were later rescinded. The constitution was pushed through the assembly in December after most liberals and Copts withdrew, and quickly adopted in a referendum in which only a third of all voters participated; the document largely was based on the existing constitution, and in the main preserved the military's powers and influence. Until new elections for the lower house of parliament were held, due within two months, the upper house assumed legislative powers.

Jan., 2013, was marked by violent protests, and the following month Morsi called for parliamentary elections in April. Meanwhile, the constitutional court rejected parts of the election law, and then the secular parties announced a boycott of the vote. In March, however, the elections were canceled as a result of a court decision that returned the election law to the constitutional court for review. In April, Islamists sought to force the retirement of older members of the judiciary, who were seen as opponents of Islamist rule; this led to new protests and tensions.

The constitutional court ruled in June that the interim parliament and the constitutional assembly had been illegally elected, but it left the constitution in effect. Massive demonstrations against Morsi in late June and early July, and clashes between Morsi opponents and supporters, led to a military ultimatum calling for the government and opposition to resolve the crisis; subsequently the president was ousted by the military. The military appointed an interim government, headed by Adly MansourMansour, Adly Mahmud,
1945–, Egyptian judge and political leader. Educated in the law and public administration, he joined the state council in 1970, and was appointed to Egypt's supreme constitutional court in 1992.
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, the chief justice of the constitutional court; Gen. Abdel Fattah El-SisiSisi or Sissi, Abdul Fattah El-
, 1954–, Egyptian military officer and government official, b. Cairo, grad. Egyptian Military Academy (1977), U.S. Army War College (M.A., 2006).
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, the armed forces chief and defense minister, also became deputy prime minister.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters protested Morsi's overthrow, leading to recurring clashes with security forces that continued on a smaller scale into 2014; in Aug., 2013, hundreds died and several thousand were injured when two pro-Morsi protest camps were stormed. Muslim Brotherhood leaders were arrested and charged with inciting violence; the organization was later banned, and subsequently (2014) the FJP was dissolved by the courts. Islamist militant attacks on security forces and on Coptic churches also increased in the aftermath of Morsi's ouster. A number of prodemocracy activists were also arrested and jailed. By 2014 some 16,000 people had been arrested, including some 3,000 Muslim Brotherhood officials. By 2016 some 40,000 were believed to have been arrested, and security forces were accused of killing as many as 1,000 and using torture on those arrested.

A new constitution, which was drafted in Dec., 2013, and again preserved the military's powers and independence, was approved by voters in Jan., 2014; the turnout was somewhat larger (38.6%) but nearly all votes (98%) were in favor of the constitution. In Mar., 2014, Sisi resigned from the army and the cabinet in order to run for president. He overwhelmingly won the May election against weak opposition, but many Islamists and liberal and secular activists boycotted the vote. In several, sometimes brief mass trials in 2014, 2015, and later years that targeted primarily members of the Muslim Brotherhood, hundreds of Egyptians were sentenced to death or imprisonment on murder, arson, and other charges arising from the aftermath of the military coup. The delayed parliamentary elections, which were finally held in Oct. and Dec., 2015, gave individuals and parties aligned with the president a significant majority of the seats; turnout was relatively low in both rounds. In 2015, terrorists aligned with the Islamic StateIslamic State
(IS), Sunni Islamic militant group committed to the establishment of an Islamic caliphate that would unite Muslims in a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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 began mounting attacks in the Sinai and other parts of the country.

In Apr., 2016, Sisi agreed to turn over control of Tiran and Sanafir, two Red Sea islands at the mouth of Gulf of Aqaba that had been occupied by Egyptian forces since 1949, to Saudi Arabia, declaring that they had always been Saudi territory. The move outraged many Egyptians, who believed that the islands were historically Egyptian, and it was challenged in the courts. With the status of the court challenge undecided due to conflicting decisions, parliament passed (2017) legislation transferring the islands. In 2018 the supreme court rulied that parliament had the authority to transfer the islands.

In late 2016 the government adopted a number of economic reforms in order to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund; the over next two years government subisidies were reduced, a value-added tax introduced, and the value of the currency was allowed to float freely, leading to a sharp increase in inflation. New restrictions and supervision on the media were also imposed, and the parliament passed a bill imposing restrictions on human-rights groups and other nongovernmental organizations. In June, 2017, Egypt joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and a few other nations in cutting diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destablizing the region. Among the group's demands were that Qatar close Al Jazeera and end support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar rejected the accusations and demands, and when ties were restored in Jan., 2021, Qatar had made few, if any, real concessions.

In the Mar., 2018, presidential election Sisi overwhelmingly won the vote against a weak, pro-Sisi opponent; a number of more significant opposition candidates were intimidated into withdrawing or arrested. Constitutional changes approved in Apr., 2019, increased the length of the president's term, allowed Sisi to run for a third term, increased the president's powers over the judiciary, strengthened the military's role governmentally, and restored an upper house to the parliament. The anticipated filling of a reservoir behind a dam being constructed in Ethiopia on the Nile's headwaters led to increasing tensions with Ethiopia beginning in 2019. In mid-2020 Egypt negotiated a maritime agreement with Greece that demarcated their Mediterranean Sea boundary and established an exclusive economic zone; the deal was in response to a similar Turkish-Libyan agreement in late 2019. Parliamentary elections in Oct.–Dec., 2020, gave the progovernment Future of the Nation party and its allies an overwhelming majority of the seats; elections to the senate in August and September had produced a similar result.


Ancient Egypt

See W. S. Smith, Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (1958); Pierre Montet, Lives of the Pharaohs (1968); W. M. F. Petrie, History of Egypt (6 vol., 1898–1905, repr. 1972); H. I. Bell, Egypt from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest (1949, repr. 1977); W. E. Budge, The Dwellers on the Nile (1977); Nigel Strudwick, The Administration of Egypt in the Old Kingdom (1985); C. P. Ingraham, The Legendary History of Ancient Egypt (2 vol., 1986); N. Lewis, Life in Egypt Under Roman Rule (1986); T. Wilkinson, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt (2011).

Modern Egypt

See C. Issawi, Egypt at Mid-Century (1954); M. Zayid, Egypt's Struggle for Independence (1965); P. M. Holt, Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, 1566–1922 (1966); J. Berque, Egypt (1972); E. Kedourie and S. G. Haim, ed., Modern Egypt (1980); I. Gersheni, The Emergence of Pan-Arabism in Egypt (1981); C. Harris, Nationalism and Revolution in Egypt: The Role of the Muslim Brotherhood (1964, repr. 1987); J. Beinin and Z. Lockman, Workers on the Nile (1988); P. J. Vatikiotis, The History of Modern Egypt (4th ed. 1991); G. Amin, Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak, 1981–2011 (2011); S. A. Cook, The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square (2011); J. Brownlee, Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance (2012); T. Cambanis, Once upon a Revolution (2015).

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What does it mean when you dream about Egypt? (ancient)

The meaning of a dream about ancient Egypt partly depends on one’s conscious associations. Because of biblical associations, it can symbolize the material as opposed to the spiritual life. Otherwise, Egypt can symbolize ancient wisdom. Additionally, because we usually think of the pyramids as mausoleums, a dream about Egypt can represent the unconscious mind.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


Official name: Arab Republic of Egypt

Capital city: Cairo

Internet country code: .eg

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black; the national emblem (a gold Eagle of Saladin facing the hoist side with a shield superimposed on its chest above a scroll bearing the name of the country in Arabic) centered in the white band; design is based on the Arab Liberation

National anthem: “My homeland, my homeland, my hal­lowed land” (first line in English translation), lyrics by Younis al-Qadi, music by Sayed Darwish

Geographical description: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan, and includes the Asian Sinai Peninsula

Total area: 386,000 sq. mi. (1,001,450 sq. km.)

Climate: Desert; hot, dry summers with moderate winters

Nationality: noun: Egyptian(s); adjective: Egyptian

Population: 80,335,036 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Egyptian 98%, Berber, Nubian, Bedouin,

and Beja 1%, Greek, Armenian and other European (pri­marily Italian and French) 1%

Languages spoken: Arabic (official), English, French

Religions: Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic Christian 9%, other Christian 1%

Legal Holidays:

Armed Forces DayOct 6
Coptic ChristmasJan 7
Labor DayMay 1
Revolution DayJul 23
Sham El-NassemApr 18, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Mar 25, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Mar 29, 2021; Jan 17, 2022; Feb 6, 2023
Sinai Liberation DayApr 25
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in NE Africa, on the Mediterranean and Red Sea: its history dates back about 5000 years. Occupied by the British from 1882, it became an independent kingdom in 1922 and a republic in 1953. Over 96 per cent of the total area is desert, with the chief areas of habitation and cultivation in the Nile delta and valley. Cotton is the main export. Official language: Arabic. Official religion: Muslim; Sunni majority. Currency: pound. Capital: Cairo. Pop.: 73 389 000 (2004 est.). Area: 997 739 sq. km (385 229 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005