Pyramids from several eras testify to one of
the world's oldest civilizations: the kingdom of the
Pharaohs, which emerged 3000 BC and dominated for two
millennia. Eventually, Egypt came under foreign rule and
at the beginning of our era it became part of the Roman
Empire. Christianity took root early. In the 600s, Arab
conquerors came with Islam. From the 16th century, Egypt
was part of the loosely cohesive Ottoman Empire. From
the 19th century, European powers dominated, and from
1882 to 1922 the country served as a British colony.
Even then, the influence of the British was great.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Egypt, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The Nile has a central role in Egypt's history. The
river gave rise to one of the world's oldest
civilizations, when nomads and collectors thousands of
years ago settled on its fertile beaches. The need to
work together to regulate the annual floods gave rise to
a centralized state. About 3000 BC, Upper and Lower
Egypt (Nile Delta) united and came to be ruled by a
king, Pharaoh, who was seen as a god and
guarantor of prosperity and peace. The country was rich
in stone for construction, clay for pottery and gold for
Pharaonic Egypt is divided into three periods called
the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom.
Cultural life flourished and countless monuments testify
to high culture. During the Pharaonic period, the
pyramids and the Sphinx were erected at Giza.
First world power
In an intermediate period of internal divide, Egypt
was conquered by Hyksos, an Asian people, around 1650
BC. Its empire did not last long and with the New
Kingdom (1550-1085 BC) a new great flowering period
began. Then Syria, Nubia (Sudan) and Palestine were
conquered, and Egypt developed into history's first
At the end of the New Kingdom, decay followed, when
Egypt first fell under Assyrian and then for a couple of
centuries Persian rule. The time as a Persian province
came to an end in 332 BC when the Greek ruler Alexander
the Great entered Egypt and proclaimed himself to
Pharaoh. He founded Alexandria, which became the center
of Hellenistic education and culture. After
Alexander's death, the country was attacked by
Macedonian Ptolemy, whose lineage ruled until 30 BC,
when the Romans defeated Egypt's navy and army. As a
result of the defeat, Queen Cleopatra committed suicide
by being bitten by a poison worm.
Roman and Arab
Egypt was incorporated as a province in the Roman
Empire and was exploited as a grain store and tax
source. Christianity took root. The Christians were
first subjected to the persecution of Rome, and after
the power of the empire in the 400s was shifted to
Constantinople and the Austro-Roman Empire (Byzantium),
the Christians came into conflict with the Byzantine
church. Religious liberty and hard tax pressure from
Constantinople meant that the Egyptians did not offer
much resistance when the Arab conquerors reached the
country in 642.
An extensive Arab immigration took place. With it
came Islam and the Arabic language that soon took over.
During the Fatimid dynasty, the new capital of Cairo
(al-Qahira, the victorious) was founded in 969. During
the Kurdish Saladin rule in the 12th century, Egypt was
the center of greater empire. Saladin became a hero when
he conquered Jerusalem from Christian crusaders.
From the 1250s to the beginning of the 16th century,
Egypt was ruled by so-called mamluks. They were
initially Turkish slaves (mamluk = slaves) in Arab
armies who were able to advance and build their own
power. Baybars I, who played an important role when the
Mamluks in 1260 defeated an oncoming Mongol army, is
considered the founder of the Mamluk Empire.
the Ottoman Empire
In 1517, Egypt was invaded by the Turkish sultan
Selim I and then formally entered the Ottoman Empire
until 1914. But from the latter part of the 18th
century, the country became largely independent.
When the French Emperor Napoleon began a conquest in
1798, Egypt was poor after repeated misguidance and
famine. The French occupation lasted only three years,
but the French left behind Western influence in the form
of newly founded schools and scientific institutions.
A modernization of the country was initiated under
Mohammad Ali, a Macedonian officer in Turkish service,
who took power in 1805. Britain supported the Ottoman
rulers' ambition to retain control of Egypt, thereby
making trade gains at Egypt's expense. The Egyptian
market was opened to European goods, which led to the
country's textile industry being knocked out.
In the 1860s many projects were implemented to
improve the infrastructure. With French engineering and
Egyptian forced labor, the Suez Canal was built from the
Mediterranean to the Red Sea. The channel was ready in
1869 (2019 celebrated its 150th anniversary). The
channel company was dominated by France and the United
Kingdom. The British involvement in Egypt's business
grew over time, leading to a nationalist revolt among
landowners, merchants and officers. The revolt was
defeated in 1882 by a British invasion and Britain
occupied the country.
The British invested in cotton cultivation for export
to the UK and neglected domestic economic development.
For Egypt, the result was underdevelopment. The hard
occupation fueled nationalist sentiment, and in 1907 two
Egyptian political parties were formed. Egyptians
decided to form their own delegation, al-Wafd, to demand
independence at the peace conference in Versailles after
the First World War.
al-Wafd developed into a nationalist party for both
Muslims and Christians under the slogan "Crescent and
the Cross". The British imprisoned and deported leader
Zaghlul Pasha and his associates, which led to a popular
uprising in 1919 with strikes and violence that claimed
over 800 lives.
The British gave up and declared Egypt independently
in 1922, but retained responsibility for the country's
defense and protection of foreign interests in the
country. Fuad I, formerly the Sultan, became king and
the new constitution prescribed parliamentary elections.
The first election in 1924 gave al-Wafd its own majority
in parliament, but the party was forced out of power
following harsh demands from the British as a result of
the assassination of the British commander over the
Egyptian army. In 1928, the religiously inspired Muslim
Brotherhood was founded and in 1933 The Young Egypt was
created, a radical nationalist organization with fascist
and Nazi sympathies.
By an agreement in 1936, the British began to take
home their troops but were allowed to retain a strength
in the canal zone. The evacuation was delayed by World
War II (1939-1945) when Egypt became an important
British base area. There were some crucial battles
between the Allies and the Axis powers (Nazi Germany and
Italy), not least the Battle of El-Alamein in 1942.
The war divided the Egyptians. Fuad's son, King
Faruq, belonged to the Egyptians who had sympathies for
Germany and Italy, while the Wafd Party stood behind the
British for the price of its popular support as more and
more Egyptians joined the militant right-wing