- A country in the north of Africa with coastlines on the Mediterranean and Red seas.
- One of the oldest civilisations in the world which developed round the river Nile.
- 95% of the land is the Sahara desert and the dry atmosphere has contributed to the preservation of their many buildings of antiquity
- Egypt was part of the British Empire in the late Victorian Edwardian periods c.1900
Egypt is an Arabic Muslim country, one of the few run by a secular (non religious) democratic government and has reasonably fair elections so in theory the people can vote for who they choose. This means it is similar to Turkey but very different from the majority of it's Arab neighbours which are either run by military dictators, like Libya, or a medieval royal family like Saudi Arabia.
All these Muslim Arabic countries are very poor unless they are lucky enough to have found oil under the sand. Egypt has recently discovered oil in the Red Sea area but the quantity is small compared with Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Why are they all so poor? After all civilisation started in the Arab countries of Egypt and Iraq, then called Mesopotamia. Some say it is because of their Islamic religion which puts God's will, as delivered by the priestly Mullahs above all things; requires prayer five times a day, which takes people out of work and disallows women the right to work therefore cutting off half the work force. Egypt is the least restrictive of all Islamic Arab countries but there is still little evidence of women out side their homes other than helping in the fields by the river Nile.
The capital city is Cairo, but 2000 years ago it was Alexandria, a port on the Mediterranean Sea created by Alexander the Great. Prior to this the capital was Thebes now called Luxor a city further inland upstream on the Nile.
Egypt is particularly interesting because
- It has a larger population than any other Arab country (70 million)
- It is one of the oldest if not the oldest country in the world where human beings first lived in villages or towns and grew food to eat rather than hunt wild animals to kill and eat. All the early towns in the world were in warm countries, on the banks of large rivers which could be relied on always to provide enough water to grow the crops even if it did not rain. A similar area, much in the news now, is Baghdad the capital of Iraq (previously called Mesopotamia). In Iraq there are two rivers the Tigris and the Euphrates and in Egypt the river is called the Nile which is the longest river in the world at 4187 miles. (Next is the Amazon at 4000 miles then the Mississippi at 3759 miles long.)
- Egypt has more ancient writings, well preserved burial grounds (deep underground tombs and Pyramids) and Temples than any other of these original centres of civilisation. Hence it is the most interesting to visit.
- The earliest books were written in Egypt as they invented the paper on which to write them. While the English and the Irish were writing on dried sheep skin the Egyptians used Papyrus paper. Papyrus is a 10 foot reed growing on the banks of the Nile which if cut and soaked in water and laid in a cross mesh, pressed and dried, forms a paper which can store and display letters and coloured pictures. Books or letters would be in the form of long scrolls.
- Both Mesopotamia and Egypt are mentioned in the Bible. Abraham lived in Mesopotamia and was the founder of the Jewish race. The Jews lived some 500 years in Egypt as slaves.
- When the Jews were led from slavery in Egypt by Moses they fled over the desert to reach their promised land, Israel. They were almost caught by the Egyptians as they were about to cross the Red Sea. (Probably the best place in the world for scuba diving.) However by some miracle (coincidence) the water in the Red Sea drained away and the Jews walked across. The pursuing Egyptians were drowned. (The story might well be true because there was an earthquake in the area at the time which would have caused a huge tidal wave)
- On the negative side Egypt has the highest proportion of women-95% who have suffered genital mutilation (female circumcision)
The climate in Egypt is so dry that many of the ancient buildings are still there to be viewed by tourists and studied by historians. Indeed 95% of Egypt is a sandy desert, the remaining 5%, that is the land some 25 miles either side of the Nile is green and fertile. 95% of the population live in the fertile 5%, the majority growing vegetables to feed themselves. Farming techniques have not changed much for 1000s of years and the farmers live in mud huts by the river or more accurately houses made of bricks of dried mud. They share their houses with their cows and goats and transport their vegetables by donkey with or without a cart Their cities are much like those in poorer parts of Europe but very dirty and hot. As most people live by the river the best way to travel is by boat much as they used to travel up and down the Mississippi before roads were developed in the US.
The Red Sea almost joins the Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean save for about 50 or so miles of land through which the English and French jointly dug a connecting canal (the Suez Canal)
Brief Historical Summary
30,000 years ago when England and North America were in the grips of an Ice Age and humans were almost non existent there, most of Egypt, which is now desert, was a fertile and forested area. Humans lived over the whole land and lived by hunting the abundance of wild life. If they were not hunting they would have been hunted, as lions and elephants roamed the area.
15,000 years ago when England and North America came out of the Ice age and humans started living there again, the fertile land of Egypt started to dry out, the trees and grass died and the desert took a hold. The human population which had been dispersed across the land had to move to the only fertile area left, the Nile Valley, and here they remain to-day. This forced the coming together of the wandering nomadic hunter gatherers where people had to learn how to live together without fighting and commenced the early civilisation as we know it to day. Leisure time was possible for the first time and humans began to wonder why the sun rose and set, why it rained, what were the moon and stars and what happened to them when they died. There was no science, so the mind was free to invent ideas, one of them being the concept of a life after death and the idea that one should be buried with all your earthly goods as you would need them in the next life. Hence the famous Egyptian Pyramids and other burial chambers which were full of gold for the king to use in the next life.
For comparison: Some of the most famous ancient burial/temple sites around the world.
Newgrange 5000 years old. Probably the oldest, called a "passage grave" because the burial chamber is built at the end of a passage which slowly descends from ground level to a sacred man made underground cavern. In essence it is very similar to the tombs in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor Egypt. Both were built by rivers and both concealed from view until discovered in the last few hundred years. Newgrange is nearby the river Boyne. Nearest large town Dublin
Stonehenge also 5000 years old, but slowly enlarged over the next 1500 years. Nearby river the Avon. Stonehenge is or was an open air temple but is surrounded by burial mounds, most of them yet to be examined. Nearest town Amesbury on the A 303 trunk road from London to the west
- Pyramids 4500 years old. These are very elaborate burial chambers for the kings built by the Nile delta close to one of the original capitals of Egypt, Memphis. Very close to the present day capital Cairo. The tallest Khufu is 450 feet high and for over 4000 years was the tallest building in the world.
- Valley of the Kings 3500 years old, slowly developed to eventually house 62 royal burial chambers the most famous one belonging to King Tutankhamen which is the only grave not to have been robbed of millions of pounds of gold by grave robbers. There is still one undiscovered tomb. The Valley of the Kings is close by the river Nile at Luxor (Thebes).
There are no buildings, temples or burial chambers of anything like this age in the Americas. Pyramids have been found in Mexico built by the Mayas commencing in AD 100. 1500 years later circa AD 1500 the Aztecs dominated Mexico and built huge cities but the climate has not been kind to them. In Peru South America the Incas are the best known early civilisation but they also did not exist much before 1500.
For comparison: Other areas in the world which developed civilisations at the same time as Egypt and Mesopotamia
Egyptian History Continued
Egypt has been ruled by many foreigners including the English but originally:
- BC 3100 The two parts of Egypt, that is Upper Egypt, south of Luxor and Lower Egypt north of Luxor combine under one King. This commences an almost 3000 year history of continuous rule by domestic Egyptian Kings (plus a few queens) known as Pharaohs.
- BC 332 End of rule by Egyptian Kings because it was conquered by Alexander the Great from Greece or more accurately Macedonia. Alexandria, a port on the Mediterranean coast, became the capital of Egypt. England's Churchill said Alexandria was one of the places on the earth to which he could retire.
- BC 30 The Romans rule following the death (suicide) of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, famous for her love affair with the Roman Senator Anthony (and many other men beside.)
- AD 642 The Arabs invaded and took Egypt from the Romans. Then the Eastern Romans called the Byzantium's, headquartered at Constantinople (Istanbul). Egypt became Muslim.
- 1517 Egypt was overrun and ruled by the Islamic Ottoman Turks who had just kicked the Romans out of Constantinople.
- 1798 The French Emperor Napoleon ruled Egypt
- 1801 The English then the most powerful nation on earth kicked out the French with the support of the Ottomans. A local dynasty was re-established.
- 1869 The English in their first joint venture with the French built the Suez Canal linking the Mediterranean sea and Indian Ocean by the Red Sea.
- 1882- 1922 The English rule Egypt.
- 1922 Egypt is granted independence and is ruled by King Fa'ud, followed by his son King Farouk who signed a defence treaty with England. In World War Two, Egypt joined in on the side of the British.
- 1952 A military coup saw Farouk overthrown and General Naquib then Colonel Nasser soon in charge. Nasser immediately took the Suez Canal from the British and the French.
- 1967 The Six Day War. Egypt and Syria both having signed a treaty not to rest until Israel is destroyed, line up their Russian tanks and aircraft ready to attack tiny Israel. However the Israelis in a daring pre-emptive strike blew up all the waiting tanks and aircraft before they have fired a shot. To make matters worse for the Egyptians the tiny Israeli nation also push them out of the Sinai. (The desert area on the north side of the Red Sea.)
- 1970 Colonel Nasser is succeeded by President Sadat who ends the post war relationship with the Russians, signs a peace deal with the Israelis, gets the Sinai back, but is then assassinated by Islamic extremists for his troubles.
- 1981 Sadat is succeeded by President Hosni Mubarak who has embarked on a modernizing policy ruling over a relatively terrorist free Islamic population.