The country known as Egypt is officially called the Arab Republic of Egypt and it is situated in the north-east of Africa; though the Sinai Peninsula forms a land bridge with south-west Asia. It is because of this that Egypt is also called a Middle-East country. Therefore Egypt is a transcontinental country, which helps it in being a major power in Africa, the Middle-East, the Mediterranean, and the Muslim world.
In Arabic Egypt is called مصر, or Miṣr, and in ancient times the country was known as Kemet, or the black land, due to the alluvial soil which was deposited during the annual inundation of the River Nile. This yearly event gave Egypt its fertile land that enabled it to expand along the length of the river, especially in the Delta where many various crops were, and still are, harvested.
Egypt covers an area of approximately 1,001,450km2 (386,662 miles²) and is bordered by Israel and the Gaza Strip in the north-east; the Red Sea in the east; Sudan in the south; Libya in the west; and the Mediterranean Sea in the north. It is the 3rd most populous country in Africa and the most populous in the Middle-East with the majority of its estimated 80 million people living on, or near, the banks of the River Nile. Only 5.5% of the total land area is actually used by the population, the area that borders the River Nile as well as a few oases, the other 94.5% being uninhabitable desert.
The River Nile is nowadays regarded as the longest river in the world and it enters Egypt from the Sudan and flows north for about 1,545km (960 miles) until it exits into the Mediterranean Sea.
From ancient times, right through to the modern era, the Nile Valley has been divided into two separate regions, Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt. Lower Egypt, where the Pharaohs wore the red crown, is the area of the Delta, whilst Upper Egypt, where the Pharaohs wore the white crown, is the entire valley south of Cairo (or Memphis during the Pharaonic period).
Egypt has one of the most diverse economies in North-Africa and the Middle-East with the various sectors employing the following amounts of people: agriculture 32%; industry 17%; services 39%; and tourism 12%.
A predominantly Sunni Muslim country, Egypt has Islam as its state religion. A genuine estimate of the percentages of the various religions is a controversial topic in Egypt, and no two sets of figures appear to match, but it is generally accepted that 80-90% of the population are Muslims. Five times a day the “Adhan”, the Islamic call to prayer, can be heard being broadcast from the loudspeakers on Cairo’s many minarets. There are so many Mosques in the Egyptian capital that it was once dubbed “the city of 1,000 minarets”.
Egypt, as a unified country, is believed to have been created about 3,200BCE, though it is known that a civilisation existed here since the Neolithic period (8,800-4,700BCE) and perhaps as far back as the Palaeolithic period, though much of the dating of this period was done by uncalibrated radiocarbon dating.
Why the ancient people decided to settle on the banks of the River Nile is not known, though it is generally accepted that it is because of the Sahara Desert, which was once fertile, starting to change into a sandy expanse, forcing the population to look for water. Once the River Nile was discovered, the regularity and richness of the annual inundation, or flood, coupled with the semi-isolation that was provided by the deserts to the east and west, allowed for the development of one of the world’s greatest civilizations.
The last indigenous dynasty surrendered to the Persians in 341BCE, who were then replaced, in turn, by the Greeks, the Romans, and the Byzantines. In the 7th century the Arabs introduced Islam, and the Arabic language, and ruled for the next six centuries until the Mamelukes, a local military caste, seized control circa 1250, continuing to govern after Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. Once the Suez Canal was completed in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub, but this also caused heavy debt. Seemingly, to protect its investments, Great Britain took control of Egypt’s government in 1882, but allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914. By 1922 Egypt was partially independent from the UK and acquired full sovereignty, with the overthrow of the British-backed monarchy, in 1952.
The largest growing population in the Arab world, as well as limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile, have all contributed to the huge over-taxation of resources and has stressed society. The government had struggled to meet the demands of Egypt’s growing population through economic reform and massive investment in communications and physical infrastructure until Jan 25th 2011, when youth led protests brought down the Presidency and government. Now the world waits to see how this new civilisation pans out.
“I leave in the fields and enter the house. The journey ends there. I am a man returning home. Welcomed by family, embraced by ancestors, I am again that which I was, a soul, a fire clothed in heaven, a sparrow. Born of stars, I am a god naming the life that was always mine.”
-Awakening Osiris: Normandy Ellis