Egyptian history begins about 5000 B.C. with the first Neolithic settlements in the
Nile valley and Delta. At about 3000 B.C. the fertile Nile Delta and the southern
area of Upper Egypt were united under a single monarch, Pharaoh, who was considered
divine by birth. Despite numerous attempts at conquest 30 royal families or dynasties
ruled Egypt. The Old Kingdom or Pyramid age with the capital of Memphis lasted for
nearly 600 years, followed by a period of unrest and civil war called the First Intermediate
Period, during which the country was fragmented. A new unity under the reign of the
Pharaohs of the 11th dynasty began the so called Middle Kingdom with Thebes, modern
Luxor, as its capital. When Egypt was overrun by nomadic tribes from Asia, the Hyksos,
another period of unrest began. Only after the Egyptians managed to adapt their conquerors’
fabulous new weapon, the horse-drawn chariot, they could drive the Hyksos kings out
of the Nile Delta where they had their capital of Avaris. Thanks to their chariots
the Egyptian kings of the New Kingdom conquered nearly all surrounding countries
and laid the foundation for an Empire that reached from Nubia in the South to the
area of modern Lebanon and Syria, where the rich coastal towns paid tributes to Egypt.
Even after the conquest by Nubians, Assyrians, Persians and Greeks Egypt retained
its own culture and religion and so all newcomers until the times of the Roman emperors
were depicted in the manner of the very first Pharaohs giving offerings to the gods
on the walls of temples and tombs.
Egypt was also the first country to be Christianized and gave rise to early monasticism.
The Egyptian Christians flourished during the 5th – 7th century and left a rich heritage
of churches and monasteries. Many of these were constructed from reused blocks and
columns taken from Pharaonic temples. After the advent of Islam in the 7th century
some of these were converted once more to become mosques.
Fourteen centuries of Islamic history have left their traces in Egypt, beginning
with the conquest by Amr ibn el As. The oft-renovated mosque of the conqueror is
still open to visitors near the site of the old Roman castle of Babylon in Old Cairo.
Egypt had several provincial governors holding the country for the caliph, and was
later ruled nearly autonomously by Saladin and his descendants, as well as soldier-kings
or Mameluks, originally slaves who were bought in Eastern Europe and trained for
the military. Only the arrival of Napoleon in Egypt in 1799 marked the end of the
Mameluke rule and the beginning of more modern times. The Greek born Mohammed Ali
became the first khedive or viceroy of Egypt holding the country for the sultan in
Istanbul. Mohammed Ali, much impressed by French science and culture, established
an exchange program to train his countrymen in modern achievements and “imported”
foreign consultants to modernize the country. The descendants of Mohammed Ali ruled
the country until 1952, when King Farouk, the last of his line, was sent into exile
by the revolutionary government of the Free Officers. Afterwards, Egypt became a
The rich heritage of temples, tombs and other monuments from the Pharaonic era, between
3000 and 323 B.C., have been attracting visitors for hundreds of years. Even when
you plan to spend most of your time in the desert, a trip to the Pyramids of Giza
and the treasures of the Egyptian museum is a must. Nile cruises provide a comfortable
means for visiting the major temples in Upper Egypt between Luxor and Aswan. Besides,
Egypt can boast of numerous Christian churches and monasteries as well as the stations
of the Holy Family’s visit to Egypt, and of course hundreds of mediaeval Islamic
mosques, houses and bazaars.
In Egypt app. 80 million inhabitants populate 1 million km2.
76 millions are living along the Nile ( 10% of the area of Egypt ). 0.5 million
are living in Sinai (0.065 % of the area of Egypt).
1 million are living in the Eastern desert (20% of the area of Egypt).
2.5 million are living in the Western desert (69.9 % of the area of Egypt).
The main population is of Semito-Hamitic origin and mixed with the descendants of
conquering Arab tribes, especially in the Eastern Nile delta.
Other groups are the Nubians who were forced to abandon their former homeland due
to the construction of the High Dam. Some of them live in Sudan, but the larger part
in and around Aswan. They are a hamitic people without a written language and used
to live on smallholdings subsidized by hunting and fishing.
Bedouin tribes are found in the desert and in Sinai. The Bedouin population of Egypt
distinguishes 27 tribes: 8 tribes in Southern Sinai, and 9 other tribes in Northern
Sinai; 5 tribes in the Eastern desert, 4 tribes in the Western desert.
Bedouin population in these areas amounts to approximately 200,000 individuals.
Bedouins have traditionally occupied the Sinai peninsula, women graze their sheep
and goat herds and men go fishing. NFO staff in co-operation regulates activities
that are likely to damage habitats or reduce their behavior style with concerned
Bedouin. Bedouin culture has been founded on strict tribal laws and traditions. Nature
is respected, water is consumed sparingly, small water reservoirs are constructed
on hillsides to assist wildlife, the relationship between coral reefs and fisheries
is clearly understood and damage to reef areas is limited.
Language & Religion
All Egyptians speak Arabic, which is a Semitic language with an alphabet of 28 letters;
besides the formal Arabic there are several local dialects.
Also, there are two other language groups:
1st The Nubian languages, namely Mahasi and Kenusi. 150000 people are native to this
language and they live in the southern part of Egypt, mainly near Aswan.
2nd Berber languages, like the dialect spoken around Siwa oasis. 2000 people are
native to this language and they live in Siwa and Ein Garah.
Egypt is basically an Islamic country, but nevertheless 9% of population are Christians.
Most of them are Coptic Orthodox, but there are also Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian
Christians and Protestants.
Ramadan customs forbid Muslims to eat and drink from sunrise to sunset during the
Holy Month. This does not apply to non-Muslims. Museums and temples are open until
the early afternoon only.