Thursday, April 24, 2008

The History of Egypt

Egypt proudly boasts of being the seat of one of the most remarkable and ancient civilizations of the world as early as 5000 years ago. Flourishing over an extended period of around 3000 years, this civilization is also reported to be one of the longest that existed on this earth. Egypt is the gift of river Nile. The plentiful water of this mysterious river nurtured this wonderful civilization. Egypt holds an interesting history of over 6000 years. The Pyramids, the Sphinx and several historical tombs and monuments spread over the land bear testimony to its rich heritage and are a major source of attraction to the entire world for all times. Located between Africa and the Middle East, Egypt is one of the most prominent among the flourishing Arab States.

The history of Egypt can be traced down from 3300 BC. By this time, Egyptians had written symbols to record their history. In 3100 BC, the Pharaoh, King Menes created Egypt by uniting what were called the upper Egypt and the lower Egypt with Memphis as the capital in the north and Abydos as the capital in the south. He was the one who inaugurated what was called the Ancient Empire (3200-2270 BC). Accomplished and strong rulers like Ramses II and Akhnaton, introduction of calendar, the popular sun-god Re, Egyptian chariots and horses were the hallmarks of the period extending till the early centuries of BC. Slowly, the authority of the rulers diminished and Egypt came under the control of foreign princes.

After the rise and fall of several dynasties and the rule of priests for about four hundred years, Alexander the Great easily took over Egypt in 332 BC. Though Alexander did not spend much time in Egypt, Alexandria became his capital where he was buried later. Alexandria flourished as a center of trade and culture.

After Alexander, the empire was divided among his generals. This Greek dynasty ended with Cleopatra VII. Following this till 30 BC, Egypt was reigned by Ptolemies. Eventually Egypt became a province of Rome until 642 AD. During this period, Alexandria housed the famous Catechetical School, which produced the early fathers of the Church. 642 AD witnessed the beginning of Arab and Islamic epoch in Egypt. A series of Arab rulers governed Egypt and were followed by Mamlukes who ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1517 AD who were eventually followed by the Ottomans.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s arrival in 1798 opened a new phase in the history of Egypt. His expedition helped uncover the mysteries of the ancient culture of Egypt besides deciphering of the ancient script. After the French left Egypt, Mohamed Ali, an officer in the Ottoman army rose to power ruling from 1805 to 1849. He championed the cause of modernizing Egypt and was rightly called the father of modern Egypt. His task was continued by Khedive Ismail from 1863. During his reign, the Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869.

In 1882, the British troops landed in Alexandria marking the British occupation of the land that lasted for 74 years. Mustafa Kamel, Sa'ad Zaghloul, Mustafa El Nahas and several other prominent leaders emerged during this time striving to achieve two national objectives namely independence and constitutional reform. Egypt attained complete independence in 1922. With the framing of new constitution, Sa'ad Zaghloul formed the first government of Egypt.

After the Palestine war, the wide spread economic and social frustration led to the emergence of Free Officers Movement organized by a group of young officers. In 1952, Gamal Abd El-Nasser of the FOM seized the power through a bloodless revolution.
Egypt was declared a Republic in 1953 with Mohamad Naguib as the first President. In 1954 Nasser succeeded him as the second president. Significant economic, agricultural and social reforms marked the efficiency of Nasser's presidency. Following the death of Nasser in 1970, Anwar El-Sadat assumed office. Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979, significant changes in the economic, political and social domains and the introduction of Open Door Policy allowing the entry of private sector in business and national development were the achievements of Sadat’s administration. In October 1981, Vice President Hosny Mubarak succeeded Sadat as President. Mubarak’s economic reforms and activities helped the nation invite foreign investments and march towards economic prosperity.

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