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Coursing Egypt, a Nation Soaked in History

BY DUCHESS NIVIN EL-GAMAL OF LAMBERTON


I was born just beside the pyramids in Elgiza, Alagouza hospital by the Nile River.

The Nile River of Northeast Africa is, by most accounts, the longest river on Earth. Fitting, then, that it was along the shores of this mighty river that one of Earth’s oldest and most storied civilizations took root. Indeed, traces of civilization along the Nile’s shores can be be found dating back almost eight thousand years, as far as the 6th century BCE, though its existence as a unified country is relatively more recent. In its early days the country was referred to as ÒKemetÓ, meaning ÒThe Black LandÓ, a reference to the rich, dark soil found along the Nile Valley and throughout the Nile Delta. This dark soil not only allowed for an enclave of arable land deep into the harsh desert of the Sahara, it also acted as the foundation for what would become one of the earliest cradles of civilization, setting the stage for the rise, fall, and eventual resurgence of Egypt.


Egypt is a country with a long history, one that goes so far back that it is quite difficult for people to visualize. Cleopatra, for example, is a name that often comes to mind when people think of Ancient Egypt, and of course the iconic Pyramids of Cairo. To us these might both seem to fall under the same historical umbrella, that of Old Egypt, and yet Cleopatra was born over 2500 years after the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza. For perspective, Cleopatra lived closer to the moon landing than to the construction of the pyramids. It will be another half century before we are as far removed from Cleopatra as she was from the Pyramids. So let’s start way back in the beginning.


Egypt was initially split into Upper and Lower Egypt, eventually being unified under the Pharaoh Menes. Pharaoh was a title used for rulers of Ancient Egypt beginning around the Early Dynastic Period, roughly 3100 BCE. The era that most are familiar with however is the so-called Fourth Dynasty, often characterized as the ÒGolden AgeÓ of the old kingdom of Egypt, lasting from 2613-2494 BCE. The Fourth Dynasty was the second of four dynasties that made up the "Old Kingdom". King Sneferu, the first king of the Fourth Dynasty, held territory from ancient Libya in the west to the Sinai Peninsula in the east, to Nubia in the south. It was a successful period and this era is known for its advancement and concentrated government, as seen in the organized building of pyramids and other monuments. It was the height of the pyramid-building age, as the rulers of the era took advantage of the peaceful times to explore more artistic and cultural pursuits. Sneferu in particular oversaw architectural experimentation that led to the evolution from stepped pyramids to smooth sided ÒtrueÓ pyramids. Much of our modern knowledge of the era comes from these structures, and from objects discovered in the desert cemeteries of Giza.


Egypt continued to be governed by native Pharaohs for approximately 2500 years, until it was conquered by the Kingdom of Kush in the late 8th century BCE, whose rulers adopted the traditional title of Pharaoh for themselves. This lasted until 332 BCE, when Alexander the Great conquered both Egypt and Persia, ushering in the Hellenistic period, which in turn ended shortly after the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BCE, at which point Egypt became a province of the Roman Republic, with the title of Pharaoh now being conferred to Roman Emperors. This state of affairs persisted until the Arab Invasion in the year 641, beginning a period of Arab occupation that persisted until the establishment of the independent Tulunid state in 868. It remained under Arab rule, though under governance of several different caliphates and dynasties, until 1517, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to invade the country in 1798, but was repelled by the joint forces of the British and the Ottomans. His invasion and the resulting defense effort nevertheless created a power vacuum in the region after the French were expelled, and an Albanian Ottoman named Muhammad Ali took advantage of the turmoil, and his connections to both the Ottomans and the Albanian mercenaries they had employed against Napoleon, to rise to power. Though the country was still nominally Ottoman, Muhammad Ali governed autonomously, and established a dynasty that would rule until the revolution of 1952. He also modernised the country, building industries, canals, and reforming the country’s civil service in order to support his military aspirations. His implementation of these reforms would lead to him becoming known as the father and founder of modern Egypt.

The Egyptian revolution of 1952, also known as the 1952 Coup d'Žtat, began on 23 July 1952. The Free Officers Movement, a group of army officers led by Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, initially intended to overthrow King Farouk and have the Army rule Egypt until a more permanent civilian-run system could be implemented.

Following the formal abolition of the monarchy in 1953, Egypt was known officially as the Republic of Egypt until 1958, the United Arab Republic from 1958 to 1971 (including a period of union with Syria from 1958 to 1961), and has been known as the Arab Republic of Egypt since 1971. Egypt has seen waves of instability since this time, with President Sadat being assassinated by Islamic Extremists for his willingness to negotiate with Israel, and with a rise in terrorist attacks under his successor, President Hosni Mubarak. This combined with a slew of accusations regarding human rights violations set the stage for the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which saw widespread protests against Mubarak’s government, culminating in the military assuming power and dissolving parliament, before holding a constitutional referendum and parliamentary election. Mohamed Morsi was eventually elected President on 24 June 2012, yet his support for the imposition of strict Islamic practices, particularly his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, divided the country, with supporters on both sides clashing in the streets. Once again the military would step in to remove Morsi from power, and replacing him with the current President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Since President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Came to power on 30 June, 2014, he has emphasized that Egypt is determined to moving forward with the sustainable growth plan "Egypt's Vision 2030". President Sisi has restored stability to the country, but critics argue it has come at a heavy cost to human rights. Mr Sisi has also struggled to end an insurgency by jihadist militants based in the Sinai peninsula, who have killed hundreds of security personnel and civilians in unrest which began before he came to power. The standard of living for many in Egypt has also actually declined during President Sisi's first term in office, and the devaluation of Egypt's currency in 2016 and the withdrawal of fuel and other subsidies to meet the terms of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) affected Egyptians' spending power.

From its roots as one of the world’s earliest civilizations to the developing nation that exists in the modern day, Egypt is a case study in the resilience of culture, tradition, and shared identity that endures in a land and its people through time and hardship. Today’s Egypt is a far cry from the Golden Age of 2600 BCE, yet it is a land and a people who, in less than a century, have struggled against a world working against them to regain their independence, reinstate their political autonomy, and take their first tentative steps towards an uncertain future in the modern world. Egypt has 6000 years of civilization in its history, now we hope that it has 6000 more in its future, and that these shaky first steps are nothing more than an old man stretching out his long-dormant legs before rising again.




The Egyptian revolution of 1952, also known as the 1952 Coup d'Žtat, began on 23 July 1952. The Free Officers Movement, a group of army officers led by Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, initially intended to overthrow King Farouk and have the Army rule Egypt until a more permanent civilian-run system could be implemented.

Following the formal abolition of the monarchy in 1953, Egypt was known officially as the Republic of Egypt until 1958, the United Arab Republic from 1958 to 1971 (including a period of union with Syria from 1958 to 1961), and has been known as the Arab Republic of Egypt since 1971. Egypt has seen waves of instability since this time, with President Sadat being assassinated by Islamic Extremists for his willingness to negotiate with Israel, and with a rise in terrorist attacks under his successor, President Hosni Mubarak. This combined with a slew of accusations regarding human rights violations set the stage for the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which saw widespread protests against Mubarak’s government, culminating in the military assuming power and dissolving parliament, before holding a constitutional referendum and parliamentary election. Mohamed Morsi was eventually elected President on 24 June 2012, yet his support for the imposition of strict Islamic practices, particularly his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, divided the country, with supporters on both sides clashing in the streets. Once again the military would step in to remove Morsi from power, and replacing him with the current President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Since President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Came to power on 30 June, 2014, he has emphasized that Egypt is determined to moving forward with the sustainable growth plan "Egypt's Vision 2030". President Sisi has restored stability to the country, but critics argue it has come at a heavy cost to human rights. Mr Sisi has also struggled to end an insurgency by jihadist militants based in the Sinai peninsula, who have killed hundreds of security personnel and civilians in unrest which began before he came to power. The standard of living for many in Egypt has also actually declined during President Sisi's first term in office, and the devaluation of Egypt's currency in 2016 and the withdrawal of fuel and other subsidies to meet the terms of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) affected Egyptians' spending power.

From its roots as one of the world’s earliest civilizations to the developing nation that exists in the modern day, Egypt is a case study in the resilience of culture, tradition, and shared identity that endures in a land and its people through time and hardship. Today’s Egypt is a far cry from the Golden Age of 2600 BCE, yet it is a land and a people who, in less than a century, have struggled against a world working against them to regain their independence, reinstate their political autonomy, and take their first tentative steps towards an uncertain future in the modern world. Egypt has 6000 years of civilization in its history, now we hope that it has 6000 more in its future, and that these shaky first steps are nothing more than an old man stretching out his long-dormant legs before rising again.



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