Saqqara (Arabic: سقارة, Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [sɑʔˈʔɑːɾɑ]), also spelled Sakkara or Saccara in English /səˈkɑːrə/, is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara contains numerous pyramids, including the world-famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb, and a number of mastaba tombs. Located some 30 km (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 by 1.5 km (4.35 by 0.93 mi).
At Saqqara, the oldest complete stone building complex known in history was built, the Pyramid of Djoser, built during the Third Dynasty. Another sixteen Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation. High officials added private funeral monuments to this necropolis during the entire Pharaonic period. It remained an important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times.
North of the area known as Saqqara lies Abusir, and south lies Dahshur. The area running from Giza to Dahshur has been used as a necropolis by the inhabitants of Memphis at different times, and it was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. Some scholars believe that the name Saqqara is not derived from the ancient Egyptian funerary deity, Sokar, but from a local Berber Tribe called Beni Saqqar.
The earliest burials of nobles can be traced back to the First Dynasty, at the northern side of the Saqqara plateau. During this time, the royal burial ground was at Abydos. The first royal burials at Saqqara, comprising underground galleries, date to the Second Dynasty. The last Second Dynasty king, Khasekhemwy, was buried in his tomb at Abydos, but also built a funerary monument at Saqqara consisting of a large rectangular enclosure, known as Gisr el-Mudir. It probably inspired the monumental enclosure wall around the Step Pyramid complex. Djoser’s funerary complex, built by the royal architect Imhotep, further comprises a large number of dummy buildings and a secondary mastaba (the so-called ‘Southern Tomb’). French architect and Egyptologist Jean-Philippe Lauer spent the greater part of his life excavating and restoring Djoser’s funerary complex.
Early Dynastic monuments
tomb of king Hotepsekhemwy or Raneb
tomb of king Nynetjer
Buried Pyramid, funerary complex of king Sekhemkhet
Gisr el-Mudir, funerary complex of king Khasekhemwy
Step Pyramid, funerary complex of king Djoser
Nearly all Fourth Dynasty kings chose a different location for their pyramids. During the second half of the Old Kingdom, under the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, Saqqara was again the royal burial ground. The Fifth and Sixth Dynasty pyramids are not built wholly of massive stone blocks, but instead with a core consisting of rubble. Consequently, they are less well preserved than the world-famous pyramids built by the Fourth Dynasty kings at Giza. Unas, the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, was the first king to adorn the chambers in his pyramid with Pyramid Texts. During the Old Kingdom, it was customary for courtiers to be buried in mastaba tombs close to the pyramid of their king. Thus, clusters of private tombs were formed in Saqqara around the pyramid complexes of Unas and Teti.
Old Kingdom monuments
Mastabat al-Fir’aun, tomb of king Shepseskaf (Dynasty Four)
Pyramid of Userkaf of the Fifth Dynasty
Pyramid of Djedkare Isesi
Pyramid of king Menkauhor
Mastaba of Ti
Mastaba of the Two Brothers (Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum)
Pyramid of Unas
Mastaba of Ptahhotep
Pyramid of Teti (Dynasty Six)
Mastaba of Mereruka
Mastaba of Kagemni
Mastaba of Akhethetep
Pyramid of Pepi I
Pyramid of Merenre
Pyramid complex of king Pepi II Neferkare
Tomb of Perneb (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York)
Pyramid of king Ibi (Dynasty Eight)
From the Middle Kingdom onward, Memphis was no longer the capital of the country, and kings built their funerary complexes elsewhere. Few private monuments from this period have been found at Saqqara.
econd Intermediate Period monuments
Pyramid of king Khendjer (Dynasty Thirteen)
Pyramid of an unknown king
During the New Kingdom Memphis was an important administrative and military centre, being the capital after the Amaran Period. From the Eighteenth Dynasty onward many high officials built tombs at Saqqara. While still a general, Horemheb built a large tomb here, although he later was buried as pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. Other important tombs belong to the vizier Aperel, the vizier Neferrenpet, the artist Thutmose, and the wet-nurse of Tutankhamun, Maia.
Many monuments from earlier periods were still standing, but dilapidated by this period. Prince Khaemweset, son of Pharaoh Ramesses II, made repairs to buildings at Saqqara. Among other things, he restored the Pyramid of Unas and added an inscription to its south face to commemorate the restoration. He enlarged the Serapeum, the burial site of the mummified Apis bulls, and was later buried in the catacombs. The Serapeum, containing one undisturbed interment of an Apis bull and the tomb of Khaemweset, were rediscovered by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette in 1851.
New Kingdom monuments
Several clusters of tombs of high officials, among which the tombs of Horemheb and of Maya and Merit. Reliefs and statues from these two tombs are on display in the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden, the Netherlands, and in the British Museum, London.
After the New Kingdom
During the periods after the New Kingdom, when several cities in the Delta served as capital of Egypt, Saqqara remained in use as a burial ground for nobles. Moreover, the area became an important destination for pilgrims to a number of cult centres. Activities sprang up around the Serapeum, and extensive underground galleries were cut into the rock as burial sites for large numbers of mummified ibises, baboons, cats, dogs, and falcons.
Monuments of the Late Period, the Graeco-Roman and later periods
Several shaft tombs of officials of the Late Period
Serapeum (the larger part dating to the Ptolemaeic Period)
The so-called ‘Philosophers circle’, a monument to important Greek thinkers and poets, consisting of statues of Hesiod, Homer, Pindar, Plato, and others (Ptolemaeic)
Several Coptic monasteries, among which the Monastery of Apa Jeremias (Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods)
Saqqara and the surrounding areas of Abusir and Dahshur suffered damage by looters during the 2011 Egyptian protests. Store rooms were broken into, but the monuments were mostly unharmed.
During routine excavations in 2011 at the dog catacomb in Saqqara necropolis, an excavation team led by Salima Ikram and an international team of researchers led by Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University, uncovered almost eight million animal mummies at the burial site next to the sacred temple of Anubis. It is thought that the mummified animals, mostly dogs, were intended to pass on the prayers of their owners to their deities.
"You don’t get 8 million mummies without having puppy farms," she says. "And some of these dogs were killed deliberately so that they could be offered. So for us, that seems really heartless. But for the Egyptians, they felt that the dogs were going straight up to join the eternal pack with Anubis. And so they were going off to a better thing" said Salima Ikram.
In July 2018, German-Egyptian researchers’ team head by Ramadan Badry Hussein of the University of Tübingen reported the discovery of an extremely rare gilded burial mask that probably dates from the Saite-Persian period in a partly damaged wooden coffin. The last time a similar mask was found was in 1939. The eyes were covered with obsidian, calcite, and black hued gemstone possibly onyx. "The finding of this mask could be called a sensation. Very few masks of precious metal have been preserved to the present day, because the tombs of most Ancient Egyptian dignitaries were looted in ancient times." said Hussein.
In September 2018, several dozen cache of mummies dating 2,000 years back were found by a team of Polish archaeologists led by Kamil Kuraszkiewicz from the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the University of Warsaw. The Polish-Egyptian expedition works under the auspices of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw. Investigations were carried out for over two decades in the area to the west of the Djoser Pyramid. The most important discoveries include the tomb of vizier Merefnebef with a funerary chapel decorated with multi-colored reliefs, which was uncovered in 1997. as well as the tomb of courtier Nyankhnefertem uncovered in 2003. The expedition also explored two necropoles. Archaeologists revealed several dozen graves of noblemen from the period of the 6th Dynasty, dating to the 24th-21st century BC, and 500 graves of indigent people dating approximately to the 6th century BC – 1st century AD. Most of the bodies were poorly preserved and all organic materials, including the wooden caskets, had decayed. The tombs discovered most recently (in 2018) form part of the younger, so-called Upper Necropolis.
Most of the mummies we discovered last season were very modest, they were only subjected to basic embalming treatments, wrapped in bandages and placed directly in pits dug in the sand
— Kamil Kuraszkiewicz.
The research of the Polish-Egyptian expedition also focuses on the interpretation of the so-called Dry Moat, a vast trench hewn around the Djoser Pyramid. The most recent discoveries confirm the hypothesis that the Dry Moat was a model of the pharaoh’s journey to the netherworld, a road the deceased ruler had to follow to attain eternal life.
In November, 2018, an Egyptian archaeological mission located seven ancient Egyptian tombs at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara containing a collection of scarab and cat mummies dating back to the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. Three of the tombs were used for cats, some dating back more than 6,000 years, while one of four other sarcophagi was unsealed. With the remains of cat mummies were unearthed gilded and 100 wooden statues of cats and one in bronze dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet. In addition, funerary items dating back to the 12th Dynasty were found besides the skeletal remains of cats.
In mid-December 2018, the Egyptian government announced the discovery at Saqqara of a previously unknown 4,400-year-old tomb, containing paintings and more than fifty sculptures. It belongs to Wahtye, a high-ranking priest who served under King Neferirkare Kakai during the Fifth Dynasty. The tomb also contains four shafts that lead to a sarcophagus below.
On 13 April 2019, an expedition led by a member of the Czech Institute of Egyptology, Mohamed Megahed, discovered a 4,000-year-old tomb near Egypt’s Saqqara Necropolis. Archaeologists confirmed that the tomb belonged to an influential person named Khuwy, who lived in Egypt during the 5th Dynasty. "The L-shaped Khuwy tomb starts with a small corridor heading downwards into an antechamber and from there a larger chamber with painted reliefs depicting the tomb owner seated at an offerings table", reported Megahed. Some paintings maintained their brightness over a long time in the tomb. Mainly made of white limestone bricks, the tomb had a tunnel entrance generally typical for pyramids. Archaeologists say that there might be a connection between Khuwy and pharaoh because the mausoleum was found near the pyramid of Egyptian Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, who ruled during that time.
On 3 October 2020, Khalid el-Anany, Egypt’s tourism and antiquities minister announced the discovery of at least 59 sealed sarcophagi with mummies more than 2,600 years old. Archaeologists also revealed the 20 statues of Ptah-Soker and a carved 35-centimeter tall bronze statue of god Nefertem.
On 19 October 2020, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the discovery of more than 2,500 years of colorful, sealed sarcophagi. The archaeological team unearthed gilded, wooden statues and more than 80 coffins.
In November, 2020, Archaeologists unearthed more than 100 delicately painted wooden coffins and 40 funeral statues. The sealed, wooden coffins, some containing mummies, date as far back as 2,500 years. Other artifacts discovered include funeral masks, canopic jars and amulets
Egypt (/ˈiːdʒɪpt/ (About this soundlisten) EE-jipt; Arabic: مِصر, romanized: Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip (Palestine) and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.
Egypt has one of the longest histories of any country, tracing its heritage along the Nile Delta back to the 6th–4th millennia BCE. Considered a cradle of civilisation, Ancient Egypt saw some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organised religion and central government. Iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy and remain a significant focus of scientific and popular interest. Egypt’s long and rich cultural heritage is an integral part of its national identity, which reflects its unique transcontinental location being all Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African. Egypt was an early and important centre of Christianity, but was largely Islamised in the seventh century and remains a predominantly Muslim country, albeit with a significant Christian minority.
Modern Egypt dates back to 1922, when it gained independence from the British Empire as a monarchy. Following the 1952 revolution, Egypt declared itself a republic, and in 1958 it merged with Syria to form the United Arab Republic, which dissolved in 1961. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Egypt endured social and religious strife and political instability, fighting several armed conflicts with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, and occupying the Gaza Strip intermittently until 1967. In 1978, Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, officially withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and recognising Israel. The country continues to face challenges, from political unrest, including the recent 2011 revolution and its aftermath, to terrorism and economic underdevelopment. Egypt’s current government, a semi-presidential republic has been described by a number of watchdogs as authoritarian or heading an authoritarian regime, responsible for perpetuating the country’s problematic human rights record.
Islam is the official religion of Egypt and Arabic is its official language. With over 100 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa (after Nigeria and Ethiopia), and the thirteenth-most populous in the world. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found. The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of Egypt’s territory, are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt’s residents live in urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Egypt is considered to be a regional power in North Africa, the Middle East and the Muslim world, and a middle power worldwide. With one of the largest and most diversified economies in the Middle East, which is projected to become one of the largest in the world in the 21st century, Egypt has the second-largest economy in Africa, the world’s 33rd-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the 19-largest by PPP. Egypt is a founding member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab League, the African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the World Youth Forum.
The English name "Egypt" is derived from the Ancient Greek "Aígyptos" ("Αἴγυπτος"), via Middle French "Egypte" and Latin "Aegyptus". It is reflected in early Greek Linear B tablets as "a-ku-pi-ti-yo". The adjective "aigýpti-"/"aigýptios" was borrowed into Coptic as "gyptios", and from there into Arabic as "qubṭī", back formed into "قبط" ("qubṭ"), whence English "Copt". The Greek forms were borrowed from Late Egyptian (Amarna) Hikuptah or "Memphis", a corruption of the earlier Egyptian name
(⟨ḥwt-kȝ-ptḥ⟩ ), meaning "home of the ka (soul) of Ptah", the name of a temple to the god Ptah at Memphis.
"Miṣr" (Arabic pronunciation: [mesˤɾ]; "مِصر") is the Classical Quranic Arabic and modern official name of Egypt, while "Maṣr" (Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [mɑsˤɾ]; مَصر) is the local pronunciation in Egyptian Arabic. The name is of Semitic origin, directly cognate with other Semitic words for Egypt such as the Hebrew "מִצְרַיִם" ("Miṣráyim/Mitzráyim/Mizráim"). The oldest attestation of this name for Egypt is the Akkadian "mi-iṣ-ru" ("miṣru") related to miṣru/miṣirru/miṣaru, meaning "border" or "frontier". The Neo-Assyrian Empire used the derived term Rassam cylinder Mu-s,ur.jpg, Mu-ṣur.
The ancient Egyptian name of the country was
() km.t, which means black land, likely referring to the fertile black soils of the Nile flood plains, distinct from the deshret (⟨dšṛt⟩), or "red land" of the desert. This name is commonly vocalised as Kemet, but was probably pronounced [kuːmat] in ancient Egyptian. The name is realised as kēme and kēmə in the Coptic stage of the Egyptian language, and appeared in early Greek as Χημία (Khēmía). Another name was ⟨tꜣ-mry⟩ "land of the riverbank". The names of Upper and Lower Egypt were Ta-Sheme’aw (⟨tꜣ-šmꜥw⟩) "sedgeland" and Ta-Mehew (⟨tꜣ mḥw⟩) "northland", respectively.
Main article: History of Egypt
Prehistory and Ancient Egypt
Main articles: Prehistoric Egypt and Ancient Egypt
Temple of Derr ruins in 1960
There is evidence of rock carvings along the Nile terraces and in desert oases. In the 10th millennium BCE, a culture of hunter-gatherers and fishers was replaced by a grain-grinding culture. Climate changes or overgrazing around 8000 BCE began to desiccate the pastoral lands of Egypt, forming the Sahara. Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralised society.
By about 6000 BCE, a Neolithic culture rooted in the Nile Valley. During the Neolithic era, several predynastic cultures developed independently in Upper and Lower Egypt. The Badarian culture and the successor Naqada series are generally regarded as precursors to dynastic Egypt. The earliest known Lower Egyptian site, Merimda, predates the Badarian by about seven hundred years. Contemporaneous Lower Egyptian communities coexisted with their southern counterparts for more than two thousand years, remaining culturally distinct, but maintaining frequent contact through trade. The earliest known evidence of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BCE.
The Giza Necropolis is the oldest of the ancient Wonders and the only one still in existence.
A unified kingdom was founded c. 3150 BCE by King Menes, leading to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia. Egyptian culture flourished during this long period and remained distinctively Egyptian in its religion, arts, language and customs. The first two ruling dynasties of a unified Egypt set the stage for the Old Kingdom period, c. 2700–2200 BCE, which constructed many pyramids, most notably the Third Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the Fourth Dynasty Giza pyramids.
The First Intermediate Period ushered in a time of political upheaval for about 150 years. Stronger Nile floods and stabilisation of government, however, brought back renewed prosperity for the country in the Middle Kingdom c. 2040 BCE, reaching a peak during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. A second period of disunity heralded the arrival of the first foreign ruling dynasty in Egypt, that of the Semitic Hyksos. The Hyksos invaders took over much of Lower Egypt around 1650 BCE and founded a new capital at Avaris. They were driven out by an Upper Egyptian force led by Ahmose I, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty and relocated the capital from Memphis to Thebes.
The Weighing of the Heart from the Book of the Dead of Ani
The New Kingdom c. 1550–1070 BCE began with the Eighteenth Dynasty, marking the rise of Egypt as an international power that expanded during its greatest extension to an empire as far south as Tombos in Nubia, and included parts of the Levant in the east. This period is noted for some of the most well known Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II. The first historically attested expression of monotheism came during this period as Atenism. Frequent contacts with other nations brought new ideas to the New Kingdom. The country was later invaded and conquered by Libyans, Nubians and Assyrians, but native Egyptians eventually drove them out and regained control of their country.
Egyptian soldier of the Achaemenid army, c. 480 BCE. Xerxes I tomb relief.
In 525 BCE, the powerful Achaemenid Persians, led by Cambyses II, began their conquest of Egypt, eventually capturing the pharaoh Psamtik III at the battle of Pelusium. Cambyses II then assumed the formal title of pharaoh, but ruled Egypt from his home of Susa in Persia (modern Iran), leaving Egypt under the control of a satrapy. The entire Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt, from 525 to 402 BCE, save for Petubastis III, was an entirely Persian ruled period, with the Achaemenid Emperors all being granted the title of pharaoh. A few temporarily successful revolts against the Persians marked the fifth century BCE, but Egypt was never able to permanently overthrow the Persians.
The Thirtieth Dynasty was the last native ruling dynasty during the Pharaonic epoch. It fell to the Persians again in 343 BCE after the last native Pharaoh, King Nectanebo II, was defeated in battle. This Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt, however, did not last long, for the Persians were toppled several decades later by Alexander the Great. The Macedonian Greek general of Alexander, Ptolemy I Soter, founded the Ptolemaic dynasty.
Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt
Main articles: Ptolemaic Kingdom and Egypt (Roman province)
The Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, at the Temple of Dendera.
The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to Cyrene to the west, and south to the frontier with Nubia. Alexandria became the capital city and a centre of Greek culture and trade. To gain recognition by the native Egyptian populace, they named themselves as the successors to the Pharaohs. The later Ptolemies took on Egyptian traditions, had themselves portrayed on public monuments in Egyptian style and dress, and participated in Egyptian religious life.
The last ruler from the Ptolemaic line was Cleopatra VII, who committed suicide following the burial of her lover Mark Antony who had died in her arms (from a self-inflicted stab wound), after Octavian had captured Alexandria and her mercenary forces had fled. The Ptolemies faced rebellions of native Egyptians often caused by an unwanted regime and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its annexation by Rome. Nevertheless, Hellenistic culture continued to thrive in Egypt well after the Muslim conquest.
Christianity was brought to Egypt by Saint Mark the Evangelist in the 1st century. Diocletian’s reign (284–305 CE) marked the transition from the Roman to the Byzantine era in Egypt, when a great number of Egyptian Christians were persecuted. The New Testament had by then been translated into Egyptian. After the Council of Chalcedon in CE 451, a distinct Egyptian Coptic Church was firmly established.
Middle Ages (7th century – 1517)
Main article: Egypt in the Middle Ages
The Amr ibn al-As mosque in Cairo, recognized as the oldest in Africa
The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a brief Sasanian Persian invasion early in the 7th century amidst the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 during which they established a new short-lived province for ten years known as Sasanian Egypt, until 639–42, when Egypt was invaded and conquered by the Islamic Empire by the Muslim Arabs. When they defeated the Byzantine armies in Egypt, the Arabs brought Sunni Islam to the country. Early in this period, Egyptians began to blend their new faith with indigenous beliefs and practices, leading to various Sufi orders that have flourished to this day. These earlier rites had survived the period of Coptic Christianity.
In 639 an army of some 4,000 men were sent against Egypt by the second caliph, Umar, under the command of Amr ibn al-As. This army was joined by another 5,000 men in 640 and defeated a Byzantine army at the battle of Heliopolis. Amr next proceeded in the direction of Alexandria, which was surrendered to him by a treaty signed on 8 November 641. Alexandria was regained for the Byzantine Empire in 645 but was retaken by Amr in 646. In 654 an invasion fleet sent by Constans II was repulsed. From that time no serious effort was made by the Byzantines to regain possession of the country.
The Arabs founded the capital of Egypt called Fustat, which was later burned down during the Crusades. Cairo was later built in the year 986 to grow to become the largest and richest city in the Arab Empire, and one of the biggest and richest in the world.
The Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo, of Ahmad Ibn Tulun
The Abbasid period was marked by new taxations, and the Copts revolted again in the fourth year of Abbasid rule. At the beginning of the 9th century the practice of ruling Egypt through a governor was resumed under Abdallah ibn Tahir, who decided to reside at Baghdad, sending a deputy to Egypt to govern for him. In 828 another Egyptian revolt broke out, and in 831 the Copts joined with native Muslims against the government. Eventually the power loss of the Abbasids in Baghdad has led for general upon general to take over rule of Egypt, yet being under Abbasid allegiance, the Tulunid dynasty (868–905) and Ikhshidid dynasty (935–969) were among the most successful to defy the Abbasid Caliph.
The Fatimid Caliphate and the Mamluks
See also: Fatimid Caliphate and Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo)
The Al-Hakim Mosque in Cairo, of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the sixth caliph, as renovated by Dawoodi Bohra
Muslim rulers nominated by the Caliphate remained in control of Egypt for the next six centuries, with Cairo as the seat of the Fatimid Caliphate. With the end of the Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluks, a Turco-Circassian military caste, took control about 1250. By the late 13th century, Egypt linked the Red Sea, India, Malaya, and East Indies. The mid-14th-century Black Death killed about 40% of the country’s population.
Early modern period: Ottoman Egypt (1517–1867)
Napoleon defeated the Mamluk troops in the Battle of the Pyramids, 21 July 1798, painted by Lejeune.
Main article: Egypt Eyalet
Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1517, after which it became a province of the Ottoman Empire. The defensive militarisation damaged its civil society and economic institutions. The weakening of the economic system combined with the effects of plague left Egypt vulnerable to foreign invasion. Portuguese traders took over their trade. Between 1687 and 1731, Egypt experienced six famines. The 1784 famine cost it roughly one-sixth of its population.
Egypt was always a difficult province for the Ottoman Sultans to control, due in part to the continuing power and influence of the Mamluks, the Egyptian military caste who had ruled the country for centuries.
Egypt remained semi-autonomous under the Mamluks until it was invaded by the French forces of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 (see French campaign in Egypt and Syria). After the French were defeated by the British, a power vacuum was created in Egypt, and a three-way power struggle ensued between the Ottoman Turks, Egyptian Mamluks who had ruled Egypt for centuries, and Albanian mercenaries in the service of the Ottomans.
The Muhammad Ali dynasty
Main article: History of Egypt under the Muhammad Ali dynasty
Egypt under Muhammad Ali dynasty
Muhammad Ali was the founder of the Muhammad Ali dynasty and the first Khedive of Egypt and Sudan.
After the French were expelled, power was seized in 1805 by Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian military commander of the Ottoman army in Egypt. While he carried the title of viceroy of Egypt, his subordination to the Ottoman porte was merely nominal. Muhammad Ali massacred the Mamluks and established a dynasty that was to rule Egypt until the revolution of 1952.
The introduction in 1820 of long-staple cotton transformed its agriculture into a cash-crop monoculture before the end of the century, concentrating land ownership and shifting production towards international markets.
Muhammad Ali annexed Northern Sudan (1820–1824), Syria (1833), and parts of Arabia and Anatolia; but in 1841 the European powers, fearful lest he topple the Ottoman Empire itself, forced him to return most of his conquests to the Ottomans. His military ambition required him to modernise the country: he built industries, a system of canals for irrigation and transport, and reformed the civil service.
He constructed a military state with around four percent of the populace serving the army to raise Egypt to a powerful positioning in the Ottoman Empire in a way showing various similarities to the Soviet strategies (without communism) conducted in the 20th century.
Muhammad Ali Pasha evolved the military from one that convened under the tradition of the corvée to a great modernised army. He introduced conscription of the male peasantry in 19th century Egypt, and took a novel approach to create his great army, strengthening it with numbers and in skill. Education and training of the new soldiers became mandatory; the new concepts were furthermore enforced by isolation. The men were held in barracks to avoid distraction of their growth as a military unit to be reckoned with. The resentment for the military way of life eventually faded from the men and a new ideology took hold, one of nationalism and pride. It was with the help of this newly reborn martial unit that Muhammad Ali imposed his rule over Egypt.
The policy that Mohammad Ali Pasha followed during his reign explains partly why the numeracy in Egypt compared to other North-African and Middle-Eastern countries increased only at a remarkably small rate, as investment in further education only took place in the military and industrial sector.
Muhammad Ali was succeeded briefly by his son Ibrahim (in September 1848), then by a grandson Abbas I (in November 1848), then by Said (in 1854), and Isma’il (in 1863) who encouraged science and agriculture and banned slavery in Egypt.
Khedivate of Egypt (1867–1914)
Main article: Khedivate of Egypt
Egypt under the Muhammad Ali dynasty remained nominally an Ottoman province. It was granted the status of an autonomous vassal state or Khedivate in 1867, a legal status which was to remain in place until 1914 although the Ottomans had no power or presence.
The Suez Canal, built in partnership with the French, was completed in 1869. Its construction was financed by European banks. Large sums also went to patronage and corruption. New taxes caused popular discontent. In 1875 Isma’il avoided bankruptcy by selling all Egypt’s shares in the canal to the British government. Within three years this led to the imposition of British and French controllers who sat in the Egyptian cabinet, and, "with the financial power of the bondholders behind them, were the real power in the Government."
Other circumstances like epidemic diseases (cattle disease in the 1880s), floods and wars drove the economic downturn and increased Egypt’s dependency on foreign debt even further.
The battle of Tel el-Kebir in 1882 during the Anglo-Egyptian War
Local dissatisfaction with the Khedive and with European intrusion led to the formation of the first nationalist groupings in 1879, with Ahmed ʻUrabi a prominent figure. After increasing tensions and nationalist revolts, the United Kingdom invaded Egypt in 1882, crushing the Egyptian army at the Battle of Tell El Kebir and militarily occupying the country. Following this, the Khedivate became a de facto British protectorate under nominal Ottoman sovereignty.
In 1899 the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement was signed: the Agreement stated that Sudan would be jointly governed by the Khedivate of Egypt and the United Kingdom. However, actual control of Sudan was in British hands only.
In 1906, the Denshawai incident prompted many neutral Egyptians to join the nationalist movement.
Sultanate of Egypt (1914–1922)
Main article: Sultanate of Egypt
Female nationalists demonstrating in Cairo, 1919
In 1914 the Ottoman Empire entered World War I in alliance with the Central Empires; Khedive Abbas II (who had grown increasingly hostile to the British in preceding years) decided to support the motherland in war. Following such decision, the British forcibly removed him from power and replaced him with his brother Hussein Kamel.
Hussein Kamel declared Egypt’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, assuming the title of Sultan of Egypt. Shortly following independence, Egypt was declared a protectorate of the United Kingdom.
After World War I, Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party led the Egyptian nationalist movement to a majority at the local Legislative Assembly. When the British exiled Zaghlul and his associates to Malta on 8 March 1919, the country arose in its first modern revolution. The revolt led the UK government to issue a unilateral declaration of Egypt’s independence on 22 February 1922.
Kingdom of Egypt (1922–1953)
Main article: Kingdom of Egypt
Fuad I of Egypt with Edward, Prince of Wales, 1932
Following independence from the United Kingdom, Sultan Fuad I assumed the title of King of Egypt; despite being nominally independent, the Kingdom was still under British military occupation and the UK still had great influence over the state.
British infantry near El Alamein, 17 July 1942
The new government drafted and implemented a constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary system. The nationalist Wafd Party won a landslide victory in the 1923–1924 election and Saad Zaghloul was appointed as the new Prime Minister.
In 1936, the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded and British troops withdrew from Egypt, except for the Suez Canal. The treaty did not resolve the question of Sudan, which, under the terms of the existing Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899, stated that Sudan should be jointly governed by Egypt and Britain, but with real power remaining in British hands.
Britain used Egypt as a base for Allied operations throughout the region, especially the battles in North Africa against Italy and Germany. Its highest priorities were control of the Eastern Mediterranean, and especially keeping the Suez Canal open for merchant ships and for military connections with India and Australia. The government of Egypt, and the Egyptian population, played a minor role in the Second World War. When the war began in September 1939, Egypt declared martial law and broke off diplomatic relations with Germany. It did not declare war on Germany, but the Prime Minister associated Egypt with the British war effort. It broke diplomatic relations with Italy in 1940, but never declared war, even when the Italian army invaded Egypt. King Farouk took practically a neutral position, which accorded with elite opinion among the Egyptians. The Egyptian army did no fighting. It was apathetic about the war, with the leading officers looking on the British as occupiers and sometimes holding some private sympathy with the Axis. In June 1940 the King dismissed Prime Minister Aly Maher, who got on poorly with the British. A new coalition Government was formed with the Independent Hassan Pasha Sabri as Prime Minister.
Following a ministerial crisis in February 1942, the ambassador Sir Miles Lampson, pressed Farouk to have a Wafd or Wafd-coalition government replace Hussein Sirri Pasha’s government. On the night of 4 February 1942, British troops and tanks surrounded Abdeen Palace in Cairo and Lampson presented Farouk with an ultimatum. Farouk capitulated, and Nahhas formed a government shortly thereafter. However, the humiliation meted out to Farouk, and the actions of the Wafd in cooperating with the British and taking power, lost support for both the British and the Wafd among both civilians and, more importantly, the Egyptian military.
Most British troops were withdrawn to the Suez Canal area in 1947 (although the British army maintained a military base in the area), but nationalist, anti-British feelings continued to grow after the War. Anti-monarchy sentiments further increased following the disastrous performance of the Kingdom in the First Arab-Israeli War. The 1950 election saw a landslide victory of the nationalist Wafd Party and the King was forced to appoint Mostafa El-Nahas as new Prime Minister. In 1951 Egypt unilaterally withdrew from the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 and ordered all remaining British troops to leave the Suez Canal.
As the British refused to leave their base around the Suez Canal, the Egyptian government cut off the water and refused to allow food into the Suez Canal base, announced a boycott of British goods, forbade Egyptian workers from entering the base and sponsored guerrilla attacks, turning the area around the Suez Canal into a low level war zone. On 24 January 1952, Egyptian guerrillas staged a fierce attack on the British forces around the Suez Canal, during which the Egyptian Auxiliary Police were observed helping the guerrillas. In response, on 25 January, General George Erskine sent out British tanks and infantry to surround the auxiliary police station in Ismailia and gave the policemen an hour to surrender their arms on the grounds the police were arming the guerrillas. The police commander called the Interior Minister, Fouad Serageddin, Nahas’s right-hand man, who was smoking cigars in his bath at the time, to ask if he should surrender or fight. Serageddin ordered the police to fight "to the last man and the last bullet". The resulting battle saw the police station levelled and 43 Egyptian policemen killed together with 3 British soldiers. The Ismailia incident outraged Egypt. The next day, 26 January 1952 was "Black Saturday", as the anti-British riot was known, that saw much of downtown Cairo which the Khedive Ismail the Magnificent had rebuilt in the style of Paris, burned down. Farouk blamed the Wafd for the Black Saturday riot, and dismissed Nahas as prime minister the next day. He was replaced by Aly Maher Pasha.
On July 22–23, 1952, the Free Officers Movement, led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, launched a coup d’état (Egyptian Revolution of 1952) against the king. Farouk I abdicated the throne to his son Fouad II, who was, at the time, a seven month old baby. The Royal Family left Egypt some days later and the Council of Regency, led by Prince Muhammad Abdel Moneim was formed, The council, however, held only nominal authority and the real power was actually in the hands of the Revolutionary Command Council, led by Naguib and Nasser.
Popular expectations for immediate reforms led to the workers’ riots in Kafr Dawar on 12 August 1952, which resulted in two death sentences. Following a brief experiment with civilian rule, the Free Officers abrogated the monarchy and the 1923 constitution and declared Egypt a republic on 18 June 1953. Naguib was proclaimed as president, while Nasser was appointed as the new Prime Minister.
Republic of Egypt (1953–1958)
Main article: History of the Republic of Egypt
Following the 1952 Revolution by the Free Officers Movement, the rule of Egypt passed to military hands and all political parties were banned. On 18 June 1953, the Egyptian Republic was declared, with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic, serving in that capacity for a little under one and a half years.
President Nasser (1956–1970)
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in Mansoura, 1960
Naguib was forced to resign in 1954 by Gamal Abdel Nasser – a Pan-Arabist and the real architect of the 1952 movement – and was later put under house arrest. After Naguib’s resignation, the position of President was vacant until the election of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956.
In October 1954 Egypt and the United Kingdom agreed to abolish the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899 and grant Sudan independence; the agreement came into force on 1 January 1956.
Nasser assumed power as president in June 1956. British forces completed their withdrawal from the occupied Suez Canal Zone on 13 June 1956. He nationalised the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956; his hostile approach towards Israel and economic nationalism prompted the beginning of the Second Arab-Israeli War (Suez Crisis), in which Israel (with support from France and the United Kingdom) occupied the Sinai peninsula and the Canal. The war came to an end because of US and USSR diplomatic intervention and the status quo was restored.
United Arab Republic (1958–1971)
Smoke rises from oil tanks beside the Suez Canal hit during the initial Anglo-French assault on Egypt, 5 November 1956
In 1958, Egypt and Syria formed a sovereign union known as the United Arab Republic. The union was short-lived, ending in 1961 when Syria seceded, thus ending the union. During most of its existence, the United Arab Republic was also in a loose confederation with North Yemen (or the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen), known as the United Arab States. In 1959, the All-Palestine Government of the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian client state, was absorbed into the United Arab Republic under the pretext of Arab union, and was never restored. The Arab Socialist Union, a new nasserist state-party was founded in 1962.
In the early 1960s, Egypt became fully involved in the North Yemen Civil War. The Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, supported the Yemeni republicans with as many as 70,000 Egyptian troops and chemical weapons. Despite several military moves and peace conferences, the war sank into a stalemate. Egyptian commitment in Yemen was greatly undermined later.
In mid May 1967, the Soviet Union issued warnings to Nasser of an impending Israeli attack on Syria. Although the chief of staff Mohamed Fawzi verified them as "baseless", Nasser took three successive steps that made the war virtually inevitable: on 14 May he deployed his troops in Sinai near the border with Israel, on 19 May he expelled the UN peacekeepers stationed in the Sinai Peninsula border with Israel, and on 23 May he closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. On 26 May Nasser declared, "The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel".
Israel re-iterated that the Straits of Tiran closure was a Casus belli. This prompted the beginning of the Third Arab Israeli War (Six-Day War) in which Israel attacked Egypt, and occupied Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, which Egypt had occupied since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. During the 1967 war, an Emergency Law was enacted, and remained in effect until 2012, with the exception of an 18-month break in 1980/81. Under this law, police powers were extended, constitutional rights suspended and censorship legalised.
At the time of the fall of the Egyptian monarchy in the early 1950s, less than half a million Egyptians were considered upper class and rich, four million middle class and 17 million lower class and poor. Fewer than half of all primary-school-age children attended school, most of them being boys. Nasser’s policies changed this. Land reform and distribution, the dramatic growth in university education, and government support to national industries greatly improved social mobility and flattened the social curve. From academic year 1953–54 through 1965–66, overall public school enrolments more than doubled. Millions of previously poor Egyptians, through education and jobs in the public sector, joined the middle class. Doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, journalists, constituted the bulk of the swelling middle class in Egypt under Nasser. During the 1960s, the Egyptian economy went from sluggish to the verge of collapse, the society became less free, and Nasser’s appeal waned considerably.
Arab Republic of Egypt (1971–present)
President Sadat (1970–1981)
Egyptian tanks advancing in the Sinai desert during the Yom Kippur War, 1973
In 1970, President Nasser died of a heart attack and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. Sadat switched Egypt’s Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. He launched the Infitah economic reform policy, while clamping down on religious and secular opposition. In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched the Fourth Arab-Israeli War (Yom Kippur War), a surprise attack to regain part of the Sinai territory Israel had captured 6 years earlier. It presented Sadat with a victory that allowed him to regain the Sinai later in return for peace with Israel.
Celebrating the signing of the 1978 Camp David Accords: Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat
In 1975, Sadat shifted Nasser’s economic policies and sought to use his popularity to reduce government regulations and encourage foreign investment through his program of Infitah. Through this policy, incentives such as reduced taxes and import tariffs attracted some investors, but investments were mainly directed at low risk and profitable ventures like tourism and construction, abandoning Egypt’s infant industries. Even though Sadat’s policy was intended to modernise Egypt and assist the middle class, it mainly benefited the higher class, and, because of the elimination of subsidies on basic foodstuffs, led to the 1977 Egyptian Bread Riots.
In 1977, Sadat dissolved the Arab Socialist Union and replaced it with the National Democratic Party.
Sadat made a historic visit to Israel in 1977, which led to the 1979 peace treaty in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. Sadat’s initiative sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt’s expulsion from the Arab League, but it was supported by most Egyptians. Sadat was assassinated by an Islamic extremist in October 1981.
President Mubarak (1981–2011)
Hosni Mubarak came to power after the assassination of Sadat in a referendum in which he was the only candidate.
Hosni Mubarak reaffirmed Egypt’s relationship with Israel yet eased the tensions with Egypt’s Arab neighbours. Domestically, Mubarak faced serious problems. Even though farm and industry output expanded, the economy could not keep pace with the population boom. Mass poverty and unemployment led rural families to stream into cities like Cairo where they ended up in crowded slums, barely managing to survive.
On 25 February 1986 Security Police started rioting, protesting against reports that their term of duty was to be extended from 3 to 4 years. Hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and casinos were attacked in Cairo and there were riots in other cities. A day time curfew was imposed. It took the army 3 days to restore order. 107 people were killed.
In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, terrorist attacks in Egypt became numerous and severe, and began to target Christian Copts, foreign tourists and government officials. In the 1990s an Islamist group, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, engaged in an extended campaign of violence, from the murders and attempted murders of prominent writers and intellectuals, to the repeated targeting of tourists and foreigners. Serious damage was done to the largest sector of Egypt’s economy—tourism—and in turn to the government, but it also devastated the livelihoods of many of the people on whom the group depended for support.
During Mubarak’s reign, the political scene was dominated by the National Democratic Party, which was created by Sadat in 1978. It passed the 1993 Syndicates Law, 1995 Press Law, and 1999 Nongovernmental Associations Law which hampered freedoms of association and expression by imposing new regulations and draconian penalties on violations. As a result, by the late 1990s parliamentary politics had become virtually irrelevant and alternative avenues for political expression were curtailed as well.
Cairo grew into a metropolitan area with a population of over 20 million
On 17 November 1997, 62 people, mostly tourists, were massacred near Luxor.
In late February 2005, Mubarak announced a reform of the presidential election law, paving the way for multi-candidate polls for the first time since the 1952 movement. However, the new law placed restrictions on the candidates, and led to Mubarak’s easy re-election victory. Voter turnout was less than 25%. Election observers also alleged government interference in the election process. After the election, Mubarak imprisoned Ayman Nour, the runner-up.
Human Rights Watch’s 2006 report on Egypt detailed serious human rights violations, including routine torture, arbitrary detentions and trials before military and state security courts. In 2007, Amnesty International released a report alleging that Egypt had become an international centre for torture, where other nations send suspects for interrogation, often as part of the War on Terror. Egypt’s foreign ministry quickly issued a rebuttal to this report.
Constitutional changes voted on 19 March 2007 prohibited parties from using religion as a basis for political activity, allowed the drafting of a new anti-terrorism law, authorised broad police powers of arrest and surveillance, and gave the president power to dissolve parliament and end judicial election monitoring. In 2009, Dr. Ali El Deen Hilal Dessouki, Media Secretary of the National Democratic Party (NDP), described Egypt as a "pharaonic" political system, and democracy as a "long-term goal". Dessouki also stated that "the real center of power in Egypt is the military".
Main article: Egyptian revolution of 2011
Top: Celebrations in Tahrir Square after the announcement of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation; Bottom: Protests in Tahrir Square against President Morsi on 27 November 2012.
On 25 January 2011, widespread protests began against Mubarak’s government. On 11 February 2011, Mubarak resigned and fled Cairo. Jubilant celebrations broke out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square at the news. The Egyptian military then assumed the power to govern. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, became the de facto interim head of state. On 13 February 2011, the military dissolved the parliament and suspended the constitution.
A constitutional referendum was held on 19 March 2011. On 28 November 2011, Egypt held its first parliamentary election since the previous regime had been in power. Turnout was high and there were no reports of major irregularities or violence.
President Morsi (2012–2013)
Mohamed Morsi was elected president on 24 June 2012. On 2 August 2012, Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Qandil announced his 35-member cabinet comprising 28 newcomers, including four from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Liberal and secular groups walked out of the constituent assembly because they believed that it would impose strict Islamic practices, while Muslim Brotherhood backers threw their support behind Morsi. On 22 November 2012, President Morsi issued a temporary declaration immunising his decrees from challenge and seeking to protect the work of the constituent assembly.
The move led to massive protests and violent action throughout Egypt. On 5 December 2012, tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Morsi clashed, in what was described as the largest violent battle between Islamists and their foes since the country’s revolution. Mohamed Morsi offered a "national dialogue" with opposition leaders but refused to cancel the December 2012 constitutional referendum.
Political crisis (2013)
Main article: 2013 Egyptian coup d’état
On 3 July 2013, after a wave of public discontent with autocratic excesses of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government, the military removed Morsi from office, dissolved the Shura Council and installed a temporary interim government.
On 4 July 2013, 68-year-old Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt Adly Mansour was sworn in as acting president over the new government following the removal of Morsi. The new Egyptian authorities cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, jailing thousands and forcefully dispersing pro-Morsi and/or pro-Brotherhood protests. Many of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders and activists have either been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in a series of mass trials.
On 18 January 2014, the interim government instituted a new constitution following a referendum approved by an overwhelming majority of voters (98.1%). 38.6% of registered voters participated in the referendum a higher number than the 33% who voted in a referendum during Morsi’s tenure.
President el-Sisi (2014–present)
Women in Cairo wear face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt in March 2020
On 26 March 2014, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egyptian Defence Minister and Commander-in-Chief Egyptian Armed Forces, retired from the military, announcing he would stand as a candidate in the 2014 presidential election. The poll, held between 26 and 28 May 2014, resulted in a landslide victory for el-Sisi. Sisi was sworn into office as President of Egypt on 8 June 2014. The Muslim Brotherhood and some liberal and secular activist groups boycotted the vote. Even though the interim authorities extended voting to a third day, the 46% turnout was lower than the 52% turnout in the 2012 election.
A new parliamentary election was held in December 2015, resulting in a landslide victory for pro-Sisi parties, which secured a strong majority in the newly formed House of Representatives.
In 2016, Egypt entered in a diplomatic crisis with Italy following the murder of researcher Giulio Regeni: in April 2016, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi recalled the Italian ambassador from Cairo because of lack of co-operation from the Egyptian Government in the investigation. The ambassador was sent back to Egypt in 2017 by the new Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
El-Sisi was re-elected in 2018, facing no serious opposition. In 2019, a series of constitutional amendments were approved by the parliament, further increasing the President’s and the military’s power, increasing presidential terms from 4 years to 6 years and allowing El-Sisi to run for other two mandates. The proposals were approved in a referendum.
The dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam escalated in 2020. Egypt sees the dam as an existential threat, fearing that the dam will reduce the amount of water it receives from the Nile.
Main article: Geography of Egypt
Nile valley near Luxor.
Rocky landscape in Marsa Alam.
Egypt lies primarily between latitudes 22° and 32°N, and longitudes 25° and 35°E. At 1,001,450 square kilometres (386,660 sq mi), it is the world’s 30th-largest country. Due to the extreme aridity of Egypt’s climate, population centres are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta, meaning that about 99% of the population uses about 5.5% of the total land area. 98% of Egyptians live on 3% of the territory.
Egypt is bordered by Libya to the west, the Sudan to the south, and the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. Egypt’s important role in geopolitics stems from its strategic position: a transcontinental nation, it possesses a land bridge (the Isthmus of Suez) between Africa and Asia, traversed by a navigable waterway (the Suez Canal) that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean by way of the Red Sea.
Apart from the Nile Valley, the majority of Egypt’s landscape is desert, with a few oases scattered about. Winds create prolific sand dunes that peak at more than 30 metres (100 ft) high. Egypt includes parts of the Sahara desert and of the Libyan Desert. These deserts protected the Kingdom of the Pharaohs from western threats and were referred to as the "red land" in ancient Egypt.
Towns and cities include Alexandria, the second largest city; Aswan; Asyut; Cairo, the modern Egyptian capital and largest city; El Mahalla El Kubra; Giza, the site of the Pyramid of Khufu; Hurghada; Luxor; Kom Ombo; Port Safaga; Port Said; Sharm El Sheikh; Suez, where the south end of the Suez Canal is located; Zagazig; and Minya. Oases include Bahariya, Dakhla, Farafra, Kharga and Siwa. Protectorates include Ras Mohamed National Park, Zaranik Protectorate and Siwa.
On 13 March 2015, plans for a proposed new capital of Egypt were announced.
Main article: Climate of Egypt
Köppen climate classification for Egypt
Saint Catherine in southern Sinai, on a snowy winter morning.
Most of Egypt’s rain falls in the winter months. South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 2 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 in) per year and at intervals of many years. On a very thin strip of the northern coast the rainfall can be as high as 410 mm (16.1 in), mostly between October and March. Snow falls on Sinai’s mountains and some of the north coastal cities such as Damietta, Baltim and Sidi Barrani, and rarely in Alexandria. A very small amount of snow fell on Cairo on 13 December 2013, the first time in many decades. Frost is also known in mid-Sinai and mid-Egypt. Egypt is the driest and the sunniest country in the world, and most of its land surface is desert.
The Qattara Depression in Egypt’s north west.
Egypt has an unusually hot, sunny and dry climate. Average high temperatures are high in the north but very to extremely high in the rest of the country during summer. The cooler Mediterranean winds consistently blow over the northern sea coast, which helps to get more moderated temperatures, especially at the height of the summertime. The Khamaseen is a hot, dry wind that originates from the vast deserts in the south and blows in the spring or in the early summer. It brings scorching sand and dust particles, and usually brings daytime temperatures over 40 °C (104 °F) and sometimes over 50 °C (122 °F) in the interior, while the relative humidity can drop to 5% or even less. The absolute highest temperatures in Egypt occur when the Khamaseen blows. The weather is always sunny and clear in Egypt, especially in cities such as Aswan, Luxor and Asyut. It is one of the least cloudy and least rainy regions on Earth.
Prior to the construction of the Aswan Dam, the Nile flooded annually (colloquially The Gift of the Nile) replenishing Egypt’s soil. This gave Egypt a consistent harvest throughout the years.
The potential rise in sea levels due to global warming could threaten Egypt’s densely populated coastal strip and have grave consequences for the country’s economy, agriculture and industry. Combined with growing demographic pressures, a significant rise in sea levels could turn millions of Egyptians into environmental refugees by the end of the 21st century, according to some climate experts.
Main article: Wildlife of Egypt
Egypt signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 9 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 2 June 1994. It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 31 July 1998. Where many CBD National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans neglect biological kingdoms apart from animals and plants, Egypt’s plan was unusual in providing balanced information about all forms of life.
The plan stated that the following numbers of species of different groups had been recorded from Egypt: algae (1483 species), animals (about 15,000 species of which more than 10,000 were insects), fungi (more than 627 species), monera (319 species), plants (2426 species), protozoans (371 species). For some major groups, for example lichen-forming fungi and nematode worms, the number was not known. Apart from small and well-studied groups like amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles, the many of those numbers are likely to increase as further species are recorded from Egypt. For the fungi, including lichen-forming species, for example, subsequent work has shown that over 2200 species have been recorded from Egypt, and the final figure of all fungi actually occurring in the country is expected to be much higher. For the grasses, 284 native and naturalised species have been identified and recorded in Egypt.
Main article: Politics of Egypt
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the current President of Egypt.
The House of Representatives, whose members are elected to serve five-year terms, specialises in legislation. Elections were last held between November 2011 and January 2012 which was later dissolved. The next parliamentary election was announced to be held within 6 months of the constitution’s ratification on 18 January 2014, and were held in two phases, from 17 October to 2 December 2015. Originally, the parliament was to be formed before the president was elected, but interim president Adly Mansour pushed the date. The Egyptian presidential election, 2014, took place on 26–28 May 2014. Official figures showed a turnout of 25,578,233 or 47.5%, with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi winning with 23.78 million votes, or 96.9% compared to 757,511 (3.1%) for Hamdeen Sabahi.
After a wave of public discontent with autocratic excesses of the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi, on 3 July 2013 then-General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced the removal of Morsi from office and the suspension of the constitution. A 50-member constitution committee was formed for modifying the constitution which was later published for public voting and was adopted on 18 January 2014.
In 2013, Freedom House rated political rights in Egypt at 5 (with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least), and civil liberties at 5, which gave it the freedom rating of "Partly Free".
Egyptian nationalism predates its Arab counterpart by many decades, having roots in the 19th century and becoming the dominant mode of expression of Egyptian anti-colonial activists and intellectuals until the early 20th century. The ideology espoused by Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood is mostly supported by the lower-middle strata of Egyptian society.
Egypt has the oldest continuous parliamentary tradition in the Arab world. The first popular assembly was established in 1866. It was disbanded as a result of the British occupation of 1882, and the British allowed only a consultative body to sit. In 1923, however, after the country’s independence was declared, a new constitution provided for a parliamentary monarchy.
Military and foreign relations
Main articles: Egyptian Armed Forces and Foreign relations of Egypt
Egyptian honor guard soldiers during a visit of U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
The military is influential in the political and economic life of Egypt and exempts itself from laws that apply to other sectors. It enjoys considerable power, prestige and independence within the state and has been widely considered part of the Egyptian "d
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