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Egypt ( Egyptian : Km.t , Kmi , Arabic : Mi s r ; Egyptian Arabic ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt , is a country in North Africa that includes the Sinai Peninsula , a land bridge to Asia . Covering an area of about 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,560  square miles ), Egypt borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and Israel and the Gaza Strip to the northeast; on the north and the east are the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea , respectively.

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Egypt is the fifteenth most populous country in the world. The vast majority of its 78.8 million population (2006) live near the banks of the Nile River (about 40,000 km² or 15,450 sq miles) where the only arable agricultural land is found. Large areas of land form part of the Sahara Desert and are sparsely inhabited. Around half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with the majority spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo (the largest city in Africa and the Middle East), Alexandria and other major towns in the Nile Delta .

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Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most ancient and important monuments, including the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza ; the southern city of Luxor contains a particularly large number of ancient artifacts such as the Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings . Today, Egypt is widely regarded as the main political and cultural centre of the Middle East .

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Ancient Egyptian Etymology

km.t (Egypt)
in hieroglyphs

  • One of the ancient Egyptian names of the country, km.t , or "black land," is derived from the fertile black soils deposited by the Nile floods, distinct from the 'red land' ( dSr.t ) of the desert. The name is realized as kmi and kmi in the Coptic stage of the Egyptian language, and appeared in early Greek as Kymeía .

  • Mi s r , the Arabic and official name for modern Egypt ( Egyptian Arabic : Ma s r ), is of Semitic origin directly cognate with the Hebrew ( Mitzráyim ), meaning "the two straits" (a reference to the dynastic separation of upper and lower Egypt), and possibly means "a country" or "a state". Mi sr in Arabic also means "a country" or "a state".

  • The English name "Egypt" came via the Latin word Aegyptus derived from the ancient Greek word ( Aigyptos ). According to Strabo , ( Aigyptos ), in ancient Greek meant "below the Aegean" ("Aegaeou uptis"), and was formed by the combination of the two words. It has also been suggested that the word is a corruption of the ancient Egyptian phrase hwt-k3-pth meaning "home of the Ka (Soul) of Ptah", the name of a temple of the god Ptah at Memphis

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Egypt History

The Nile River in Egypt. Main articles: History of Egypt and Ancient Egypt

The Nile Valley was site of continuous human habitation since at least the Paleolithic . Traces of these early peoples appear in the form of artifacts and rock carvings along the terraces of the Nile and in the desert oases. In the 10th millennium BC , a grain - grinding culture using the earliest type of sickle blades had been replaced by another culture of hunter-gatherers and fishers using stone tools . Climate changes and/or overgrazing around 8000 BC began to desiccate the pastoral lands of Egypt, eventually forming the Sahara . Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralized society .

By about 6000 BC, organized agriculture and large building construction had appeared in the Nile Valley. During the Neolithic , 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 Egyptian civilization . 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 somewhat culturally separate, but maintaining frequent contact through trade. The earliest known evidence of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appear during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BC.

tAwy ('Two Lands')
in hieroglyphs

A unified kingdom was founded circa 3150 BC by King Menes , giving rise to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia. Egyptians subsequently referred to their unified country as tAwy , meaning 'Two Lands'; and later km.t ( Coptic : kmi), the 'Black Land', a reference to the fertile black soil deposited by the Nile river. 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 BC., famous for its many pyramids , most notably the 3rd Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the Fourth Dynasty Giza Pyramids .

The Great Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza , built during the Old Kingdom , are modern national icons that also lie at the heart of Egypt's thriving tourism industry.

The First Intermediate Period ushered in a time of political upheaval for about 150 years. Stronger Nile floods and stabilization of government, however, brought back renewed prosperity for the country in the Middle Kingdom c . 2040 BC, reaching a peak during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III . A second period of disunity heralded the arrival of the first alien ruling dynasty in Egypt, that of the Semitic Hyksos . The Hyksos invaders took over much of Lower Egypt around 1650 BC, and founded a new capital at Avaris . They were eventually 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 New Kingdom (c.1550-1070 BC) 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 Jebel Barkal in Nubia , and included parts of the Levant in the east. This period is known for some of the most well-known Pharaohs , including Hatshepsut , Thutmose III , Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti , Tutankhamun and Ramesses II . The first known self-conscious expression of monotheism came during this period in the form of the cult of Atenism . Frequent contacts with other nations brought in new ideas in the New Kingdom.

First built in the third or fourth century AD, the Hanging Church is Cairo's most famous Coptic church.

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The Thirtieth Dynasty was the last native ruling dynasty during the Pharaonic epoch. It fell to the Persians in 343 BC after the last native pharaoh, King Nectanebo II , was defeated in battle. Later, Egypt fell to the Greeks and Romans , beginning over two thousand years of foreign rule. Before Egypt became part of the Byzantine realm, Christianity had been brought by Saint Mark the Evangelist in the AD first century. Diocletian 's reign marks the transition from the Roman to the Byzantine era in Egypt, when a great number of Egyptian Christians were persecuted. The New Testament was by then translated into Egyptian, and after the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, a distinct Egyptian Coptic Church was firmly established.

The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a brief Persian invasion early in the seventh century, until in AD 639, Egypt was invaded by the Muslim Arabs . The form of Islam the Arabs brought to Egypt was Sunni , though early in this period Egyptians began to blend their new faith with indigenous beliefs and practices that had survived through Coptic Christianity, giving rise to various Sufi orders that have flourished to this day. Muslim rulers nominated by the Islamic Caliphate remained in control of Egypt for the next six centuries, including a period for which it was the seat of the Caliphate under the Fatimids . With the end of the Ayyubid dynasty , a Turco - Circassian military caste, the Mamluks , took control about AD 1250 and continued to govern even after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517.

Mosque of Mohamed Ali built in the early nineteenth cenutry within the Cairo Citadel .

The brief French Invasion of Egypt in 1801 had a great social impact on the country and its culture, as native Egyptians were introduced to the principals of the French Revolution and were invited to head their own government. A series of civil wars took place between the Ottoman Turks, the Mamluks, and Albanian mercenaries following the evacuation of French troops, resulting in the Albanian Muhammad Ali taking control of Egypt where he was appointed as the Ottoman viceroy in 1805. He led a modernization campaign of public works, including irrigation projects, agricultural reforms and increased industrialization, which were then taken up and further expanded by his grandson and successor Isma'il Pasha .

Following the completion of the Suez Canal by Ismail in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub. In 1866, the Assembly of Delegates was founded to serve as an advisory body for the government. Its members were elected from across Egypt and eventually they came to have an important influence on governmental affairs. The country also fell heavily into debt to European powers. Ostensibly to protect its investments, the United Kingdom seized control of Egypt's government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914 when as a result of the declaration of war with the Ottoman Empire , Britain declared a protectorate over Egypt and deposed the khedive , replacing him with his uncle who was appointed Sultan of Egypt .

Public riot during the 1919 Revolution sparked by the British exile of nationalist leader Saad Zaghlul .

Between 1882 and 1906, a local nationalist movement for independence was taking shape. The Dinshaway Incident prompted Egyptian opposition to take a stronger stand against British occupation and the first political parties were founded. After the first World War, Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party led the Egyptian nationalist movement after gaining a majority at the local Legislative Assembly. When the British exiled Zaghlul and his associates to Malta on March 8, 1919, Egypt witnessed its first modern revolution. Constant revolting by the Egyptian people throughout the country led Great Britain to issue a unilateral declaration of Egypt's independence on February 22, 1922.

The new Egyptian government drafted and implemented a new constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary representative system. Saad Zaghlul was popularly-elected as Prime Minister of Egypt in 1924, and in 1936 the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded. However, continued instability in the government due to remaining British control and increasing involvement by the King in politics led to the eventual toppling of the monarchy and the dissolution of the parliament through a coup d'état by a group of army officers in 1952. They forced King Farouk I to abdicate in support of his son King Ahmed Fouad II .

The Egyptian Republic was declared on 18 June 1953 with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic. Naguib was forced to resign in 1954 by Gamal Abdel Nasser – the real architect of the 1952 movement – and was later put under house arrest . Nasser assumed power as President and declared the full independence of Egypt from the United Kingdom on June 18 , 1956 . His nationalization of the Suez Canal on July 26 , 1956 prompted the 1956 Suez Crisis . Three years after the 1967 Six Day War , in which Egypt lost the Sinai to Israel , Nasser died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat , who presented his takeover in terms of a Corrective Revolution .

Sadat switched Egypt's Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States , expelling Soviet advisors in 1972, and launched the Infitah economic reform policy, while violently clamping down on religious and secular opposition alike. In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel in an attempt to regain the occupied Sinai Penninsula. Both the US and the USSR intervened and a cease-fire was reached between both sides. Despite not being a complete military success, most historians agree that the Yom Kippur war presented Sadat with a political victory that would later allow him to pursue peace with Israel. In 1977 , Sadat made a historical visit to Israel which led to the 1978 peace treaty in exchange for the complete 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 was supported by the vast majority of Egyptians. Sadat was assassinated in Cairo by a fundamentalist military soldier in 1981 and was succeeded by the incumbent Hosni Mubarak . In 2003, the Egyptian Movement for Change , popularly known as Kefaya , was launched to seek a return to democracy and greater civil liberties .

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