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Egypt

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=== Synchrony with the Israelites ===
=== Synchrony with the Israelites ===
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[[Image:Egypt_David_Roberts.jpg|thumb|250px|[[Exodus of Israel|Exodus]] of the [[Israelites]] from Egypt by David Roberts (1830).]]
+
[[File:Israel in Egypt.jpg|250px|right|thumb|''Israel in Egypt'' by Edward Poynter. 1867]]
The first five books of the [[Bible]], written by [[Moses]], never mention any Pharaoh by name. Sadly, Egyptian records do not speak reliably of contact with the Israelites. For example, the [[Exodus of Israel]] is an important [[epoch]]al event in the history of the people of [[Israel]]. Yet testimony to this event from the Egyptian historical record has been remarkably lacking. Nor does any monument give specific credit to [[Joseph]], the Hebrew [[viceroy]] who saved Egypt, and the ancient Near East, from a [[Famine in Egypt|famine]] that could have destroyed that civilization almost a millennium before its actual conquest.
The first five books of the [[Bible]], written by [[Moses]], never mention any Pharaoh by name. Sadly, Egyptian records do not speak reliably of contact with the Israelites. For example, the [[Exodus of Israel]] is an important [[epoch]]al event in the history of the people of [[Israel]]. Yet testimony to this event from the Egyptian historical record has been remarkably lacking. Nor does any monument give specific credit to [[Joseph]], the Hebrew [[viceroy]] who saved Egypt, and the ancient Near East, from a [[Famine in Egypt|famine]] that could have destroyed that civilization almost a millennium before its actual conquest.

Revision as of 17:58, 16 April 2009

Arab Republic of Egypt
جمهورية مصر العربية
Gumhūriyyat Miṣr al-ʿArabiyyah
Location of Egypt within northern Africa
Map of Egypt
Location of Egypt within northern Africa
Location of Egypt within northern Africa
Flag Coat of Arms
Anthem: بلادي بلادي بلادي
Bilady, Bilady, Bilady
Capital
(and largest city)
Cairo
Official language(s) Arabic1
Demonym Egyptian
Government Semi-presidential republic
 -  President Hosni Mubarak
 -  Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif
Establishment
 -  Migration of Mizraim[1] ca. 1816 AM (2188 BC) 
 -  Independence from United Kingdom February 28, 1922 
 -  Republic declared June 18, 1953 
 -  Water (%) 0.632
Population
 -  November 2008 estimate 75,500,662 (16th)
 -  Density 74/km2 (120th)
192/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $404.293 billion[2] (27th)
 -  Per capita $5,495[2] (97th)
GDP (nominal) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $127.966 billion[2] (-)
 -  Per capita $1,739[2] (-)
Currency Egyptian pound (ج.م) (EGP)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Internet TLD .eg
Calling code 20
Template:Lower 1. Spoken variety is Egyptian Arabic.


Egypt (Arabic: مصر‎, Miṣr; Hebrew: מִצְרַיִם, Mitzráyim; Greek: Αίγυπτος, Aiguptos), now known as the Arab Republic of Egypt, is the heir of a civilization that most secular observers estimate to be more than 6,000 years old. It was one of the first of the superpowers that arose following the dispersal of humanity from the Tower of Babel. The earliest of its monuments demonstrate the mathematical, astronomical, and architectural skills that the ancient Egyptians had for constructing rock tombs, temples, and pyramids—the latter dedicated to the divine kings, the pharaohs. It played several prominent roles in the history of the Patriarchs, the Hebrews, and the children of Israel until it fell to Nebuchadnezzar II, the first of many conquerors.

Egypt occupies approximately 1 million square kilometers of a focal geographic bridge linking Africa and Asia. Egypt's strategic location has made it the object of numerous conquests: first by Nebuchadnezzar, then by Cyrus the Great, and successively by Alexander the Great of Greece, Augustus of Rome, the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs, the Fatimids, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, and Napoleon Bonaparte of France. The most recent conquerors, the British, granted Egypt partial independence in 1922 and withdrew completely in 1954. Of these foreign rulers, the Arab Muslim conquest, by its arabization and Islamization, had the greatest impact on Egyptian life and culture, resulting in the rapid conversion of the overwhelming majority of the population to Islam and the spread of Sunni Muslim religious and educational institutions.[3]

Contents

Environment

Throughout Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, and nights are cool. Egypt has only two seasons: a mild winter from November to April and a hot summer from May to October. The only differences between the seasons are variations in daytime temperatures and changes in prevailing winds. In the coastal regions, temperatures range between an average minimum of 14° C in winter and an average maximum of 30° C in summer.

Temperatures vary widely in the inland desert areas, especially in summer, when they may range from 7° C at night to 43° C during the day. During winter, temperatures in the desert fluctuate less dramatically, but they can be as low as 0° C at night and as high as 18° C during the day.

The average annual temperature increases moving southward from the Delta to the Sudanese border, where temperatures are similar to those of the open deserts to the east and west. In the north, the cooler temperatures of Alexandria during the summer have made the city a popular resort. Throughout the Delta and the northern Nile Valley, there are occasional winter cold spells accompanied by light frost and even snow. At Aswan, in the south, June temperatures can be as low as 10° C at night and as high as 41° C during the day when the sky is clear.

Egypt receives fewer than eighty millimeters of precipitation annually in most areas. Most rain falls along the coast, but even the wettest area, around Alexandria, receives only about 200 millimeters of precipitation per year. Alexandria has relatively high humidity, but sea breezes help keep the moisture down to a comfortable level. Moving southward, the amount of precipitation decreases suddenly. Cairo receives a little more than one centimeter of precipitation each year. The city, however, reports humidity as high as 77 percent during the summer. But during the rest of the year, humidity is low. The areas south of Cairo receive only traces of rainfall. Some areas will go years without rain and then experience sudden downpours that result in flash floods. Sinai receives somewhat more rainfall (about twelve centimeters annually in the north) than the other desert areas, and the region is dotted by numerous wells and oases, which support small population centers that formerly were focal points on trade routes. Water drainage toward the Mediterranean Sea from the main plateau supplies sufficient moisture to permit some agriculture in the coastal area, particularly near Al Arish.

A phenomenon of Egypt's climate is the hot spring wind that blows across the country. The winds, known to Europeans as the sirocco and to Egyptians as the khamsin, usually arrive in April but occasionally occur in March and May. The winds form in small but vigorous low-pressure areas in the Isthmus of Suez and sweep across the northern coast of Africa. Unobstructed by geographical features, the winds reach high velocities and carry great quantities of sand and dust from the deserts. These sandstorms, often accompanied by winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, can cause temperatures to rise as much as 20° C in two hours. The winds blow intermittently and may continue for days, cause illness in people and animals, harm crops, and occasionally damage houses and infrastructure.[3]

Religion

Religion has traditionally been a pervasive social force in Egypt. For more than 1,000 years, the country has been mostly Islamic. Still, there is an indigenous Christian minority, the Copts, which accounted for as much as 8.5 percent of the total population. Other Christians living in the country included approximately 750,000 adherents of various Latin and Eastern Catholic rites, Greek and Armenian Orthodox churches, and Protestant denominations; many of these Christians emigrated after the 1956 War. An estimated 1,000 Jews lived in Egypt as of 1990. These Jews were a fragment of a community of 80,000 who lived in the country before 1948. Egypt's Constitution of 1971 guarantees freedom of religion.

Religious fervor increased among all social classes after Egypt's defeat in the June 1967 War. Pious individuals commonly blamed Egypt's lack of faith for the country's setbacks. The resurgence in public worship and displays of devotion persisted in the late 1980s. A relaxation of press censorship in 1974 stimulated the growth of religious publications. Religiously inspired political activism and participation in Sufi orders intensified among the urban, educated, formerly secular-minded segments of the populace.[3]

History

Main Article: Ancient Egypt
Sphinx and Pyramids of Egypt

About 4,200 years ago, Mizraim, son of Ham, led his tribe from the failed city-state of Babel to the Nile River. Ussher calculates that this happened in the summer of 1816 AM (2188 BC). He cites Constantinus Manasses as stating that "the Egyptian state lasted sixteen hundred and sixty-three years," and works backward from the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses, king of Persia and relative of Cyrus.[1]

Within the long sweep of Egyptian history, certain events or epochs have been crucial to the development of Egyptian society and culture. One of these was the unification of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt sometime in the second millennium B.C. The ancient Egyptians regarded this event as the most important in their history, comparable to the "First Time," or the creation of the universe. With the unification of the "Two Lands" by the legendary, if not mythical, King Menes (perhaps identifiable with Mizraim), the glorious Pharaonic Age began. Power was centralized in the hands of a god-king, and, thus, Egypt became the first organized society.

The ancient Egyptians were the first people of antiquity to act on a belief in life after death, preserving the bodies of certain high officials through mummification. They were the first to build in stone and to fashion the arch in stone and brick. Even before the unification of the Two Lands, the Egyptians had developed a plow and a system of writing. They were accomplished sailors and shipbuilders. They learned to chart the heavens in order to predict the Nile flood. Their physicians prescribed healing remedies and performed surgical operations. They sculpted in stone and decorated the walls of their tombs with naturalistic murals in vibrant colors. The legacy of ancient Egypt is written in stone across the face of the country from the pyramids of Upper Egypt to the rock tombs in the Valley of the Kings to the Old Kingdom temples of Luxor and Karnak to the Ptolemaic temples of Edfu and Dendera and to the Roman temple to Isis on Philae Island.[3]

Synchrony with the Israelites

Israel in Egypt by Edward Poynter. 1867

The first five books of the Bible, written by Moses, never mention any Pharaoh by name. Sadly, Egyptian records do not speak reliably of contact with the Israelites. For example, the Exodus of Israel is an important epochal event in the history of the people of Israel. Yet testimony to this event from the Egyptian historical record has been remarkably lacking. Nor does any monument give specific credit to Joseph, the Hebrew viceroy who saved Egypt, and the ancient Near East, from a famine that could have destroyed that civilization almost a millennium before its actual conquest.

Sadly, much of the historial record of ancient Egypt is not a dispassionate record of events but instead is propaganda. Defeats usually go unrecorded, and the Exodus was the worst defeat that any civilization of that era suffered. Not only did more than two million slaves escape, but also—and worse—the reigning Pharaoh lost his first-born son, and then lost his entire army in a futile pursuit of the fleeing Israelites.

The first Pharaoh named in the Bible was Shishak, who plundered Jerusalem in the reign of Rehoboam, the first king of Judah. The specific identity of this Shishak remains a mystery even today. Ussher identified him as "Sefonchis," largely from Manetho's records.[4] Traditional Egytologists identified him as Sheshonq I, founder of the Twenty-sixth or Libyan Dynasty. Recent research has identified other candidates for Shishak, usually from dynasties older than the Twenty-sixth.

The authors of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles recorded the names of three other Pharaohs: So, Necho, and Hophra. Of these, the identities of two (Necho II and Apries) are settled.

Ancient conquests

Nebuchadnezzar II was the first foreign ruler to conquer Egypt. He did this after he had sacked Jerusalem in 586 BC. After he died, the Babylonian civilization that he led fell into decline.

The next foreign rulers of Egypt were the Persians, under Cyrus the Great and his various generals, including Cambyses II. Eventually the Persian Empire declined as well, and Alexander the Great conquered the known world, including Egypt. Alexander built Alexandria, which became Egypt's capital for several centuries.

When Alexander died, the empire that he built split into four parts. One of these was a newly independent Egypt under the ruling family of Ptolemy I Soter, the first of the Ptolemaic kings. While this family ruled Egypt, its kings all took the name Ptolemy, but each of its queens took the name Cleopatra. The last of the Ptolemaic kings was Cleopatra VII, who famously made alliances, both diplomatic and romantic, with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony of Rome. In 30 BC Antony fought a civil war with Augustus and lost, and after that both he and Cleopatra VII committed suicide in Alexandria.

Thereafter Egypt became a Roman province and remained one for more than six centuries, first as part of the Roman Empire and then as part of the Byzantine Empire.

Arab conquest

The Arab conquest of 641 by the military commander Amr ibn al As was perhaps the next most important event in Egyptian history because it resulted in the Islamization and Arabization of the country, which endure to this day. Even those who clung to the Coptic religion, a substantial minority of the population in 1990, were Arabized; that is, they adopted the Arabic language and were assimilated into Arab culture.

Although Egypt was formally under Arab rule, beginning in the ninth century hereditary autonomous dynasties arose that allowed local rulers to maintain a great deal of control over the country's destiny. During this period Cairo was established as the capital of the country and became a center of religion, learning, art, and architecture. In 1260, the Egyptian ruler, Qutuz, and his forces stopped the Mongol advance across the Arab world at the battle of Ayn Jalut in Palestine. Because of this victory, Islamic civilization could continue to flourish when Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate, fell to the Mongols. Qutuz's successor, Baybars I, inaugurated the reign of the Mamluks, a dynasty of slave-soldiers of Turkish and Circassian origin that lasted for almost three centuries.

Turkish conquest

In 1517 Egypt was conquered by Sultan Selim I and absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Since the Turks were Muslims, however, and the sultans regarded themselves as the preservers of Sunni (see Glossary) Islam, this period saw institutional continuity, particularly in religion, education, and the religious law courts. In addition, after only a century of Ottoman rule, the Mamluk system reasserted itself, and Ottoman governors became at times virtual prisoners in the citadel, the ancient seat of Egypt's rulers.

Modern Egypt

Modern Egypt has an unusual geographical and cultural unity that has given the Egyptian people a strong sense of identity and a pride in their heritage as descendants of humankind's earliest civilized community (after the global flood). This is true even though the present inhabitants are not of the same race that founded Egypt, and are in fact a Semitic people, not the Hamitic people that first settled and built Egypt.

The population of Egypt was estimated at more than 75.5 million in November of 2008, with an annual growth rate estimated at 2.6 percent. About 99 percent of population lives along the Nile Valley and Delta, with dwellings scattered throughout the Western Desert, Eastern Desert, and the Sinai Peninsula (a land bridge to Asia).

Politics

The modern history of Egypt is marked by Egyptian attempts to achieve political independence, first from the Ottoman Empire and then from the British. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Muhammad Ali, an Albanian and the Ottoman viceroy in Egypt, attempted to create an Egyptian empire that extended to Syria and to remove Egypt from Turkish control. Ultimately, he was unsuccessful, and true independence from foreign powers would not be achieved until midway through the next century.

Foreign, including British, investment in Egypt and Britain's need to maintain control over the Suez Canal resulted in the British occupation of Egypt in 1882. During the First World War, the British staged multiple operations from Egypt to break Ottoman dominion over all Arab lands. The most famous officer involved in these operations was Major T. E. Lawrence, also known as "Al-Aurens" or "Lawrence of Arabia."

Although Egypt was granted nominal independence in 1922, Britain remained the real power in the country. Genuine political independence was finally achieved between the 1952 Revolution and the 1956 War. In 1952 the Free Officers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser, took control of the government and removed King Farouk from power. In 1956 Nasser, as Egyptian president, announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal, an action that resulted in the tripartite invasion by Britain, France, and Israel. Ultimately, however, Egypt prevailed, and the last British troops were withdrawn from the country by the end of the year.

No history of Egypt would be complete without mentioning the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has cost Egypt so much in lives, territory, and property. Egypt participated in the Six-day War of 1967 and lost the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. In 1973, President Anwar el-Sadat attacked Israel across the Suez Canal, while Syrian forces attacked Israel from the north. This "Yom Kippur War" also ended in defeat for the Arab forces, and this defeat finally convinced Sadat to seek permanent peace with Israel. He achieved this in 1979 when he and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel signed the Camp David Accords, named for the American Presidential retreat to which President James Earl Carter, Jr., of the United States, had invited both men to talk. The accords, however, constituted a separate peace between Egypt and Israel and did not lead to a comprehensive settlement that would have satisfied Palestinian demands for a homeland or brought about peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Anwar el-Sadat was ultimately assassinated by his own troops as they were passing in review before him. Thereafter Egypt remained embroiled in the conflict on the diplomatic level and continued to press for an international conference to achieve a comprehensive agreement.[3]

Geography

Egypt, covering 1,001,449 square kilometers of land, is about the same size as the U.S. states of Texas and New Mexico combined. The country's greatest distance from north to south is 1,024 kilometers, and from east to west, 1,240 kilometers. The country is located in northeastern Africa and includes the Sinai Peninsula (also seen as Sinai), which is often considered part of Asia. Egypt's natural boundaries consist of more than 2,900 kilometers of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea (see figure at right).

Egypt has land boundaries with Israel, Libya, Sudan, and the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian area formerly administered by Egypt, occupied by Israel after 1967, ceded to the Palestinian Authority in 2003 and now controlled by a mutinous Palestinian faction. The land boundaries are generally straight lines that do not conform to geographic features such as rivers. Egypt shares its longest boundary, which extends 1,273 kilometers, with Sudan. In accordance with the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899, this boundary runs westward from the Red Sea along the twenty-second parallel, includes the Sudanese Nile salient (Wadi Halfa salient), and continues along the twenty-second parallel until it meets the twenty-fifth meridian. The Sudanese Nile salient, a finger-shaped area along the Nile River (Nahr an Nil) north of the twenty-second parallel, is nearly covered by Lake Nasser, which was created when the Aswan High Dam was constructed in the 1960s. An "administrative" boundary, which supplements the main Egyptian-Sudanese boundary permits nomadic tribes to gain access to water holes at the eastern end of Egypt's southern frontier. The administrative boundary departs from the international boundary in two places; Egypt administers the area south of the twenty-second parallel, and Sudan administers the area north of it.

Egypt shares all 1,150 kilometers of the western border with Libya. This border was defined in 1925 under an agreement with Italy, which had colonized Libya. Before and after World War II, the northern border was adjusted, resulting in the return of the village of As Sallum to Egyptian sovereignty. Egypt shares 255 kilometers of its eastern border in Sinai with Israel and 11 kilometers with the Gaza Strip.

Egypt is divided into twenty-six governorates (sometimes called provinces), which include four city governorates: Alexandria (Al Iskandariyah), Cairo (Al Qahirah), Port Said (Bur Said) and Suez; the nine governorates of Lower Egypt in the Nile Delta region; the eight governorates of Upper Egypt along the Nile River south from Cairo to Aswan; and the five frontier governorates covering Sinai and the deserts that lie west and east of the Nile. All governorates, except the frontier ones, are in the Nile Delta or along the Nile Valley and Suez Canal.[3]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003, pgh. 52
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Egypt." International Monetary Fund. Accessed October 9, 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "A Country Study: Egypt." Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, November 8, 2005. Accessed November 19, 2008.
  4. Ussher, op. cit., pghh. 475, 486

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