In 332 BC,MacedonianrulerAlexander the Greatconquered Egypt as he toppled the Achaemenids and established theHellenisticPtolemaic Kingdom, whose first ruler was one of Alexander’s former generals,Ptolemy I Soter. The Ptolemies had to fight native rebellions and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its final annexation byRome. The death ofCleopatraended the nominal independence of Egypt resulting in Egypt’s becoming one of the provinces of the Roman Empire.
The modern Republic ofEgyptwas founded in 1953, and with the complete withdrawal of British forces from theSuez Canalin 1956, it marked the first time in 2500 years that Egypt was both fully independent and ruled by native Egyptians. PresidentGamal Abdel Nasser(president from 1956 to 1970) introduced many reforms and created the short-livedUnited Arab Republic(withSyria). His terms also saw theSix-Day Warand the creation of the internationalNon-Aligned Movement. His successor,Anwar Sadat(president from 1970 to 1981) changed Egypt’s trajectory, departing from many of the political, and economic tenets of Nasserism, re-instituting a multi-party system, and launching theInfitaheconomic policy. He led Egypt in theYom Kippur Warof 1973 to regain Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967. This later led to theEgypt–Israel Peace Treaty.
By about 6000 BC, aNeolithicculture rooted in the Nile Valley.During the Neolithic era, several predynastic cultures developed independently inUpper and Lower Egypt. TheBadari cultureand the successorNaqadaseries are generally regarded as precursors todynastic 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 ofEgyptian hieroglyphicinscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BC.
A team led byJohannes Krausemanaged the first reliable sequencing of the genomes of 90 mummified individuals in 2017. Whilst not conclusive, because of the non-exhaustive time frame and restricted location that the mummies represent, their study nevertheless showed that these Ancient Egyptians “closely resembled ancient and modern Near Eastern populations, especially those in the Levant, and had almost no DNA from sub-Saharan Africa. What’s more, the genetics of the mummies remained remarkably consistent even as different powers—including Nubians, Greeks, and Romans—conquered the empire”.
TheThirty-first Dynasty of Egypt, also known as the Second EgyptianSatrapy, was effectively a short-living province of the Achaemenid Empire between 343 BC to 332 BC.After an interval of independence, during which three indigenous dynasties reigned (the28th,29thand30th dynasty),Artaxerxes III(358–338 BC) reconquered the Nile valley for a brief second period (343–332 BC), which is called the Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt, thus starting another period of pharaohs of Persian origin.
ThePtolemaic Kingdomwas a powerfulHellenistic stateextending from southernSyriain the east, toCyreneto the west, and south to the frontier with Nubia.Alexandriabecame the capital city and a center ofGreekculture 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 thePtolemaic dynastywasCleopatra, who committed suicide following the burial of her loverMark Antony, who had died in her arms (from a self-inflicted stab wound) afterAugustushad 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 culturecontinued to thrive in Egypt well after theMuslim conquest. The native Egyptian/Coptic culture continued to exist as well (the Coptic language itself was Egypt’s most widely spoken language until at least the 10th century).
Egypt quickly became the Empire’sbreadbasketsupplying the greater portion of the Empire’s grain in addition to flax, papyrus, glass, and many other finished goods. The city of Alexandria became a key trading outpost for the Roman Empire (by some accounts, the most important for a time). Shipping from Egypt regularly reached India and Ethiopia among other international destinations.It was also a leading (perhapstheleading) scientific and technological center of the Empire. Scholars such asPtolemy,Hypatia, andHeronbroke new ground in astronomy, mathematics, and other disciplines. Culturally, the city of Alexandria at times rivaled Rome in its importance.
The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a briefPersianinvasion early in the 7th century, until 639–42, when Egypt was invaded andconquered by the Arab Islamic Empire. The final loss of Egypt was of incalculable significance to the Byzantine Empire, which had relied on Egypt for many agricultural and manufactured goods.
When they defeated the Byzantine Armies in Egypt, the Arabs broughtSunni Islamto the country. Early in this period, Egyptians began to blend their new faith with their Christian traditions as well as other indigenous beliefs and practices, leading to variousSufiorders that have flourished to this day.These earlier rites had survived the period of Coptic Christianity.
Muslim rulers nominated by theIslamic Caliphateremained incontrol of Egyptfor the next six centuries, withCairoas the seat of the Caliphate under theFatimids. With the end of theKurdishAyyubid dynasty, theMamluks, aTurco–Circassianmilitary caste, took control about AD 1250. By the late 13th century, Egypt linked the Red Sea, India, Malaya, and East Indies.The Greek and Coptic languages and cultures went into a steep decline in favor of Arabic culture (though Coptic managed to last as a spoken language until the 17th century and remains a liturgical language today). The Mamluks continued to govern the country until theconquest of Egyptby theOttoman Turksin 1517, after which it became a province of theOttoman Empire. The mid-14th-centuryBlack Deathkilled about 40% of the country’s population.
After the 15th century, the Ottoman invasion pushed the Egyptian system into decline. The defensive militarization 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.Egypt suffered six famines between 1687 and 1731.The 1784faminecost it roughly one-sixth of its population.
The briefFrench invasion of Egyptled byNapoleon Bonapartebegan in 1798. The expulsion of the French in 1801 byOttoman,Mamluk, and British forces was followed by four years of anarchy in which Ottomans, Mamluks, andAlbanians— who were nominally in the service of the Ottomans – wrestled for power. Out of this chaos, the commander of the Albanian regiment,Muhammad Ali(Kavalali Mehmed Ali Pasha) emerged as a dominant figure and in 1805 was acknowledged by theSultaninIstanbulas hisviceroyin Egypt; the title implied subordination to the Sultan but this was in fact a polite fiction: Ottoman power in Egypt was finished and Muhammad Ali, an ambitious and able leader, established adynastythat was to rule Egypt until the revolution of 1952. In later years, the dynasty became a British puppet.
His primary focus was military: he annexedNorthern Sudan(1820–1824),Syria(1833), and parts ofArabiaandAnatolia; 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, but he kept the Sudan and his title to Egypt was made hereditary. A more lasting result of his military ambition is that it required him to modernize the country. Eager to adopt the military (and therefore industrial) techniques of the great powers, he sent students to the West and invited training missions to Egypt. He built industries, a system of canals for irrigation and transport, and reformed the civil service.
The introduction in 1820 of long-staple cotton, the Egyptian variety of which became notable, transformed its agriculture into a cash-cropmonoculturebefore the end of the century. The social effects of this were enormous: land ownership became concentrated and many foreigners arrived, shifting production towards international markets.
British indirect rule lasted from 1882, when the British succeeded in defeating the Egyptian Army atTel el-Kebirin September and took control of the country, to the1952 Egyptian revolutionwhich made Egypt a republic and when British advisers were expelled.
Muhammad Ali was succeeded briefly by his sonIbrahim(in September 1848), then by a grandsonAbbas I(in November 1848), then bySaid(in 1854), andIsmail(in 1863). Abbas I was cautious. Said and Ismail were ambitious developers, but they spent beyond their means. TheSuez Canal, built in partnership with the French, was completed in 1869. The cost of this and other projects had two effects: it led to enormous debt to European banks, and caused popular discontent because of the onerous taxation it required. In 1875 Ismail was forced to sell Egypt’s share in the canal to the British Government. Within three years this led to the imposition of British and Frenchcontrollerswho sat in the Egyptian cabinet, and, “with the financial power of the bondholders behind them, were the real power in the Government.”
Local dissatisfaction with Ismail and with European intrusion led to the formation of the first nationalist groupings in 1879, withAhmad Urabia prominent figure. In 1882 he became head of a nationalist-dominated ministry committed to democratic reforms including parliamentary control of the budget. Fearing a reduction of their control, Britain and France intervened militarily, bombarding Alexandria and crushing the Egyptian army at thebattle of Tel el-Kebir.They reinstalled Ismail’s sonTewfikas figurehead of ade factoBritish protectorate.
Nasser assumed power as President in June 1956. British forces completed their withdrawal from the occupied Suez Canal Zone on 13 June 1956. Henationalizedthe Suez Canal on 26 July 1956, prompting the 1956Suez Crisis.
In 1958, Egypt and Syria formed a sovereign union known as theUnited Arab Republic. The union was short-lived, ending in 1961 whenSyriaseceded, thus ending the union. During most of its existence, the United Arab Republic was also in a looseconfederationwithNorth Yemen(formerly the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen) known as theUnited Arab States.
Sadat switched Egypt’sCold Warallegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. He launched theInfitaheconomic reform policy, while clamping down on religious and secular opposition.
In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched theOctober War, a surprise attack against the Israeli forces occupying the Sinai Peninsula and theGolan Heights. It was an attempt to regain part of the Sinai territory that Israel had captured six years earlier. Sadat hoped to seize some territory through military force, and then regain the rest of the peninsula by diplomacy. The conflict sparked an international crisis between the US and the USSR, both of whom intervened. The second UN-mandated ceasefire halted military action. While the war ended with a military stalemate, it presented Sadat with a political victory that later allowed him to regain the Sinai in return for peace with Israel.
In 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, terrorist attacks in Egypt became numerous and severe, and began to targetCoptsand foreign tourists as well as government officials.Some scholars and authors have credited Islamist writerSayyid Qutb, who was executed in 1967, as the inspiration for the new wave of attacks.
The 1990s saw anIslamist group,al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, engage 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.
Victims of the campaign against the Egyptian state from 1992–1997 exceeded 1,200and included the head of the counter-terrorism police (Major General Raouf Khayrat), a speaker of parliament (Rifaat el-Mahgoub), dozens of European tourists and Egyptian bystanders, and over 100 Egyptian police.At times, travel by foreigners in parts ofUpper Egyptwas severely restricted and dangerous.On 17 November 1997,62 people, mostly tourists, were killednearLuxor. The assailants trapped the people in theMortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. During this period, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya was given support by the governments of Iran and Sudan, as well asal-Qaeda.The Egyptian government received support during that time from the United States.
On 25 January 2011, widespread protests began against Mubarak’s government. The objective of the protest was the removal of Mubarak from power. These took the form of an intensive campaign ofcivil resistancesupported by a very large number of people and mainly consisting of continuous mass demonstrations. By 29 January, it was becoming clear that Mubarak’s government had lost control when a curfew order was ignored, and the army took a semi-neutral stance on enforcing the curfew decree.
On 11 February 2011, Mubarak resigned and fled Cairo. Vice PresidentOmar Suleimanannounced that Mubarak had stepped down and that theEgyptian militarywould assume control of the nation’s affairs in the short term.Jubilant celebrations broke out inTahrir Squareat the news.Mubarak may have left Cairo forSharm el-Sheikhthe previous night, before or shortly after the airing of a taped speech in which Mubarak vowed he would not step down or leave.
On 13 February 2011, the high level military command of Egypt announced that both the constitution and the parliament of Egypt had been dissolved. The parliamentary election was to be held in September.
Aconstitutional referendumwas held on 19 March 2011. On 28 November 2011, Egypt held itsfirst parliamentary electionsince the previous regime had been in power. Turnout was high and there were no reports of violence, although members of some parties broke the ban on campaigning at polling places by handing out pamphlets and banners.There were however complaints of irregularities.
On 22 November 2012, Morsi issued a declaration immunizing his decrees from challenge and seeking to protect the work of the constituent assembly drafting the new constitution.The declaration also requires a retrial of those accused in the Mubarak-era killings of protesters, who had been acquitted, and extends the mandate of the constituent assembly by two months. Additionally, the declaration authorizes Morsi to take any measures necessary to protect the revolution. Liberal and secular groups previously walked out of the constitutional constituent assembly because they believed that it would impose strict Islamic practices, whileMuslim Brotherhoodbackers threw their support behind Morsi.
The move was criticized byMohamed ElBaradei, the leader of Egypt’s Constitution Party, who stated “Morsi today usurped all state powers & appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh” on his Twitter feed.The move led to massive protests and violent action throughout Egypt.On 5 December 2012, Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of Egypt’s president clashed, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and brawling in Cairo’s streets, in what was described as the largest violent battle between Islamists and their foes since the country’s revolution.Six senior advisors and three other officials resigned from the government and the country’s leading Islamic institution called on Morsi to stem his powers. Protesters also clamored from coastal cities to desert towns.
Morsi offered a “national dialogue” with opposition leaders but refused to cancel a 15 December vote on a draft constitution written by an Islamist-dominated assembly that has ignited two weeks of political unrest.
A constitutional referendumwas held in two rounds on 15 and 22 December 2012, with 64% support, and 33% against. It was signed into law by a presidential decree issued by Morsi on 26 December 2012. On 3 July 2013, the constitution was suspended by order of theEgyptian army.
On 30 June 2013, on the first anniversary of the election of Morsi, millions of protesters across Egypt took to the streets and demanded the immediate resignation of the president. On 1 July, theEgyptian Armed Forcesissued a 48-hour ultimatum that gave the country’s political parties until 3 July to meet the demands of the Egyptian people. The presidency rejected the Egyptian Army’s 48-hour ultimatum, vowing that the president would pursue his own plans for national reconciliation to resolve the political crisis. On 3 July, GeneralAbdel Fattah el-Sisi, head of the Egyptian Armed Forces, announced that he had removed Morsi from power, suspended the constitution and would be calling new presidential and Shura Council elections and namedSupreme Constitutional Court‘s leader,Adly Mansouras acting president. Mansour was sworn in on 4 July 2013.
In the elections of June 2014 El-Sisi won with a percentage of 96.1%.Under President el-Sisi, Egypt has implemented a rigorous policy of controlling the border to the Gaza Strip, including the dismantling of tunnels between the Gaza strip and Sinai.
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