Today more than sixty-one million people live in Egypt. Egypt is located in northeastern Africa. On the north it borders the
Mediterranean Sea, on the east the Red Sea and the State of Israel in the Sinai desert. Most of the population is concen-
trated in the Nile Valley, which is only a very small part (six percent) of Egyptian territory. Almost all the rest of the country is
Archaeological evidence shows us that hunters lived in Egypt more than 250,000 years ago when the region was a green
grassland. Around 25,000 BC, climate changes turned Egypt into a desert. The people survived by hunting and fishing and
In 3100 BC, King Menes joined the two parts of the land into one kingdom. The Dynasty that he founded, together with the
one after it, are now called the "Archaic Period". Egypt soon evolved into a centralized and well organized kingdom. Egypt
gained a growing influence in the ancient world and its power came to dominate the Near East for more than 500 years. The
construction of the great pyramids of the 4th dynasty (about 2575 - 2465 BC) took place during this time. The new kingdom
expanded rapidly and the country was quite stable internally. Ancient Egypt and its culture had a tremendous impact on
what is now the Western World.
After the death of Tutankhamon the fourth, the Dynasty and the power of the king weakened.
A period of decline followed and Egypt was invaded by the Assyrians and the Persians, and opened its borders to the
Greeks for the first time. The arrival of Alexander the Great in 332 BC put an end to Ancient Egyptian history. For 250 years
Egypt was ruled by Greeks; Alexandria, rather than Athens, became the center of learning and culture. The Greeks also
introduced new agricultural techniques and restored older temples.
In 30 BC the Romans conquered Egypt. This led to an increase in prosperity in the beginning. But Rome did not give any
local autonomy to Egypt and, in the long run, its rule was harmful to Egypt’s interests. During the reign of the Roman
emperor Nero in the first century, Christianity was brought to Egypt and it spread throughout the country. The Arab conquest
of Egypt that began in 639, however, put an end to the dominance of Christian religion. Arab newcomers and the conversion
of people to Islam reduced the Christian population. Arabic also became the major language. Egypt then became part of the
Muslim world and until the 19th century Egyptian history was linked to the general developments of Islam in the region.
The construction of the Suez Canal in the mid-19th century put Egypt into deep financial debt. In order to solve their finan-
cial problems, the Egyptian government had to give up control of the country to other powers, especially Great Britain. The
British strengthened their control at the end of the 19th century. During World War I, Great Britain declared Egypt to be a
Egypt received its independence in 1923. This happened after adopting a constitution that made Egypt a kingdom under
Fuad. A parliament also came into existence. During World War II, Egypt remained officially neutral. However, Egypt helped
the British where possible and several battles were fought on Egyptian soil.
Religion played a central role in the life of ancient Egypt. The Pharaoh was considered a descendent of gods, and therefore
a deity himself. People were dedicated to their gods, and worshipped them daily. They trusted the goodness of the gods and
of their divine son, the king. Every event had spiritual meaning. As Pharaohs grew more powerful they built splendid
temples for their gods, with decorations on the walls, stone and wooden statues, and works of art with precious materials.
As the Egyptian religion grew, priests became more and more influential in Egyptian society, to the point that in some
periods of history they governed the country together with the pharaoh.
Magical texts were also written in tombs to protect the dead against would-be robbers. Magical spells and religious rituals
were also used to treat the sick or injured. If the magic did not work it was considered the will of the god, and not a failure of
Burying the dead was an important religious event in Egypt. The Egyptians believed in the existence of the life-force that
they called Ka. The Ka occupied and accompanied the body throughout life. After death the Ka left the body to take its place
in the kingdom of the dead. The Ka, however, could not exist without the body; therefore every effort had to be made to
preserve the corpse. For this reason bodies were embalmed and mummified according to traditional methods. Also, wood or
stone replicas of the body were put into the tomb in case the mummy was destroyed. The greater the number of statue-
duplicates in one's tomb, the more chances the dead person had of resurrection. As a final protection, elaborate tombs, built
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