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Egypt is home to one of the richest and most ancient civilizations in the world
extending to several millennia BC It was the Pharaoh Menes who united the two
kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, inaugurating what came to be known as the
Ancient Empire (3200-2270 BC). Ramses II is another Pharaoh who deserves
mentioning. He ruled from 1279 to 1212 BC and is known for his prodigious
buildings, rising temples, statues and other monuments throughout Egypt. Among
his major achievements was the signing of the first Peace Treaty to be recorded
in history, concluded between Egypt and the Hitites. Another great Pharaoh is
Akhnaton who reigned from 1379 to 1362 BC. He was originally called Amenophis
IV, but changed his name in honour of Aten, the Sun God. Akhnaton is considered
to have heralded the concept of monotheism in the history of religion.
Alexander the Great arrived to Egypt in the late autumn of 332 BC. He founded
Alexandria in 331 BC as a gateway to his motherland, Greece. Alexandria became a
major centre for trading. Its Library became a cultural centre that made an
important contribution to civilization.
The Ptolemies ruled Egypt until 30 BC and were succeeded by the Romans until 642
AD when the Arabs arrived. It was during the Roman period when Christianity came
to Egypt. It was in Alexandria where the great Catechtical School, which
produced the early fathers of the Church, emerged.
In 642 AD, Egypt witnessed the
beginning of its Arab and Islamic epoch. Successive Arab rulers governed Egypt
as part of the Islamic empire, and at various junctures established it as the
centre of power of the empire.
The Arabs were followed by the Mamlukes, who were magnificent warriors and who
ruled Egypt from 1250-1517 AD when their reign ended with the Ottoman conquest
of Egypt under Sultan Selim.
The arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt on July 2nd 1798, initiated a new
phase in Egypt's history. Accompanying his expedition were a number of savants
and scientists who made a complete encyclopaedic survey of Egypt, known as
"Description de l'Egypte". The expedition contributed significantly to the study
of ancient Egyptian history through the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and the
consequent deciphering of Hieroglyphics, the ancient Egyptian language.
After the departure of the French expedition, Mohamad Ali, who was an officer in
the Ottoman Army, rose to power with the support of the Egyptian people. His
rule extending from 1805 to 1849 was an eventful period in Egypt's modern
history. He is regarded as the father of modern Egypt who set the country on the
march towards modernization.
In 1863, Khedive Ismail, a member of Mohamad Ali's dynasty, rose to power. If
Mohamad Ali had started the process of modernization, it was Ismail who
completed it. He had boundless ambitions to bring Egypt up to the same level of
culture, civilization and development which was enjoyed by most nations of
Europe. It was during his reign, in 1869, that the Suez Canal was inaugurated.
Towards the end of the 19th Century, and exactly on August 12th 1882, British
troops landed at Alexandria marking the beginning of British occupation which
lasted for 74 years. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed the awakening
of the national conscience aiming at ending the British occupation. Mustafa
Kamel, Sa'ad Zaghloul, Mustafa El Nahas and many others were prominent figures
who strove to achieve two national objectives; independence and constitutional
On the 28th of February 1922, Britain unilaterally declared the termination of
the British Protectorate and declared Egypt an independent state. In 1923, the
first Constitution was promulgated and Sa'ad Zaghloul formed the first
representative government of Egypt.
After the 1948 Palestine War, political, economic and social frustration
intensified in Egypt. This led to the formation of the Free Officers Movement,
which was created by a group of young officers who felt that they had been
betrayed by their own government.
On the 23rd of July 1952, the Free Officer Movement led by Gamal Abd El-Nasser
seized power in a bloodless revolution which allowed King Farouk to leave the
country with a full royal salute. On the 18th of June 1953, the monarchy
ended and Egypt was declared a Republic and Mohamad Naguib was named as the
first President. In 1954 Nasser assumed control as the second president. During
Nasser's presidency, extensive agricultural and industrial development projects
were carried out. Progressive economic and social reforms were implemented for
the benefit of the majority of the Egyptian people. With the death of President
Nasser in September 1970, Anwar El-Sadat assumed office.
On October 6th, 1973, the Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal, stormed the Bar
Lev line and recaptured parts of Sinai occupied by Israel in 1967. To overcome
the state of belligerency, President Sadat announced his historic initiative to
visit Israel in pursuit of lasting peace, which he did in November 1977.
Finally, the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty was signed in March 1979.
The Sadat period witnessed changes in the political, social and economic
domains, and at the same time, the private sector was given a greater share in
the country's economy through the implementation of the "Open Door Policy". In
October 1981, Vice President Hosny Mubarak succeeded Sadat as President.
Economic reforms undertaken under Mubarak succeeded in diverting finance towards
productive investment in industry and agriculture. The main features of Egypt's
national economic policy under President Mubarak are the efforts to broaden the
economic base by promoting local, Arab and foreign investment. A process of
successful privatization has started, the stock exchange has been revived, and
reform programs with the IMF and the World Bank have been signed and