Egypt’s history is one of the oldest and most evocative of any country in the world. Who can fail to be captivated by the lives of pharaohs like Tutankhamun who ruled for just ten years but is, arguably, the most famous of all the ancient Egyptian kings? Or Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only female pharaoh, and Nefertiti, the wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton who many believe ruled in her own right?
Egypt can trace its history back to around 8000 BC when the desert region was created and early civilisations in need of food and water began moving closer to the Nile, but it is Pharaonic Egypt that gives the country its romance. Pharaonic Egypt began some 5,000 years ago and comprised kings from 30 different dynasties whose phenomenal knowledge of mathematics, mummification and astronomy made the country one of the most powerful kingdoms the world had ever seen.
The pharaohs’ wealth was legendary, and was used to build monumental temples like the Karnack Temple in Luxor, and structures, such as the Pyramids of Giza. The pharaoh’s understanding of the science needed to build pyramids still perplexes experts today.
Pharaonic rule was divided into periods, including the Old Kingdom around the time of the 3rd dynasty when the pyramids were built, the Middle Kingdom when Egypt’s capital was Thebes at present-day Luxor, and the New Kingdom which began in around 1539 BC and gave us some of the greatest pharaohs in the history of Egypt.
In around 30 BC, Pharaonic Egypt was replaced by a form of monarchy until it was conquered by the Romans. Alexander the Great and Cleopatra were leading figures of the time and played major roles in Egypt’s history. From the middle of the fourth century, Egypt became part of the Eastern Empire. The arrival of Napoleon in AD 1798 brought Egypt once more into violent contact with a European power. By 1805, however, the struggle for independence had been won, with Muhammad Ali being recognised as the first Sultan of Egypt.
In more recent times, Egypt has seen the Suez Canal opening in 1869, 71 years of British occupation from 1882, the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the defeat of Arab forces by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War that deprived Egypt of the Sinai Peninsula. It regained control of the region in 1982. In 2011 the country saw widespread protests against the government, which resulted in long-standing President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.