Following the reign of Cleopatra, Egypt became part of the Roman Empire
in 30AD and shortly came under Christianity's influence . By 641AD, Arab invaders had brought Islam to Egypt, and within 400
years the new city of Cairo became one of the most important centres of
the Islamic world.
Later Egyptian history
From the 12th century, Saladin and later the Mamelukes ruled Egypt,
often in a harsh and corrupt way. Ottoman Turks later rose in influence,
until in 1517 Suleiman the Magnificent easily seized Egypt from the disorganised
Mamelukes. For the next three centuries Egypt was part of the Ottoman
Napoleon turned his attention to Egypt in 1798. His aim was to
control the route to India. The French Revolutionary expeditionary force
contributed to deciphering the hieroglyphic script with their discovery
of the Rosetta Stone. However, when the French fleet was sunk by Horatio
Nelson, Napoleon's force withdrew. This period saw the end of the Ottoman
hold on Egypt. Out of the ensuing chaos, came a new leader Mohamed Ali
Pasha who modernised Egypt and brought it back to a position of importance.
It was a geographical accident that made Egypt the centre of attention
from the late 18th century to the mid-20th. The narrow strip of land between
the Mediterranian Sea and the Red Sea provided the ideal site for a water
route linking the Western and Eastern worlds. Ferdinand de Lesseps completed
the Suez Canal in 1869, but within seven years the Egyptians were
obliged to sell their 44% share to a French-British co-dominion. Egypt
became effectively a British protectorate. The large British and French
presence led to a great interest in the ancient relics - initially
looting but eventually on a scientific basis.
20th century Egyptian history
Egypt regained its independence
in 1922, though Britain maintained control of defence and the Suez Canal.
The Western Desert and the canal saw much fighting during World War 2.
In 1948, Egypt and other members of the Arab League declared war
on newly formed Israel. The subsequent defeat increased discontent
with the extravagant King Farouk, who was ousted by the army. Their leader
Gamal Abdel Nasser formed a republic in 1953. Nasser nationalised
the Suez Canal and defeated a British, French and Israeli invasion, making
Nasser a national hero. A liaison with the USSR resulted in the huge Aswan
High Dam which fully controlled the Nile floods and generated enough electricity
for all of Egypt's needs. In 1967 Egypt was defeated in the Six
Day War with Israel, resulting in Sinai being lost.
Following Nasser's death in 1971, Anwar Sadat cut Egypt's ties with
the USSR. In an attempt to restore Egypt's pride, he launched forces across
the Suez Canal. Although this was not a military success, it led to the
Camp David agreement of 1979 under which Israel withdrew to its
1948 borders. Conciliating with Isreal angered the Muslim extremists who
assassinated Sadat in 1981.
His successor, Hosni Mubarak
liberalised the economy and permitted more political freedom. This produced a backlash from Islamic fundamentalists whose campaign of terror
in the 1990s led to a marked reduction in tourist income. Mubarak
is still in power.
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