Egypt History

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EGYPT

One of the best known of the ancient civilizations was that of Egypt. At least 5000 years before Christ, there arose on the Nile a culture of brilliance which still captivates the world. Dynasty followed dynasty until the Persians replaced the last one about 340 years before Christ. But the Persians were themselves overthrown by Alexander, the Ptolemys, and finally the mighty Romans. But with the crumbling of the Roman empire, the Byzantine arose which ruled until the Arab Islamic wave spread over the region. The Mamelukes controlled Egypt from about 1250 until their defeat by the Ottomans in 1517. Though the Ottomans remained in somewhat nominal control for the next four centuries, outside powers, such as Britain, had significant influence in the country. Though the Suez Canal was built by French interests, it was taken over by Britain in 1875. The country itself became a British protectorate in 1914. During the Second World War, British forces met Axis forces in heavy fighting in Egypt. Egypt's nationalist movement gained strength after the war, forcing the abdication of King Farouk in 1952. With the proclamation of a republic in 1953, one of those who had led the anti-Farouk uprising, Lt. Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser, was named premier in 1954 and president two years later. Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal (and all that implied to the European powers) led Britain, France, and Israel to join forces against Egypt in the 1956 Sinai Campaign. Their victory was muted by the United Nations, which installed a 'peacekeeping' force along the border between Israel and Egypt. Egypt, for its part, began a long-term association with the Soviet Union. Another war, precipitated by Egypt's decision to close vital Red Sea shipping routes to Israel, erupted in 1967. At the end of the Six-Day War, Israel was in control of the entire Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank of the Jordan, and the Golan Heights. The Suez Canal was closed because of war debris (it reopened only in 1975). Nasser's death in 1970 was followed by the succession of Anwar el-Sadat as president. On the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur in 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel and in the fierce fighting, Israel was able to drive the Egyptians (and the Syrians) back beyond where they had started. The Yom Kippur War marked a turning point int Egyptian-Israel relations and in 1977, Sadat visited Jerusalem as a prelude to the signing of a peace treaty with Israel that has held since 1979. Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by members of a military conspiracy and was succeeded by his vice-president, Hosni Mubarak. While maintaining friendly relations with the West, particularly the US, Egypt has managed to improve its ties with the Arab world which were strained when Egypt made peace with Israel. Egypt participated in the coalition against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. In the 1980s, 1990s, and the present Egypt had to handle the problems cause by the increasingly violent Muslim fundamentalist movement which has targeted the secular, Christians, and foreigners in the country.

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