Egypt was born out of the longest river in the world, the Nile River that runs through the African continent, crossing nine countries and spanning 6695km long. The river waters are formed from snow melting from the White Nile, Lake Victoria, joined by the Blue Nile, Lake Tana and eventually flowing into the Mediterranean Sea through the Nile Delta. The earliest Egyptians had thought of the Nile to contain sacred waters, and gods controlled the yearly inundation that flooded the fields, bringing fertile soil from upstream to downstream Egypt. Otherwise, it is all desert land, save for the thin strip of fertile bank the Nile created for the Egyptians to flourish in an environment that should have not sustained life. The Nile allowed the Egyptians to drink and plant endless fields of crops that were so important for cradles of civilisations to prosper. Indeed, Egypt is known as the 'gift of the Nile'.
Egyptian civilisation is one of the oldest in the world, going back almost 5000 years. Egypt was first formed when a king named Narmer united the cities of Northern (Lower) and Southern (Upper) Egypt in about 3200 B.C. Egypt started to flourish under the Old Kingdom (2650-2150B.C.) when the pyramids and Sphinx were the best monuments of the age. It went into decline, but flourished again under the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640B.C.) when for a brief period Egypt was thrown into chaos by the 'rebel' pharaoh Akhenaten, who overturned Egypt's thousand old religion to advocate one god. Egypt once more declined yet flourished again in the New Kingdom (1550-1070B.C.), known for its powerful warrior pharaohs such as Seti I and Ramses II (the Great) who extended Egypt's frontiers through war. At this golden age of Egyptian civilisation, her armies marched out to conquer the Nubians in the South, pacify the Libyans to the West and dominate in the Middle East. Nubia proved especially important for the ancient Egypt as she supplied Egypt her gold. Indeed, Egypt can be described as an imperial power with one of the largest empires the ancient world had seen.
Yet as with all imperial powers, the Egyptians eventually went into decline in about 1000 B.C, and the conqueror became the conquered. After several foreign rulers, the armies of Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. He established the famous city of Alexandria, but died young, entering Egypt into the age of the Ptolemies, a dynasty of Greek pharaohs, descendants from one of Alexander's generals, who ruled Egypt till 30 B.C. The rising Roman Empire swallowed Egypt as a province after Egypt's last pharaoh, the famed Cleopatra, committed suicide after failing to hold Egypt.
Egypt was to remain a Roman province for the next 670 years before her people converted to Christianity and established the Coptic rulers as the Roman Empire ebbed away into disrepair. Yet another tide, in 640 A.D, that of the Muslim conquest, was to bring Egypt under the rule of Islam. She then fell to the Mameluks in 1250A.D. and subsequently the Turks in 1517 A.D.
Ancient Egypt's monuments stand as a testimony to time of the power the ancient Egyptians once had. The Nile is dotted with temples dedicated to the dozens of Egyptian gods. There are obelisks raised to the heavens to please the gods. Statues in stone of pharaohs staring into eternity stood guard at temples. The desert sands boasted the Grand Pyramid that stood the test of time to be the only surviving Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Deep in the hills in the West Bank laid the Valley of the Kings and Queens, where archaeological discoveries such as the tomb of Tutankhamen astonished the world. In the South, Ramses' enormous temple of Abu-Simbel stood to show his four portraits in stone, boosting of the strength Egypt once had in the foreign land… and so much more remains of the ancient civilisation that had flourished.
Egypt remained a land of antiquity and mystery to many, even today. Her strange wonders, unique culture, art and religion are as attractive as they are to tourists today as they were to Greek travelers millenniums ago. These are all remains of a great imperial power that had once thrived to produce the most astonishing of results. Little would one have expected this land of wonders will one day be ruled by one empire of even greater magnitude and power.
Colonisation of Egypt. © Copyright 2005
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