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Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nile River, Muhammad Ali, Sinai Peninsula, Nile Valley

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Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, country in northeastern Africa and southwestern Asia. Most of the country lies in Africa, but the easternmost portion of Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, is usually considered part of Asia; it forms the only land bridge between the two continents. Most of Egypt’s terrain is desert, divided into two unequal parts by the Nile River. The valley and delta of the Nile are the main centers of habitation. The capital and largest city is Cairo.

Egypt has been a coherent political entity with a recorded history since about 3200 bc. One of the first civilizations to develop irrigated agriculture, literacy, urban life, and large-scale political structures arose in the Nile Valley. The annual flood of the Nile provided for a stable agricultural society. Egypt’s strategic location between Asia and Africa and on the route between the Mediterranean basin and India and China made it an important hub of international trade. Beginning in the 4th century bc, a series of conquerors brought new religions and languages to the land. However, Egypt’s rich agricultural resources, pivotal commercial position, and long-term political unity have sustained a high level of cultural continuity. Although present-day Egypt is an overwhelmingly Arabic-speaking and Islamic country, it retains important aspects of its past Christian, Greco-Roman, and ancient indigenous heritage.

Muslim Arab invaders conquered Egypt in ad 641, and Egypt has been a part of the Muslim and Arab worlds ever since. The foundations of the modern state were established by Muhammad Ali, who served as viceroy of Egypt from 1805 to 1849, while the country was a province of the Ottoman Empire. Britain occupied Egypt in 1882. After 40 years of direct British colonial rule, Egypt became an independent monarchy in 1922. However, British policies enforced by a continuing military occupation limited its independence. In 1952 a group of military officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the monarchy and established Egypt as a republic. Nasser negotiated the evacuation of the last British troops from Egypt by 1956. In 1979, under President Anwar al-Sadat, Egypt became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state of Israel. Egypt remains an important political and cultural center for the entire Arab world. In 2005 Egypt held its first-ever multiparty presidential election.

This article deals mainly with Arab Egypt.


For younger readers

Diamond, Arthur. Egypt: Gift of the Nile. Dillon, 1993. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Heinrichs, Ann. Egypt. Children's Press, 1997. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Landau, Elaine. Egypt. Children's Press, 2000. An introduction to the country; for readers in grades 3 to 5.

Parker, Lewis K. Egypt. Benchmark, 2003. For readers in grades 3 to 5.

Wilson, Neil. Egypt. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 8.


Antoniou, Jim. Historic Cairo: A Walk through the Islamic City. American University in Cairo Press, 1999. A guided tour to many of Cairo's greatest architectural treasures.

Humphreys, Andrew. Lonely Planet: Cairo. Lonely Planet, 1998.

Myntti, Cynthia. Paris Along the Nile: Architecture in Cairo from the Belle Epoque. American University in Cairo Press, 1999. Beautifully illustrated study of Cairo's Parisian-inspired architecture.

Raymond, Andre. Cairo. Harvard University Press, 2000. A study that weaves an extraordinary tapestry of Cairo's past and present.

Rodenbeck, Max. Cairo: The City Victorious. Vintage, 2000. A cultural history of the Egyptian capital from its ancient beginnings to the present.

Stewart, Desmond. Great Cairo, Mother of the World. 3rd ed. American University in Cairo Press, 1997. Cairo's long, romantic history as a political and cultural center.

Modern Egypt

Badran, Margaret. Feminists, Islam and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt. Princeton University Press, 1996. Chronicles the changing role and emergence of women as a social and political force in contemporary Egypt.

Baker, Raymond William. Sadat and After: Struggles for Egypt's Political Soul. Harvard University Press, 1990. Examination of events and politics in Egypt since 1970.

Boutros-Ghali, Boutros. Egypt's Road to Jerusalem: A Diplomat's Story of the Struggle for Peace in the Middle East. Random House, 1997. The former secretary general of the United Nations provides a detailed account of the Israel-Egypt peace process and the Camp David Accords.

Henry, Clement M. The Mediterranean Debt Crescent: Money and Power in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. University Press of Florida, 1996. Egypt's economic history and progress, compared and contrasted with four neighboring nations.

Holland, Matthew F. America and Egypt: From Roosevelt to Eisenhower. Praeger, 1996. Relations between the United States and Egypt during the 1940s and 1950s, from both American and Middle Eastern perspectives.

Marsot, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid. A Short History of Modern Egypt. Cambridge University Press, 1985. Succinct history beginning with the Arab conquest in 639, with emphasis on the 20th century.

Richmond, John C. B. Egypt, 1798-1952: Her Advance Towards a Modern Identity. Columbia University Press, 1977. From the Napoleonic invasion to the Free Officers' Movement coup and its consequences for European powers.

Vatikiotis, P. J. The History of Modern Egypt. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. History from 1805 to the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat and the presidency of Hosni Mubarak.

Arabic literature

Adonis.Trans. Catherine Cobham. An Introduction to Arab Poetics. University of Texas Press, 1990. Musings of a great contemporary Arab poet on the tradition from which he came, how it evolved, and where it is going.

Badawi, M. M. A Short History of Modern Arabic Literature. Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Boullata, Issa J., and Terri De Young, eds. Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Literature. University of Arkansas Press, 1997. Collection of critical essays on all periods of Arabic literature, with some discussions of Arabic film and theatre.

Campbell, Robert B., ed. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Arab Writers. Lynne Rienner, 2001. A reference that includes autobiographical essays.

Cohen-Mor, Dayla. A Matter of Fate: The Concept of Fate in the Arab World as Reflected in Modern Arabic Literature. Oxford University Press, 2001. Examines the evolution of the concept of fate through readings of religious texts, poetry, fiction, and folklore.

Jayyusi, Salma Khadra, ed. The Literature of Modern Arabia: An Anthology. University of Texas Press, 1989, 1998. A broad selection of 20th-century Arabic poetry and prose.

Meisami, Julie Scott, and Paul Starkey, eds. Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature. 2 vols. Routledge, 1998. Contains extensive entries and references.

Orfalea, Gregory, and Sharif Elmusa, eds. Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry. Interlink , 1999. An anthology that reveals the distinctiveness of Arab-American poetry.


Goldschmidt, Arthur, Jr., A.B., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of Middle East History, Pennsylvania State University. Author of A Concise History of the Middle East and other books.

Johnson, Douglas L., B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of Geography, Clark University. Coauthor of Land Degradation: Creation and Destruction and other books.

Beinin, Joel, A.B., A.M., A.M.L.S., Ph.D. Professor of Middle East History, Stanford University. Author of The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry,Workers on the Nile: Nationalism, Communism, Islam, and the Egyptian Working Class, 1882-1954, and other books.

Owen, Roger, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. A. J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History, Harvard University. Author of State, Power, and Politics in the Making of the Modem Middle East and other books.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

Article key phrases:

Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nile River, Muhammad Ali, Sinai Peninsula, Nile Valley, land bridge, Arab nation, new religions, Arab Egypt, Ottoman Empire, Islamic country, Mediterranean basin, peace treaty, Arab Republic of Egypt, urban life, Greco-Roman, modern state, British troops, recorded history, evacuation, cultural center, Cairo, largest city, civilizations, delta, continents, capital, India, Africa, China, terrain, Asia, republic, route, independence, literacy, province, land, foundations, country, valley, languages

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