History Podcasts

Religion in Egypt - History

Religion in Egypt - History

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Religion in Egypt

The Egyptians like most early civilizations believed in polytheism- many gods. One of the most important gods was the sun god. In human form he was worshipped as Atum. He could also take on the form of a scarab beetle. One o the most important Egyptians gods was Osiris the god of the dead. Under an Egyptian myth there was a struggle between Osiris who brought civilization to Egypt and his borther Seth who was evil. Seth killed him. Osiris was found by his wife Iris and with the help of the other gods was resurrected. He thus became the god fo the dead. It was beleived that as long as body of the dead could be preserved they would live in an afterlife. thus began the practice of building pyramids for the dead kings and mumifying the bodies. It was hoped by creating the pyramids and filling them with treasures the Egyptian society would continue to benifit from the good will and deceased king after death.


The Egyptian universe centered on Ma’at, which has several meanings in English, including truth, justice and order. It was fixed and eternal (without it the world would fall apart), and there were constant threats of disorder requiring society to work to maintain it. Inhabitants of the cosmos included the gods, the spirits of deceased humans, and living humans, the most important of which was the pharaoh. Humans should cooperate to achieve this, and gods should function in balance. Ma’at was renewed by periodic events, such as the annual Nile flood, which echoed the original creation. Most important of these was the daily journey of the sun god Ra.

Egyptians saw the earth as flat land (the god Geb), over which arched the sky (goddess Nut) they were separated by Shu, the god of air. Underneath the earth was a parallel underworld and undersky, and beyond the skies lay Nu, the chaos before creation. Duat was a mysterious area associated with death and rebirth, and each day Ra passed through Duat after traveling over the earth during the day.

Egyptian Cosmology. In this artwork, the air god Shu is assisted by other gods in holding up Nut, the sky, as Geb, the earth, lies beneath.

King, cosmos, and society

The king was the centre of human society, the guarantor of order for the gods, the recipient of god-given benefits including life itself, and the benevolent ruler of the world for humanity. He was ultimately responsible for the cults of the dead, both for his predecessors in office and for the dead in general. His dominance in religion corresponded to his central political role: from late predynastic times (c. 3100 bce ), state organization was based on kingship and on the service of officials for the king. For humanity, the king had a superhuman role, being a manifestation of a god or of various deities on earth.

The king’s principal original title, the Horus name, proclaimed that he was an aspect of the chief god Horus, a sky god who was depicted as a falcon. Other identifications were added to this one, notably “Son of Re” (the sun god) and “Perfect God,” both introduced in the 4th dynasty (c. 2575–2465 bce ), when the great pyramids were constructed. The epithet “Son of Re” placed the king in a close but dependent relation with the leading figure in the pantheon. “Perfect God” (often rendered “Good God”) indicated that the king had the status of a minor deity, for which he was “perfected” through accession to his office it restricted the extent of his divinity and separated him from full deities.

In his intermediate position between humanity and the gods, the king could receive the most extravagant divine adulation and was in some ways more prominent than any single god. In death he aspired to full divinity but could not escape the human context. Although royal funerary monuments differed in type from other tombs and were vastly larger, they too were pillaged and vandalized, and few royal mortuary cults were long-lasting. Some kings, notably Amenhotep III (1390–53 bce ), Ramses II (1279–13 bce ), and several of the Ptolemies, sought deification during their own lifetime, while others, such as Amenemhet III (1818–c. 1770 bce ), became minor gods after their death, but these developments show how restricted royal divinity was. The divinized king coexisted with his mortal self, and as many nonroyal individuals as kings became deified after death.

The gods, the king, humanity, and the dead existed together in the cosmos, which the creator god had brought into being from the preexistent chaos. All living beings, except perhaps the creator, would die at the end of time. The sun god became aged and needed to be rejuvenated and reborn daily. The ordered cosmos was surrounded by and shot through with disorder, which had to be kept at bay. Disorder menaced most strongly at such times of transition as the passage from one year to the next or the death of a king. Thus, the king’s role in maintaining order was cosmic and not merely social. His exaction of service from people was necessary to the cosmos.

The concept of maat (“order”) was fundamental in Egyptian thought. The king’s role was to set maat in place of isfet (“disorder”). Maat was crucial in human life and embraced notions of reciprocity, justice, truth, and moderation. Maat was personified as a goddess and the creator’s daughter and received a cult of her own. In the cult of other deities, the king’s offering of maat to a deity encapsulated the relationship between humanity, the king, and the gods as the representative of humanity, he returned to the gods the order that came from them and of which they were themselves part. Maat extended into the world of the dead: in the weighing of the heart after death, shown on papyri deposited in burials, the person’s heart occupies one side of the scales and a representation of maat the other. The meaning of this image is deepened in the accompanying text, which asserts that the deceased behaved correctly on earth and did not overstep the boundaries of order, declaring that he or she did not “know that which is not”—that is, things that were outside the created and ordered world.

This role of maat in human life created a continuity between religion, political action, and elite morality. Over the centuries, private religion and morality drew apart from state concerns, paralleling a gradual separation of king and temple. It cannot be known whether religion and morality were as closely integrated for the people as they were for the elite, or even how fully the elite subscribed to these beliefs. Nonetheless, the integration of cosmos, king, and maat remained fundamental.


"Miṣr" (Arabic pronunciation: [mesˤɾ] " مِصر ") is the Classical Quranic Arabic and modern official name of Egypt, while "Maṣr" (Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [mɑsˤɾ] مَصر ) is the local pronunciation in Egyptian Arabic. [17] The name is of Semitic origin, directly cognate with other Semitic words for Egypt such as the Hebrew " מִצְרַיִם ‎" ("Miṣráyim/Mitzráyim/Mizráim"). The oldest attestation of this name for Egypt is the Akkadian "mi-iṣ-ru" ("miṣru") [18] [19] related to miṣru/miṣirru/miṣaru, meaning "border" or "frontier". [20] The Neo-Assyrian Empire used the derived term , Mu-ṣur. [21]

Prehistory and Ancient Egypt

There is evidence of rock carvings along the Nile terraces and in desert oases. In the 10th millennium BCE, a culture of hunter-gatherers and fishers was replaced by a grain-grinding culture. Climate changes or overgrazing around 8000 BCE began to desiccate the pastoral lands of Egypt, forming the Sahara. Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralised society. [27]

By about 6000 BCE, a Neolithic culture rooted in the Nile Valley. [28] During the Neolithic era, several predynastic cultures developed independently in Upper and Lower Egypt. The Badarian culture and the successor Naqada series are generally regarded as precursors to dynastic Egypt. The earliest known Lower Egyptian site, Merimda, predates the Badarian by about seven hundred years. Contemporaneous Lower Egyptian communities coexisted with their southern counterparts for more than two thousand years, remaining culturally distinct, but maintaining frequent contact through trade. The earliest known evidence of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BCE. [29]

A unified kingdom was founded c. 3150 BCE by King Menes, leading to a series of dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia. Egyptian culture flourished during this long period and remained distinctively Egyptian in its religion, arts, language and customs. The first two ruling dynasties of a unified Egypt set the stage for the Old Kingdom period, c. 2700–2200 BCE, which constructed many pyramids, most notably the Third Dynasty pyramid of Djoser and the Fourth Dynasty Giza pyramids.

The First Intermediate Period ushered in a time of political upheaval for about 150 years. [30] Stronger Nile floods and stabilisation of government, however, brought back renewed prosperity for the country in the Middle Kingdom c. 2040 BCE, reaching a peak during the reign of Pharaoh Amenemhat III. A second period of disunity heralded the arrival of the first foreign ruling dynasty in Egypt, that of the Semitic Hyksos. The Hyksos invaders took over much of Lower Egypt around 1650 BCE and founded a new capital at Avaris. They were driven out by an Upper Egyptian force led by Ahmose I, who founded the Eighteenth Dynasty and relocated the capital from Memphis to Thebes.

The New Kingdom c. 1550–1070 BCE began with the Eighteenth Dynasty, marking the rise of Egypt as an international power that expanded during its greatest extension to an empire as far south as Tombos in Nubia, and included parts of the Levant in the east. This period is noted for some of the most well known Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II. The first historically attested expression of monotheism came during this period as Atenism. Frequent contacts with other nations brought new ideas to the New Kingdom. The country was later invaded and conquered by Libyans, Nubians and Assyrians, but native Egyptians eventually drove them out and regained control of their country. [31]

Achaemenid Egypt

In 525 BCE, the powerful Achaemenid Persians, led by Cambyses II, began their conquest of Egypt, eventually capturing the pharaoh Psamtik III at the battle of Pelusium. Cambyses II then assumed the formal title of pharaoh, but ruled Egypt from his home of Susa in Persia (modern Iran), leaving Egypt under the control of a satrapy. The entire Twenty-seventh Dynasty of Egypt, from 525 to 402 BCE, save for Petubastis III, was an entirely Persian ruled period, with the Achaemenid Emperors all being granted the title of pharaoh. A few temporarily successful revolts against the Persians marked the fifth century BCE, but Egypt was never able to permanently overthrow the Persians. [32]

The Thirtieth Dynasty was the last native ruling dynasty during the Pharaonic epoch. It fell to the Persians again in 343 BCE after the last native Pharaoh, King Nectanebo II, was defeated in battle. This Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt, however, did not last long, for the Persians were toppled several decades later by Alexander the Great. The Macedonian Greek general of Alexander, Ptolemy I Soter, founded the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt

The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to Cyrene to the west, and south to the frontier with Nubia. Alexandria became the capital city and a centre of Greek culture and trade. To gain recognition by the native Egyptian populace, they named themselves as the successors to the Pharaohs. The later Ptolemies took on Egyptian traditions, had themselves portrayed on public monuments in Egyptian style and dress, and participated in Egyptian religious life. [33] [34]

The last ruler from the Ptolemaic line was Cleopatra VII, who committed suicide following the burial of her lover Mark Antony who had died in her arms (from a self-inflicted stab wound), after Octavian had captured Alexandria and her mercenary forces had fled. The Ptolemies faced rebellions of native Egyptians often caused by an unwanted regime and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its annexation by Rome. Nevertheless, Hellenistic culture continued to thrive in Egypt well after the Muslim conquest.

Christianity was brought to Egypt by Saint Mark the Evangelist in the 1st century. [35] Diocletian's reign (284–305 CE) marked the transition from the Roman to the Byzantine era in Egypt, when a great number of Egyptian Christians were persecuted. The New Testament had by then been translated into Egyptian. After the Council of Chalcedon in CE 451, a distinct Egyptian Coptic Church was firmly established. [36]

Middle Ages (7th century – 1517)

The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a brief Sasanian Persian invasion early in the 7th century amidst the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 during which they established a new short-lived province for ten years known as Sasanian Egypt, until 639–42, when Egypt was invaded and conquered by the Islamic Empire by the Muslim Arabs. When they defeated the Byzantine armies in Egypt, the Arabs brought Sunni Islam to the country. Early in this period, Egyptians began to blend their new faith with indigenous beliefs and practices, leading to various Sufi orders that have flourished to this day. [35] These earlier rites had survived the period of Coptic Christianity. [37]

In 639 an army of some 4,000 men were sent against Egypt by the second caliph, Umar, under the command of Amr ibn al-As. This army was joined by another 5,000 men in 640 and defeated a Byzantine army at the battle of Heliopolis. Amr next proceeded in the direction of Alexandria, which was surrendered to him by a treaty signed on 8 November 641. Alexandria was regained for the Byzantine Empire in 645 but was retaken by Amr in 646. In 654 an invasion fleet sent by Constans II was repulsed. From that time no serious effort was made by the Byzantines to regain possession of the country.

The Arabs founded the capital of Egypt called Fustat, which was later burned down during the Crusades. Cairo was later built in the year 986 to grow to become the largest and richest city in the Arab Empire, and one of the biggest and richest in the world.

Abbasid period

The Abbasid period was marked by new taxations, and the Copts revolted again in the fourth year of Abbasid rule. At the beginning of the 9th century the practice of ruling Egypt through a governor was resumed under Abdallah ibn Tahir, who decided to reside at Baghdad, sending a deputy to Egypt to govern for him. In 828 another Egyptian revolt broke out, and in 831 the Copts joined with native Muslims against the government. Eventually the power loss of the Abbasids in Baghdad has led for general upon general to take over rule of Egypt, yet being under Abbasid allegiance, the Tulunid dynasty (868–905) and Ikhshidid dynasty (935–969) were among the most successful to defy the Abbasid Caliph.

The Fatimid Caliphate and the Mamluks

Muslim rulers nominated by the Caliphate remained in control of Egypt for the next six centuries, with Cairo as the seat of the Fatimid Caliphate. With the end of the Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluks, a Turco-Circassian military caste, took control about 1250. By the late 13th century, Egypt linked the Red Sea, India, Malaya, and East Indies. [38] The mid-14th-century Black Death killed about 40% of the country's population. [39]

Early modern period: Ottoman Egypt (1517–1867)

Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1517, after which it became a province of the Ottoman Empire. The defensive militarisation damaged its civil society and economic institutions. [38] The weakening of the economic system combined with the effects of plague left Egypt vulnerable to foreign invasion. Portuguese traders took over their trade. [38] Between 1687 and 1731, Egypt experienced six famines. [40] The 1784 famine cost it roughly one-sixth of its population. [41]

Egypt was always a difficult province for the Ottoman Sultans to control, due in part to the continuing power and influence of the Mamluks, the Egyptian military caste who had ruled the country for centuries.

Egypt remained semi-autonomous under the Mamluks until it was invaded by the French forces of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 (see French campaign in Egypt and Syria). After the French were defeated by the British, a power vacuum was created in Egypt, and a three-way power struggle ensued between the Ottoman Turks, Egyptian Mamluks who had ruled Egypt for centuries, and Albanian mercenaries in the service of the Ottomans.

The Muhammad Ali dynasty

After the French were expelled, power was seized in 1805 by Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian military commander of the Ottoman army in Egypt. While he carried the title of viceroy of Egypt, his subordination to the Ottoman porte was merely nominal. [ citation needed ] Muhammad Ali massacred the Mamluks and established a dynasty that was to rule Egypt until the revolution of 1952.

The introduction in 1820 of long-staple cotton transformed its agriculture into a cash-crop monoculture before the end of the century, concentrating land ownership and shifting production towards international markets. [42]

Muhammad Ali annexed Northern Sudan (1820–1824), Syria (1833), and parts of Arabia and Anatolia but in 1841 the European powers, fearful lest he topple the Ottoman Empire itself, forced him to return most of his conquests to the Ottomans. His military ambition required him to modernise the country: he built industries, a system of canals for irrigation and transport, and reformed the civil service. [42]

He constructed a military state with around four percent of the populace serving the army to raise Egypt to a powerful positioning in the Ottoman Empire in a way showing various similarities to the Soviet strategies (without communism) conducted in the 20th century. [43]

Muhammad Ali Pasha evolved the military from one that convened under the tradition of the corvée to a great modernised army. He introduced conscription of the male peasantry in 19th century Egypt, and took a novel approach to create his great army, strengthening it with numbers and in skill. Education and training of the new soldiers became mandatory the new concepts were furthermore enforced by isolation. The men were held in barracks to avoid distraction of their growth as a military unit to be reckoned with. The resentment for the military way of life eventually faded from the men and a new ideology took hold, one of nationalism and pride. It was with the help of this newly reborn martial unit that Muhammad Ali imposed his rule over Egypt. [44]

The policy that Mohammad Ali Pasha followed during his reign explains partly why the numeracy in Egypt compared to other North-African and Middle-Eastern countries increased only at a remarkably small rate, as investment in further education only took place in the military and industrial sector. [45]

Muhammad Ali was succeeded briefly by his son Ibrahim (in September 1848), then by a grandson Abbas I (in November 1848), then by Said (in 1854), and Isma'il (in 1863) who encouraged science and agriculture and banned slavery in Egypt. [43]

Khedivate of Egypt (1867–1914)

Egypt under the Muhammad Ali dynasty remained nominally an Ottoman province. It was granted the status of an autonomous vassal state or Khedivate in 1867, a legal status which was to remain in place until 1914 although the Ottomans had no power or presence.

The Suez Canal, built in partnership with the French, was completed in 1869. Its construction was financed by European banks. Large sums also went to patronage and corruption. New taxes caused popular discontent. In 1875 Isma'il avoided bankruptcy by selling all Egypt's shares in the canal to the British government. Within three years this led to the imposition of British and French controllers who sat in the Egyptian cabinet, and, "with the financial power of the bondholders behind them, were the real power in the Government." [46]

Other circumstances like epidemic diseases (cattle disease in the 1880s), floods and wars drove the economic downturn and increased Egypt's dependency on foreign debt even further. [47]

Local dissatisfaction with the Khedive and with European intrusion led to the formation of the first nationalist groupings in 1879, with Ahmed ʻUrabi a prominent figure. After increasing tensions and nationalist revolts, the United Kingdom invaded Egypt in 1882, crushing the Egyptian army at the Battle of Tell El Kebir and militarily occupying the country. [48] Following this, the Khedivate became a de facto British protectorate under nominal Ottoman sovereignty. [49]

In 1899 the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement was signed: the Agreement stated that Sudan would be jointly governed by the Khedivate of Egypt and the United Kingdom. However, actual control of Sudan was in British hands only.

In 1906, the Denshawai incident prompted many neutral Egyptians to join the nationalist movement.

Sultanate of Egypt (1914–1922)

In 1914 the Ottoman Empire entered World War I in alliance with the Central Empires Khedive Abbas II (who had grown increasingly hostile to the British in preceding years) decided to support the motherland in war. Following such decision, the British forcibly removed him from power and replaced him with his brother Hussein Kamel. [50] [51]

Hussein Kamel declared Egypt's independence from the Ottoman Empire, assuming the title of Sultan of Egypt. Shortly following independence, Egypt was declared a protectorate of the United Kingdom.

After World War I, Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party led the Egyptian nationalist movement to a majority at the local Legislative Assembly. When the British exiled Zaghlul and his associates to Malta on 8 March 1919, the country arose in its first modern revolution. The revolt led the UK government to issue a unilateral declaration of Egypt's independence on 22 February 1922. [52]

Kingdom of Egypt (1922–1953)

Following independence from the United Kingdom, Sultan Fuad I assumed the title of King of Egypt despite being nominally independent, the Kingdom was still under British military occupation and the UK still had great influence over the state.

The new government drafted and implemented a constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary system. The nationalist Wafd Party won a landslide victory in the 1923–1924 election and Saad Zaghloul was appointed as the new Prime Minister.

In 1936, the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded and British troops withdrew from Egypt, except for the Suez Canal. The treaty did not resolve the question of Sudan, which, under the terms of the existing Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899, stated that Sudan should be jointly governed by Egypt and Britain, but with real power remaining in British hands. [53]

Britain used Egypt as a base for Allied operations throughout the region, especially the battles in North Africa against Italy and Germany. Its highest priorities were control of the Eastern Mediterranean, and especially keeping the Suez Canal open for merchant ships and for military connections with India and Australia. The government of Egypt, and the Egyptian population, played a minor role in the Second World War. When the war began in September 1939, Egypt declared martial law and broke off diplomatic relations with Germany. It did not declare war on Germany, but the Prime Minister associated Egypt with the British war effort. It broke diplomatic relations with Italy in 1940, but never declared war, even when the Italian army invaded Egypt. King Farouk took practically a neutral position, which accorded with elite opinion among the Egyptians. The Egyptian army did no fighting. It was apathetic about the war, with the leading officers looking on the British as occupiers and sometimes holding some private sympathy with the Axis. In June 1940 the King dismissed Prime Minister Aly Maher, who got on poorly with the British. A new coalition Government was formed with the Independent Hassan Pasha Sabri as Prime Minister.

Following a ministerial crisis in February 1942, the ambassador Sir Miles Lampson, pressed Farouk to have a Wafd or Wafd-coalition government replace Hussein Sirri Pasha's government. On the night of 4 February 1942, British troops and tanks surrounded Abdeen Palace in Cairo and Lampson presented Farouk with an ultimatum. Farouk capitulated, and Nahhas formed a government shortly thereafter. However, the humiliation meted out to Farouk, and the actions of the Wafd in cooperating with the British and taking power, lost support for both the British and the Wafd among both civilians and, more importantly, the Egyptian military.

Most British troops were withdrawn to the Suez Canal area in 1947 (although the British army maintained a military base in the area), but nationalist, anti-British feelings continued to grow after the War. Anti-monarchy sentiments further increased following the disastrous performance of the Kingdom in the First Arab-Israeli War. The 1950 election saw a landslide victory of the nationalist Wafd Party and the King was forced to appoint Mostafa El-Nahas as new Prime Minister. In 1951 Egypt unilaterally withdrew from the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 and ordered all remaining British troops to leave the Suez Canal.

As the British refused to leave their base around the Suez Canal, the Egyptian government cut off the water and refused to allow food into the Suez Canal base, announced a boycott of British goods, forbade Egyptian workers from entering the base and sponsored guerrilla attacks, turning the area around the Suez Canal into a low level war zone. On 24 January 1952, Egyptian guerrillas staged a fierce attack on the British forces around the Suez Canal, during which the Egyptian Auxiliary Police were observed helping the guerrillas. In response, on 25 January, General George Erskine sent out British tanks and infantry to surround the auxiliary police station in Ismailia and gave the policemen an hour to surrender their arms on the grounds the police were arming the guerrillas. The police commander called the Interior Minister, Fouad Serageddin, Nahas's right-hand man, who was smoking cigars in his bath at the time, to ask if he should surrender or fight. Serageddin ordered the police to fight "to the last man and the last bullet". The resulting battle saw the police station levelled and 43 Egyptian policemen killed together with 3 British soldiers. The Ismailia incident outraged Egypt. The next day, 26 January 1952 was "Black Saturday", as the anti-British riot was known, that saw much of downtown Cairo which the Khedive Ismail the Magnificent had rebuilt in the style of Paris, burned down. Farouk blamed the Wafd for the Black Saturday riot, and dismissed Nahas as prime minister the next day. He was replaced by Aly Maher Pasha. [54]

On July 22–23, 1952, the Free Officers Movement, led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, launched a coup d'état (Egyptian Revolution of 1952) against the king. Farouk I abdicated the throne to his son Fouad II, who was, at the time, a seven month old baby. The Royal Family left Egypt some days later and the Council of Regency, led by Prince Muhammad Abdel Moneim was formed, The council, however, held only nominal authority and the real power was actually in the hands of the Revolutionary Command Council, led by Naguib and Nasser.

Popular expectations for immediate reforms led to the workers' riots in Kafr Dawar on 12 August 1952, which resulted in two death sentences. Following a brief experiment with civilian rule, the Free Officers abrogated the monarchy and the 1923 constitution and declared Egypt a republic on 18 June 1953. Naguib was proclaimed as president, while Nasser was appointed as the new Prime Minister.

Republic of Egypt (1953–1958)

Following the 1952 Revolution by the Free Officers Movement, the rule of Egypt passed to military hands and all political parties were banned. On 18 June 1953, the Egyptian Republic was declared, with General Muhammad Naguib as the first President of the Republic, serving in that capacity for a little under one and a half years.

President Nasser (1956–1970)

Naguib was forced to resign in 1954 by Gamal Abdel Nasser – a Pan-Arabist and the real architect of the 1952 movement – and was later put under house arrest. After Naguib's resignation, the position of President was vacant until the election of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956. [55]

In October 1954 Egypt and the United Kingdom agreed to abolish the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement of 1899 and grant Sudan independence the agreement came into force on 1 January 1956.

Nasser assumed power as president in June 1956. British forces completed their withdrawal from the occupied Suez Canal Zone on 13 June 1956. He nationalised the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956 his hostile approach towards Israel and economic nationalism prompted the beginning of the Second Arab-Israeli War (Suez Crisis), in which Israel (with support from France and the United Kingdom) occupied the Sinai peninsula and the Canal. The war came to an end because of US and USSR diplomatic intervention and the status quo was restored.

United Arab Republic (1958–1971)

In 1958, Egypt and Syria formed a sovereign union known as the United Arab Republic. The union was short-lived, ending in 1961 when Syria seceded, thus ending the union. During most of its existence, the United Arab Republic was also in a loose confederation with North Yemen (or the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen), known as the United Arab States. In 1959, the All-Palestine Government of the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian client state, was absorbed into the United Arab Republic under the pretext of Arab union, and was never restored. The Arab Socialist Union, a new nasserist state-party was founded in 1962.

In the early 1960s, Egypt became fully involved in the North Yemen Civil War. The Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, supported the Yemeni republicans with as many as 70,000 Egyptian troops and chemical weapons. Despite several military moves and peace conferences, the war sank into a stalemate. Egyptian commitment in Yemen was greatly undermined later.

In mid May 1967, the Soviet Union issued warnings to Nasser of an impending Israeli attack on Syria. Although the chief of staff Mohamed Fawzi verified them as "baseless", [56] [57] Nasser took three successive steps that made the war virtually inevitable: on 14 May he deployed his troops in Sinai near the border with Israel, on 19 May he expelled the UN peacekeepers stationed in the Sinai Peninsula border with Israel, and on 23 May he closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. [58] On 26 May Nasser declared, "The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel". [59]

Israel re-iterated that the Straits of Tiran closure was a Casus belli. This prompted the beginning of the Third Arab Israeli War (Six-Day War) in which Israel attacked Egypt, and occupied Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, which Egypt had occupied since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. During the 1967 war, an Emergency Law was enacted, and remained in effect until 2012, with the exception of an 18-month break in 1980/81. [60] Under this law, police powers were extended, constitutional rights suspended and censorship legalised. [ citation needed ]

At the time of the fall of the Egyptian monarchy in the early 1950s, less than half a million Egyptians were considered upper class and rich, four million middle class and 17 million lower class and poor. [61] Fewer than half of all primary-school-age children attended school, most of them being boys. Nasser's policies changed this. Land reform and distribution, the dramatic growth in university education, and government support to national industries greatly improved social mobility and flattened the social curve. From academic year 1953–54 through 1965–66, overall public school enrolments more than doubled. Millions of previously poor Egyptians, through education and jobs in the public sector, joined the middle class. Doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, journalists, constituted the bulk of the swelling middle class in Egypt under Nasser. [61] During the 1960s, the Egyptian economy went from sluggish to the verge of collapse, the society became less free, and Nasser's appeal waned considerably. [62]

Arab Republic of Egypt (1971–present)

President Sadat (1970–1981)

In 1970, President Nasser died of a heart attack and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. Sadat switched Egypt's Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. He launched the Infitah economic reform policy, while clamping down on religious and secular opposition. In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched the Fourth Arab-Israeli War (Yom Kippur War), a surprise attack to regain part of the Sinai territory Israel had captured 6 years earlier. It presented Sadat with a victory that allowed him to regain the Sinai later in return for peace with Israel. [63]

In 1975, Sadat shifted Nasser's economic policies and sought to use his popularity to reduce government regulations and encourage foreign investment through his program of Infitah. Through this policy, incentives such as reduced taxes and import tariffs attracted some investors, but investments were mainly directed at low risk and profitable ventures like tourism and construction, abandoning Egypt's infant industries. [64] Even though Sadat's policy was intended to modernise Egypt and assist the middle class, it mainly benefited the higher class, and, because of the elimination of subsidies on basic foodstuffs, led to the 1977 Egyptian Bread Riots.

In 1977, Sadat dissolved the Arab Socialist Union and replaced it with the National Democratic Party.

Sadat made a historic visit to Israel in 1977, which led to the 1979 peace treaty in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. Sadat's initiative sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt's expulsion from the Arab League, but it was supported by most Egyptians. [65] Sadat was assassinated by an Islamic extremist in October 1981.

President Mubarak (1981–2011)

Hosni Mubarak came to power after the assassination of Sadat in a referendum in which he was the only candidate. [66]

Hosni Mubarak reaffirmed Egypt's relationship with Israel yet eased the tensions with Egypt's Arab neighbours. Domestically, Mubarak faced serious problems. Even though farm and industry output expanded, the economy could not keep pace with the population boom. Mass poverty and unemployment led rural families to stream into cities like Cairo where they ended up in crowded slums, barely managing to survive.

On 25 February 1986 Security Police started rioting, protesting against reports that their term of duty was to be extended from 3 to 4 years. Hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and casinos were attacked in Cairo and there were riots in other cities. A day time curfew was imposed. It took the army 3 days to restore order. 107 people were killed. [67]

In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, terrorist attacks in Egypt became numerous and severe, and began to target Christian Copts, foreign tourists and government officials. [68] In the 1990s an Islamist group, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, engaged in an extended campaign of violence, from the murders and attempted murders of prominent writers and intellectuals, to the repeated targeting of tourists and foreigners. Serious damage was done to the largest sector of Egypt's economy—tourism [69] —and in turn to the government, but it also devastated the livelihoods of many of the people on whom the group depended for support. [70]

During Mubarak's reign, the political scene was dominated by the National Democratic Party, which was created by Sadat in 1978. It passed the 1993 Syndicates Law, 1995 Press Law, and 1999 Nongovernmental Associations Law which hampered freedoms of association and expression by imposing new regulations and draconian penalties on violations. [ citation needed ] As a result, by the late 1990s parliamentary politics had become virtually irrelevant and alternative avenues for political expression were curtailed as well. [71]

In late February 2005, Mubarak announced a reform of the presidential election law, paving the way for multi-candidate polls for the first time since the 1952 movement. [72] However, the new law placed restrictions on the candidates, and led to Mubarak's easy re-election victory. [73] Voter turnout was less than 25%. [74] Election observers also alleged government interference in the election process. [75] After the election, Mubarak imprisoned Ayman Nour, the runner-up. [76]

Human Rights Watch's 2006 report on Egypt detailed serious human rights violations, including routine torture, arbitrary detentions and trials before military and state security courts. [77] In 2007, Amnesty International released a report alleging that Egypt had become an international centre for torture, where other nations send suspects for interrogation, often as part of the War on Terror. [78] Egypt's foreign ministry quickly issued a rebuttal to this report. [79]

Constitutional changes voted on 19 March 2007 prohibited parties from using religion as a basis for political activity, allowed the drafting of a new anti-terrorism law, authorised broad police powers of arrest and surveillance, and gave the president power to dissolve parliament and end judicial election monitoring. [80] In 2009, Dr. Ali El Deen Hilal Dessouki, Media Secretary of the National Democratic Party (NDP), described Egypt as a "pharaonic" political system, and democracy as a "long-term goal". Dessouki also stated that "the real center of power in Egypt is the military". [81]

Revolution (2011)

On 25 January 2011, widespread protests began against Mubarak's government. On 11 February 2011, Mubarak resigned and fled Cairo. Jubilant celebrations broke out in Cairo's Tahrir Square at the news. [82] The Egyptian military then assumed the power to govern. [83] [84] Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, became the de facto interim head of state. [85] [86] On 13 February 2011, the military dissolved the parliament and suspended the constitution. [87]

A constitutional referendum was held on 19 March 2011. On 28 November 2011, Egypt held its first parliamentary election since the previous regime had been in power. Turnout was high and there were no reports of major irregularities or violence. [88]

President Morsi (2012–2013)

Mohamed Morsi was elected president on 24 June 2012. [89] On 2 August 2012, Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil announced his 35-member cabinet comprising 28 newcomers, including four from the Muslim Brotherhood. [90]

Liberal and secular groups walked out of the constituent assembly because they believed that it would impose strict Islamic practices, while Muslim Brotherhood backers threw their support behind Morsi. [91] On 22 November 2012, President Morsi issued a temporary declaration immunising his decrees from challenge and seeking to protect the work of the constituent assembly. [92]

The move led to massive protests and violent action throughout Egypt. [93] On 5 December 2012, tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Morsi clashed, in what was described as the largest violent battle between Islamists and their foes since the country's revolution. [94] Mohamed Morsi offered a "national dialogue" with opposition leaders but refused to cancel the December 2012 constitutional referendum. [95]

Political crisis (2013)

On 3 July 2013, after a wave of public discontent with autocratic excesses of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood government, [96] the military removed Morsi from office, dissolved the Shura Council and installed a temporary interim government. [97]

On 4 July 2013, 68-year-old Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt Adly Mansour was sworn in as acting president over the new government following the removal of Morsi. The new Egyptian authorities cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, jailing thousands and forcefully dispersing pro-Morsi and/or pro-Brotherhood protests. [98] [99] Many of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders and activists have either been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in a series of mass trials. [100] [101] [102]

On 18 January 2014, the interim government instituted a new constitution following a referendum approved by an overwhelming majority of voters (98.1%). 38.6% of registered voters participated in the referendum [103] a higher number than the 33% who voted in a referendum during Morsi's tenure. [104]

President el-Sisi (2014–present)

On 26 March 2014, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egyptian Defence Minister and Commander-in-Chief Egyptian Armed Forces, retired from the military, announcing he would stand as a candidate in the 2014 presidential election. [105] The poll, held between 26 and 28 May 2014, resulted in a landslide victory for el-Sisi. [106] Sisi was sworn into office as President of Egypt on 8 June 2014. The Muslim Brotherhood and some liberal and secular activist groups boycotted the vote. [107] Even though the interim authorities extended voting to a third day, the 46% turnout was lower than the 52% turnout in the 2012 election. [108]

A new parliamentary election was held in December 2015, resulting in a landslide victory for pro-Sisi parties, which secured a strong majority in the newly formed House of Representatives.

In 2016, Egypt entered in a diplomatic crisis with Italy following the murder of researcher Giulio Regeni: in April 2016, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi recalled the Italian ambassador from Cairo because of lack of co-operation from the Egyptian Government in the investigation. The ambassador was sent back to Egypt in 2017 by the new Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

El-Sisi was re-elected in 2018, facing no serious opposition. In 2019, a series of constitutional amendments were approved by the parliament, further increasing the President's and the military's power, increasing presidential terms from 4 years to 6 years and allowing El-Sisi to run for other two mandates. The proposals were approved in a referendum.

The dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam escalated in 2020. [109] [110] Egypt sees the dam as an existential threat, [111] fearing that the dam will reduce the amount of water it receives from the Nile. [112]

Egypt lies primarily between latitudes 22° and 32°N, and longitudes 25° and 35°E. At 1,001,450 square kilometres (386,660 sq mi), [113] it is the world's 30th-largest country. Due to the extreme aridity of Egypt's climate, population centres are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta, meaning that about 99% of the population uses about 5.5% of the total land area. [114] 98% of Egyptians live on 3% of the territory. [115]

Egypt is bordered by Libya to the west, the Sudan to the south, and the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. Egypt's important role in geopolitics stems from its strategic position: a transcontinental nation, it possesses a land bridge (the Isthmus of Suez) between Africa and Asia, traversed by a navigable waterway (the Suez Canal) that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean by way of the Red Sea.

Apart from the Nile Valley, the majority of Egypt's landscape is desert, with a few oases scattered about. Winds create prolific sand dunes that peak at more than 30 metres (100 ft) high. Egypt includes parts of the Sahara desert and of the Libyan Desert. These deserts protected the Kingdom of the Pharaohs from western threats and were referred to as the "red land" in ancient Egypt.

Towns and cities include Alexandria, the second largest city Aswan Asyut Cairo, the modern Egyptian capital and largest city El Mahalla El Kubra Giza, the site of the Pyramid of Khufu Hurghada Luxor Kom Ombo Port Safaga Port Said Sharm El Sheikh Suez, where the south end of the Suez Canal is located Zagazig and Minya. Oases include Bahariya, Dakhla, Farafra, Kharga and Siwa. Protectorates include Ras Mohamed National Park, Zaranik Protectorate and Siwa.

On 13 March 2015, plans for a proposed new capital of Egypt were announced. [116]


Most of Egypt's rain falls in the winter months. [117] South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 2 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 in) per year and at intervals of many years. On a very thin strip of the northern coast the rainfall can be as high as 410 mm (16.1 in), [118] mostly between October and March. Snow falls on Sinai's mountains and some of the north coastal cities such as Damietta, Baltim and Sidi Barrani, and rarely in Alexandria. A very small amount of snow fell on Cairo on 13 December 2013, the first time in many decades. [119] Frost is also known in mid-Sinai and mid-Egypt. Egypt is the driest and the sunniest country in the world, and most of its land surface is desert.

Egypt has an unusually hot, sunny and dry climate. Average high temperatures are high in the north but very to extremely high in the rest of the country during summer. The cooler Mediterranean winds consistently blow over the northern sea coast, which helps to get more moderated temperatures, especially at the height of the summertime. The Khamaseen is a hot, dry wind that originates from the vast deserts in the south and blows in the spring or in the early summer. It brings scorching sand and dust particles, and usually brings daytime temperatures over 40 °C (104 °F) and sometimes over 50 °C (122 °F) in the interior, while the relative humidity can drop to 5% or even less. The absolute highest temperatures in Egypt occur when the Khamaseen blows. The weather is always sunny and clear in Egypt, especially in cities such as Aswan, Luxor and Asyut. It is one of the least cloudy and least rainy regions on Earth.

Prior to the construction of the Aswan Dam, the Nile flooded annually (colloquially The Gift of the Nile) replenishing Egypt's soil. This gave Egypt a consistent harvest throughout the years.

The potential rise in sea levels due to global warming could threaten Egypt's densely populated coastal strip and have grave consequences for the country's economy, agriculture and industry. Combined with growing demographic pressures, a significant rise in sea levels could turn millions of Egyptians into environmental refugees by the end of the 21st century, according to some climate experts. [120] [121]


Egypt signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 9 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 2 June 1994. [122] It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 31 July 1998. [123] Where many CBD National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans neglect biological kingdoms apart from animals and plants, [124] Egypt's plan was unusual in providing balanced information about all forms of life.

The plan stated that the following numbers of species of different groups had been recorded from Egypt: algae (1483 species), animals (about 15,000 species of which more than 10,000 were insects), fungi (more than 627 species), monera (319 species), plants (2426 species), protozoans (371 species). For some major groups, for example lichen-forming fungi and nematode worms, the number was not known. Apart from small and well-studied groups like amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles, the many of those numbers are likely to increase as further species are recorded from Egypt. For the fungi, including lichen-forming species, for example, subsequent work has shown that over 2200 species have been recorded from Egypt, and the final figure of all fungi actually occurring in the country is expected to be much higher. [125] For the grasses, 284 native and naturalised species have been identified and recorded in Egypt. [126]

The House of Representatives, whose members are elected to serve five-year terms, specialises in legislation. Elections were last held between November 2011 and January 2012 which was later dissolved. The next parliamentary election was announced to be held within 6 months of the constitution's ratification on 18 January 2014, and were held in two phases, from 17 October to 2 December 2015. [127] Originally, the parliament was to be formed before the president was elected, but interim president Adly Mansour pushed the date. [128] The Egyptian presidential election, 2014, took place on 26–28 May 2014. Official figures showed a turnout of 25,578,233 or 47.5%, with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi winning with 23.78 million votes, or 96.9% compared to 757,511 (3.1%) for Hamdeen Sabahi. [129]

After a wave of public discontent with autocratic excesses of the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi, [96] on 3 July 2013 then-General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced the removal of Morsi from office and the suspension of the constitution. A 50-member constitution committee was formed for modifying the constitution which was later published for public voting and was adopted on 18 January 2014. [130]

In 2013, Freedom House rated political rights in Egypt at 5 (with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least), and civil liberties at 5, which gave it the freedom rating of "Partly Free". [131]

Egyptian nationalism predates its Arab counterpart by many decades, having roots in the 19th century and becoming the dominant mode of expression of Egyptian anti-colonial activists and intellectuals until the early 20th century. [132] The ideology espoused by Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood is mostly supported by the lower-middle strata of Egyptian society. [133]

Egypt has the oldest continuous parliamentary tradition in the Arab world. [134] The first popular assembly was established in 1866. It was disbanded as a result of the British occupation of 1882, and the British allowed only a consultative body to sit. In 1923, however, after the country's independence was declared, a new constitution provided for a parliamentary monarchy. [134]

Military and foreign relations

The military is influential in the political and economic life of Egypt and exempts itself from laws that apply to other sectors. It enjoys considerable power, prestige and independence within the state and has been widely considered part of the Egyptian "deep state". [66] [135] [136]

According to the former chair of Israel's Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz, the Egyptian Air Force has roughly the same number of modern warplanes as the Israeli Air Force and far more Western tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft batteries and warships than the IDF. [137] Egypt is speculated by Israel to be the second country in the region with a spy satellite, EgyptSat 1 [138] in addition to EgyptSat 2 launched on 16 April 2014. [139]

The United States provides Egypt with annual military assistance, which in 2015 amounted to US$1.3 billion. [140] In 1989, Egypt was designated as a major non-NATO ally of the United States. [141] Nevertheless, ties between the two countries have partially soured since the July 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, [142] with the Obama administration denouncing Egypt over its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, and cancelling future military exercises involving the two countries. [143] There have been recent attempts, however, to normalise relations between the two, with both governments frequently calling for mutual support in the fight against regional and international terrorism. [144] [145] [146] However, following the election of Republican Donald Trump as the President of the United States, the two countries were looking to improve the Egyptian-American relations. al-Sisi and Trump had met during the opening of the seventy-first session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2016. [147] The absence of Egypt in President Trump's travel ban towards seven Muslim countries was noted in Washington although the Congress has voiced human rights concerns over the handling of dissidents. [148] On 3 April 2017 al-Sisi met with Trump at the White House, marking the first visit of an Egyptian president to Washington in 8 years. Trump praised al-Sisi in what was reported as a public relations victory for the Egyptian president, and signaled it was time for a normalization of the relations between Egypt and the US. [149]

The Egyptian military has dozens of factories manufacturing weapons as well as consumer goods. The Armed Forces' inventory includes equipment from different countries around the world. Equipment from the former Soviet Union is being progressively replaced by more modern US, French, and British equipment, a significant portion of which is built under license in Egypt, such as the M1 Abrams tank. [ citation needed ] Relations with Russia have improved significantly following Mohamed Morsi's removal [150] and both countries have worked since then to strengthen military [151] and trade ties [152] among other aspects of bilateral co-operation. Relations with China have also improved considerably. In 2014, Egypt and China established a bilateral "comprehensive strategic partnership". [153] In July 2019, UN ambassadors of 37 countries, including Egypt, have signed a joint letter to the UNHRC defending China's treatment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region. [154]

The permanent headquarters of the Arab League are located in Cairo and the body's secretary general has traditionally been Egyptian. This position is currently held by former foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. The Arab League briefly moved from Egypt to Tunis in 1978 to protest the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, but it later returned to Cairo in 1989. Gulf monarchies, including the United Arab Emirates [155] and Saudi Arabia, [156] have pledged billions of dollars to help Egypt overcome its economic difficulties since the overthrow of Morsi. [157]

Following the 1973 war and the subsequent peace treaty, Egypt became the first Arab nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Despite that, Israel is still widely considered as a hostile state by the majority of Egyptians. [158] Egypt has played a historical role as a mediator in resolving various disputes in the Middle East, most notably its handling of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the peace process. [159] Egypt's ceasefire and truce brokering efforts in Gaza have hardly been challenged following Israel's evacuation of its settlements from the strip in 2005, despite increasing animosity towards the Hamas government in Gaza following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, [160] and despite recent attempts by countries like Turkey and Qatar to take over this role. [161]

Ties between Egypt and other non-Arab Middle Eastern nations, including Iran and Turkey, have often been strained. Tensions with Iran are mostly due to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel and Iran's rivalry with traditional Egyptian allies in the Gulf. [162] Turkey's recent support for the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its alleged involvement in Libya also made both countries bitter regional rivals. [163]

Egypt is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations. It is also a member of the Organisation internationale de la francophonie, since 1983. Former Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1991 to 1996.

In 2008, Egypt was estimated to have two million African refugees, including over 20,000 Sudanese nationals registered with UNHCR as refugees fleeing armed conflict or asylum seekers. Egypt adopted "harsh, sometimes lethal" methods of border control. [164]

The legal system is based on Islamic and civil law (particularly Napoleonic codes) and judicial review by a Supreme Court, which accepts compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction only with reservations. [54]

Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation. Sharia courts and qadis are run and licensed by the Ministry of Justice. [165] The personal status law that regulates matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody is governed by Sharia. In a family court, a woman's testimony is worth half of a man's testimony. [166]

On 26 December 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to institutionalise a controversial new constitution. It was approved by the public in a referendum held 15–22 December 2012 with 64% support, but with only 33% electorate participation. [167] It replaced the 2011 Provisional Constitution of Egypt, adopted following the revolution.

The Penal code was unique as it contains a "Blasphemy Law." [168] The present court system allows a death penalty including against an absent individual tried in absentia. Several Americans and Canadians were sentenced to death in 2012. [169]

On 18 January 2014, the interim government successfully institutionalised a more secular constitution. [170] The president is elected to a four-year term and may serve 2 terms. [170] The parliament may impeach the president. [170] Under the constitution, there is a guarantee of gender equality and absolute freedom of thought. [170] The military retains the ability to appoint the national Minister of Defence for the next two full presidential terms since the constitution took effect. [170] Under the constitution, political parties may not be based on "religion, race, gender or geography". [170]

Human rights

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights is one of the longest-standing bodies for the defence of human rights in Egypt. [171] In 2003, the government established the National Council for Human Rights. [172] Shortly after its foundation, the council came under heavy criticism by local activists, who contend it was a propaganda tool for the government to excuse its own violations [173] and to give legitimacy to repressive laws such as the Emergency Law. [174]

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life ranks Egypt as the fifth worst country in the world for religious freedom. [175] [176] The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan independent agency of the US government, has placed Egypt on its watch list of countries that require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government. [177] According to a 2010 Pew Global Attitudes survey, 84% of Egyptians polled supported the death penalty for those who leave Islam 77% supported whippings and cutting off of hands for theft and robbery and 82% support stoning a person who commits adultery. [178]

Coptic Christians face discrimination at multiple levels of the government, ranging from underrepresentation in government ministries to laws that limit their ability to build or repair churches. [179] Intolerance towards followers of the Baháʼí Faith, and those of the non-orthodox Muslim sects, such as Sufis, Shi'a and Ahmadis, also remains a problem. [77] When the government moved to computerise identification cards, members of religious minorities, such as Baháʼís, could not obtain identification documents. [180] An Egyptian court ruled in early 2008 that members of other faiths may obtain identity cards without listing their faiths, and without becoming officially recognised. [181]

Clashes continued between police and supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi. During violent clashes that ensued as part of the August 2013 sit-in dispersal, 595 protesters were killed [182] with 14 August 2013 becoming the single deadliest day in Egypt's modern history. [183]

Egypt actively practices capital punishment. Egypt's authorities do not release figures on death sentences and executions, despite repeated requests over the years by human rights organisations. [184] The United Nations human rights office [185] and various NGOs [184] [186] expressed "deep alarm" after an Egyptian Minya Criminal Court sentenced 529 people to death in a single hearing on 25 March 2014. Sentenced supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi were to be executed for their alleged role in violence following his removal in July 2013. The judgement was condemned as a violation of international law. [187] By May 2014, approximately 16,000 people (and as high as more than 40,000 by one independent count, according to The Economist), [188] mostly Brotherhood members or supporters, have been imprisoned after Morsi's removal [189] after the Muslim Brotherhood was labelled as terrorist organisation by the post-Morsi interim Egyptian government. [190] According to human rights groups there are some 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt. [191] [192]

After Morsi was ousted by the military, the judiciary system aligned itself with the new government, actively supporting the repression of Muslim Brotherhood members. This resulted in a sharp increase in mass death sentences that arose criticism from then-U.S. President Barack Obama and the General Secretary of the UN, Ban Ki Moon.

Homosexuality is illegal in Egypt. [193] According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, 95% of Egyptians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society. [194]

In 2017, Cairo was voted the most dangerous megacity for women with more than 10 million inhabitants in a poll by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Sexual harassment was described as occurring on a daily basis. [195]

Freedom of the press

Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt in their 2017 World Press Freedom Index at No. 160 out of 180 nations. At least 18 journalists were imprisoned in Egypt, as of August 2015 [update] . A new anti-terror law was enacted in August 2015 that threatens members of the media with fines ranging from about US$25,000 to $60,000 for the distribution of wrong information on acts of terror inside the country "that differ from official declarations of the Egyptian Department of Defense". [196]

Some critics of the government have been arrested for allegedly spreading false information about the COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt. [197] [198]

Administrative divisions

Egypt is divided into 27 governorates. The governorates are further divided into regions. The regions contain towns and villages. Each governorate has a capital, sometimes carrying the same name as the governorate. [199]

Egypt's economy depends mainly on agriculture, media, petroleum imports, natural gas, and tourism there are also more than three million Egyptians working abroad, mainly in Libya, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Europe. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970 and the resultant Lake Nasser have altered the time-honoured place of the Nile River in the agriculture and ecology of Egypt. A rapidly growing population, limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress the economy.

The government has invested in communications and physical infrastructure. Egypt has received United States foreign aid since 1979 (an average of $2.2 billion per year) and is the third-largest recipient of such funds from the United States following the Iraq war. Egypt's economy mainly relies on these sources of income: tourism, remittances from Egyptians working abroad and revenues from the Suez Canal. [201]

Egypt has a developed energy market based on coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro power. Substantial coal deposits in the northeast Sinai are mined at the rate of about 600,000 tonnes (590,000 long tons 660,000 short tons) per year. Oil and gas are produced in the western desert regions, the Gulf of Suez, and the Nile Delta. Egypt has huge reserves of gas, estimated at 2,180 cubic kilometres (520 cu mi), [202] and LNG up to 2012 exported to many countries. In 2013, the Egyptian General Petroleum Co (EGPC) said the country will cut exports of natural gas and tell major industries to slow output this summer to avoid an energy crisis and stave off political unrest, Reuters has reported. Egypt is counting on top liquid natural gas (LNG) exporter Qatar to obtain additional gas volumes in summer, while encouraging factories to plan their annual maintenance for those months of peak demand, said EGPC chairman, Tarek El Barkatawy. Egypt produces its own energy, but has been a net oil importer since 2008 and is rapidly becoming a net importer of natural gas. [203]

Economic conditions have started to improve considerably, after a period of stagnation, due to the adoption of more liberal economic policies by the government as well as increased revenues from tourism and a booming stock market. In its annual report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has rated Egypt as one of the top countries in the world undertaking economic reforms. [204] Some major economic reforms undertaken by the government since 2003 include a dramatic slashing of customs and tariffs. A new taxation law implemented in 2005 decreased corporate taxes from 40% to the current 20%, resulting in a stated 100% increase in tax revenue by the year 2006.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Egypt increased considerably before the removal of Hosni Mubarak, exceeding $6 billion in 2006, due to economic liberalisation and privatisation measures taken by minister of investment Mahmoud Mohieddin. [ citation needed ] Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt has experienced a drastic fall in both foreign investment and tourism revenues, followed by a 60% drop in foreign exchange reserves, a 3% drop in growth, and a rapid devaluation of the Egyptian pound. [205]

Although one of the main obstacles still facing the Egyptian economy is the limited trickle down of wealth to the average population, many Egyptians criticise their government for higher prices of basic goods while their standards of living or purchasing power remains relatively stagnant. Corruption is often cited by Egyptians as the main impediment to further economic growth. [206] [207] The government promised major reconstruction of the country's infrastructure, using money paid for the newly acquired third mobile license ($3 billion) by Etisalat in 2006. [208] In the Corruption Perceptions Index 2013, Egypt was ranked 114 out of 177. [209]

Egypt's most prominent multinational companies are the Orascom Group and Raya Contact Center. The information technology (IT) sector has expanded rapidly in the past few years, with many start-ups selling outsourcing services to North America and Europe, operating with companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and other major corporations, as well as many small and medium size enterprises. Some of these companies are the Xceed Contact Center, Raya, E Group Connections and C3. The IT sector has been stimulated by new Egyptian entrepreneurs with government encouragement. [ citation needed ]

An estimated 2.7 million Egyptians abroad contribute actively to the development of their country through remittances (US$7.8 billion in 2009), as well as circulation of human and social capital and investment. [210] Remittances, money earned by Egyptians living abroad and sent home, reached a record US$21 billion in 2012, according to the World Bank. [211]

Egyptian society is moderately unequal in terms of income distribution, with an estimated 35–40% of Egypt's population earning less than the equivalent of $2 a day, while only around 2–3% may be considered wealthy. [212]


Tourism is one of the most important sectors in Egypt's economy. More than 12.8 million tourists visited Egypt in 2008, providing revenues of nearly $11 billion. The tourism sector employs about 12% of Egypt's workforce. [213] Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou told industry professionals and reporters that tourism generated some $9.4 billion in 2012, a slight increase over the $9 billion seen in 2011. [214]

The Giza Necropolis is one of Egypt's best-known tourist attractions it is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence.

Egypt's beaches on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, which extend to over 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles), are also popular tourist destinations the Gulf of Aqaba beaches, Safaga, Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor, Dahab, Ras Sidr and Marsa Alam are popular sites.


Egypt produced 691,000 bbl/d of oil and 2,141.05 Tcf of natural gas in 2013, making the country the largest non-OPEC producer of oil and the second-largest dry natural gas producer in Africa. In 2013, Egypt was the largest consumer of oil and natural gas in Africa, as more than 20% of total oil consumption and more than 40% of total dry natural gas consumption in Africa. Also, Egypt possesses the largest oil refinery capacity in Africa 726,000 bbl/d (in 2012). [202]

Egypt is currently planning to build its first nuclear power plant in El Dabaa, in the northern part of the country, with $25 billion in Russian financing. [215]


Transport in Egypt is centred around Cairo and largely follows the pattern of settlement along the Nile. The main line of the nation's 40,800-kilometre (25,400 mi) railway network runs from Alexandria to Aswan and is operated by Egyptian National Railways. The vehicle road network has expanded rapidly to over 34,000 km (21,000 mi), consisting of 28 line, 796 stations, 1800 train covering the Nile Valley and Nile Delta, the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, the Sinai, and the Western oases.

The Cairo Metro in Egypt is the first of only two full-fledged metro systems in Africa and the Arab World. It is considered one of the most important recent projects in Egypt which cost around 12 billion Egyptian pounds. The system consists of three operational lines with a fourth line expected in the future.

EgyptAir, which is now the country's flag carrier and largest airline, was founded in 1932 by Egyptian industrialist Talaat Harb, today owned by the Egyptian government. The airline is based at Cairo International Airport, its main hub, operating scheduled passenger and freight services to more than 75 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The Current EgyptAir fleet includes 80 aeroplanes.

Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt considered the most important centre of the maritime transport in the Middle East, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows ship transport between Europe and Asia without navigation around Africa. The northern terminus is Port Said and the southern terminus is Port Tawfiq at the city of Suez. Ismailia lies on its west bank, 3 kilometres ( 1 + 7 ⁄ 8 miles) from the half-way point.

On 26 August 2014 a proposal was made for opening a New Suez Canal. Work on the New Suez Canal was completed in July 2015. [216] [217] The channel was officially inaugurated with a ceremony attended by foreign leaders and featuring military flyovers on 6 August 2015, in accordance with the budgets laid out for the project. [218] [219]

Water supply and sanitation

The piped water supply in Egypt increased between 1990 and 2010 from 89% to 100% in urban areas and from 39% to 93% in rural areas despite rapid population growth. Over that period, Egypt achieved the elimination of open defecation in rural areas and invested in infrastructure. Access to an improved water source in Egypt is now practically universal with a rate of 99%. About one half of the population is connected to sanitary sewers. [220]

Partly because of low sanitation coverage about 17,000 children die each year because of diarrhoea. [221] Another challenge is low cost recovery due to water tariffs that are among the lowest in the world. This in turn requires government subsidies even for operating costs, a situation that has been aggravated by salary increases without tariff increases after the Arab Spring. Poor operation of facilities, such as water and wastewater treatment plants, as well as limited government accountability and transparency, are also issues.

Irrigated land and crops

Due to the absence of appreciable rainfall, Egypt's agriculture depends entirely on irrigation. The main source of irrigation water is the river Nile of which the flow is controlled by the high dam at Aswan. It releases, on average, 55 cubic kilometres (45,000,000 acre·ft) water per year, of which some 46 cubic kilometres (37,000,000 acre·ft) are diverted into the irrigation canals. [222]

In the Nile valley and delta, almost 33,600 square kilometres (13,000 sq mi) of land benefit from these irrigation waters producing on average 1.8 crops per year. [222]

Egypt is the most populated country in the Arab world and the third most populous on the African continent, with about 95 million inhabitants as of 2017 [update] . [224] Its population grew rapidly from 1970 to 2010 due to medical advances and increases in agricultural productivity [225] enabled by the Green Revolution. [226] Egypt's population was estimated at 3 million when Napoleon invaded the country in 1798. [227]

Egypt's people are highly urbanised, being concentrated along the Nile (notably Cairo and Alexandria), in the Delta and near the Suez Canal. Egyptians are divided demographically into those who live in the major urban centres and the fellahin, or farmers, that reside in rural villages. The total inhabited area constitutes only 77,041 km², putting the physiological density at over 1,200 people per km 2 , similar to Bangladesh.

While emigration was restricted under Nasser, thousands of Egyptian professionals were dispatched abroad in the context of the Arab Cold War. [228] Egyptian emigration was liberalised in 1971, under President Sadat, reaching record numbers after the 1973 oil crisis. [229] An estimated 2.7 million Egyptians live abroad. Approximately 70% of Egyptian migrants live in Arab countries (923,600 in Saudi Arabia, 332,600 in Libya, 226,850 in Jordan, 190,550 in Kuwait with the rest elsewhere in the region) and the remaining 30% reside mostly in Europe and North America (318,000 in the United States, 110,000 in Canada and 90,000 in Italy). [210] The process of emigrating to non-Arab states has been ongoing since the 1950s. [230]

Ethnic groups

Ethnic Egyptians are by far the largest ethnic group in the country, constituting 99.7% of the total population. [54] Ethnic minorities include the Abazas, Turks, Greeks, Bedouin Arab tribes living in the eastern deserts and the Sinai Peninsula, the Berber-speaking Siwis (Amazigh) of the Siwa Oasis, and the Nubian communities clustered along the Nile. There are also tribal Beja communities concentrated in the southeasternmost corner of the country, and a number of Dom clans mostly in the Nile Delta and Faiyum who are progressively becoming assimilated as urbanisation increases.

Some 5 million immigrants live in Egypt, mostly Sudanese, "some of whom have lived in Egypt for generations." [231] Smaller numbers of immigrants come from Iraq, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Eritrea. [231]

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that the total number of "people of concern" (refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people) was about 250,000. In 2015, the number of registered Syrian refugees in Egypt was 117,000, a decrease from the previous year. [231] Egyptian government claims that a half-million Syrian refugees live in Egypt are thought to be exaggerated. [231] There are 28,000 registered Sudanese refugees in Egypt. [231]

The once-vibrant and ancient Greek and Jewish communities in Egypt have almost disappeared, with only a small number remaining in the country, but many Egyptian Jews visit on religious or other occasions and tourism. Several important Jewish archaeological and historical sites are found in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities.


The official language of the Republic is Arabic. [232] The spoken languages are: Egyptian Arabic (68%), Sa'idi Arabic (29%), Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic (1.6%), Sudanese Arabic (0.6%), Domari (0.3%), Nobiin (0.3%), Beja (0.1%), Siwi and others. [ citation needed ] Additionally, Greek, Armenian and Italian, and more recently, African languages like Amharic and Tigrigna are the main languages of immigrants.

The main foreign languages taught in schools, by order of popularity, are English, French, German and Italian.

Historically Egyptian was spoken, of which the latest stage is Coptic Egyptian. Spoken Coptic was mostly extinct by the 17th century but may have survived in isolated pockets in Upper Egypt as late as the 19th century. It remains in use as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. [233] [234] It forms a separate branch among the family of Afroasiatic languages.


Egypt has the largest Muslim population in the Arab world, and the sixth world's largest Muslim population, and home for (5%) of the world's Muslim population. [235] Egypt also has the largest Christian population in the Middle East and North Africa. [236]

Egypt is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country with Islam as its state religion. The percentage of adherents of various religions is a controversial topic in Egypt. An estimated 85–90% are identified as Muslim, 10–15% as Coptic Christians, and 1% as other Christian denominations, although without a census the numbers cannot be known. Other estimates put the Christian population as high as 15–20%. [note 1] Non-denominational Muslims form roughly 12% of the population. [243] [244]

Egypt was a Christian country before the 7th century, and after Islam arrived, the country was gradually Islamised into a majority-Muslim country. [245] [246] It is not known when Muslims reached a majority variously estimated from c. 1000 CE to as late as the 14th century. Egypt emerged as a centre of politics and culture in the Muslim world. Under Anwar Sadat, Islam became the official state religion and Sharia the main source of law. [247] It is estimated that 15 million Egyptians follow Native Sufi orders, [248] [249] [250] with the Sufi leadership asserting that the numbers are much greater as many Egyptian Sufis are not officially registered with a Sufi order. [249] At least 305 people were killed during a November 2017 attack on a Sufi mosque in Sinai. [251]

There is also a Shi'a minority. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs estimates the Shia population at 1 to 2.2 million [252] and could measure as much as 3 million. [253] The Ahmadiyya population is estimated at less than 50,000, [254] whereas the Salafi (ultra-conservative Sunni) population is estimated at five to six million. [255] Cairo is famous for its numerous mosque minarets and has been dubbed "The City of 1,000 Minarets". [256]

Of the Christian population in Egypt over 90% belong to the native Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, an Oriental Orthodox Christian Church. [257] Other native Egyptian Christians are adherents of the Coptic Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church of Egypt and various other Protestant denominations. Non-native Christian communities are largely found in the urban regions of Cairo and Alexandria, such as the Syro-Lebanese, who belong to Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Maronite Catholic denominations. [258]

Ethnic Greeks also made up a large Greek Orthodox population in the past. Likewise, Armenians made up the then larger Armenian Orthodox and Catholic communities. Egypt also used to have a large Roman Catholic community, largely made up of Italians and Maltese. These non-native communities were much larger in Egypt before the Nasser regime and the nationalisation that took place.

Egypt hosts the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It was founded back in the first century, considered to be the largest church in the country.

Egypt is also the home of Al-Azhar University (founded in 969 CE, began teaching in 975 CE), which is today the world's "most influential voice of establishment Sunni Islam" and is, by some measures, the second-oldest continuously operating university in world. [259]

Egypt recognises only three religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Other faiths and minority Muslim sects practised by Egyptians, such as the small Baháʼí Faith and Ahmadiyya communities, are not recognised by the state and face persecution by the government, which labels these groups a threat to Egypt's national security. [260] [261] Individuals, particularly Baháʼís and atheists, wishing to include their religion (or lack thereof) on their mandatory state issued identification cards are denied this ability (see Egyptian identification card controversy), and are put in the position of either not obtaining required identification or lying about their faith. A 2008 court ruling allowed members of unrecognised faiths to obtain identification and leave the religion field blank. [180] [181]

Largest cities

Egypt is a recognised cultural trend-setter of the Arabic-speaking world. Contemporary Arabic and Middle-Eastern culture is heavily influenced by Egyptian literature, music, film and television. Egypt gained a regional leadership role during the 1950s and 1960s, giving a further enduring boost to the standing of Egyptian culture in the Arabic-speaking world. [262]

Egyptian identity evolved in the span of a long period of occupation to accommodate Islam, Christianity and Judaism and a new language, Arabic, and its spoken descendant, Egyptian Arabic which is also based on many Ancient Egyptian words. [263]

The work of early 19th century scholar Rifa'a al-Tahtawi renewed interest in Egyptian antiquity and exposed Egyptian society to Enlightenment principles. Tahtawi co-founded with education reformer Ali Mubarak a native Egyptology school that looked for inspiration to medieval Egyptian scholars, such as Suyuti and Maqrizi, who themselves studied the history, language and antiquities of Egypt. [264]

Egypt's renaissance peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the work of people like Muhammad Abduh, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, Muhammad Loutfi Goumah, Tawfiq el-Hakim, Louis Awad, Qasim Amin, Salama Moussa, Taha Hussein and Mahmoud Mokhtar. They forged a liberal path for Egypt expressed as a commitment to personal freedom, secularism and faith in science to bring progress. [265]

The Egyptians were one of the first major civilisations to codify design elements in art and architecture. Egyptian blue, also known as calcium copper silicate is a pigment used by Egyptians for thousands of years. It is considered to be the first synthetic pigment. The wall paintings done in the service of the Pharaohs followed a rigid code of visual rules and meanings. Egyptian civilisation is renowned for its colossal pyramids, temples and monumental tombs.

Well-known examples are the Pyramid of Djoser designed by ancient architect and engineer Imhotep, the Sphinx, and the temple of Abu Simbel. Modern and contemporary Egyptian art can be as diverse as any works in the world art scene, from the vernacular architecture of Hassan Fathy and Ramses Wissa Wassef, to Mahmoud Mokhtar's sculptures, to the distinctive Coptic iconography of Isaac Fanous. The Cairo Opera House serves as the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital.


Egyptian literature traces its beginnings to ancient Egypt and is some of the earliest known literature. Indeed, the Egyptians were the first culture to develop literature as we know it today, that is, the book. [266] It is an important cultural element in the life of Egypt. Egyptian novelists and poets were among the first to experiment with modern styles of Arabic literature, and the forms they developed have been widely imitated throughout the Arab world. [267] The first modern Egyptian novel Zaynab by Muhammad Husayn Haykal was published in 1913 in the Egyptian vernacular. [268] Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arabic-language writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Egyptian women writers include Nawal El Saadawi, well known for her feminist activism, and Alifa Rifaat who also writes about women and tradition.

Vernacular poetry is perhaps the most popular literary genre among Egyptians, represented by the works of Ahmed Fouad Negm (Fagumi), Salah Jaheen and Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi. [ citation needed ]


Egyptian media are highly influential throughout the Arab World, attributed to large audiences and increasing freedom from government control. [269] [270] Freedom of the media is guaranteed in the constitution however, many laws still restrict this right. [269] [271]


Egyptian cinema became a regional force with the coming of sound. In 1936, Studio Misr, financed by industrialist Talaat Harb, emerged as the leading Egyptian studio, a role the company retained for three decades. [272] For over 100 years, more than 4000 films have been produced in Egypt, three quarters of the total Arab production. [ citation needed ] Egypt is considered the leading country in the field of cinema in the Arab world. Actors from all over the Arab world seek to appear in the Egyptian cinema for the sake of fame. The Cairo International Film Festival has been rated as one of 11 festivals with a top class rating worldwide by the International Federation of Film Producers' Associations. [273]


Egyptian music is a rich mixture of indigenous, Mediterranean, African and Western elements. It has been an integral part of Egyptian culture since antiquity. The ancient Egyptians credited one of their gods Hathor with the invention of music, which Osiris in turn used as part of his effort to civilise the world. Egyptians used music instruments since then. [274]

Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings to the creative work of people such as Abdu al-Hamuli, Almaz and Mahmoud Osman, who influenced the later work of Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Abdel Halim Hafez whose age is considered the golden age of music in Egypt and the whole Arab world. Prominent contemporary Egyptian pop singers include Amr Diab and Mohamed Mounir.


Today, Egypt is often considered the home of belly dance. Egyptian belly dance has two main styles – raqs baladi and raqs sharqi. There are also numerous folkloric and character dances that may be part of an Egyptian-style belly dancer's repertoire, as well as the modern shaabi street dance which shares some elements with raqs baladi.


Egypt has one of the oldest civilisations in the world. It has been in contact with many other civilisations and nations and has been through so many eras, starting from prehistoric age to the modern age, passing through so many ages such as Pharonic, Roman, Greek, Islamic and many other ages. Because of this wide variation of ages, the continuous contact with other nations and the big number of conflicts Egypt had been through, at least 60 museums may be found in Egypt, mainly covering a wide area of these ages and conflicts.

The three main museums in Egypt are The Egyptian Museum which has more than 120,000 items, the Egyptian National Military Museum and the 6th of October Panorama.

The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), also known as the Giza Museum, is an under construction museum that will house the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the world, it has been described as the world's largest archaeological museum. [275] The museum was scheduled to open in 2015 and will be sited on 50 hectares (120 acres) of land approximately two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the Giza Necropolis and is part of a new master plan for the plateau. The Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh al-Damaty announced in May 2015 that the museum will be partially opened in May 2018. [276]


Egypt celebrates many festivals and religious carnivals, also known as mulid. They are usually associated with a particular Coptic or Sufi saint, but are often celebrated by Egyptians irrespective of creed or religion. Ramadan has a special flavour in Egypt, celebrated with sounds, lights (local lanterns known as fawanees) and much flare that many Muslim tourists from the region flock to Egypt to witness during Ramadan.

The ancient spring festival of Sham en Nisim (Coptic: Ϭⲱⲙ‘ⲛⲛⲓⲥⲓⲙ shom en nisim) has been celebrated by Egyptians for thousands of years, typically between the Egyptian months of Paremoude (April) and Pashons (May), following Easter Sunday.


Egyptian cuisine is notably conducive to vegetarian diets, as it relies heavily on legume and vegetable dishes. Although food in Alexandria and the coast of Egypt tends to use a great deal of fish and other seafood, for the most part Egyptian cuisine is based on foods that grow out of the ground. Meat has been very expensive for most Egyptians throughout history, so a great number of vegetarian dishes have been developed.

Some consider kushari (a mixture of rice, lentils, and macaroni) to be the national dish. Fried onions can be also added to kushari. In addition, ful medames (mashed fava beans) is one of the most popular dishes. Fava bean is also used in making falafel (also known as "ta‘miya"), which may have originated in Egypt and spread to other parts of the Middle East. Garlic fried with coriander is added to molokhiya, a popular green soup made from finely chopped jute leaves, sometimes with chicken or rabbit.


Football is the most popular national sport of Egypt. The Cairo Derby is one of the fiercest derbies in Africa, and the BBC picked it as one of the 7 toughest derbies in the world. [277] Al Ahly is the most successful club of the 20th century in the African continent according to CAF, closely followed by their rivals Zamalek SC. They're known as the "African Club of the Century". With twenty titles, Al Ahly is currently the world's most successful club in terms of international trophies, surpassing Italy's A.C. Milan and Argentina's Boca Juniors, both having eighteen. [278]

The Egyptian national football team, known as the Pharaohs, won the African Cup of Nations seven times, including three times in a row in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Considered the most successful African national team and one which has reached the top 10 of the FIFA world rankings, Egypt has qualified for the FIFA World Cup three times. Two goals from star player Mohamed Salah in their last qualifying game took Egypt through to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. [279] The Egyptian Youth National team Young Pharaohs won the Bronze Medal of the 2001 FIFA youth world cup in Argentina. Egypt was 4th place in the football tournament in the 1928 and the 1964 Olympics.

Squash and tennis are other popular sports in Egypt. The Egyptian squash team has been competitive in international championships since the 1930s. Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour are Egypt's best players and both were ranked the world's number one squash player. Egypt has won the Squash World Championships four times, with the last title being in 2017.

In 1999, Egypt hosted the IHF World Men's Handball Championship, and will host it again in 2021. In 2001, the national handball team achieved its best result in the tournament by reaching fourth place. Egypt has won in the African Men's Handball Championship five times, being the best team in Africa. In addition to that, it also championed the Mediterranean Games in 2013, the Beach Handball World Championships in 2004 and the Summer Youth Olympics in 2010. Among all African nations, the Egypt national basketball team holds the record for best performance at the Basketball World Cup and at the Summer Olympics. [280] [281] Further, the team has won a record number of 16 medals at the African Championship.

The wired and wireless telecommunication industry in Egypt started in 1854 with the launch of the country's first telegram line connecting Cairo and Alexandria. The first telephone line between the two cities was installed in 1881. [282] In September 1999 a national project for a technological renaissance was announced reflecting the commitment of the Egyptian government to developing the country's IT-sector.

Egypt Post is the company responsible for postal service in Egypt. Established in 1865, it is one of the oldest governmental institutions in the country. Egypt is one of 21 countries that contributed to the establishment of the Universal Postal Union, initially named the General Postal Union, as signatory of the Treaty of Bern.

Social media

In September 2018, Egypt ratified the law granting authorities the right to monitor social media users in the country as part of tightening internet controls. [283] [284]

The illiteracy rate has decreased since 1996 from 39.4 to 25.9 percent in 2013. The adult literacy rate as of July 2014 [update] was estimated at 73.9%. [285] The illiteracy rate is highest among those over 60 years of age being estimated at around 64.9%, while illiteracy among youth between 15 and 24 years of age was listed at 8.6 percent. [286]

A European-style education system was first introduced in Egypt by the Ottomans in the early 19th century to nurture a class of loyal bureaucrats and army officers. [287] Under British occupation investment in education was curbed drastically, and secular public schools, which had previously been free, began to charge fees. [287]

In the 1950s, President Nasser phased in free education for all Egyptians. [287] The Egyptian curriculum influenced other Arab education systems, which often employed Egyptian-trained teachers. [287] Demand soon outstripped the level of available state resources, causing the quality of public education to deteriorate. [287] Today this trend has culminated in poor teacher–student ratios (often around one to fifty) and persistent gender inequality. [287]

Basic education, which includes six years of primary and three years of preparatory school, is a right for Egyptian children from the age of six. [288] After grade 9, students are tracked into one of two strands of secondary education: general or technical schools. General secondary education prepares students for further education, and graduates of this track normally join higher education institutes based on the results of the Thanaweya Amma, the leaving exam. [288]

Technical secondary education has two strands, one lasting three years and a more advanced education lasting five. Graduates of these schools may have access to higher education based on their results on the final exam, but this is generally uncommon. [288]

Cairo University is ranked as 401–500 according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Ranking) [289] and 551–600 according to QS World University Rankings. American University in Cairo is ranked as 360 according to QS World University Rankings and Al-Azhar University, Alexandria University and Ain Shams University fall in the 701+ range. [290] Egypt is currently opening new research institutes for the aim of modernising research in the nation, the most recent example of which is Zewail City of Science and Technology.

Egyptian life expectancy at birth was 73.20 years in 2011, or 71.30 years for males and 75.20 years for females. Egypt spends 3.7 percent of its gross domestic product on health including treatment costs 22 percent incurred by citizens and the rest by the state. [291] In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 4.66% of the country's GDP. In 2009, there were 16.04 physicians and 33.80 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants. [292]

As a result of modernisation efforts over the years, Egypt's healthcare system has made great strides forward. Access to healthcare in both urban and rural areas greatly improved and immunisation programs are now able to cover 98% of the population. Life expectancy increased from 44.8 years during the 1960s to 72.12 years in 2009. There was a noticeable decline of the infant mortality rate (during the 1970s to the 1980s the infant mortality rate was 101-132/1000 live births, in 2000 the rate was 50-60/1000, and in 2008 it was 28-30/1000). [293]

According to the World Health Organization in 2008, an estimated 91.1% of Egypt's girls and women aged 15 to 49 have been subjected to genital mutilation, [294] despite being illegal in the country. In 2016 the law was amended to impose tougher penalties on those convicted of performing the procedure, pegging the highest jail term at 15 years. Those who escort victims to the procedure can also face jail terms up to 3 years. [295]

The total number of Egyptians with health insurance reached 37 million in 2009, of which 11 million are minors, providing an insurance coverage of approximately 52 percent of Egypt's population. [296]

Religion in Egypt - History

G overnment and religion were inseparable in ancient Egypt. The pharaoh was the head of state and the divine representative of the gods on earth. Religion and government brought order to society through the construction of temples, the creation of laws, taxation, the organization of labour, trade with neighbours and the defence of the country's interests. The pharaoh was assisted by a hierarchy of advisors, priests, officials and administrators, who were responsible for the affairs of the state and the welfare of the people.

Ancient Egypt could not have achieved such stability and grandeur without the co-operation of all levels of the population. The pharaoh was at the top of the social hierarchy. Next to him, the most powerful officers were the viziers, the executive heads of the bureaucracy. Under them were the high priests, followed by royal overseers (administrators) who ensured that the 42 district governors carried out the pharaoh's orders. At the bottom of the hierarchy were the scribes, artisans, farmers and labourers.

Egypt Remembers: Ancient accounts of the Great Exodus

The biblical story of the Israelites’ Descent and Exodus speaks about important events that took place in Egypt, so we should expect to find records of these events in Egyptian sources – the seven years of famine predicted by Joseph, the arrival of his father Jacob with his Hebrew family from Canaan, the great plagues of Moses, the death of Egypt’s first born, including the Pharaoh’s first son, and the drowning of the Pharaoh himself in the Red Sea all these events should have been recorded by the scribes who kept detailed records of daily life. But we do not find even one contemporary inscription from the relevant period that records any of these events.

Egyptian scribes were tasked with recording important events, yet there are no records of the biblical story of the Israelites’ Descent and Exodus. ‘The Scribe’, Louvre Museum. Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / flickr .

In spite of this silence, the name of Israel has been found inscribed on one of the pharaonic stele, although with no connection either to Moses or the Exodus. However, although the Merenptah stele locates the Israelites in Canaan around 1219 BC, it makes no mention of them previously living in Egypt or departing from it in an Exodus under Moses.

Merneptah Stele known as the Israel stele (JE 31408) from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Credit: Wikipedia

This complete silence of official Egyptian records was later broken by Egyptian historians, who appear to have known many details about Moses and his Exodus. While contemporary pharaonic authorities seem to have deliberately suppressed the mention of Moses and his followers in their records, popular traditions retained the story of the man whom Egyptians regarded as a divine being, for more than 10 centuries, before it was recorded by Egyptian priests. Under the Macedonian Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, Egyptian historians made sure to include the story of Moses and his exodus in their historical accounts.

Manetho, the 3 rd century BC Egyptian priest and historian who recorded the history of Egypt into Greek to be placed in the Library of Alexandria, included the story of Moses in his Aegyptiaca. According to Manetho, Moses was an Egyptian and not a Hebrew, who lived at the time of Amenhotep III and his son Akhenaten (1405-1367 BC). Manetho also indicated that the Israelites’ Exodus took place in the reign of a succeeding king whose name was Ramses.

Papyrus from the fifth century AD, suspected partial copy of the Epitome, based on Manetho’s Aegyptiaca. Credit: Wikipedia

Although Manetho’s original text was lost, some quotations from it have been preserved mainly by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in 1 st century AD. Commenting on Manetho’s account of Moses, Josephus tells us that:

Under the pretext of recording fables and current reports about the Jews, he (Manetho) took the liberty of introducing some incredible tales, wishing to represent us (the Jews) as mixed up with a crowd of Egyptian lepers and others, who for various maladies were condemned, as he asserts, to banishment from the country. Inventing a king named Amenophis, an imaginary person, the date of whose reign he consequently did not venture to fix … This king, he states, wishing to be granted … a vision of the gods, communicated his desire to his namesake, Amenophis, son of Paapis (Habu), whose wisdom and knowledge of the future were regarded as marks of divinity. This namesake replied that he would be able to see the gods if he purged the entire country of lepers and other polluted persons.
Delighted at hearing this, the king collected all the maimed people in Egypt, numbering 80,000, and sent them to work in the stone-quarries on the east of the Nile, segregated from the rest of the Egyptians. They included, he adds, some of the learned priests, who were afflicted with leprosy. Then this wise seer Amenophis was seized with a fear that he would draw down the wrath of the gods on himself and the king if the violence done to these men were detected and he added a prediction that the polluted people would find certain allies who would become masters of Egypt for thirteen years. He did not venture to tell this himself to the king, but left a complete statement in writing, and then put an end to himself. The king greatly disheartened.”
[Against Apion, Flavius Josephus, Harvard University Press, 1926, p. 258-259].

Josephus was wrong in saying that Manetho invented a king named Amenophis who communicated his desire to his namesake, Amenophis, son of Paapis. This king has been identified as Amenhotep III, 9 th king of the 18 th Dynasty, while his namesake, Amenhotep son of Habu, is known to have started his career under Amenhotep III as an Inferior Royal Scribe. He was promoted to be a Superior Royal Scribe, and finally reached the position of Minister of all Public Works. On the other hand, Manetho’s description of the rebels as being “lepers and polluted people” should not be taken literary to mean that they were suffering from some form of physical maladies - the sense was that they were seen as impure because of their denial of Egyptian religious beliefs.

Ancient Roman bust thought to be of Flavius Josephus. Credit: Wikipedia

Josephus goes on to say that for the rebel leader’s first law, he ordained that his followers should not worship the Egyptian gods nor abstain from the flesh of any of the animals held in special reverence in Egypt, but should kill and consume them all. They also should have no connection with any, save members of their own confederacy. After laying down these and a multitude of other laws, which were absolutely opposed to Egyptian customs, he ordered all hands to repair the walls of Avaris and make ready for war with King Amenophis.

As we can see, although contemporary Egyptian official records kept their silence about the account of Moses and the Israelite Exodus, popular memory of Egypt preserved these events, and they were transmitted orally for many centuries before being put down in writing. These traditions told about Moses and Joseph, and also told about the shepherds who lived at the borders, who were not allowed to enter the Nile valley.

Manetho could not have invented this information, as he could only rely on the records he found in the temple scrolls. Neither could he have been influenced by the stories of the Bible, as the Torah was only translated from Hebrew to Greek some time after he had composed his Aegyptiaca. As Donald B. Redford, the Canadian Egyptologist, has remarked: “What he (Manetho) found in the temple library in the form of a duly authorized text he incorporated in his history and, conversely, we may with confidence postulate for the material in his history a written source found in the temple library, and nothing more.’ [Donald B. Redford, Pharaonic King Lists, Annals and Day Books, Benben Publications, 1986]

On the other hand, Monatho’s dating of the religious rebellion in the time of Amenhotep III, assures us that he was giving a real historical account. For it was during this reign that Amenhotep’s son and co-regent, Akhenaten, abandoned traditional Egyptian polytheism and introduced a monotheistic worship centered on the Aten. Akhenaten, like the rebel leader, also erected his new temples open to the air facing eastwards in the same way as the orientation of Heliopolis. This similarity between Akhenaten and the rebel leader persuaded Donald Redford to recognize Manetho’s Osarseph story as the events of the Amarna religious revolution, first remembered orally and later set down in writing: “… a number of later independent historians, including Manetho, date Moses and the bondage to the Amarna period? Surely it is self-evident that the monotheistic preaching at Mount Sinai is to be traced back ultimately to the teachings of Akhenaten.” [Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald B. Redford, Princeton University Press, 1992, p. 377]

Redford also confirms that: “The figure of Osarseph/Moses is clearly modelled on the historic memory of Akhenaten. He is credited with interdicting the worship of all the gods, and in Apion, of championing a form of worship which used open-air temples oriented east, exactly like the Aten temples of Amarna.” [Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, p. 293]

As for the starting point of the Exodus, while the biblical account gives the city’s name as Rameses, Manetho gives the name of another location: Avaris. Avaris was a fortified city at the borders of the Nile Delta and Sinai. It was the starting point of the road to Canaan, which had been occupied by the Asiatic kings, known as Hyksos, who ruled Egypt from about 1783 to 1550 BC, when they were driven out by Ahmosis I.

As the period when Moses lived in Egypt was identified under Amenhotep III, the starting point of the Exodus located at Avaris, and the Pharaoh of the Exodus identified as Ramses I, it seemed like the road opened to start looking for historical and archaeological evidence to confirm this account. Scholars, however, did not follow this route of investigation, and went on looking for evidence in other times and different locations. Thanks to Flavius Josephus, who wrongly identified the Hebrew tribe - not with the shepherds who were already living in Egypt, but with the Hyksos rulers who had left the country more than a century earlier - modern scholars dismissed Manetho’s account as unhistorical.

Featured image: John Martin’s painting of the Old Testament bible story, “plague of hail and fire”. 1823 Credit: Public Domain

Pharaonic King Lists, Annals and Day Books , Donald B. Redford, Benben Publications, 1986

Against Apion , Flavius Josephus, Harvard University Press, 1926

Reinventing Religion: Ancient Egypt in the European History of Religion

As the study of religion moved into the domain of cultural studies, there came a shift in the subjects of research. Scholars no longer focused solely on so-called world religions but also looked at the interplay between religion and culture in a broader sense. In a 1993 article on the paradigm of European history of religion, Burkhard Gladigow called this shift “vertical transfer.”

By using this term, Gladigow addressed the exchange between different systems of meaning (Sinnsystemen), such as literature, science, or technology. This approach is based on the assumption that religion appears not only in the well-known classical sense, but also in different cultural systems of meaning, each having its own hermeneutic pattern.

The academic discipline of the study of religion during the past twenty years has demonstrated the sustainability of such an approach. In the history of religion in Europe, “religion” could be located not only in terms of an institutionalized, mainly Christian religion, but in other systems of meanings and media as well. Moreover, if the paradigm of a European history of religion is combined with a discursive determination, the reinvention of religion through the use of traditional semantics and topoi comes into focus.

Taking this as my starting point, here I will examine this process using a prominent example: the reception of ancient Egyptian religion within the history of religion in Europe. As I hope to demonstrate, ancient Egypt became the focus of attention when a new religious tradition came to be created that was not based on classical (Christian) religion, but rather on an alternative system of meaning with a comparable, or even higher, worth.

My essay is divided into three parts. The first provides a brief overview of the reception of Egyptian religion within the history of Europe, with a special focus on the Freemasons of the eighteenth century. Next is a discussion of the use of Egyptian religion in modern Satanism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The third part offers some general observations on the function of Egypt in constructing and deconstructing religion from a systematic point of view.

Egypt in Eighteenth-Century Europe: The Freemasons

The reception of Egyptian religion in eighteenth-century Europe must be seen in two contexts. On the one hand, it was used by a tradition that focused on the specific meaning of the hieroglyphs. This was connected, on the other hand, with the idea that ancient Egypt presented a higher form of religion than Christianity. The ancient historians had already been fascinated by the monuments from ancient Egypt and by the hieroglyphs. Plutarch, Clement of Alexandria, and Diodorus established a tradition of scholarly speculation about Egypt that included inquiries into the deeper meaning of the hieroglyphs, without having the ability to read the Egyptian texts themselves. Centuries later, the Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher (1602–80) was to become an important contributor to the subject. His books Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1654) and Obeliscus Aegyptiacus (1666) were significant works on “Hieroglyphenallegorese” (the allegorical interpretation of hieroglyphs), with many interesting speculations on the hidden meaning of the hieroglyphs as a special esoteric language. Kircher and his contemporaries Bernard de Montfaucon (1655–1741) and Anne-Claude-Philippe de Thubières, Comte de Caylus (1692–1765) must be seen as representatives of “Egyptosophy” and not as adherents of a historical-critical approach, at least in its modern sense. They stand in a tradition that stretches back to the Greek grammarian Horapollo. In the middle of the fifth century ce, Horapollo wrote two books titled Hieroglyphica, in which he coined the term “hieroglyphs” and provided the definitions that influenced scholarly speculation about ancient Egypt for centuries. Without having any knowledge of the phonetics of the hieroglyphs, Horapollo and his successors believed that the “special wisdom” of the ancient Egyptians could be found in their esoteric language.

The beliefs of the Freemasons of the late eighteenth century were connected to these ideas, but they were also determined by the thinking of the Enlightenment, which moved away from the concept of revelation in favor of a “natural theology,” with man as sensible human being at its center. Immanuel Kant's often-quoted “emergence of man from his self-imposed immaturity” led to new systems of meaning in which ancient Egypt as a place of mysteries came into focus. This was combined with another factor: the distinction between two forms of religion. Already in the first century ce, Flavius Josephus had argued that the idea of the unity of God (die Einheit Gottes) was found first in Egypt and later transferred to the Israelites through Moses (Contra Apionem II.168). During the Enlightenment, this idea was shaped into the concept of a religio duplex, with a general polytheism for the people and a specific monotheism for the adepts. The latter was only available in the form of specific esoteric writings, the hieroglyphs. When the Freemasons identified themselves as heirs of an ancient Egyptian order of priests, they placed themselves within a tradition marked by two motifs: the deeper meaning of the hieroglyphs, and the specific wisdom of ancient Egypt.

Even though this tradition already included an anti-Christian impetus, the anti-Christian focus only came to the fore when it was combined with a much stronger concept: the idea of the Enlightenment. The core idea of the eighteenth century—that of the individual with sense and sentiment—was nothing less than an emancipation of the human from the assumption of man as sinner, as depicted, for example, by Martin Luther's popular image of the human soul like a horse ridden (and ruled) by God or the devil. The dozens of “Egyptianized” mysteries written during the flowering of the Freemasons, the years 1782 to 1787, were driven by a concept centered on the human being itself. Within this “new religion,” ancient Egypt was invoked in two ways: first, by creating a religious practice that had no Christian resonances and second, by dressing the “new religion” in an old robe. The worthiness of the new religious concept was expressed in its ancient roots. Consequently, the new religion appeared in fact to be an ancient one, superior to the main European religion of the time: Christianity.

Egypt and Modern Satanism

The influence of Egyptian religion in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries may be illustrated in many ways. One particular example is the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 in the United States. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–91), who became one of the main figures of Theosophy, tried to find the roots of the idea of spiritual evolution in ancient wisdom traditions, such as those of Egypt, Plato, and ancient Hindu sages. In her 1877 book, Isis Unveiled: A Master Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Blavatsky relied on insights from the newly established academic discipline of Egyptology and referenced such works as Richard Lepsius's translation of the Book of the Dead (1842), as well as the Papyrus Ebers (discovered by Georg Ebers, 1875), which she considered to be the “most ancient book of wisdom” and “one of the six Hermetic books of Medicine” mentioned by Clement of Alexandria.

The example of Blavatsky illustrates that the reception of Egyptian culture was neither a specifically European phenomenon nor one limited to a period in history before the hieroglyphs were deciphered. Earlier research on occasion argued that the tradition of “Egyptosophy” came to an end with Jean-François Champollion. Even though Champollion's deciphering of the hieroglyphs, first documented in his famous 1822 “Lettre à M. Dacier, relative à l'alphabet des hiéroglyphes phonétiques,” marked the dawn of modern Egyptology, the reclaiming of Egyptian culture in the creation of novel spiritual concepts did not end with the founding of the academic discipline of Egyptology. Rather, the publication and display of new material from excavations in Egypt and the translations of ancient Egyptian literature were used for the same purpose as before 1822: to construct new religious traditions by deconstructing an old religion, namely, Christianity.

This observation can be illustrated by one of the more colorful figures of the early twentieth century, Aleister Crowley. Crowley was born in England, where he first encountered John Nelson Darby's dispensational premillennialism. After a few years as a member of the British Theosophical Society, Crowley created his own religious system, which he called “Thelema” and which, according to him, was based on a revelation. In 1904, while Crowley and his wife were on their honeymoon in Egypt, his wife had a revelation of the god Horus sent through his messenger, Aiwass. When Crowley and his wife visited the Egyptian Museum, they found Horus on an ancient Egyptian stele, with the number 666. In Crowley's own report, this god dictated to him the Book of the Law (Liber AL vel Legis), which was to be the theoretical foundation of Crowley's new religion, Thelema. Crowley's followers came to call the Egyptian stele the “Stele of Revealing,” even though it was in fact a Theban funeral stele from the middle of the first millennium bce (from the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth dynasties). Furthermore, the stele does not contain the number 666 this was simply the catalogue number from the former museum in Boulaq, where the stele had first been displayed after being excavated from the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Dayr el-Bahari by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette.

With Thelema, Crowley developed a system of meaning with the human being at the center, as can be seen in two core statements from the Book of the Law: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (AL I.40), and “Every man and every woman is a star” (AL I.3). In formulating his religious system, Crowley made systematic use of ancient Egyptian religion. Deities such as “Nuit” (the Egyptian goddess Nut) or “Ra-Hoor-Khuit” (the god Ra-Horakhty) are mentioned in his book. Interestingly enough, Thelema, though also a religion focused on the human being, drew on a different tradition than did the Freemasons. Whereas the Freemasons focused on humans' positive abilities, Crowley referred to their “negative” potential, postulating that dark energy existed in humans and in all living things.

Although Aleister Crowley could hardly be called a Satanist, he and his religion, Thelema, can be placed within the tradition of Satanism. It was the famous Marquis de Sade (1740–1814) who established a philosophical system based primarily on the assumption of evil as an autonomous vital force. According to him, Satan has no specific role, though evil as an autonomous principle does. De Sade's Satanism is mainly linked with sexual obsession, which made it popular, but it also is the start of a trajectory that continued through the first decades of the twentieth century and Aleister Crowley up to recent American Satanism. Significantly, the American form of Satanism makes substantial use of ancient Egyptian religion, as can be seen in a recent American Satanic movement, the Temple of Set. Michael A. Aquino founded the Temple of Set in 1975. Since the late 1960s, Aquino had been a member of the Church of Satan, a highly prominent Satanic group that became popular because of its connections with Hollywood. After leaving the Church of Satan, Aquino founded his own Satanic religion. According to Aquino, on the summer solstice in 1975 (June 21), the “Prince of Darkness” appeared to him as the deity Set, who declared that he wanted to be worshiped by his original name, Set, which had become obsolete as humans had come to know him as Satan and Lucifer. Set had already revealed himself to the ancient Egyptians, but, while the priesthood of the god Osiris knew a “Book of the Dead,” Set now wanted to reveal a “Book of Life.” Based on this etiology, Michael Aquino named the new organization the “temple” of the god Set, where “temple” refers, not to a building, but to the human being itself as a vessel for the personal conception of Satan. Don Webb, a high priest in the organization from 1993 to 2002, has explained this concept as follows:

A deeper look at the main scripture of the Temple of Set, the Book of Coming Forth by Night, illustrates the importance of ancient Egypt. Aquino wrote a full chapter on Egyptian religion, referring to such Egyptological publications as Ernst A. Wallis Budge's translation of the Book of the Dead, George Hart's edited volume, the Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, and Raymond O. Faulkner's translation of the Pyramid Texts. Aquino also presents an interpretation of Aleister Crowley's Book of the Law, arguing that it was actually the god Set who revealed himself to Crowley.

If we consider the Temple of Set and its concepts from a more systematic perspective, two interesting observations can be made. First, it is possible to trace how a new religion is created through the use of topoi from a non-Christian religion. As a rather young religion, the Temple of Set attempts to establish the worthiness of its doctrine by making a connection to an older system of reference: ancient Egypt and the god Set, who had revealed himself to the Egyptians and was known under the names Satan and Lucifer before wanting to be worshiped again by his original name. The new religion appears to be an ancient one and—more importantly—a religion that antedates Judaism and Christianity. Second, the recourse to ancient Egypt opens up the possibility of constructing a form of religion without Christian associations.

Constructing Religion: The Function of Ancient Egypt in the Modern History of Religion

It was not my aim here to give a comprehensive overview of the reception of Egyptian religion within the history of religions. Even though, out of necessity, I could only mention particular case studies, it is still possible to make some general observations based on these examples.

Within the modern history of religions, ancient Egypt serves primarily as a place of projection. Egypt becomes a focal point in systems of meaning that have virtually nothing to do with historical Egypt. The examples mentioned here illustrate in many ways that the authors—whether the Freemasons or persons such as Aleister Crowley, Helena Blavatsky, or Michael Aquino—were not interested in the Egypt of the pharaohs. Even though Helena Blavatsky and Michael Aquino quoted from modern Egyptological literature, their primary interest was to make the connection between Egypt and their “new” theoretical systems. Within such an approach, ancient Egyptian religion is co-opted for a new purpose. From a more theoretical perspective, what can be seen is a reinvention of religion through the use of traditional semantics and topoi, wherein ancient Egypt was used in two different ways.

Ancient Egyptian religion became relevant in modern religious history when religious actors sought to describe a new system of meaning that, first, marks itself off from classical (Christian) religion, but, second, claims historical dignity. Even though the anti-Christian impulse of the so-called autarkic Satanism of the late twentieth century is evident only on an implicit level, both the concepts of Aleister Crowley and those of Michael Aquino are tied to the history of Western esotericism, a tradition that stands in tension with a European history of religion dominated by Christianity. Ancient Egypt seems to present an ideal collection of topoi which can be used by “new” religious systems of meaning that are driven by two ideas: a distinct differentiation from traditional Christian religion, and the belief in a “special wisdom,” found for the first time in Egypt and then, as Helena Blavatsky argued, in other areas, such as ancient Greece and India.

Interestingly enough, acknowledgment of this tradition of the “special wisdom of Egypt” can already be found in the holy scriptures of precisely the religion that was deconstructed by the use of Egyptian religion in modern religious history: Christianity. In the Acts of the Apostles, it is written: “So Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became a man with power both in his speech and in his action” (Acts 7:22 New Jerusalem Bible). This short statement about Moses and Egyptian wisdom was to become one of the most important topoi for the reception of Egyptian religion and culture within the European tradition. Moreover, on a deeper level, this verse already anticipates the later function of Egypt in the history of religion: to deconstruct Christianity by referring to a religious paradigm that is older, as well as “higher,” than Christianity.

Assmann, Jan. Erinnertes Ägypten: Pharaonische Motive in der europäischen Religions- und Geistesgeschichte. Berlin: Kadmos Verlag, 2006.

———. Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

——— Religio duplex: Ägyptische Mysterien und europäische Aufklärung. Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2010.

Gladigow, Burkhard. 'Europäische Religionsgeschichte.' In Lokale Religionsgeschichte, edited by Hans G. Kippenberg and Brigitte Luchesi, 19–42. Marburg: Diagonal, 1995.

Hermonen, Merja. 'Rationalistic Satanism: The Individual as a Member of a Countercultural Tribe.' Syzygy: Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture 11 (2002): 69–104.

Hornung, Erik. The Secret Lore of Egypt: Its Impact on the West. Translated from the German by David Lorton. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

Iversen, Erik. The Myth of Egypt and Its Hieroglyphs in European Tradition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Lewis, James R. Legitimating New Religions. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

Pasi, Marco. 'Crowley, Aleister.' In Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, edited by Wouter J. Hanegraaff, vol. 1, 281–87. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

Petersen, Jesper Aagaard, ed. Contemporary Religious Satanism: A Critical Anthology. Farnham, England, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.

Schipper, Bernd U. 'From Milton to Modern Satanism: The History of the Devil and the Dynamics between Religion and Literature.' Journal of Religion in Europe 3, no. 1 (2010): 103–24.

Stuckrad, Kocku von. Western Esotericism: A Brief History of Secret Knowledge. London and Oakville, CT: Equinox, 2005.

First: the main components of Ancient Egypt Religion:

The first major component: religious beliefs

The religious establishment

Divine institution:

It is the Pantheon of the Egyptian gods, which consists of a huge number made up of thousands of gods of varying importance, and we can generally distinguish seven different theological schools in Egypt that work on placing the gods in successive levels, and we can overall say that there are major groups of gods, namely:

  1. The first gods of the blinds and the cytoplasm (Al-Kaaba)
  2. The Seven Great Creator Gods of the Universe (Cosmos)
  3. The gods of the four elements
  4. Goddesses of Heaven
  5. Planets, stars and weather
  6. Gods of the Earth
  7. Deities of the Underworld (Duat)
  8. Foreign deities

Ancient Egypt Religion – The Royal Corporation (Pharaonic):

The Pharaonic establishment was not a traditional secular monarchy administration like we know it in the institutions of governance and ownership throughout the ancient world. In Egypt, the image of the king was completely different from his image in the countries and societies of that world. The pharaoh was a god in the strict sense of the word, he was not a representative of a god or an image of him on earth, but rather a god completely. But which deity and what is his name in the divine complexes?

The Pharaoh was the son of the god (Ra) on the one hand, and he is the god King Hor or Horus, who is the sun god who gives life energy and light on the other hand, and the pharaoh was a god in life, that is, the son of Ra and a god in death, where he turns into the god Osiris, then he dies and remains In the paradise of the other world as the ruling deity of the dead (Osiris).

The word Pharaoh is a Hebrew correction of the ancient Egyptian word (vir – a) or (per – a – per) which means (the great house) and it is the place where the parishioners live and seek refuge. The deep meaning of this word was (in which people live), meaning (the world) or (the universe), and this interpretation reinforces the idea of ​​divinity that was associated with the Pharaoh.

Wallis Budge believes that the king was descended from a god who ruled on earth, as he is a god even though he has a body of flesh and blood. The works, will, and thoughts of the pharaoh were the actions, will, and thoughts of God. And he used to attend the ceremonies of offering sacrifices to him as a god, and some pharaohs, such as Imhotep the Third, even built temples for themselves and their wives in which they worshiped themselves.

Ancient Egypt Religion:

In practice the king, although he was deity, incorporated into his character the functions and attributes of a deity, a king, and a priest. In addition to his political, administrative and legislative role, the king in the earliest Egyptian times performed all major religious duties such as building temples, giving sacrifices, performing prayer … etc. However, the king was unable to do all these works with the multiplicity of the Egyptian gods and their places of worship separated, and yet the personality and function of the Egyptian priest was very modest and not inclined to the puritanical image that might occur to us.

Serge Soneron said that “these priests did not exercise their functions except for a limited period of time, perhaps three months a year, as a result of the succession of the working sects. During the three months that separated each month from one month of work, the pure civil life of the priests ran away from the sacrificial altars. .

How, then, were these priests distinguished from other residents of their village? The few bits and pieces that we will mention about the incidents now were not collected to destroy the wonderful idea that we may tend to keep about (the Egyptian priest), but rather that these briefs have avoided an urgent generalization. The Egyptian priesthood was a civil function that was permissible to the greatest extent, to the extent that it made it a mirror that reflects all aspects of the good and bad society. On the other hand, priests were not the holders of divine messages to those who follow them from among the pious.

Rather, they were merely the executors of daily religious rituals that were carried out far from the eyes of the masses, and we will see that one had a slight chance of qualification that would allow him to engage in the (purified) corps. The lack of choice for these positions may explain some of the strange chapters in the history of the priesthood.

We were able to enumerate seven distinct priestly classes, three basic classes and four variable and non-fixed classes, which are as follows:

High Priest (Ham Niter):

The highest-ranking priests were appointed by the king, and his personality was influential in society.

Ancient Egypt Religion – Specialized Priests:

They are a group of priests who are classified at the highest level, and they work in specific jobs related to service, rituals, daily cleanliness, dressing and decorating divine statues and maintaining temple halls and items for daily use such as jewelry, clothing and worship requirements. They generally include:

  • The purified ones (and the people).
  • chanters, musicians and dancers (last love).
  • The winged priests (pterphore): relative to the two feathers that decorate their headdresses. They are the priests, readers and writers who used to practice their work in the so-called fields of sacred knowledge (divine science) Which included the various fields of literature, wisdom, astronomy, chemistry and medicine, in a house attached to the temple called (the House of Life). And these temple clerks were not only priests, but also the educated and educated class.

Junior Priests:

They are young and Jalal al-Din, have a minor role in clinics and religious activities, and they are divided into:

  1. The Pious: They are the ones who do simple work that paralyzes (the bearers of the sacred boat, the watering in the temple and the spraying of water, the observation of painters and painters, the heads of writers and manual workers of the Holy King, or they are simple manual laborers assigned to the shoes of God … They are divided into classes in the large temples that are distinguished. There are many clerics, including the chiefs of the pious or those who are advanced in piety, or subordinates who are classified within the category of high righteous priests to do all the work required by the temple and worship.
  2. Pastophores: They are bearers of sacred things.
  3. The rabbis: They are assigned to make offerings and slaughter them before that.

Dr. Interpreters of dreams (occultists): They are involved in the world of night phenomena and the teaching of divination.

Permanent Priests (Onot):

They are the temporary service priests who appeared especially in the Middle Kingdom era as they alternated priestly work for a temporary period and then return to their usual daily civil life.

Ancient Egypt Religion – Priestesses:

Before the modern state, women used to enter the temple service and the priesthood, and there are priestesses of the goddess Nate and Hathor, “but the seventeenth family showed a new priestly title for queens or princesses who will become queens, and he is (the god’s wife) and she is the royal wife of the god Amun and who is forbidden to contact any man Sexual contact.

And this wife of God was the holder of a great authority that rivaled that of the Pharaoh. It “owned huge estates and supervised employees. It belonged to it, took a group of titles, surrounded its name with cartouches, took royal attributes on itself, kept jubilee feasts, erected monuments and relics in its name, and offered sacrifices to the gods.

The high priest was often the wife of the high priest. She was associated with the god in a kind of bond, and was considered his wife, for example, and in later times great importance was given to those who assumed the position of the divine wife of Amun, a position that was equivalent to the position of the high priest and whose influence disappeared since Princess Shepenwepe assumed this position during the reign of her father, King Osorkon III From the twenty-third dynasty.

Which was to its owner the religious and spiritual authority in Thebes for more than two centuries. The policy of the Pharaohs was to assign this position to one of their daughters so that the property and endowments of the god would not be removed from the royal family’s circle and the powers of that great position devolved to it.

Administrators and employees: These were outside the priesthood, but they performed the administrative and service tasks of the temples, especially if the temples were large and large, such as property managers, head of flocks and stores … etc. There was a large group of employees such as doormen, workers, guards, funerals, butchers, slaves … etc.

Egyptian temples:

Egyptian temples, as were ancient temples, were not places of visit or worship The temple is not a place for the worshiper to go to pray to God, nor is it a place where the masses gather to practice rituals or to wait for the appearance of God to see them during religious ceremonies. It is not a place where the sacred rites that specialized priests perform in front of people are held. The Egyptian temple does not receive people. Rather, it is precisely the place where God exaggerates in protecting and concealing God.

“The heart of the temple is a secret place that goes to it through many successive doors, and the more we arrive inside the place gets darker until we reach a place full of dread that only the authorized priests can reach, where there is the sacred statue of the god that differs from the known statues of the god it is simply A secret statue that embodies the truth of the deity.

When the competent priest arrives to him, and as soon as he sees him, he lies on his stomach and kisses the ground, and repeats that, then rises and lights incense, then sings to the god a short piece and then performs the necessary actions for this statue, such as providing him with food and drink and protecting him from evil spirits.

Written by: Tamer Ahmed Abdel Fattah, Egypt

Researcher in the history of Egyptian civilization – SEO online tourist e-marketer

I hope you will receive an article on the Ancient Egypt Religion facts and history of the religious beliefs of the Pharaohs and more through the site.

Religion and gods in ancient Egypt

Click to enlarge image Toggle Caption


Throughout Egypt's history beliefs and practices were constantly changing though the themes of fertility, rebirth, death and resurrection generally remained constant. The ancient Egyptians had a tendency to merge new beliefs with the old ones rather than simply replace them. This tendency has made it difficult for modern scholars to fully understand the ancient beliefs and, although much is known, there is still much that remains a mystery.

Stay in the know

Keep in touch and experience our cultural programs and educational offerings, many of which are community inspired and led.

We know of hundreds of gods and goddesses worshipped by the ancient Egyptians as their names, personalities and appearances have survived in the artwork the civilisation left behind. Many of these had the same or similar roles. This is due to both the complex nature of the religion and the political organisation of the state.

Local areas had local gods, with each city or region often having their own deities that they worshipped. If a city came to prominence under a ruler or powerful official, then the local gods rose alongside them. These became ‘state’ gods, worshipped by the wealthy and elite in the temples. However, the general population continued to worship their local gods as well. Some gods, therefore, were preferred by certain classes of people, some were only worshipped in certain areas, and others prominent only in certain periods. In later times, different deities were frequently combined or merged.

Osiris, chief god of the dead and the afterlife, is usually depicted as a mummy-shaped human wearing the atef crown (a white crown flanked by ostrich feathers) and holding a crook and a flail (signs of kingship and justice) Occasionally, Osiris' skin is green or black, a reference to his aspects of vegetation and fertile earth.

Anubis was the jackal-headed god of embalming and mummification and the patron god of embalmers. He was also a guardian of the dead and a guide through the underworld.

Toggle Caption

Neith was the mother of the sun god Re and a goddess of hunting and warfare.

The dwarf Bes was a popular household god and mainly responsible for protecting the family and ensuring a safe childbirth in particular. Artists often depicted him facing forward, rather than in profile.

Toggle Caption

Sakhmet was goddess of war, destruction and misfortune. The name is derived from the ancient Egyptian word sekhem, meaning ‘powerful’. She is an aggressive deity who is usually depicted as a lion-headed figure.

The cat-headed goddess Bastet was the gentle counterpart to the lion-headed Sakhmet. She was protector of the home and pregnant women and was also linked to worship of the moon.

Horus, the falcon-headed sky god, was the son of Osiris and Isis and the embodiment of divine kingship. His eye, or udjat (sometimes spelt wedjat), was a powerful protective amulet. Rulers of Egypt were considered to be earthly representations of Horus so many falcon statues and images bear the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Toggle Caption

Human-headed Imsety, a son of Horus, was the protector of the liver.

Baboon-headed Hapy, a son of Horus, was the guardian of the lungs.

Falcon-headed Qebehsenuef, a son of Horus, protector of the intestines.

Jackal-headed Duamutef, a son of Horus, keeper of the stomach.

Toggle Caption

Duamutef was one of the four sons of Horus, guardians of the deceased king’s organs. This jackal-headed god protected the king’s stomach and shielded him from harm in the Netherworld. The ancient Egyptians feared death and decay and protected the deceased by removing the organs and mummifying the body.

Image: Laboratoriorosso, Viterbo/Italy
© Laboratoriorosso, Viterbo/Italy

Thoth, a moon-god, was the god of wisdom, maker of laws and chief scribe to the gods. He was also a guide and helper to the spirits of dead people travelling in the underworld. Artists depicted him as an ibis, a baboon or a man with the head of either of these animals.

Isis was the wife-sister of Osiris and a powerful goddess of protection.

Nephthys was the sister of Isis and Osiris and a protector of the dead.


The Egyptian word Hyksos means “foreign rulers.” In common usage, however, the term is used to refer in general to the Asiatics who settled in the eastern Delta of Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period. The dates for Hyksos rule are not known precisely. Those used here are based on the following:

Expulsion of the Hyksos in approximately the 15th year of Ahmose (Bietak 1991b: 48)

A total of 108 years for the rule of the Hyksos according to the Turin papyrus (Bietak 1991b: 48)

The chronology of Wente and Van Siclen for the 18th Dynasty (Wente and Van Siclen 1977: 218). This chronology gives a death date for Tuthmosis III of 1450 BC, which correlates with the Biblical date for the Exodus. According to Scripture, the Pharaoh of the Exodus perished in the Yam Suph (Exodus 14:5-9,18,28 15:4,7 Psalm 106:9-11 136:15), therefore, we correlate the date of the Exodus with the death date of the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The chronology of Wente and Van Siclen also incorporates the low date of 1279 BC for the accession of Rameses II accepted by most scholars today.

In the 14th Dynasty, toward the end of the 18th century BC, the name of the town was changed to Avaris, “the (royal) foundation of the district” (Bietak 1996:40). When the Hyksos later established their capital there, they retained the name Avaris. It was probably the Hyksos rulers who forced the Israelites to build the store cities of Pithom (= Tell el-Maskhuta) and Rameses (= Tell el-Daba = Avaris) (Exodus 1:11). When Rameses II rebuilt the city in the 13th century in the post-Hyksos period, and long after the Israelites had left Egypt, the name was changed to Rameses.

The location of Pithom has also been a matter of some debate. Now, however, it seems quite certain that it should be located at Tell el-Maskhuta at the eastern end of the Wadi Tumilat, 15 km west of Ismailiya. Asiatic remains similar to those found at Tell el-Daba have been found there and attributed to the Hyksos (Holladay 1992b: 588-89 1997:332-34). According to Holladay, the Hyksos occupation at Tell el-Maskhuta took place ca. 1750-1625 BC. It would have been sometime during this time period, then, that the Israelites built the store city of Pithom.

Area F/I, Str. d/2, and Area A/II, Str H

In Palestine, the side rooms were usually delineated by stone columns. With the scarcity of stone in Egypt, this feature would not be expected. Holladay suggests that the ground floor of such a house was primarily utilized for the economic aspects of family life such as the storage of food, tools and supplies, and the housing of animals. The family living space, on the other hand, was most likely on the second floor.

As a result of his nontraditional chronology of ancient Egypt, however, British historian David Rohl dates Tomb 1 to the late 17th century BC (1995: 339), rather than the mid-nineteenth century as determined by the excavators. Since Rohl believes the Sojourn to be only 215 years based on the Septuagint (1995: 329-32), Joseph and Tomb 1 end up being approximately contemporary by his chronology. The present author, however, disagrees with both of these views and holds to conventional Egyptian chronology and a Sojourn of 430 years (Ex 12:40) as recorded in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. Moreover, Rohl places Joseph and Tomb 1 in Str. d/1, while the present author accepts the excavators' dating of Tomb 1 to Str. d/2, and believes Str. d/2 to be a more compatible context for Joseph and the Israelites.

We are not certain of the name of the first Hyksos king. Redford suggests Salitis/Saites based on literary references (1992: 342), while Ward suggests Khyan based on inscriptional evidence (1984:162-72).

Str. d/1 dating to the early 13th Dynasty (early 18th century BC)

There is a canal connecting the Nile with the Faiyum in the western desert named Bahr Yusuf, the “canal of Joseph.” Development of the Faiyum is associated with Dynasty 12, the time when Joseph was in Egypt carrying out land reforms (Genesis 41:46-49 Gardiner 1961: 35-36). Whether the name of the canal is ancient or from a relatively modern tradition is not known. Otherwise, the name of Joseph has not turned up in Egypt (see Aling 1996).

Watch the video: Religions in Egypt from 1AD to 2100 (July 2022).


  1. Mateo

    In my opinion, they are wrong. Let us try to discuss this. Write to me in PM, it talks to you.

  2. Lippi

    As the expert, I can assist. Together we can find the decision.

  3. Elmer

    Do everyone's personal go off today?

  4. Vortigem

    Not to say he's bigger.

Write a message