Ancient Nile kingdom
The Nile is the source of Egypt 's long and complex history. The annual flooding that began 60,000 years ago left rich alluvial deposits behind that attracted settlers. By 3000 BC a highly ordered society was clustered along its banks. This society, divided into two separate states, Upper and Lower Egypt, was united under the rule of King Menes and the history of Egypt proper had begun. There were to be over thirty different dynasties that ruled Egypt over the next two and a half millennia, leaving behind an awesome architectural legacy.
The society the Pharaohs ruled over by was highly advanced and comparatively ahead of it's time. They established a sophisticated level of scientific and bureaucratic development the impact of which spread beyond the boundaries of the country as it is today. The mechanics behind the civilization, the ruling families and the armies, were drawn form many different countries but shared a common cultural base.
Greeks and Romans
The arrival of the Greeks in 323 BC weakened the influence of Egypt 's rulers and when the Romans followed Egypt became an increasingly Christian Hellenic culture. Essentially it was the granary for the Roman Empire and after their departure it was absorbed into Byzantium. The whole nature of Egyptian society shifted again in 640 AD when the new and vigorous Islamic empire conquered the region.
The arrival of Islam
Coptic speaking Christian Egypt became a largely Muslim, wholly Arabic speaking, kingdom. It also became an important part of the Arab empire, and an enviously sought prize in the many power struggles ensued until the Ottomans invaded in 1517.
The Ottomans established loose control over their new territory but left power at ground level in the hands of the Mameluke rulers(originally Turkish bodyguards who had deposed their Arab masters). Napoleon briefly invaded in 1798, but was ousted by the British in 1801. In turn a Mameluke general, Muhammad Ali, restored control and expanded Egypt 's power. After his death in 1848 his successors massively overspent, opening the way for increasing European intervention which climaxed in 1888 with a 'temporary' British occupation.
In reality British occupation lasted until 1952 when Colonel Abdul Nasser staged a coup. He declared Egypt a Republic in 1953 and carried out a series of socialist reform. Nasser's His nationalisation of the Suez canal in 1956 resulted in a French and British invasion that was swiftly withdrawn. The Sinai was the battlefield for wars in 1967 and 1973. In both Egypt suffered defeat. Nasser was succeeded in 1970 by Anwar Sadat, who looked for a peaceable solution. Egypt entered talks with Israel that culminated in the Camp David agreement in 1979. This was not a popular move and led to his assassination in 1981.
In 1990 Hosni Mubarak allowed 35,000 troops to fight with the anti-Iraq alliance, but in 1992 fundamentalists began a campaign of violence against tourists and security forces. As a sixth of the population rely on tourism this is potentially disastrous. The fundamentalist voice began to quieten, until in 1997 a massacre at Luxor, where 57 tourists were killed, led to renewed tension. A government crackdown has muted dissent but not ended resentment.
Today Egypt continues to attempt to reconcile its personality; split between the East and the West.