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Egypt

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The Arab Republic of Egypt (Egyptian Arabic: جمهورية مصر العربية Ǧumhūriyyat Miṣr al-ʿArabiyyah) is a state in north-east Africa. Its capital, Cairo, is home to the Pyramids of Giza. While geographically located in Africa, culturally and politically Egypt is considered to be part of the Middle East, in part because of its proximity, and in part because of its large Muslim, Arabic-speaking population. In 1967 Egypt went to war with Israel; in 1978 it became the first state in the region to make peace with Israel and acknowledge its existence with the signing of the Camp David Accords.

The former "president" of Egypt (or more accurately the head of a military junta) Hosni Mubarak[wp] was seen by the West as being a fairly benign autocrat, though he did have the rather nasty habit of locking up political rivals, repressing civil rights, allowing corruption, turning a blind eye to police brutality and torture, and neglecting the poor, the middle classes, the educated professionals, in short, anyone who didn't actively support Hosni Mubarak.[1] The United States tended to turn a blind eye to this behaviour since said rivals were either Islamists, organisations that Mubarak painted as being Islamists, or unimportant to United States interests.[2] Egypt receives a great deal of American aid, mostly because the Americans saw Mubarak as a "moderate" in a region full of extremists, and because Egypt is one of the few Middle Eastern nations to have recognized Israel's right to exist (though the main journalists' organization, as well as the Egyptian Writers' Guild and Actors' Guild, have forbidden their members to work in Israel). Moreover, the aid is in part the price of Egypt's continued recognition of and peace with Israel.

Contents

[edit] Ancient history

See the main article on this topic: Ancient Egypt
The funerary mask of Tutankhamun, a minor pharaoh whose mostly undespoiled tomb was a major archaeological find.

Egypt is the birthplace of one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and houses the only surviving "Wonder of the Classical World," the Great Pyramid at Giza. The Sphinx of Giza forms a part of the same complex. The desert climate surrounding Egypt means that many early documents and monuments from its ancient civilization have been preserved. One of the world's earliest writing systems, Egyptian hieroglyphics, was created there. A Proto-Sinaitic script derived from or inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics is a likely candidate for the origin of the Phoenician alphabet, and as such Egyptian hieroglyphics would represent the ultimate ancestor of all the major alphabetic scripts currently in use, including the Latin, Greek, Arabic, and Brahmi-derived scripts of South Asia.[3]

Females married around their first menses; with males usually between 16-20; premarital sex was allowed, though, as was no-fault divorce (which was uncommon in a lot of cultures at that time). Both genders inherited wealth equally and separately from each parent; while the end of childhood was marked by the first menses in girls and circumcision in boys at 13. Careers in ancient Egypt were hereditary, only the male children of scribes could expect classroom educations; scribes also did not have to pay taxes. All professions were paid in grain; the ancient Egyptians favorite thing to drink was beer, while their favorite board game, senet, invoked the journey into the underworld.[4]

[edit] Medieval history

In 621, Lower Egypt was conquered by the Muslim armies of Amr ibn al `Aas on behalf of the Rashidun caliphate of Omar.

[edit] Fate of the Library of Alexandria

The Library of Alexandria was a famous library and institution of Hellenistic learning in the city of Alexandria in Egypt. It was constructed by the Hellenistic pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter, or his son, during the third century BCE.

An often repeated folktale blames the loss of this storehouse of ancient learning on the Caliph Omar, who is claimed to have remarked that "if those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them." This tale appears first in the Syriac Christian author Bar-Hebraeus, quoting a Latin writer otherwise unknown called John the Grammarian.[5]

In fact, there wasn't much left of this library when the Caliph conquered Egypt. A major fire destroyed much of the collection during Julius Caesar's campaigns in Egypt in 48 BCE. The remaining collection was moved to a Hellenistic temple of Serapis/Osiris, the Serapeum of Alexandria. Further depradations occurred to the remaining collection when Marcus Aurelius warred with Zenobia around 270. But the final death blow to the library was struck by the Christian emperor Theodosius, who ordered the destruction of the Serapeum in 391 CE.[6] There wasn't a Library of Alexandria for Omar and his commanders to put to the torch any more.

[edit] Contemporary history

[edit] The 2011 revolution

See the main article on this topic: Egyptian revolution of 2011

Following from and inspired by the Jasmine Revolution[wp], or more properly the Sidi Bouzid revolt, in Tunisia[wp], on 25 January 2011 Egypt experienced the first moments of the revolution that would see Mubarak[wp] removed from power. On what was called the "Day of Anger" or "Day of Revolt", protests broke out in Cairo[wp], Alexandria[wp], El-Mahalla El-Kubra[wp], Aswan[wp], and Ismaïlia[wp][7][8]. Organised through social networking groups, as well as by word-of-mouth, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, with most of the protesters concentrated in Cairo and Alexandria[9]. The size of the protest in Cairo was much larger than the police[wp] expected it to be and so, as a result of this, the protesters were able to break out of the cordon that the police had placed them in and head to Tahrir Square[wp] which, in the days to come, would become the focal point for a protest movement seeking democratic reform in Egypt. Although the police deployed tear-gas[wp] and water cannon[wp] and initially succeeded in dispersing the protesters, this tactic ultimately failed and the police were eventually forced to retreat from the protesters as they came under bombardment from stones.[10]

With the shock of Mubarak's non-resignation still a raw wound to the pro-democracy protesters, 11 February saw an increase in the number of protesters from the day before. The organisers called this day "Farewell Friday", presumably in the hope that if they kept on hitting the government over the head with the same message over and over again, the message would sink in. In addition to the crowds in Tahrir Square[wp], thousands of protesters also continued to surround the Parliament[wp] and the Presidential Palace[wp], and crowds also blockaded the state TV building. Something had to give and at about 16:02 GMT / 18:02 Cairo Local Time, it did, when Vice-President Suleiman announced that the office of President had been vacated and that the military council would take over and the running of Egypt[11]. Quite unsurprisingly this announcement triggered wild celebrations throughout Egypt, celebrations that would be continued on the following Friday as a reminder to the Egyptian Military Council that the pro-democracy supporters still had their eye on them, and expected real change. On 15 February the Military Council[wp] announced that a new constitution would be adopted within 10 days.[12]

[edit] 1848 all over again

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi[13] won the 2012 presidential election with 51.73% of the vote. Originally characterised as a bully and a tyrant after his attempts to take broad constitutional powers for himself that year,[14] in mid-2013 he was revealed to be a paper tiger after being deposed by the military in a coup.[15] While officially the acting president was a judge named Adly Mansour, minister of defence General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is widely considered to be in de facto control of the country. A crackdown on the Brotherhood has followed the coup, and while the situation has been compared to the rise of fascism in Europe the events of 1848 in France are perhaps a better parallel.[16]

Accordingly, Egyptian politics have changed for the absurd — by early 2014, people were accusing puppets of terrorism[17] and photographers of killing protesters.[18] Presumably all this will settle down at some point, but in the meantime a variety of countries are in the habit of warning their citizens that Egypt is just a tad dangerous at the moment, for some reason.[19]

[edit] Modern religion

Although there is ostensibly freedom of religion in Egypt, legal charges of blasphemy are frequently used against religious minorities and atheists on the slightest of pretexts.[20] Apostacy can also lead to a prison sentence.[21]

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/feb/17/what-caused-egyptian-revolution What caused the revolution in Egypt?
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/9394068.stm 16:39, Egypt unrest: Day 17 as it happened
  3. John F. Healey, The early alphabet; (University of California Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-520-07309-8), p. 18.
  4. http://fathom.lib.uchicago.edu/2/21701778/
  5. Bar Hebraeus: Historia Compendiosa Dynastiarum, (Oxford, 1663). Quod ad libros quorum mentionem fecisti: si in illis contineatur, quod cum libro Dei conveniat, in libro Dei [est] quod sufficiat absque illo; quod si in illis fuerit quod libro Dei repugnet, neutiquam est eo [nobis] opus, jube igitur e medio tolli.” Jussit ergo Amrus Ebno’lAs dispergi eos per balnea Alexandriae, atque illis calefaciendis comburi; ita spatio semestri consumpti sunt. Audi quid factum fuerit et mirare
  6. Socrates of Constantinople, Ecclesiastical History, lib. V ss. 16
  7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/18/mohamed-elbaradei-tunisia-egypt Mohamed ElBaradei warns of 'Tunisia-style explosion' in Egypt
  8. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/blog/2011/jan/25/middleeast-tunisia Protests in Egypt and unrest in Middle East – as it happened
  9. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jan/28/egypt-protests-live-updates 12:29, Protests in Egypt - as they happened
  10. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/blog/2011/jan/25/middleeast-tunisia Protests in Egypt and unrest in Middle East – as it happened
  11. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/feb/11/egypt-hosni-mubarak-left-cairo 16:02, Mubarak resigns - Friday 11 February
  12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12466893 Egypt crisis: Army sets constitution reform deadline
  13. Sometimes "Morsy," or a variety of other transliterations.
  14. Monopolizing Power in Egypt, 16 August 2012.
  15. Coup topples Egypt's Morsy; deposed president under 'house arrest', CNN, July 4 2013.
  16. Egypt and the f-word, Bilal Ahmed, 15 October 2013.
  17. Puppet regime: A few more notes on Egypt and paranoia
  18. Egypt in TV, Nour Youssef.
  19. Egypt travel alert (US, January 06 2014).
  20. Egypt’s War on Atheism
  21. Egyptian Atheist Currently in Hiding Makes Video Urging Viewers to Rethink Their Belief in God
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