Egypt exercised enormous power and influence in the ancient world. Its successive dynasties of Pharaohs built vast monuments that have enthralled the world ever since. Egypt was, nevertheless, invaded by ambitious conquerors, including the Levantine Hyksos, the Libyans, Nubians, Persians, Assyrians, and Alexander the Great. His general, Ptolemy, established the Ptolemaic dynasty whose last ruler was Cleopatra. She was the consort of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Rome ultimately made Egypt the bread basket of its Empire.
In 642 AD Byzantine Egypt was captured by Muslim armies who founded Fustat, a settlement next to which the Shi’a Fatimid Dynasty later established Cairo. Cairo became the centre of the Fatimid empire stretching from the Maghreb to Syria. Egypt’s succeeding Ayyubid and Mamluk dynasties controlled the Red Sea spice trade. Its profits embellished Muslim Cairo. In 1517 Egypt was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Occupied by Napoleon and then by British forces, Egypt gained full independence in 1956.
Three millennia of Pharaonic history are reflected in magnificent temples and tombs lining the Nile from Alexandria to Aswan. Pharaonic glories include the magnificent collection in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, the pyramids of Giza and Saqqara and the temples of Luxor, Karnak, Dendara, Edfu and Kom Ombo. They also include the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Queens. Near Aswan, are temples including Philae, the Elephant Island, Edfu and Kom Ombo. On Lake Nasser are the Temple of Amun-Ra and Ra-Horakhty, the Dakka Temple of Thoth and the Maharraka Temple of Serapis and Isis. Here also is the Amada Temple of Amun-Ra, the oldest in the region. The great temples of Abu Simbel are well known.
Egypt’s rich Coptic and Islamic heritage includes some of the world’s oldest Christian churches, its rich Museum of Islamic Art, and fine mosques such as the Muhammad Ali Mosque in Cairo’s citadel. Rivalling Cairo is Alexandria, one of the Mediterranean’s most venerable ports. Its rich history is reflected in Kom al-Shawqafa, its subterranean system of catacombs, its Roman amphitheatre, its ancient ‘Villa of the Birds’ and its Mamluk fortress.
Join Egyptologist Lucia Gahlin on an epic journey through Egypt: from fabled Alexandria, through a land of Pharaohs, Christian monks, Islamic kings, up the Nile to Abu Simbel. Read more