Egypt: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Egypt, the Suez Canal, war with Israel, the wonders including the Pyramids.

EGYPT

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Egypt goes back 6,000 years--The longest history of any Western civilization, with the possible exception of Mesopotamia. The Pharaohs fused Egypt into one nation in 3200 B.C. and it continued to be ruled by a succession of dynasties until Alexander the Great conquered it in 332 B.C. This began wave after wave of outside conquerors who ruled the land: Romans, Persians, Islam-bearing Arabs, Turks--they all came and conquered. Then came Napoleon in 1798, whose conquest introduced the Western powers to the game.

The British and the Turks drove out the French in 1801-1805 and put up Mohammed Ali, Albanian by birth, who ruled as the 1st of the Khedive monarchy. After the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the British took greater interest and watched over the area with imperial-eagle eyes. When nationalist politics became too hot for her interests in 1882, Britain deposed the Egyptian leader, Ahmed Arabi, and took more control of the Government, finally making Egypt a protectorate in 1914. After independence in 1936, Britain stayed on as steward over the Suez Canal.

In 1948-1949 the Egyptian monarchy and other Arab states made war on the newly created state of Israel, but Israel defeated them. In 1952 the military overthrew the monarchy and Gamal Abdul Nasser became Egypt's leader. Nasser then set about to end British control of Egypt by forcing Britain to withdraw its troops from Egyptian territory and by nationalizing the Suez Canal.

When Egypt barred Israel from using the Canal, Israel, supported by France and Britain, invaded Egypt. But the Suez War was a failure for the invading forces, because the U.S. refused to support them and insisted that they withdraw. For Egypt, it meant the end of British domination and the opportunity to move out on an independent nationalist course under Nasser's leadership.

Subsequent wars have broken out between Egypt and Israel in 1967, during which Egypt lost Sinai and the Gaza Strip, and again in 1973.

The Suez Canal-the "richest ditch on earth"-connects the Mediterranean and Red seas. It cuts 103 mi. across the Suez isthmus. Both the isthmus and the Canal link Europe and Asia and because of this the area continues to be a world hot spot. It was built by the French and opened after 10 years' work in 1869. Giuseppe Verdi wrote Aida to celebrate the event. The British at 1st tried to block its building but once it was built they saw the Canal as a vital link to the Empire's interest in India, and so Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli bought 43% of the Canal company's stock from the Egyptian monarch. The French-Anglo combine, Societe Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez, continued to own the Canal until Egypt nationalized it in 1956. Before the Canal was closed because of 2 recent Arab Israeli wars, it had more than 10,000 ships pass through every year, more than twice that of the Panama Canal, many carrying oil from Saudi Arabia. The Suez Canal was reopened June 5, 1975.

It is difficult to do justice to the wonders of Egypt. Mediterranean beaches and elaborate tourist hotels in Cairo and elsewhere are touted by tourist agencies, but there is much more. The pyramids and the sphinx are surrounded by tourist trappings, yet must be seen. Particularly in early evening as one enters Cairo on the road from Alexandria, the looming dark massiveness of the pyramids is spectacular. The National Museum contains many wonders, including the treasures of the tomb of Tutankhamen. At Luxor and Karnak there are fabled ruins of ancient Egypt. However, the relics of the Islamic age should not be overlooked, especially in Cairo. Travel is restricted to cities and archaeological sites, so it is not possible to see the fellaheen (peasants) and come to understand them-except from train windows. For real mirages, the drive from Alexandria to Cairo is unsurpassed.

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