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EGYPT

 

O.T. FORD

 

مصر « Masr » / « Misr » (Arabic) / ⲕⲏⲙⲉ « Kēme » (Coptic) / 𓆎𓅓𓏏𓊖 « Kmt(region) » (Ancient Egyptian)

Egypt in its original sense was simply the region of the Nile River (النيل « ɔal-Nīl » / 𓎛𓂝𓊪𓏭𓈘 « Hcpj(water) » / 𓇋𓏏𓂋𓅱𓈘 « Jtrŭ(water) » ). The Nile delta was Lower Egypt; the valley of the Nile was Upper Egypt. The two regions were unified politically around five thousand years ago under an indigenous ruler from Upper Egypt, and have generally been under the same government since that time, even when under foreign control.

Ancient Egypt was inhabited by a culture of the Afro-Asiatic language family, related to but distinct from the Semitic that dominated (and continues to dominate) the Near East. The direct descendant of the Ancient Egyptian dialect is Coptic, now dead and preserved only as a liturgical dialect for the Coptic Christians. The Ancient Egyptian script, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, probably gave rise to the Semitic script that in turn led to the modern Latin and Arabic scripts.

The ancient Nile flooded annually. During these floods, silt scoured from the mountains of East Africa was deposited in a thick layer in the Nile floodplain, rendering Egypt especially fertile. Consequently, Egypt was an early site of agriculture, and one of the earliest sites of civilization. Egyptian culture was highly influential, but ultimately it belonged to a cultural sphere with the older civilization of Mesopotamia.

In modern usage, ‘Egypt’ generally refers to the state controlling the lower Nile, or the country based on that state and largely identical in extent. This state is dominated by Arabs, a Semitic people now controlling most of the Middle East and North Africa. The Egyptian state is, in terms of population size and popular culture, the clear center of the Arab World. Arabs speak Arabic, the most prominent dialect within Semitic, a branch of Afro-Asiatic. The dialect of Modern Standard Arabic is used for formal purposes throughout the Arab World; but the local vernacular, Egyptian Arabic, is quite distinctive, not only from MSA but from other vernaculars, and because of the Egyptian cultural influence (through movies, television, and music, in this case), one of the most familiar vernaculars to Arabs from elsewhere. The main city is Cairo (القاهرة « ɔal-Qāhiraḧ »).

For the modern state of Egypt:

 

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