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:: EGYPT ETHNOGRAPHY ::

Egypt map.

Total population: +/- 81 millions.
Saharan population: +/- 2 millions (2,5%).
Total population density: 81 hab/km2.
Saharan population density: 2,1 hab/km2.
Ethnics: An immense majority of egyptians and arabs in the north; small minorities of nubians in the south, berbers in the west, toubous in the south-west, and immigrants, especially greeks and jews, in the north.
Languages: Arabic, english, french, german, italian, greek and armenian.
Religions: 90% islamic and 10% christian.
Life expectancy: 72 years.

Egypt is characteristic for some facts. It was the origin of the perhaps most ancient civilization known, it is the nexus between Africa and Asia and between Mediterranean and Red seas, it has some of the highest densily populated areas in the world and its capital is the most populated city in Africa, while a huge majoritiy of the country inhabitants live next to the Nile borders or within the Nile delta, in an area that comprises only around 50000 km2.

Historically, the strategic location of Egypt made it a magnet for invaders; hyksos, hittites, persians, greeks, romans, arabs, turks, french and british successively conquered Egypt. Today, Egypt is an independent nation, but it faces the problem of having a fast growing population living on an almost totally arid country. The sparsity of resources makes egyptian people to live in poverty and misery. The source of life in Egypt is the Nile river; the equatorial rainfall during summer season in the Lake Victoria region and southern Sudan mark the beginning of the Nile flood, which brings to egyptian lands the so needed water and also the dark slime composed of clay and salts, that acts as a very efficient fertilizer for the agricultural lands. The desert threatens the fertile lands with its sand drawn by the wind while people combat this by making water to reach as far as possible inside the arid lands.


In Egypt still live a minority of bedouin peoples (bedouin is the plural of bedu), mainly in the Sinai and Eastern Desert regions, though their traditional nomadic lifestyle is facing extinction. It is not clear, even among the bedouin themselves, if anyone belonging to a bedu tribe should be considered a bedu or only those that are loyal to nomadic life should be considered as bedouin.

The smaller cell in the bedu society is often referred as tent, though when they settle in a place they set at least two tents, one for men and other for women. Usually the tent is composed by a marriage and their sons, usually accompanied by relatives such as parents or siblings. Women traditionally wear a veil from puberty onwards. Before the bedu society adopted the precepts of islamic religion, they were used to liberal poligamy, so both men and women could have several mates.

Apart from the domestic tasks and goat and camel herding, the bedouin also practiced hooked falcon hunting and raiding.

Bedouin woman from Sinai. Bedouin encampment.

In the image below, an egyptian woman and her daughters. Above their preceptive islamic veils overlook beautiful eyes that resemble the characteristic eyes found in the ancient pharaonic murals and reliefs. Egyptian race has been historically influenced by african, mediterranean and arabian elements.

Egyptian women.

Left image: Cairo, immense capital of Egypt, arises its minarets and skyscrapers towards a sky that rarely drops rain. Cairo is actually a disturbing anthill, a noisy and chaotic city with a contrast between the ancient and the modern, between the most ostentous richness and the most miserable poverty. The metropolitan area has a population of almost 25 millions and some districts surpass a density of more than 100000 inhabitants per km2.

Right image: the bigger and most known pyramids in Egypt are the ones located near Gizeh. Of these three great pyramids, only the one built for the pharaoh Kefren has conserved a small part of its lining in the cusp; the rest was stolen by the arab invaders for being used in the palaces that the sultans built in Cairo.

A view of Cairo city. The sphynx and the pyramid of Kefren at Gizeh.

The staggered pyramid of Saqqara. The staggered pyramid built for the pharaoh Djoser is the most notable construction in the necropolis of Saqqara, located near Gizeh. This pyramid was possibly the first tomb made of carved stone and a prototype for the rest of the egyptian pyramids.





Left image: near al-Minya, a curious muslim cemetery displays numerous cuppolas, under which the living can come to accompany or being accompanied by the inhabitants of this "town of the dead".

Right image: The bust of the beautiful queen Nefertiti, made of limestone and plaster, is truly an outstanding piece of the pharaonic egyptian art. It was found in the archaeological site of Tel Amarna, 13 km south-east from Mallawi.

An ancient cemetery near Al-Minya. Bust of the queen Nefertiti.

Karnak is a complex of temples near Luxor. This was the area of ancient Thebes that housed the largest religious complex from ancient Egypt. The complex includes temples dedicated to Amon Ra, Montu, Mut, Jonsu, Opet and Ptah. Important monuments are the ram headed sphynxes, the estatue of Pinedyem I and the two obelisks dedicated to Thutmose I and Hatshepsut.

A temple in Karnak. A temple in Karnak.



The Royal Necropolis of ancient Thebes was excavated in the mountains that border the Nile near Luxor. This city was Thebes in the ancient times, and the necropolis was built in the opposite side of the river. The necropolis contains the areas known as the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, where a major part of pharaohs from the New Kingdom was buried. It is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, being under exploration since the end of the XVIII century.

Left image: in the western bank of the Nile, where traditional boats still navigate, the plateau shaped mountains guard the magnificent necropolis where the ancient Thebes, capital of the Egyptian Empire during the New Kingdom period, buried their kings and nobles.

Right image: at the bottom of the mountains at Thebes, pierced with sepulchres, the houses at Sheikh Abd el-Qurnah necropolis mix with the tombs of the nobles from the ancient Egyptian Empire.

The necropolis of ancient Thebes. The houses of Cheik Abd El-Gurnah.

Left image: the mortuory temple of the queen Hatshepsut, located near the Valley of the Kings, is considered to be one of the most incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt. Today, it is sadly remembered for being the place where 62 tourists were massacrated by a group of islamic extremists in 1997.

Right image: The mask of Tutankhamon, made from gold inlaid with colored glass and semiprecious stones. The mask comes from the innermost mummy case in the pharaoh’s tomb. The vulture and cobra emblems on the forehead, and the falcon heads on the shoulders, were symbols of the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt and of divine authority. The vulture Nekhbet and the cobra Wadjet were meant to protect the pharaoh on the afterlife. The discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamon in the Valley of the Kings increased greatly the fame of this archaeological site.

The mortuory temple of the queen Hatshepsut. The mask of Tutankhamon.

The isle of Elephantine, from which developed the nubian city of Assuan, contains the remains of a temple, two villages, a museum and many gardens and palms that make it a charming place.

The island of Elephantine.

Left image: the temple of the goddess Isis, was originally built in the isle of Philae, near Assuan. However, when the dam of Assuan was projected, it was clear that the isle of Philae was destined to be submerged, so the temple was dismantled and rebuilt in the nearby isle of Agilkia.

Right image: a nubian woman from Assuan. The nubians are the native inhabitants of the lands south of the first waterfall. In the ancient times the nubians were one of the rivals of the Egyptian Empire; they were feared because of their archery skills. They were always settled people, living from farming along the Nile borders. Today, the nubians as the egyptians are converted to islamic religion. In Egypt, nubians live mainly in Assuan, while around 60000 of them had to abandon their homes when the dam of Assuan was built. The Lake Nasser has submerged any villages and archaeological sites that were built in the Nile banks south of Assuan.

The temple of Isis at Assuan. Nubian woman from Assuan.

Ramses II ordered to build two temples at Abu Simbel, located around 230 km south-west of Assuan, to commemorate the victory in the battle of Kadesh against the hittites. In these temples the pharaoh himself was worshiped as a god. The bigger temple is the one dedicated to Ramses himself, while the smaller one is dedicated to his favorite spouse Nefertari and Hathor, goddess of love and beauty. These temples had to be moved from their original emplacement because of the construction of the dam at Assuan.

The temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel. The temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel.

Egypt Geography



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