| by Raymon Kondos
- Who are Egyptians? The simple answer would be like that:
Egyptians are descendants of Pharaohs. Egypt which has a majority
of Moslems is located in the African continent and speaks Arabic
as a native language. Egypt is also at the heart of the Middle East
and lies on the Mediterranean Sea.
Scene from the Nile Valley,
where Ancient Egyptian settled
Certainly history has another story to tell!
The Ancient Egyptian civilization evolved about 7000 years ago
in the Nile Valley, the most fertile part in the barren deserts
of North Africa.
Ancient Egyptians are known to be descending from Eastern Hamitic
origins. Early Egyptians were pagans. They spoke Hieroglyphics,
which is considered a Hamito-Semitic language.
For several later centuries, Ancient Egypt relatively maintained
its special identity, even with several infiltrations of other elements
from each of the four directions.
At some eras, Asiatics
infiltrated from the east, made their own dynasties and intermarried
with Egyptians. Libyans in the west also made regular infiltrations
to rule Egypt at some eras. So did Nubians
in the south near the end of the Pharaonic dynasties, which gave
Egypt a black trait at some times.
At the end of the Pharaonic era, Assyrians
from Mesopotamia and their Persian
foes conquered Egypt but without mingling much in the society.
It was the Greek culture that had its biggest effect on the Egyptian
society at that time.
Following the foundation of Alexandria
in the 4th century BC, the Hellenic culture started to sweep the
entire country, especially during the Ptolemaic
Dynasty, a line of Macedonian Kings that took over the rule
For the first time, Egypt’s capital, now Alexandria,
is built on the Mediterranean Sea. Scholars from all over the Mediterranean
world started to flock to Alexandria, which became the world’s
center of learning particularly after the establishment of the famous
Alexandrian Library a.k.a. Bibliotheca Alexandria.
Egyptians from their side, wanted to protect their identity and
language from the new tide of sweeping culture. As a result, the
was developed to resist the social changes in Egypt. The new language
was derived from Hieroglyphics, adopted its very same phonetics,
yet borrowed its new letters from the Greek Alphabet, with new additions
of 6-8 letters uniquely spoken by Egyptians.
The last Hieroglyphics writing was traced in the 5th century AD.
The Roman invasion of Egypt was another turning point for Egyptians,
who at first shared their invaders the pagan worship.
Yet after Egypt’s smooth embracement of Christianity, the
social mingling between Egyptians and Romans became nearly impossible,
also because of the notorious Roman
persecution of Christians in the Mediterranean.
By the time, Arabs invaded
Egypt in 641 AD, all Egyptians became theoretically Christians,
or better saying Copts.
Initially the Arab conquerors were tolerant. They allowed Copts
to keep their language and religion.
By time, Egyptians started to embrace Islam whether because of
persecution, aspiration for better conditions or out of convincement.
The social result of that were intermarriages between Egyptians
and Arabs coming from the Arabian Peninsula.
While the entire Egypt smoothly started to adopt the Arabic language,
because at particular times, its learning was a must for getting
jobs, intermarriage with Arab Semitic stock remained limited because
the conquering Arabs were in fact by far less in number that native
Throughout Islamic history, several foreign forces conquered and
ruled Egypt like Turkic elements, but it was difficult for them
to change the unique identity which the Egyptians acquired and made
The social and ethnic infiltration was even more impossible with
Western colonization of Egypt by whether the French or the British.
Nowadays, Modern Egyptian scholars try to escape accusations of
anti-Semitism by claiming that Egyptians –who are also belonging
to the Arab nation- are Semitic too.
The fact is that Egyptians remain in their majority Hamitics, even
if they speak Arabic, a Semitic language.
Hence, the answer to the previous question about identity is that
Egyptians now, whatever their look, are a mix of all attributes
they acquired during their long history, and whatever changes affected
Egyptians, they succeeded to make their identity different and genuine
from the surrounding world.