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Topic of the Issue
Egypt … Glimpse over its Society, Language and Religion
Monday, March 1 (Issue 4)
by Raymon Kondos

CAIRO (youregypt.com) - Have you ever visited Egypt? What do you know about religion, language and society of that country? Are you among those who believe Egypt is a desert country in which people ride on camels to reach their destinations?

Egyptians walk past McDonalds
Egyptians walk past McDonalds

There are lots of misconceptions regarding Egypt, which is usually tied to the typical vision of travel ads and political news.

Egypt is a predominantly Moslem country. This means Islam is the official religion of state and of the majority. However, Egypt contains one of the biggest Christian minorities in the Middle East. While official estimates put the Christian population of Egypt at 6%, unofficial estimates bring the number as high as 20%.
The Christian population of Egypt is also diverse. Most Egyptians belong to the Coptic Orthodox rite, while the rest belong to several churches, like the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox and Adventist churches.
Unlike some countries in the regionwhere there are complete neighborhoods for Christians like Lebanon or whole cities for minorities like Iraq, the Christians of Egypt are diffused in the society and don’t gather in residence except in very narrow exceptions.

Arabic is the official and predominant language of Egypt. However, other minor indigenous languages are spoken among some minorities. The Nubian language is spoken among a small black community in Upper Egypt. Nubian is a Nilo-Saharan language that is spoken also by some families in North Sudan. Although Nubian is not a written language, it marvelously survived ages and successfully resisted the sweep of Arabic as a live spoken language, unlike Coptic language which only survived as a liturgical language. Nubians of Egypt are estimated at 200’000.

There is also the language spoken by Berbers. The language, known as Siwi, is a variation of the Tamazight spoken by other Berbers of North Africa. Its speakers live around Siwa oasis in the Western Desert. Siwi-speakers are estimated at 5’000.

Egypt’s Arabic is a very unique and remarkable Arabic, and is considered the most famous dialect among Arabs. Egypt’s Arabic is much influenced by several languages including the Coptic language. One can say that Egypt copticized Arabic. Such influence is so evident in the way sentences and words are pronounced by Egyptians. The Egyptian vocabularies are rich with Coptic terms.

The society of Egypt is much developed, and actually very complicated. Modernity started with the rule of Mohamed Ali in 1805. Mohamed Ali, as well as his grandson Ismael who ruled about 15 years after his grandfather's death in 1849, tried to Europeanize Egypt, building European-style cities and dispatching delegates of scholars to acquire learning from the West.
The big economic boom of early 20th century has resulted into the artistic buildings which can be noticed in downtowns of major Egyptian cities.
Yet with the advent of 1952’s revolution, development went off the track, and haphazardness became the main attribute linked to any expansion.

The result is present-day Cairo, the capital of Egypt, a remarkable historic city, but also congested with cars, traffic, noise, crowd and impoverished buildings.
Of course camels and horses are no longer the main means of transportation. Generally they became an iconic symbol of Egypt, as in portraits showing pyramids in the background of camels, though certainly used in rustic and desert areas.

Egypt tops the Arab world in education, show business, science, technology, art, music, literature, culture and heritage … a rank that might be shaken by regional rivals in the future.

PREVIOUS TOPICS:
. Food Habits in Egyptian Key Events (issue 1)
. Egyptian Matrimony: Man Got to Do it All (issue 2)
. The Egyptian Identity: Pharoahs, Moslems, Arabs, Africans, Middle Easterners or Mediterranean People? (issue 3)

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