Among Arab countries, what is unusual about Egypt?

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Mar 6, 2018


Egypt has an ancient and well documented history that clearly predates Islam, along with a strong Coptic and Greek influence which still add to its social and cultural distinctiveness.


Egypt is a Middle Eastern country, some 90 percent of the population are Muslims (mostly Sunnis) and speak Arabic. It is also the largest Middle-Eastern nation in terms of population.

While the history of civilization and older cultures in most of the Middle East is well described, the people of Egypt were always cognizant of a past that pre-dated the Muslim conquest and subjegation of the 7th Century. This awareness was heightened by the growing interest of Foreign archeologists and historians in the 19th Century.

Beyond this, Egypt had always been closely linked to the broader Mediterranean world, particularly in the northern Delta area around Alexandria. There were strong Greek influences on Egyptian culture and civilization for many centuries (there was also a strong Jewish influence until the creation of Israel... there are only six Jews left as of the last census). This generally left Egyptians with more of a cosmopolitan attitude than was common in much of the rest of the Arab world.

Some 10 percent of Egyptians are still Coptic Christians --despite centuries of persecution -- and preserve their ancient language and history, which again predates Islam by several centuries.

There is a cultural war over in Egypt now, particularly as the Salafists and Wahhabis seek to reinforce the Dhimmi status of Copts and to expunge the pre-Islamic history of Egypt. The great majority of Egyptians oppose these proposals and prefer to retain their cultural and historic distinctiveness.

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