Captivating facts about Egypt
The cradle of civilization has birthed many wonders
Western civilization made its first shaky steps into the world about 5,000 years ago in 3,000 BCE. In Mesopotamia, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers provided clean drinking water, a means of irrigation, and the ability to transport both goods and people quickly and easily. Meanwhile – in Egypt – the Nile was providing the same benefits to ancient Egyptians.
These two kingdoms flourished together for a few millennia. However, the peace was broken in 669 BCE when an army of Mesopotamian Assyrians invaded and captured Egypt, putting into motion a chain of events that would see Egypt under the direct rule of foreign leaders for more than 2,500 years.
Despite its turbulent past, modern-day Egypt continues to celebrate both its ancient wonders and contemporary innovations, making it one of the most significant and fascinating places in the world.
Cairo is massive
With a huge population of 20.4 million people (that’s almost equal to the current population of Florida), Cairo is a mix of Old Kingdom landmarks and modern skyscrapers. Once the most populated city in both Africa and the Middle East, Cairo remains one of the largest modern cities at 3,085 square kilometers. That’s larger than Moscow, Tokyo, and Houston, Texas!
In total, Cairo houses nearly 25% of Egypt’s entire population. It’s so active, busy, and filled with people that it often seems like the city never sleeps. Unfortunately, this may be causing some of Cairo’s teens to toss and turn at night.
Egypt was once the home of the world’s most magnificent library
Alexandria is an Egyptian city that was founded by a Macedonian conqueror. But not just any Macedonian conqueror. Alexandria was created by Alexander the Great, in his name, honor, and image. Well, maybe not his image. Alexandria would become home to one of the world’s seven ancient wonders, the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
But the Alexandrian institution that should really take the spotlight is the Great Library of Alexandria. Composed of several different libraries and complexes, the vast collection was built with the purpose of housing every book in the known world. And for the first couple of centuries, it seemed like that impossible feat was within reach.
Alexandria is an Egyptian city that was founded by a Macedonian conqueror
But Alexander the Great was not the last to invade and control Egypt. Many others would end up following in his footsteps, seeking to gain control of the precious cradle of civilization and its resources. But invading a city and taking over its inhabitants is hardly ever a peaceful procedure.
When a rough-and-tumble band of invaders overtakes a country, there tends to be a looting, pillaging, and general murderous mayhem. But the tragic tale of the fire that consumed the Great Library of Alexandria wasn’t the result of an invading army, but rather, a fleeing one. Julius Caesar, running for his life from approaching Egyptian forces in 48 BCE, accidentally set fire to one of the library’s adjoined warehouses, turning thousands of treasured scrolls and texts into piles of ash.
However, author/history-buff Brian Houghton posits a different explanation for the disappearance of the Library. He explains:
“Attempting to identify one single devastating fire that destroyed the great Library and all of its holdings is a futile task. Alexandria was often a volatile city, especially during the Roman period…”
So, while it may be easy to blame Julius Caesar, the truth of how the Great Library died is probably far more complicated and multi-faceted than it initially seems.
The Egyptian economy partially depends on tourism
In 2018, Egypt had the fastest growing tourism sector in North Africa. The Egyptian tourism industry has created 2.5 million jobs and about $32.8 billion in annual revenue. More than 25% of Egypt’s annual exports are the result of tourism.
The nation that was plagued by invaders for nearly 3,000 years now welcomes tourists with open arms – especially if they’re in the mood to spend some cold hard cash. At last, Egypt is finally able to use its assets for its own benefit.
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
- 10 Remarkable Egyptian pharaohs | History 101
Ancient Egypt’s most impressive, enigmatic, and infamous pharaohs finally get the limelight.
- Things you didn’t know about Ancient Egypt | History 101
An in-depth exploration of ancient Egypt’s most splendid, sordid, and sumptuous curiosities.