The first dynasty of a long line of Egyptian kings was established around 5000 years ago by a powerful leader named Menes. The greatest monuments of the world, the Pyramids, were built during this era.

Ancient Egypt maintained trade with Greece, Syria and Crete. Artists, builders, and scribes thrived, leaving Egypt with a rich legacy of art forms. The kings and wealthy families built large tombs in which treasures were entombed with family members when they died. The tombs were elegantly and artistically decorated, frequently with wall drawings and inscriptions. In addition to the rich artistic life of the early Egyptians, scholars wrote about sciences such as astronomy, medicine and mathematics.

By the time Alexander the Great came to power in 331 B.C., Egypt had been ruled by a series of weak kings and was no longer a great power.

The Arabs conquered Egypt in 639 A.D. The majority of native Egyptians converted to Islam and Arabic became widely spoken. During the 18th century, when Egypt was under the rule of the Ottomans, Napoleon invaded Egypt, but was later defeated by the British.

With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the British slowly took control from the Turks. By the end of the 19th century Egypt became a British Protectorate. After World War I, Egypt declared independence, but remained a monarchy.

In 1952, a group of army officers exiled King Farouk and seized power in a bloodless revolution. The country became a Republic. One of those officers, Gamal Abdul Nasser, democratized Egypt and introduced major reforms. President Anwar Sadat, who succeeded Nasser, adopted a liberal, open-door policy with Israel, but for this reason was assassinated in 1981. He was succeeded by President Hosni Mubarak.

Did you know?

Tutankhamen was only 10 years old when he became pharaoh. When he died at 18, gold jewelry, statues, thrones, beds and a golden face mask were buried with him. Unlike the majority of other pharaohs, tomb robbers never uncovered his tomb. Archeologists unearthed it in the 1920s.