Red Sea culture
Islam is the main influence in Egypt, and many traditional customs and beliefs are linked with religion. The people are generally courteous and hospitable, and expect similar respect from visitors. Because Egypt is a Muslim country, dress should be conservative and women should not wear revealing clothes, particularly when in religious buildings and in towns - although the Western style of dress is accepted in the modern nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars of Cairo, Alexandria and other tourist destinations. Official or social functions and smart restaurants usually require more formal wear. Smoking is very common.
Over 94% of the population follows Islam, with the majority of the rest being Christian. All types of Christianity are represented, especially the Coptic Church. There is also a small Jewish minority.
The Nile Valley has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. A unified kingdom was founded around 3150 BC by King Menes, spawning the dynasties that ruled Egypt for the next three millennia.
The New Kingdom (c.1550-1070 BC) began with the Eighteenth Dynasty, marking the rise of Egypt as an international power. This period is known for some of the most famous Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun.
The Thirtieth Dynasty was the last of the Pharaonic era, falling to the Persians in 343 BC. From AD 693, Muslim rulers took control for six centuries. Then the Mamluks ruled from around AD 1250 until after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517.
Following the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub. But it also fell into debt to European powers, and the UK seized control of the government in 1882. When the British exiled Saad Zaghlul - leader of the nationalist movment - Egypt experienced its first modern revolution and achieved independence in 1922.
Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East and the second-most populous on the African continent, with nearly 79 million people. Almost all the population is concentrated along the banks of the Nile (notably Alexandria and Cairo), in the Delta and near the Suez Canal. Apart from their religious affiliation, Egyptians can be divided demographically into those who live in the major urban centers and the farmers of rural villages.
Egyptians are by the far the largest ethnic group in the country, forming 97-98% of the total population. Ethnic minorities include the Bedouin Arab tribes living in the eastern deserts and the Sinai Peninsula, the Berber-speaking Siwis of the Siwa Oasis, and the ancient Nubian communities clustered along the Nile in the southernmost part of Egypt. Egypt also hosts some 90,000 refugees and asylum seekers, made up mostly of 70,000 Palestinians and 20,000 Sudanese.