Thursday, March 08, 2018

Who are the Egyptian people?

Who are the modern day Egyptians?  Are they the true descendants of the ancient Egyptians, of the age of the pharaohs?  Of Rameses, Nefertari, Tutankhamun, Akhanaten, Nefertiti, … and Cleopatra?  Are they actually descendants of the Arabs and other conquerers?  Or, more likely, a mixture of both?  After all, they do speak Egyptian Arabic today.  

According to the Egyptians I met, they are the true descendants of the ancient Egyptians, that the Egyptians and their conquerors do not mix.  Is that true?  Let us look at the facts.  The Egyptians guide that we had in Cairo told us one of her grandfathers was from Albania, hence she is one-quarter Albanian.  In fact, Muhammad Ali Pasha, the founder of the last dynasty of Egypt, was an Albanian Ottoman commander.  He was born in Macedonia of a family originally from Albania.  He was sent, as part of a force to re-occupy Egypt in 1801 when Napoleon Bonaparte withdrew from Egypt.  I found him immortalised on the walls of the citadel in Cairo, just under the mosque that he built, in the Ottoman style.  It looks like a smaller version of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.  

Prior to Napoleon, Egypt had been conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1517.  The Ottoman Turks founded the Ottoman Empire in present day Turkey in the 1200s.  But they were originally Oghuz Turks from present day Kazakhstan.  

Prior to the Ottomans, Egypt was ruled by Mamluks from 1250.  The Mamluks were actually slaves who were trained as soldiers.  They came to power in Egypt with Saladin, or Salah ad-Din, who defeated the Crusaders and took Jerusalem.  Saladin was actually a Kurd, the people who still live in a region at the junction of Turkey, Syria and Iraq, who are still fighting for a homeland …  I was pleasantly surprised to find his name on a pier along the Nile in Aswan.  

Prior to Saladin, Egypt was conquered by the Arabs in the 600s.  That’s why they are Muslims and speaks a version of Arabic.  

Prior to that, they were ruled by the Byzantines.  Before that, the Romans since 30 BC.

Before that, Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemy Dynasty.  She ruled as the last Pharaoh.  But the Ptolemies were not Egyptians.  Ptolemy was a general under Alexander from Macedonia who conquered Egypt in 332 BC, and founded Alexandria.  

On the waterfront in Alexandria, the waves look angry in the rain.  I found myself in front of the University of Alexandria, with a picture of the famed lighthouse, which had disappeared a long time ago, of course. 

So, for 2,000 years, Egypt had been ruled by at least the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs,  Kurd Mamluks, Ottoman Turks, and Albanians, with each of them leaving their own heritage.    Who, then, are the present day Egyptians?

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