The Egyptian Identity: Pharaohs, Moslems, Arabs, Africans, Middle Easterners, or Mediterranean People?
Who are Egyptians?
The simple answer would be like that:
Egyptians are descendants of the Pharaohs.
Egypt, which has many Moslems, is located in the African continent and speaks Arabic as a native language. Egypt is at the heart of the Middle East and lies on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Ancient Egyptian civilization evolved about 7000 years ago in the Nile Valley, the most fertile part in the barren deserts of North Africa.
Ancient Egyptians are known to be descending from Eastern Hamitic origins. Early Egyptians were pagans.
They spoke the Ancient Egyptian language, which is considered a Hamitic language, and they wrote it in four types of script (Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Demotic, and Coptic).
Ancient Egypt maintained its unique identity for several later centuries, even with several infiltrations of other elements from every four directions.
Asiatic infiltrated from the east at some eras made their dynasties and intermarried with Egyptians.
Libyans in the west also made regular infiltrations and succeeded in ruling Egypt at some eras.
So did Nubians in the south near the end of the Ancient Egyptian dynasties, which gave Egypt a black trait at some times.
At the end of the Pharaonic era, Assyrians from Mesopotamia and their Persian foes conquered Egypt without mingling much in the society.
The Greek culture had its most significant effect on Egyptian society.
Following the foundation of Alexandria in the 4th century BC, the Hellenic culture started to sweep the entire country, especially during the Ptolemaic Dynasty, a line of Macedonian Kings that took over the rule of Egypt.
Now Alexandria, Egypt’s capital, was built on the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.
Scholars from all over the Mediterranean world started to flock to Alexandria, which became the world’s center of learning, particularly after establishing the famous Alexandrian Library, i.e., Bibliotheca Alexandria.
Egyptians wanted to protect their identity and language from the new tide of sweeping culture.
As a result, the Coptic language was developed to resist the social changes in Egypt.
The new language was derived from Hieroglyphics, adopted its very same phonetics, yet borrowed its unknown letters from the Greek Alphabet, with new additions of 6-8 letters uniquely spoken by Egyptians.
The last Hieroglyphics writing was traced to the 5th century AD.
The Roman invasion of Egypt was another turning point for Egyptians, who first shared their invaders the pagan worship.
Yet after Egypt’s smooth embracement of Christianity, the social mingling between Egyptians and Romans became nearly impossible because of the notorious Roman persecution of Christians in the Mediterranean.
By the time Arabs invaded Egypt in 641 ADS, all Egyptians had become Christians theoretically or, better said, Copts.
Initially, the Arab conquerors were tolerant.
They allowed Copts to keep their language and religion.
Egyptians started to embrace Islam, whether because of persecution, aspiration for better conditions, or out of convincement.
The social result was intermarriages between Egyptians and Arabs coming from the Arabian Peninsula.
While entire Egypt smoothly started to adopt the Arabic language, because, at particular times, its learning was a must for getting jobs, intermarriage with Arab Semitic stock remained limited because the conquering Arabs were, in fact, by far less in number than native Egyptians.
Like Turkic elements, several foreign forces conquered and ruled Egypt throughout Islamic history. Still, it was difficult for them to change the unique identity which the Egyptians acquired and made special.
The social and ethnic infiltration was even more impossible with Western colonization of Egypt by whether the French or the British.
Nowadays, Modern Egyptian scholars try to escape accusations of anti-Semitism by claiming that Egyptians –who also belong to the Arab nation- are Semitic.
The fact is that Egyptians remain in their majority Hamitic, even if they speak Arabic, a Semitic language.
Hence, the answer to the previous question about identity is that Egyptians now, whatever their look, are a mix of all attributes they acquired during their long history. Whatever changes affected Egyptians, they succeeded in making their identity different and genuine from the surrounding world.