Of all the Arab nations,
Egypt is the most populous, and Cairo, its capital, has been
largest city in Africa for centuries. The city is located at
the end of the Nile, which is the world’s longest river.
With all of this historical, geographical, and cultural
prominence, some confusion over Egypt's identity is
inevitable and understandable.
The Egyptians themselves have rarely thought in terms of
being part of one continent or another.
The Nile Valley, the
Mediterranean Sea, the Sahara Desert, and the Islamic
nations all intermingle with each other.
If you look at it on the map,
the vast majority of the country lies on the African
continent. However, the eastern side of the country, the
Sinai Peninsula, is considered part of the Asian continent. In ancient times, relations
with Africa were considerable. Yet since the 7th
century BC after its invasion by the Assyrians,
Egypt has tended to lean towards the Mediterranean
and Middle East for its cultural, religious,
political, and economic identity.
consider themselves racially as Arabs, and therefore
as Middle Easterners. But a considerable part of the
population also has Nubian or African ancestry.
Over the last couple of centuries, Egyptian
relations with the Sudan, Ethiopia, Libya, and other
African countries have been strong.
Egypt will inevitably
continue to grow with its curious combination of
African and Middle Eastern worlds.
It is evident that
the ancient Nubian and Egyptian civilizations walked
hand in hand. Unfortunately for us, a vast amount of
the cultural exchange happened before written
records were kept.
It has often been thought that Egypt,
destined in history to become one of the world’s greatest
powers, was the more influential.
Nevertheless, modern archaeological evidence, particularly
around Kerma in the northern Sudan, shows that Nubian
influences on Egypt were also considerable.
Evident from prehistoric times was the large-scale culture
in northern Kush which was later known as Nubia. After
Egyptian occupation, Kush had a special importance within
the empire of the Egyptian pharaohs.
It is really impossible to
distinguish the types of economic, social, and technological
influences that may have been exchanged between the two
The peoples to the
south of Egypt apparently had a great effect on the
religion of their northern neighbors, particularly
in passing on gods connected with animals such as
birds, livestock, and crocodiles.
As the glory of ancient Egypt started to decline
around 712 BC, the Kushites, as those from Kush or
present-day Nubia were called, traveled north to
rule Egypt, to become the 25th Dynasty to rule Egypt
for over half of a century. These years of imperial
rule had a definite impact on Egypt both
historically as well as culturally and serve to
cement African influence on the country for years to
is therefore Arab-African since the influences of both races
are significant in shaping ancient as well as modern Egypt.
The line that separates where Arab and African influences
begin and end is somewhat blurred. Suffice it to say that
Egypt today is as much Arab as it is African.