An outline of Egyptian history

An outline of Egyptian history September 10, 2023


Egypt from space
A NASA satellite photo of Egypt (roughly from the west southwest) and its environs.  The Nile Valley and the Nile Delta are clearly visible, as are the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Sinai Peninsula.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


From the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™:  “Church Leaders Express Sympathy, Offer Support after Earthquake in Morocco.”


Modern Egypt
A political map of Egypt, from the Nations Online Project.


I’ll be accompanying a tour to Egypt next month.  So here’s a chronology of basic Egyptian history that I think I’ll give out to participants in the group.

I make absolutely no claim to originality here; I’ve consulted four other timelines, thus far.  And this is a work in progress.  I’ll probably include just a bit more biblical and other external history in order to put Egyptian events in context.  I think that such an effort might be helpful to some.


ca. 7000 BC – The settlement of the Nile Valley begins.

ca. 4500-3000 BC – Neolithic Period

ca. 3100 BC – The Egyptians first develop hieroglyphic writing.

ca. 3000-2650 BC – Early Dynastic Period

ca. 3000-2950 BC – The kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt unite under Menes (who may or may not be identical with Narmer or with Hor-Aha, two other names that are credited in ancient texts with the unification of Egypt).  The distinctly dual character of Egypt will never be forgotten during the time of the pharaohs (nor in the biblical Hebrew name of the country).

ca. 2700 BC – Papyrus is developed as a medium for writing.  (Paper is several millennia away.)

ca. 2650-2150 BC – Old Kingdom Period – capital located at Memphis, south of modern Cairo

ca. 2600 BC – Pharaoh Djoser (or Zoser) builds the first pyramid — the “Step Pyramid” of Saqqara — with his vizier (or prime minister) Imhotep as its architect.

ca. 2500 BC – The Sphinx and the Great Pyramids of Giza are constructed.

ca. 2150-2040 BC – First Intermediate Period

ca. 2040-1640 BC – Middle Kingdom – capital sometimes located in Thebes (Luxor)

ca. 1640-1550 BC – Second Intermediate Period

ca. 1600 BC – The war chariot is first introduced.

1550-1070 BC – New Kingdom – capital mostly located in Thebes (Luxor)

ca. 1500 BC – Pharaohs begin to be buried in the Valley of the Kings, to the west of modern Luxor across the Nile.

1479 BC – Hatshepsut (a woman) becomes pharaoh.

1386 BC – Amenhotep III becomes pharaoh. Ancient Egypt reaches its political peak and the Temple of Luxor begins to be constructed.

ca. 1353 BC — Amenhotep IV ascends throne.  Nefertiti is one of his consorts.  After five years, he changes his name to Akhenaten and launches a radical monotheistic religious reform (that does not survive his death).

ca. 1341 BC — Tutankhamun, probably the son of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV), ascend the throne at around the age of nine.  He dies at approximately nineteen.

1279 BC – Ramses II begins his 67-year reign as pharaoh.

1095 BC Commencement of Saul’s reign. Samuel lives for a great part of Saul’s reign.

1063 BC David anointed by Samuel.

1070-712 BC – Third Intermediate Period

1012 BC – Solomon launches construction of the temple in Jerusalem

ca. 945 BC – Pharaoh Shoshenq I (the biblical Shishak)

740 BC – Isaiah begins his ministry

721 BC – End of the Northern Kingdom (Israel)

712-332 BC – Late Period (second pharaoh of which is Piankhy [cf. Book of Mormon Paanchi)

670-669 BC – Assyrians from Mesopotamia conquer and rule Egypt.

587 BC – Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, end of Southern Kingdom (Judah)

537 BC – Cyrus decrees the return of the Jews

525 BC – The Persian conquest of Egypt.

332 BC-642 AD – Graeco-Roman Period

332 BC – Alexander the Great, of ancient Macedonia, conquers Egypt and founds Alexandria. A Macedonian dynasty rules until 31 BC.

305 BC – Ptolemy I, a general under Alexander the Great, becomes “pharaoh” upon Alexander’s death.

ca. 300 BC – Many Jews migrate from Palestine, settling in Egypt and in Asia Minor.

167 BC – beginning of the Maccabaean revolt in Palestine

31 BC – Egypt comes under Roman rule; Queen Cleopatra VII commits suicide after Octavian’s [Augustus Caesar’s] army defeats her forces.  She is the last “pharaoh,” and Egypt now comes under direct Roman control

33 AD – Christianity comes to Egypt and, by the fourth century AD, has largely displaced Egyptian religion.

70 AD – Roman siege and capture of Jerusalem

570 AD – Muhammad born at Mecca, in the Arabian Peninsula

610 AD – Muhammad’s first revelation; beginning of the Qur’an

632 AD – death of Muhammad 

641-642 – The Arab conquest of Egypt.  The nation’s gradual Islamization begins, very slowly.

969 – Cairo is founded (somewhat to the north of ancient Memphis) as the capital of Egypt  under the Fatimid dynasty.

1250-1517 – Mamluk rule

ca. 1299 – beginning of the Ottoman Turkish Empire in Anatolia (modern Turkey)

1453 – Constantinople falls to the Ottoman Turkish Empire

1517 – Egypt is conquered by the Ottoman Empire and absorbed into it.

1798 – Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces invade, but they are repelled by the British and the Turks in 1801. 

1805 – The Albanian-born Ottoman commander Muhammad Ali establishes a dynasty that rules until 1952, although still nominally part of the Ottoman Empire.  Typically reckoned as beginning of modern Egyptian history.

1859-69 – The Suez Canal is built, but it and other infrastructure projects nearly bankrupt Egypt and lead to  a gradual British takeover.

1882 – British troops defeat the Egyptian army at the Battle of Tell al-Kabir and take full control of the country.

1914 – Egypt formally becomes a British protectorate.

1917 – Arthur Balfour, Foreign Minister of Great Britain, sends a letter to Lord Rothschild in which he declares the British government’s approval of the Zionist goal of building a Jewish “national home” in Palestine (the so-called “Balfour Declaration”).

1922 – Fuad I becomes king and Egypt gains independence, although British influence remains significant until the mid-1950s.

1924 – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk abolishes the Caliphate as part of his reforms in Turkey/

1928 – The Muslim Brotherhood is founded by Hassan al-Banna, who is killed in 1949.

1948 – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria attack the new state of Israel. The poor performance of the Egyptian army increases King Farouk’s unpopularity.

1949 – The Committee of the Free Officers’ Movement is formed to overthrow Egypt’s corrupt monarchy.

1952 July – Coup by the Free Officers’ Movement. Farouk abdicates in favour of his infant son Ahmed Fuad II, who does not long remain as “king.”

1953 June – Coup leader Muhammad Naguib becomes president as Egypt is declared a republic.

1954 – Fellow coup leader Gamal Abdel Nasser becomes prime minister and, in 1956, president, ruling unchallenged until his sudden death in 1970.

1954 – The “Evacuation Treaty” is signed. British forces, who began a gradual withdrawal under a 1936 treaty, finally leave Egypt.

1955 – Prime Minister Nasser reorients Egypt away from the West towards neutrality and buys arms from Communist Czechoslovakia to re-equip army after Western powers refuse to do so on terms acceptable to Egypt.

1956 July – Having just assumed the Egyptian presidency, Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal in order to fund the Aswan High Dam, after Britain and US withdraw financing.

1956 October-November – Invasion of Egypt by Britain, France, and Israel over nationalization of Suez Canal fails through US opposition, greatly enhancing President Nasser’s standing at home and abroad.

1958 – President Nasser steps up campaign to promote pan-Arab unity, most visible signs of which were brief unitary state (United Arab Republic, 1958-1961) including Syria. He also supports friendly elements in Lebanese and North Yemen conflicts, but to little lasting effect.

1961-1966 – President Nasser adopts socialist policies, including nationalization of industry and an ambitious welfare program, combined with repression of Muslim Brotherhood and leftist opponents, in an unsuccessful attempt to boost the economy and the popularity of his government.

1967 May – Egypt expels UN buffer forces from Sinai and closes the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships, then signs defense pact with Jordan. Israel interprets this as preparation for war.

1967 June – Israeli preemptive attack (beginning “Six-Day War”) defeats Egypt, Jordan and Syria, leaving Israel in control of Sinai up to the Suez Canal and of Egyptian-occupied Gaza (along with the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, formerly controlled by Syria and Jordan).  A so-called “Emergency Law” largely suspends civil rights in Egypt.  It remains in force (with a brief break in the early 1980s) until 2012.

1970 September – Nasser dies suddenly and unexpectedly, having never recovered his leading role among Arab states after the 1967 defeat, and is succeeded by Vice-President Anwar al-Sadat.

1971 – The Aswan High Dam is completed, with Soviet funding, and has a huge impact on irrigation, agriculture and industry in Egypt.

1972 – President Sadat expels Soviet advisers and reorients Egypt towards the West, while launching an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to open the economy to market forces and foreign investment.

1973 October – Egypt and Syria go to war with Israel to reclaim land lost in 1967. Egypt begins negotiations for the return of Sinai after the war.

1975 June – The Suez Canal is re-opened for the first time since 1967 war.

1977 January – “Bread riots” break out in major Egyptian cities against an end to subsidies on basic foodstuffs that was undertaken under agreement with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

1977 October – President Sadat visits Israel, beginning the process that leads to the 1979 peace treaty, the return of the occupied Sinai Peninsula, and Egypt’s suspension from the Arab League until 1989. Egypt becomes a major beneficiary of US financial aid.

1978 – The Camp David Accords

1981 October – President Sadat is assassinated by Islamist extremists one month after a clampdown on private press and opposition groups in wake of anti-government riots. Succeeded by Vice-President Hosni Mubarak.

1981 – President Mubarak reimposes State of Emergency, which restricts political activity, freedom of expression and assembly.

1991 – Egypt joins an allied coalition to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait, and benefits in return from major multilateral loans and debt relief, allowing government to launch another attempt at liberalizing the Egyptian economy.

2006 – The so-called “Arab Spring”

2011 February – President Mubarak steps down and hands power over to the army council. He goes on trial in August, charged with ordering the killing of demonstrators.

2012 June – Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi narrowly wins the presidential election.

2012 December – Islamist-dominated constituent assembly approves draft constitution that boosts the role of Islam and restricts freedom of speech and assembly. A popular referendum approves it, prompting extensive protests by secular opposition leaders, Christians, and women’s groups. 

2013 January – More than 50 people are killed during days of violent street protests. Army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi warns that political strife is pushing the state to the brink of collapse.

2013 June – President Morsi appoints Islamist allies as regional leaders in 13 of Egypt’s 27 governorships, including a member of a former Islamist armed group linked to a massacre of tourists in Luxor in 1997. Protests force the Luxor governor out.

2013 July – The Egyptian army overthrows President Morsi amid mass demonstrations calling on him to resign. 

2013 August – Hundreds are killed as security forces storm pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo.  Some 40 Coptic churches are destroyed in a wave of Islamist attacks.

2013 December – The government declares the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group after a bomb blast in Mansoura that kills twelve. 

2014 January – A new constitution bans parties based on religion.

2014 May – Former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi wins election as president.

2018 April – President al-Sisi is re-elected in a landslide (but also with no genuine opposition).

2019 April 2019 – Egypt’s parliament extends the length of presidential terms from four years to six years. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is granted permission to run for a third term in 2024.

2020 – The so-called “Abraham Accords”


Posted from Houston, Texas



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