regularity and richness of the annual Nile River flood, coupled with
semi-isolation provided by deserts to the east and west, allowed for
the development of one of the world's great civilizations. A unified
kingdom arose circa 3200 B.C., and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt
for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty fell to the
Persians in 341 B.C., who in turn were replaced by the Greeks, Romans,
and Byzantines. It was the Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic
language in the 7th century and who ruled for the next six centuries. A
local military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 and continued
to govern 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 also fell heavily into debt.
Ostensibly to protect its investments, Britain seized control of
Egypt's government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman
Empire continued until 1914. Partially independent from the UK in 1922,
Egypt acquired full sovereignty following World War II. The completion
of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have
altered the time-honored place of the Nile River in the agriculture and
ecology of Egypt. Arabic is the official language, but English
are also understood by the educated classes.