In the centuries that followed, a slow process of Arabization began, which over time produced the change from a Coptic-speaking Christian country to another, an Arabic-speaking Muslim. The Coptic language has become a liturgical language. During the Abbasid caliphate, frequent uprisings arose across the country caused by differences between the Sunnis, the orthodox majority, and the minority that joined the Shiites. In 868, Ahmad ibn Tulun transformed Egypt into an autonomous state, linked to the Abbasids only by paying a small tribute. The Tulun dynasty (the Tulúnidas) ruled for 37 years an empire that encompassed Egypt, Palestine and Syria.
After the last Tulúnidas government, the country entered a state of anarchy. Its fragile conditions made it easy prey for the Fatimids, who in 969 invaded and conquered Egypt and founded Cairo, making it the capital of their empire. The Fatimids were defeated by the Ayyubis, whose leader Saladin (Salah ad Din Yusuf ibn Ayubb) proclaimed himself a sultan of Egypt and extended his territories to Syria and Palestine, taking the city of Jerusalem from the crusaders (see Crusades). The weakness of their successors led to a progressive seizure of power by the Mamluks, soldiers of different ethnic origins who served them and ended up proclaiming themselves sultans with Izza al Din Aybak, in 1250. At the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century, the Mameluke territory extended northward to the limits of Asia Minor.
According to LOVERISTS, the second dynasty of Mameluke sultans, the Buris, was of Circassian origin; they ruled from 1382 to 1517, when Sultan Selim I invaded Egypt and integrated him into the Ottoman Empire. Although the Ottoman Turks’ real rule over Egypt lasted only until the end of the 17th century, the country nominally belonged to the Ottoman Empire until 1915. Instead of ending the Mamelukes, the Ottomans used them in their administration. In the middle of the 17th century, the Mameluke emirs (or beis) reestablished their supremacy. The Ottomans accepted the situation, on the condition that they pay a tribute. The French occupation of Egypt in 1798, carried out by Napoleon I Bonaparte, interrupted the Mamluk hegemony for a short time. In 1801, a British-Ottoman force expelled the French. Mehemet Ali came to power and, in 1805, the Ottoman sultan recognized him as governor of Egypt. Mehemet Ali destroyed all his opponents until he became the only authority in the country. In order to control all trade routes, it carried out a series of expansionist wars. The British occupied Egypt from 1882 to 1954.
Britain’s interest was centered on the Suez Canal, which would facilitate the British route to India. In World War I, Britain established a protectorate. In 1918, a nationalist movement arose to guarantee independence. A violent revolt broke out in the country, which is why Britain suppressed the protectorate in 1922 and an independent monarchy was ruled, ruled by King Fuad I. In 1948, Egypt and other Arab states went to war with the newly created state of Israel. With the defeat, the Army turned against King Faruk I. In 1952, a coup d’état deposed the king and proclaimed the Republic of Egypt. The first president, General Muhammad Naguib, was a nominal figure, as power was exercised by Gamal Abdel Nasser, chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council.
In 1956, he was officially elected President of the Republic. In the beginning, Nasser followed a policy of solidarity with other African and Asian nations in the Third World and became the great defender of Arab unity. Western countries’ refusal to provide them with weapons (which they would probably use against Israel) brought about a turnaround in Nasser’s foreign policy, which brought him closer to the blocs of the countries of the East. With regard to domestic politics, Nasser suppressed political opposition, established a one-party regime and socialized the economy. This new order was called Arab socialism.
In 1967, the struggle against Israel continued, which ended in the Six Day War, at the end of which Israel took control of the entire Sinai peninsula. The Suez Canal remained closed during the war and was later blocked. Nasser turned to the Soviet Union. Nasser died in 1971 and was succeeded by his vice president, Anwar al-Sadat. Sadat promoted political and economic openness, in addition to seeking a way out of the Israeli problem through negotiation; as he failed, he planned another attack against Israel, starting the Yom Kippur war. In 1974 and 1975, Egypt and Israel concluded a series of agreements that resulted in the withdrawal of troops from Sinai. In 1975, Egypt reopened the Suez Canal and Israel withdrew from certain strategic points and from some of the Sinai oil fields.
The economic issue started to gain more and more importance; in 1977, Sadat asked Soviet military advisers to leave the country and approached the United States. At a tripartite conference with US President Jimmy Carter in 1978, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin signed an agreement to resolve the Egyptian-Israeli conflict. Islamic fundamentalist groups protested the peace treaty, and Sadat was assassinated in 1981. Hosni Mubarak succeeded Sadat. It opened the country politically and improved relations with other Arab states. He participated in the coalition that fought Iraq in the Persian Gulf war in 1991. In 1992, Islamic fundamentalists began to launch violent attacks aimed at replacing Mubarak’s government with one based on strict compliance with Islamic law. In October 1993, Mubarak was re-elected for a third presidential term, although violence by Islamic militants continued.