The earliest signs of man in the area can be traced back to the 10th millennium BC. But the most famous period for which tourists flock to Egypt every year took place from about 3150 BC. This was the great period of Pyramid building and the Pharaohs.
This period came to an end with the fall of the 13th dynasty to the Persians in 343 BC. The Ptolemaic Kingdom followed from 305 to 30 BC and then came the Romans.
Christianity reached Egypt very quickly and the Egyptian Coptic Church was established in 451 AD.
In 639 AD Egypt was taken over during the great Islamic expansion and in the 15th Century came under the rule of the Ottomans.
The French invaded in 1798 and remained until around 1801 when a period of chaos eventually led to the emergence of a new dynasty under Muhammad Ali. This dynasty was to continue until 1952.
Meanwhile, the British got involved in the region in 1914 and stayed until 1956. Although on 22nd February 1922 Independence was declared a British military presence remained. A new constitution was enforced in 1923 with the first elections and Saad Zaghlul became Egypt’s first prime minister.
In 1936 the Anglo Egyptian Treaty was supposed to see the withdrawal of British troops except for the area around the Suez, but the Second World War intervened.
In 1950 the Wafd Party won the general election, but in 1952 the Free Officers Movement forced King Farouk out and in 1953 General Muhammad Naguib became the first president of the republic.
In 1954 Naguib was forced to resign by Gamel Abdel Nasser and two years later in 1956 Nasser became president. During the Cold War he sided with the Russians and his regime was supported widely by Russian advisers.
In 1958 Egypt joined with Syria to form the United Arab Republic (UAR) and the parliament was shared between the two countries. The UAR lasted until 1961 when Syria seceded from the union. Under Nasser the only political party permitted was the Arab Socialist Union (ASU)
In 1967 Egypt fought and lost the Six Day War with the Israelis and three years later, in 1970 Nasser died and was replaced by Anwar Sadat. Sadat changed sides in the Cold War, expelling the Russian advisers and bringing in the Americans.
In 1973 he fought the October War in the hope that he could reclaim the Sinai Peninsula. The war was a stalemate but the Sinai was returned to Egypt and in 1979 Sadat entered into a peace treaty with the Israelis.
In 1976 Sadat allowed multi-party elections and three factions of the old Arab Socialist Union competed against each other. Anwar Sadat founded the National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1978 and this was to go on and rule under Sadat and then Hosni Mubarak until 2011 when it was dissolved.
Sadat had clamped down on any form of dissension and especially religious dissent. This was to lead to his assassination in 1981 and he was replaced by Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak was to dominate the country for three decades until early 2011. On 25th January the Egyptian people mimicked the Tunisians and started an uprising, taking over Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo and other key city centres across the country.
The armed forces refused to intervene and the Mubarak regime fell on 11th February. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took over on 13th February and a constitutional referendum was held on 19th March.
SCAF remain in control until elections starting in November and ending in January 2012 have been held.
Currently the electoral rules are being re-written, but the following is still broadly correct.
The President is elected for a six year term with no term limits.
The parliament is bicameral. The upper house or Majlis al-Shura (Shura Council) has 270 seats; 180 members are elected and 90 are appointed by the President to serve 6 year terms (the latter will change). There are mid-term elections for half of the elected members. The People’s Assembly or Majlis al-Sha’b has 508 members serving 5 year terms. 498 members are elected by popular vote and 10 are appointed by the president (Currently the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces).
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Egypt at joint 108th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 34 (where 100 is least corrupt).