People and Society, Ethnic Groups
Aswan High Dam, Syrian Christians, southern Egypt, Mamluks, elite ranks
The ancestors of the Egyptians include many races and ethnic groups, but the present-day population is relatively uniform in terms of language and religion. Most Egyptians are descendants of the ancient Egyptians, a people who originated in northeastern Africa. Some 4,000 Arab horsemen invaded Egypt in 641 and eventually conquered it for Islam. From that time, there was significant Arab migration and intermarriage between Arabs and the indigenous population. Traits of other invading peoples, especially the Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans, are also found in present-day Egyptians. The Mamluks, rulers of Egypt between the 13th and 16th centuries, were of Turkic and Circassian origins. They also intermarried with the indigenous population, especially with its elite ranks.
A separate indigenous group, the Nubians, historically lived in northern Sudan and southern Egypt. Hundreds of their ancestral villages were flooded by the formation of Lake Nasser behind the Aswan High Dam. Today the Nubian population is concentrated in Aswan and Cairo. The government does not recognize the Nubians as an ethnic minority.
Also living in Egypt are small numbers of Greeks, Armenians, Italians, Syrian Christians, and Jews. Their numbers declined sharply as a result of emigration after the Suez Crisis of 1956, when rising Egyptian nationalism made them feel unwelcome. Many of those who remained in the country intermarried with indigenous Muslims or Christians.
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