Considered by many to be the birthplace of civilization, Egypt was one of the most sophisticated cultures of the ancient world. For more than 2,000 years Egyptians ruled the Nile River Valley, making theirs one of the world’s longest-lived dynasties. Egypt is home to some of history’s greatest marvels, including the pyramids and Great Sphinx of Giza and the Valley of the Kings.
Photo credit: MARJA FLICK-BUIJSEgypt is situated along the Mediterranean Sea on the northeast corner of Africa, and extends to the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt’s strategic location, along with control of the Suez Canal, the 100-mile waterway between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, affords it control of land and water traffic between two continents.
Known in the ancient world as “black land” for the black, rich soil deposited by the annual flooding of the Nile River, Egypt has survived because of the river. Today nearly 99 percent of Egyptians live along the Nile Valley Delta or the Suez Canal, an area of only 4 percent of the country’s geography. Most of the rest of the nation is dry, desolate desert.
Egypt was a cultural and intellectual center of the ancient world. Egyptian hieroglyphics exhibit early forms of writing and mathematics. During the Hellenistic era, Jewish scholars in Alexandria produced the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint. Alexandrian astronomers developed the 365-day calendar used today.
Photo credit: DIEGO ORTEGAMost Egyptians consider themselves Arabs. However over the centuries other nations have invaded Egypt, and their peoples have intermarried. Many Egyptians are able to trace their roots back to Persians, Turks, Ethiopians, Greeks, and Europeans.
According to tradition, Mark, the writer of the Gospel that bears his name, brought Christianity to the country in the first century A.D. The Coptic Orthodox Christian Church, also known as the Church of Egypt, survives to this day, practiced by 9 percent of the population. Nearly 50 million people worldwide consider themselves Coptic Christians. In A.D. 639 Islam came to Egypt, carried by invading Sunni Arabs. Today 90 percent of Egyptians are Muslim, mostly Sunni.
In 1877 a group of Italian Adventists living in Naples sent the French paper Signes des Temps (Signs of the Times) to some Italian friends in Alexandria. This became the first Adventist contact in the Middle East. A year later Romualdo Bartola, a self-supporting missionary and traveling businessman, visited Alexandria. His efforts resulted in seven baptisms, and a small Adventist group started meeting. The church grew slowly. At the beginning of 1912 there were only 18 known Adventists in Egypt. But later that year George Keough, an Irish missionary, learned that a group of 24 Sabbathkeepers were worshipping in southern Egypt. He visited them and organized the first Adventist Church made up of Egyptians. Other congregations at the time were made up mostly of Europeans living in Egypt. Today some 800 Adventists live in Egypt. Although Adventists are free to practice their faith in Egypt, local laws make it hard for the church to grow.
Nile Union Academy, located on the outskirts of Cairo, will receive part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering for the second quarter of 2007 to develop a vocational school program and build a new student center. More than half the students at this school are not Adventists. Nile Union Academy is an investment in Egypt’s future. Please pray for the work in Egypt.
Compiled by Hans Olson, Office of Adventist Mission