Although modern day Egyptians are usually lumped together with "the Arabs"
due to their language and Islamic traditions, this is not completely
accurate. There is a truly Bedouin Arab grouping within Egypt, the
majority still nomadic tribal peoples living in isolated oases and roaming
through the country's vast desert regions. Many Bedouin Arabs are settled
in the Sinai Peninsula and along the Red Sea coast, across from Arabia.
However, anthropologically, the majority of indigenous Egyptians trace
their ancestry back to the Semitic tribe of Ham. Their physical appearance
and cultural traditions are distinct from all other Middle Eastern
The third main racial grouping in Egypt is comprised of the Nubians
peoples who lived for thousands of years in their own land along the Nile,
called Nuba, which overlapped from Upper Egypt into northern Sudan. Most
of Nubia was flooded in the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser with the
construction of the Aswan high dam and the creation of the artificial Lake
Nasser. The government but much of their ancient culture resettled the
Nubians and stunning architectural tradition has been lost.
For millennia wave upon wave of conquerors has passed through Egypt,
leaving traces in their descendants.
Romans, Greeks and, more recently the Turks, Circassians (Mamluks) and
even French and English have intermarried with the Egyptians, adding
further to the cosmopolitan melting pot. For a half century the rural
population has shifted to the main urban centers in search of employment.
Until today nearly half the population reside in overcrowded cities. To
remedy this, the Egyptian government has inaugurated a series of
incentives to try and lure many Egyptians away from Cairo and Alexandria.
Part of this program includes the construction of industrial cities
located well outside the main centers and the program seems to be meeting
with a measure of success.
There are a number of other small distinct minorities including Berbers,
most of whom live around Siwa oasis, and the 7 million Copts who share the
same racial background as their indigenous Muslim countrymen but who were
among those who remained wedded to their ancient Christian beliefs and