Ethnic Groups in Egypt

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins

Emily Cummins received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and French Literature and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology. She has instructor experience at Northeastern University and New Mexico State University, teaching courses on Sociology, Anthropology, Social Research Methods, Social Inequality, and Statistics for Social Research.

In this lesson, we will talk about a few of the different ethnic groups in Egypt, a country in North Africa with one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Updated: 05/24/2021

Egypt Background

Egypt is a country in North Africa. It's about eight times larger than the U.S. state of Ohio, with a population of around 93 million. Egypt has a rich history. It's one of the oldest civilizations in the world and, of course, home to the pyramids, one of the most iconic sites on Earth. You may also have read about Egypt in the news recently, when protesters led strikes and demonstrations to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt is largely dominated by one ethnic group: the Egyptians. But there are also two smaller groups, the Bedouins and the Berbers. Let's look at all three of these cultures now.

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  • 0:04 Egypt Background
  • 0:43 Ethnic Egyptians
  • 1:54 The Bedouins
  • 2:55 The Berbers
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Ethnic Egyptians

By far the largest ethnic group in Egypt are the Egyptians, which refers to both an ethnic group and a nationality. About 99% of the country's population are Egyptian citizens, as opposed to, for instance, those who are in the country to work but aren't citizens. Around 99% of Egyptian citizens also identify ethnically as Egyptian. Almost all Egyptians are Muslim. There are some Christians in Egypt, though, known as the Copts. The Copts are the largest Christian group in Egypt, and have historically been persecuted for their beliefs.

Egypt was home to one of the world's earliest civilizations, and has a rich history of language and culture. Today most Egyptians speak Egyptian Arabic, which is one of the most widely understood varieties of Arabic in the Muslim world, though throughout history Greek dialects were also spoken. Egyptian was one of the first written languages, in the form of hieroglyphics.

So we know that Egyptians are the largest Ethnic group in the country, but what about the other 1% or so? Let's talk about a few of the minority ethnic groups that make up a very small part of Egypt's population.

The Bedouins

The Bedouins refer to a group of tribes who live across Northern Africa. The Bedouin are a very ancient people. We can trace the origins of the Bedouin to the people who came to North Africa from the Arabian Peninsula. The Bedouin people are made up of a number of different tribes in many different regions of Egypt. Some Bedouin tribes are nomadic, meaning they travel from place to place in search of necessities like food, water, and shelter. In traditional nomadic tribes, homes consisted of tents that could be moved from place to place. Women were responsible for taking them down and then reassembling them. However, not all Bedouins are nomadic. Some live more sedentary lives, not moving from place to place.

Modern culture has also changed the way some Bedouins live. Today, many children do not wear the traditional dress, though women still dress very modestly. Since the middle of the 20th century, many Bedouins have settled in cities and adopted a modern lifestyle.

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