King Tut

The 1922 discovery of the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamen made "King Tut" an instant celebrity and placed him among the most famous of Egypt's ancient rulers. Tut's tomb was broken into by English archaeologist Howard Carter. One of the best-preserved tombs ever found, it was filled with thousands of artefacts, and the golden death mask which covered his mummy is now a famous relic of the ancient world. Before Carter's discovery, Tutankhamen was practically unknown, and his life still remains something of a mystery; probably he was the 12th ruler in Egypt's 18th Dynasty. Tut most likely was the son of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (also known as Akhenaten), and was married to his probable half-sister Ankhesenamun, the daughter of Akhneten and the famous Queen Nefertiti. Tut died when he was about 18, having ruled for nine years, and so is often called the Boy King. Tut's death is also something of a mystery. X-rays taken in 1968 indicated he may have been killed by a blow to his head, but 21st-century scientific analysis suggested he may have died after a broken leg led to fatal blood poisoning.

Extra credit: His name is also rendered Tut-Ankh-amun... Comedian Steve Martin had a hit with the novelty tune King Tut, from his 1978 album A Wild and Crazy Guy.

Tut appears with Cyrano de Bergerac in the loop Bopped on the Head... Other Egyptian rulers include Cleopatra, Khufu and Xerxes.


Cleopatra (actually Cleopatra VII) was the last of the Ptolemies, the Macedonian-descended pharaohs who ruled Egypt beginning in 304 B.C. Cleopatra has come down through history less for her administrative skills than for her beguiling ways, which she used in an attempt to keep Egypt free from Roman domination. Among those whom she charmed was Julius Caesar, with whom she had a son, Caesarion. After Caesar's death, Cleopatra joined forces with Caesar's colleague Marc Antony; they became lovers and political allies against Antony's rival Octavian. Octavian's forces finally defeated those of Antony and Cleopatra in the naval battle of Actium in 31 B.C. The two lovers fled to Alexandria and, faced with defeat by Octavian, committed suicide. Legend has it that Cleopatra died by the self-inflicted bite of a poisonous snake called an asp, though no firm evidence exists to support that claim.

Extra credit: Cleopatra was immortalized by Shakespeare in his play Antony and Cleopatra and played by Elizabeth Taylor in a big-budget 1963 movie.... Philosopher Blaise Pascal made the famous remark that "Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed."

Cleopatra joins Cyrano de Bergerac in our loop on Big Noses. She also contributes to the hubbub in the loop Caesar Confusion.

Anwar al-Sadat

Anwar al-Sadat met Gamal Abdel Nasser while in a British military school in colonial Egypt in the late 1930s. He joined Nasser for the revolution that fought colonialism and overthrew the monarchy in 1952, eventually succeeding Nasser as president in 1970. In an effort to regain control of losses from the 1967 Six Day War, in 1973 Sadat ordered an attack on Israeli forces and was successful enough to make both sides think about peace. Plagued by domestic economic problems, Sadat made overt gestures of peace to Israel and wooed U.S. president Jimmy Carter into assisting with negotiations. The resulting peace agreement, the Camp David Accords, earned Sadat the 1978 Nobel Prize for Peace (he shared it with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin). He was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic fundamentalists who opposed the peace treaty with Israel, and succeeded by Hosni Mubarak.

Hosni Mubarak

Muhammad Hosni Mubarak has been the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt since 14 October 1981, succeeding to that office following the assassination of Anwar Sadat. Mubarak was trained as a pilot and rose in the ranks of Egypt's air force during the 1960s and '70s. President Sadat named Mubarak Vice President in 1975, and in 1978 Mubarak became the vice chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP), the governing political party in Egypt. When Mubarak succeeded Sadat, he also became the chairman of the NDP. With control of the government and uncontested in subsequent elections, Mubarak won the presidency in national referenda in 1987, 1993 and 1999. During his presidency he focused on economic growth and inched toward political reform, but economic gains in the 1990s were off-set by criticisms that Egypt was a near-dictatorship (Mubarak never lifted the state of emergency imposed after Sadat's assassination). In February of 2005 Mubarak announced plans for a September 2005 election that would be Egypt's first-ever multi-candidate contest for the presidency. On 7 September 2005 he handily won his fifth consecutive term, but it was a victory clouded by low voter turnout, reports of fraud and the imprisonment of his political rival, Ayman Nour. Since then his presidency has been dominated by pressures for political reform and his love/hate relationship with the United States. Mubarak has been rebuked by President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for his lack of "commitment" to democracy, but he is an important ally in keeping Egypt as a base of U.S. operations in Iraq.