Egypt is an Arab country, and indeed the Arab conquest came quickly to Egypt given its geographical proximity to the Arabian Peninsula. Nonetheless, Egypt represents a far more ancient culture, and Egyptian Arab identity, to me, seems a particularly distinct one compared to the Arab cultures of the Gulf or even the Levant, both areas in which the modern nation states do not seem to represent a distinct/discrete ethnic identity or culture.
Other than the Nubians originally from southern Egypt and perhaps the Bedouin in the Sinai, we did not encounter significant ethnic minorities, although perhaps it could be said that the Copts represent an Egyptian line with less Arab genetic input. Some pictures:
Vendor, Alexandria. In Alexandria we noticed that many Egyptians seem to have green eyes; it seemed less common in other parts of Egypt.
Scholar, Al Azhar Mosque. This man, to me, seemed somewhat “un-Egyptian” in appearance–he said that his family was from the Delta region.
Perhaps part of this is due to Ramadan, but Egypt feels far more religious than most of the other Islamic countries we have traveled to. The calls to prayer seem louder and more urgent and public worship far more common and conspicuous. Most shockingly (though perhaps that is too strong a word), there is an astonishing number of men who walk around with zebibas (“raisins”), which are forehead prayer bumps from repeated prostration during prayer. While some Egyptian men seem to wear these marks proudly as a testament to how devout they are, it is generally believed that they are intentionally inflicted (perhaps by scraping one’s head on the carpet in an exaggerated manner while praying), rather than a necessary consequence of frequent prayer–little else could explain the absence of such marks on the foreheads of the devout in other Islamic countries.