This timeline grew from a challenge by Anthony Appleyard, who asked: “By some means Ancient Egypt survives to this day, with its language and religion. How? What results?”. Robertp6165 took up the challenge, and the result was this timeline. Here is his introduction:
“Actually, there is a good argument to be made that what finally did the Egyptians in was that they simply ran out of gold. The Egyptian Empire was built on the power which having large gold reserves gave to Egypt. When the mines started to run dry, the society started to break down, the military got weaker, and the empire finally fell.
Egypt itself had several factors going for it which gave it the potential to be a great empire, much greater than it actually was. It had a large population, it was a large grain producer, it was in an excellent position for overseas trade. With a bit more luck and some better management, it could have survived.
I personally think that Saite Egypt (the last independent, native Egyptian dynasty, which fell to the Persians in 525 BC) could have been a POD for a longer-lasting Egypt.”
Robertp6165 then offered a scenario based on the following point of departure…
c. 600 BC…Pharaoh Necho II sends a fleet of ships (hired from the Phoenicians) to circumnavigate Africa. Necho is able to renew contacts with Ophir…present day Zimbabwe, in southern Africa (for arguments linking Zimbabwe with Ophir, take a look here). The mines of Zimbabwe/Ophir were productive at that time, and have remained so up until the present day. Later in Necho's reign, the Egyptians also discover some new mines in Nubia. So the Egyptians are once again awash in gold, and are able to remain so.
Robertp6165 noted that historically, Necho and his successors were also somewhat innovative militarily, at least for Egyptians. They used Greek mercenary troops, for example. They also introduced some advanced (for that time) innovations into the Egyptian governmental system, including an income tax, and gave ownership of land to the peasants who worked it, creating a class of land-owners, the nehmu, which had the potential to dramatically affect future Egyptian history.
So, lets say they use their new found wealth in gold to rebuild their military. They also build a large navy and merchant fleet, based on Greek and Phoenician designs. The Saite Pharaohs do not attempt to expand into Asia, but instead focus on expansion southward into Africa, which they recognize as the source of their wealth. Necho and his successors conquer the Kingdoms of Kush and Axum (most of modern-day Sudan and Ethiopia). This gives the Egyptians ports on the Horn of Africa, much closer to the mines of Ophir, and puts them in a good position to trade with India and other exotic regions. Egypt grows wealthier still. Over the next few centuries, they expand and bring the entire coast of East Africa under their control, tightening their control over the gold of Ophir.
The result of this is an Egypt which is able to weather the Persian invasion, later allies itself with Alexander against Persia and with Hannibal against Rome, and which survives until the present day. The consequences are immense, and by today, the world is virtually unrecognizable.
In 2005, the timeline won a Turtledove for best Ancient Period Timeline.