Egypt is a country well-known for its rich history and fascinating mythology. Its iconic imagery of the pyramids, the pharaoh’s tombs and the Nile is among some of the most renowned in the world. The Ancient Egyptians were a masterful and mysterious race – to do this, it is unknown how they built such mammoth examples of their architecture without the use of modern technology – cranes and the like. Some have concluded that it was, in fact, aliens who built the pyramids but in all likelihood, the work was carried out by slaves who would have died in the process. More recently, Egypt has become known for its civil unrest with the recent uprising which led to the removal of President Mubarak from power. It is often forgotten that Egypt is a northern African country as its culture and traditions are largely of a middle-eastern nature. However, it is undeniable that Egypt is a fascinating country – full of history and traditions which have intrigued historians, archaeologists and tourists alike for centuries.
Ancient Egypt is largely remembered for its feats of engineering in the pyramids and its pharaoh’s tombs but it is also remembered for its people and their worship of their various gods as well as the rituals that they carried out upon their dead. They used a process called ‘mummification’ which worked to preserve the dead body for a long time – indeed; many ancient Egyptian mummies are still in their preserved form today – thousands of years later. The process of preparing their dead for the afterlife was massively important to the ancient Egyptians as they believed that the soul lived on and would require earthly belongings to do so. The process began with the removal of the lungs, liver and intestines which were placed into four canopic jars. Following this, the body was covered with natron (a substance similar to salt) which, after being left for forty days, would halt the decaying process (Jasso). The body was then wrapped in material (if the person was of a high status then it would be fine linens, for example) and placed into its sarcophagus – a form of coffin – and trinkets, amulets and charms were placed alongside the body to aid the transition to the afterlife (Jasso). If the individual was very wealthy and/or a pharaoh, they would be placed into a tomb. These tombs were often underground and were filled with riches and treasures to aid the journey in the afterlife. Because of this, the tombs were often designed to be extremely difficult to navigate – partly to stop the dead getting out but more so to stop thieves getting in. Often, a pharaoh would be buried with his servants who would be sealed into the tomb with him (Bierbrier 13).
The ancient Egyptians worshipped a large number of gods – one for each area of life, death and the universe. These gods often took on different forms and names such as the sun god whose name in his human form was Atum but in his scarab beetle form, he was known as Kephra, but most commonly he appeared as a man with the head of a falcon and was known as Ra (Shorter 4-5). Other gods and goddesses included Anubis the god of burial and mummification, Osiris the god of the afterlife, Isis the goddess of mothers and nature, and Nut goddess of the sky. The ancient Egyptians had gods for everything and they were worshipped throughout the country with tributes being paid regularly and when the mortals needed immortal assistance. Today, Egypt is mostly an Islamic country with the majority of the population living their lives as practising Muslims.
The language of Egypt is, like a lot of African and middle-eastern countries, quite a mixed bag. There are numerous languages spoken with the main one being Arabic – spoken in a varying degree of dialects dependant on which part of Egypt you are in (Lewis). In ancient Egypt, they wrote in hieroglyphs which is a language made up of images and drawings which depicted the events of a scene or just demonstrated a feeling. When the ancient Egyptian tombs were found, their walls were covered in hieroglyphs depicting the scenes of battles, deaths, triumphs and stories of the pharaoh’s reign. These were often written on papyrus – an early form of paper, made from the reeds that lined the banks of the Nile.
Egypt remains an interesting place to this day with its mixed heritage of African and middle-eastern descent, lending to its mystique. Early in 2011, the Egyptian people removed their president from power largely due to his continued allegiance with the people of Israel, which the Egyptian people disagreed strongly with. Its rich history and culture is the envy of many younger nations and it continues to be an area of history which is learned about with relish – its quirks and ideas being so radically different from our own today. Egypt – both in its modern day and its ancient forms – is one of the world’s most interesting countries and will continue to be so for a long time to come.
“Egypt Country Profile.” BBC.co.uk. BBC News. 9 May 2011. Web. 27 June 2011.
“Languages of Egypt.” M. Paul Lewis. Ethnologue.com. 2009. Web. 27 June 2011.
“To die in Egypt: preparing for the after world.” Dammo Jasso. DammoJasso.com. 2002. Web. 27 June 2011.
Bierbrier, Morris Leonard. The tomb-builders of the pharaohs. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1982. Print.
Shorter, Alan W. The Egyptian Gods: a handbook. California: The Borgo Press, 1994. Print.