Around the World from A to Z: Egypt

A dry, hot country lies in the north of Africa, a vast desert plateau with the Nile and the Nile delta running through it. The country in it’s entirety is just above three times the size of the state of New Mexico in the United States. It borders the Gaza Strip, and the countries of Israel, Libya, and Sudan.

Yes, you guessed it. This is the country of Egypt, with a capital city of Cairo and a population of more than 76 million people. The major religion of the country is Islam, and the people speak Arabic, the official language of the country. Egypt has a semi-presidential republic, but it was once a monarchy.

With hot and dry weather in the summers but moderate temperatures in the winters, Egypt has experienced all sorts of extreme weather, including droughts, earthquakes, flash floods, landslides, and khamsins (driving windstorms). However, this does not take away from the historical value of the country. Egypt’s history has always been fascinating, and will probably remain so for a very long time to come.

The pharaohs played a very important part in Egypt’s history. They were the rulers of all of the country. The Egyptians actually didn’t call their kings pharaohs.  The word “pharaoh” originates from a Greek term. Pharaohs also had several wives, but only one of them would be the queen. The first pharaohs were believed to be gods. There are many very well-known pharaohs, including Narmer, the first true Egyptian Pharaoh, and Tutankhamen, the boy pharaoh, who died at age nineteen. There was also Akhenaten, who pushed his people to join a new monotheistic religion, and Hatshepsut, the first woman pharaoh. She allowed women to have property and more rights. The pharaoh Khufu was the one who built the first pyramid.

Daily life in Egypt was centered around family, respect, and a well-built society. Children were almost always at the heart of the family.  If a couple could not have children, they usually adopted one. The children were taught to be kind and truthful, to respect elders and adults, but were expected to help with family chores. Cooking was done in clay ovens, as well as on open fires. Most kitchen things were made from clay, though bronze, silver and gold were used in richer atmospheres.

The peasant girls usually married at 12, and the boys were usually a little older. Grown men and women were treated equally in many ways. Both were able to own land and make decisions, unlike many other historical societies. They even faced the same penalties for crimes.

The Ancient Egyptians usually had black hair and dark eyes. All classes, both men and women, wore makeup like kohl around the eyes. Their hair was worn short. The quality of the linen in the clothes they wore also indicated their financial status. Poor people wore rough, coarse linen. The wealthier people had finer linen. Some linen was even so finely woven as to become translucent, indicating that that person was very wealthy.

The ancient Egyptians were also very superstitious. They believed that you could only go to afterlife if your heart was light.  Your heart was light if you spent your life being kind and honest. The tombs of the wealthy were often stocked with food and comforts, or even dead servants, to provide a comfortable afterlife. Many of the tombs of the pharaohs were much more elaborate than the lower classes; they were built in pyramids.

Photo credit: liber

Photo credit: liber

The pyramids of Giza are located in the southwestern suburbs of Cairo. The pharaoh Khufu, his son Khafre, and Menkaure built the pyramids. The Great Pyramid of Khufu is 355 feet high, the tallest pyramid in Egypt. That is where Khufu is buried, as the name implies.

The Valley of the Kings, near Luxor,  is another location where many royal tombs are. The tombs were constructed for the kings for nearly 500 years. The 63 tombs varied in design, ranging from a small pit to an elaborate tomb with over 120 chambers. Unfortunately, all of the tombs have been robbed and opened except for King Tutankhamen’s, which remained intact until it’s discovery in 1922.

A third famous attraction in Egypt is the mosque of Ibn Tulun. It is one of the oldest mosques in Egypt, and is constructed around a courtyard. In fact, certain parts of the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me were filmed in that location!

Egypt is a very historically rich country, easily evident in the ancient pyramids and priceless artifacts from hundreds of years ago.  Though the weather may be dry and hot, the amazing sights and fascinating history make Egypt a stunning center of cultural beauty, known throughout the world.

Next in series: ‘Around the World from A to Z: Finland’ by urvi011235


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