Archive for the ‘History of Egypt’ Category

Egyptian Climate & Weather

Cleo had her own ceiling fan in ancient Egypt: a lithe, semi-clad Nubian slave with a giant ostrich feather. He was at her beck and call silently cooling her regal countenance. Not a modern wonder, but it worked. I think that is better than any of these fans reviewed here haha. It kept her fresh in that dry desert heat and saved her beauty. If you venture into that part of the world, you at least have something whirling away fueled by electricity. In between visits to the great tombs in the pyramids and the Sphinx, you can take a rest knowing you will only wilt and not die of exposure.

Those who have been to Egypt know it is better to go in the winter time when it is mild and pleasant. Being outdoors is much more tolerable, and is in fact recommended. Most of us who like to travel during the summer while the kids are free have to suffer the consequences. It is preferable to not going at all I suppose. Moderate temperatures come from sea breezes from the Mediterranean. Winter nights can even approach chilly. When booking your trip, do a little research first to pack appropriately. It will help you select the opportune time to enjoy the sights.

Tourist hotels and restaurants are air-conditioned for the most part unless they are very off the beaten path, but the dryness can still take its toll. Your skin starts to look like that mummy you just viewed. It feels crepe-like and desiccated. That is a very good word to use in this country of funereal objects and bitumen-coated bodies. Covering up to protect from the sun and the elements is very wise. Travelers love shorts and tees, but your legs will not enjoy the effects of a local sandstorm (fortunately not all year round). Keep footwear comfortable and simple.

I love the look of a ceiling or room fan in desert locales. Some of the best-designed fans really bring a place to life, not to mention making the room bearable. They go with the territory for sure. You feel you are out there in the wilds, and it reminds me of old movies of the French Foreign Legion before there was even such a thing as a swamp cooler. The fans often grace bars as objects of décor and they are ubiquitous. Remember those lone world travelers (desert rats) in North Africa wearing khaki cotton and Panama woven hats sitting beneath a mechanically-produced breeze. Egypt is similar in its remoteness, strangeness, and aridity. You are far from your normal habitat.

If you are tempted to ride a camel during your stay, you may well want that broad-brimmed hat. Wear long pants before sitting astride the ungulate. They are used to heavy loads so rest assured you can be accommodated. Avoid the full sun. Skies are bright and it makes for great photos, but it can be damaging. Protect your eyes with dark glasses as the glare is significant. An enjoyable experience awaits the adventurous in a land of exciting monuments and a rich cultural history. There is much to do and no time to spare in planning your visit.

Weights & Measures in Ancient Egypt

It wasn’t so easy back in ancient Egypt—a land of great mystery and magic to modern man. People did want to know what they weighed no doubt. Dieting wasn’t a fad (none of these scales for weight loss stuff ha-ha) and food was relegated to simple fare, so overeating fast food just wasn’t a big issue for most. No doubt obesity did not rear its ugly head for the poor. For about three thousand years they ate the same thing. Who could over consume crocodile, pomegranates, or ostrich? There were lavish banquets for the rich no doubt when a bit of indulgence took place. Cakes with honey, apples and apricots, beer that looked like gruel, and dates were all treats. Whether they kept people svelte or not remains to be seen. Lard is not as much of a temptation as butter!

Fortunately, we have great source material in good condition. Fat people don’t appear to my knowledge in wall paintings although they do depict food preparation and eating. As for scales, well let me think. A device for weighing was probably pretty fundamental: no fancy digital scale units. They didn’t have words for pounds or tonnes either. Scales were necessary for the purposes of trade and barter that were the heart of the economy. Paintings show ample views of traditional poles and balancing receptacles of various sizes and shapes. I don’t think people ever jumped in!

The crude technology had to work in some way for comparing individuals to arrive at some conclusion about their girth. If you wanted to be more certain and go beyond a guestimate by picking someone up, you would resort to a mode of measurement that could be somewhat more reliable. They certainly knew how to weigh body parts before burial, particularly the heart. Evidence is amply found in the great pyramids. They also used their system for metals like copper, gold, and silver.

We know the ancient Egyptians used units of lengths in the early dynastic period. The Nile was measured as well—in cubits (think Noah’s ark) and palms. The Palermo Stone shows area indications using “khets” and “remens.” Volume and capacity were done in “hegats” and “hinus.” Sounds like fun. Whatever they needed entailed a system that was repeatable and thus verifiable. What about people, again the question arises. It’s not the same process as for jars of oil and barrels of grain. They were pretty advanced for the time as far as I can see and showed considerable natural knowledge.

Perhaps we don’t really know and can only surmise the rest. They might have had a water displacement method. They were clever beings: that we do know. They had a way of explaining things and finding out about basic pre-scientific concepts that was unique and practical, if not religious and ritual. We just have to assume there was consciousness of body weight as there was for animals like goats or sheep. It is fun to imagine in any case as we scour the stylized images of men going about their daily tasks.

Ancient Bathing

Traveling poses problems when it comes to plumbing. We travel to third world countries and out-of-the way places that seem to have fixtures from an ancient civilization. Not that we know much about them, but we assume the most primitive accommodations. My interests lie in Egyptian history. What was it like then to cleanse oneself? Was it private or public? Was it practical or seen as a luxury indulgence? I thought I would spend a few minutes finding out. Turning to hieroglyphics is not my forte and reading wall paintings does not yield clues. There are a few painted images and drawings from private letters. You need to work backward from later innovations to see what existed before major breakthroughs in bathing essentials.

With a preference toward showers, I sought to know if they existed. We do assume baths with fragrant oils for the rich. River bathing was probably more likely for the masses. Think about Moses floating downstream in his barren basket. I see lovely ladies in white diaphanous garb dipping their toes in the water before going in. Some kind of modest soap must have been available and leaves for scrubbing.

A shower is not likely, at least as we know it today. No adjustable shower head spewing forth streams of gentle liquid to rinse away the dirt and grime of Nile life. They probably went makeshift with baskets or vessels with heated water poured by servants for the family. Perhaps a shower was preferred over a bath to save time and conserve water. Unless you were the Pharaoh’s queen, you probably had to share facilities. Sitting in dirtied water has less appeal than a light bucket dousing.

There isn’t much in Egyptian mythology that gives us a clue. Deities don’t bathe or shower, and Cleopatra had the latest thing in aromatherapy. How often did people indulge? Later civilizations considered it a privilege and rare treat. They wore perfumes to mask body odor and their clothes would often reek. People got used to it I suppose. Unguents and oils were also characteristic practices of the ancient Egyptians kept in beautiful containers and jars. They were somewhat fanatic about cleanliness. Archeological finds tell a tale of cosmetics and natron paste for soap. Animal and vegetable oils along with clay, ash, and/or alkaline salts could create a nice lather. If there were indeed showers, no doubt they were delightful accompanied by pleasant scents.

We know the Egyptians had foot baths as they walked barefoot in the dusty soil and had earth floors in their houses. They had wash basins although few actual bathrooms in the modern sense—maybe just a designated alcove. In addition to the river or canal, there were public bath houses that are said to have included showers using modest devices, far from forerunners of today’s amazing shower heads. They had to manually heat the water and therefore manually administered it to the body. Perhaps their showerheads were more akin to hand held shower heads as we now know them. The definition of a shower is probably more loosely conceived in an ancient culture denoting a flow of water rather than sitting in a filled basin.

A brief overview of Ancient Egyptian Civilisation

The ancient civilization of Egypt is an amazing historical discovery, and it would be difficult to find many people who would say otherwise.  The ancient Egyptian civilization is believed to be located in the northwest part of  Africa, by modern views.

The Nile River travels right straight through Egypt.  The north most part was called Lower Egypt, while the southern most part was called Upper Egypt. This has sometimes caused some confusion among tourists.  It is said that the Nile is supposed to be the longest river in the world.  Recently though, scientists believe that it may be possible that the Amazon River in South America is slightly longer.

Egyptian history is divided into three time periods. These are referred to as the Old Kingdom, the Central Kingdom, and then the Modern Kingdom.  Each period in the history has it own unique characteristics, and is easiest to learn when studied individually.Each of the ancient Egyptian kingdoms were ruled by a Pharaoh, and it was believed that the gods chose who would be Pharaoh.  It was this belief that allowed the inhabitants of Egypt to feel secure in the knowledge that all was well and under control.  Some people describe Egypt as the first national government in the known world.  Along with the Pharaoh, there were people who held the position of Vizier.  These officials helped to advise the Pharaoh and thus helped him rule.

The Egyptians, like the Sumerians also had their own language and writing system.  The Papyrus plant was used especially to create paper, and thus gives us the very first paper.  Many people are intrigued and fascinated by the Egyptian culture, in part due to the massive monumental structures that cover the Egyptian landscape.  Especially popular is the Great Pyramid which is viewed by thousands of visitors every year to this day.

The Science Channel ran an excellent documentary series called “What the Ancients Knew” which can also be found on YouTube. The episode on Egypt was particularly fascinating for me – and I hope you’ll find it interesting as well. I’ve embedded it below so you can watch it here.