Egyptian Civilization

Over the past year I have been travelling to Egypt a number of times. Seeing the temples and tombs in Luxor and Aswan, sitting in a felucca crossing the River Nile, riding a hot air balloon over Aswan, exploring the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, seeing the various pyramids in Cairo, I came to realize that the ancient Egyptians were not a secluded society.

On many of the walls in the Habo temple in Luxor, were many wall images of the bull, which is also a very prominent figure in the Indus Valley civilization. Though I’m unable to cipher the hieroglyphs, and most likely my association is out of context, but considering the two civilizations existed around the same time, there must have been some sort of trading relations between them if not a cultural connection. I think this because both civilizations emphasized good craftsmanship. Moreover, when I was in Luxor and in the other temples in Aswan (although the temples there, are post-pharonic) the outer gate of the temples is very similar to the images I have seen of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa which are in Pakistan. Although Mohenjo-daro and Harappa are ancient versions of gated communities with sewerage system, grain storages, residential areas and labour colonies and thus more elaborate than the temples in ancient Egypt.

Luxor temple, Karnak Habo, Ramasseum, which are in Luxor, have labour colonies within the temples, but there are no actual indication of residential uses. The temples have different rooms to worship different deities for performing different sacrifices and to pray for different things, such as food availability, good harvest, good family life and many other things for a good life in the present, as opposed to only focusing on the afterlife which is the most known.

In the Valley of the Kings, I went into the tomb of Tut Ank Amun. I saw his mummified body. He was a child king, only 19 years old when he died. The mummified body was black and bony. It was fascinating to see something this ancient. I kept thinking to myself imagine if this mummy woke up from the dead speaking his ancient language, what stories he would tell and what mysteries would be unraveled. In the Koran it says that the Almighty has left proofs of his wrath for people as a warning to what will happen if they deny his presence and his commands. It is called ibrat. The mummies of the pharonic civilization are one such warning. Instead of worshipping the Almighty, they decided to worship multiple deities. Their King, the Pharoe was believed to be the direct descendent of the God Ra.

In the Egyptian Museum there is a separate section for royal mummies. A couple of Ramses, Hatshepshut’s mummy is there also. According to the inscription she was a very fat lady. Unfortunately you can’t take pictures in the museum. They are in a temperature controlled room. The male mummies have bleached hair and manicured nails. The hands and feet were tiny and fragile. When I saw the tiny hands and feet of the mummies I realized why the gold toe and finger caps in the museum were so skinny. They were made to fit the mummies when they woke up in the afterlife. In the Egyptian Museum you get to see how opulent the ancient Egyptians were and the focus on good craftsmanship was almost religious.

On an end note, I read in the in the National Geographics travel guide on Egypt that the tombs and temples were not created by slave labourers. After being to the sites myself, I find it hard to believe it was a slave society because slaves who are constantly beaten up by their owners cannot produce such work through force. The workers, the masons, carpenters, carvers, painters, smiths who produced the stone art, the jewellery, the pillars, the carvings etc were all professional craftsmen who maybe had an aesthetic connection with their work and reverence for the divine.