Egyption History & Travel - 2010


All Arrangements: Overseas Adventure Travels

This long journal can be divided into two parts. • The first section of 33 pages give an introduction of general topics related to the Egypt of today. Included are addendums added years later to describe the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 that followed our trip by a matter of weeks. • The pages that follow, are divided into the most important empires of Egyptian history in their chronological order. • The journal entries of our travels through the country are not in our itinerary’s chronological order. o Instead - descriptions of our site visits are woven into the historical empire sections with pictures and specific site notations. So travel through Egypt’s historical past with us as modern-day leaders.


CONTENTS INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................................4 HISTORICAL TIMELINE .................................................................................................................14 RELIGIONS Judaism......................................................................................................................................16 Christianity................................................................................................................................18 Islam ..........................................................................................................................................21 ANCIENT RELIGIONS NECESSARY COMPARISONS EMPIRES OF INFLUENCE IN NORTH AFRICA ..............................................................................33 Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) ..........................................................................................33 The Early Dynastic Period (3100-2686 BC).............................................................................34 The Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC) ..........................................................................................37 THE PYRAMIDS First Intermediate Period (2181-1787 BC) .............................................................................45 The Middle Kingdom (1787-1705 BC).....................................................................................45 The Second Intermediate Period (1704-1540 BC) .................................................................46 The New Kingdom (1540-1069 BC) .........................................................................................46 KARNAK.........................................................................................................................................50 Luxor Temple ...............................................................................................................................53 Abu Simbel - Ramses II and Nefertari Temples ........................................................................56 VALLEY OF THE KINGS The Third Intermediate Period (1069-525 BC) ......................................................................67 The Late Period (525-331 BC)..................................................................................................68 The Thirty-first Dynasty (331-323 BC) ....................................................................................69 The Ptolemaic Kings Period (323-30 BC) ................................................................................70 Philae Temple...............................................................................................................................72 Temple at Kom Ombo .................................................................................................................75 The Temple at Edfu......................................................................................................................78 MODERN TIMES ...........................................................................................................................82


INTRODUCTION A powerhouse of a visit! Egypt's history alone is so overwhelming that it is difficult to begin to digest: thousands of years from Narmer (the first Pharaoh to unite upper and lower Egypt into one country about 4000 BC) to the intriguing society that modern Egypt presents. Pyramids and tombs five thousand years old, with many carvings and wall paintings as clear and vibrant as when they were created. Village life along the Nile proceeding as it has for thousands of years against the backdrop of ancient temples and storied agricultural practices dating back to the Pharaohs. And then to see from the airplane the tiny and vulnerable green strip (only 4% to 7% of the country) of viable space for humans along the Nile with the implacable desert stretching out to both east and west as far as we could see. How did the ancient Egyptians create such a complex and lasting civilization on such tenuous ground? What manner of men were these amazing Pharaohs like Khufu, Amenhotep III, Akhenaton, and Ramses the Great? What powers did their panoply of gods and goddesses bestow upon them? How did their strong belief in an afterlife give them such vision and purpose for their accomplishments on earth? I cannot pretend to have gathered all the answers to these and other questions this trip of discovery raised, but I have to admit that I remain totally fascinated by this enduring culture and its many “stars!” When I learned that Americans are a tiny minority (300,000 out of 12,000,000) of the visitors to Egypt annually, I felt saddened and eager to share my experiences in hopes that others of my fellow citizens will feel the pull of this amazing place and venture out to explore it.


Current Mi l lennium Before we discuss ancient Egypt and all its glories, however, I think it is appropriate to talk a bit about modern Egypt—a very different place from the kingdom of the Pharaohs! Well, maybe not that different except for the “glory” part. Modern Egyptians are still as dependent on the Nile River as their forebears. It's that annual inundation by the river in the lands surrounding it that gives Egypt a tiny portion of fertile land for agriculture. After all, though Egypt is the 30 th largest country in the world in land mass (it is approximately 3 times the size of New Mexico), only 3% of it is arable and even livable. The old saying that Egypt is “the gift of the Nile” is still as true as ever. A total of 13,212 square miles is irrigated out of 384,345 square miles of total land mass: a pitiful percentage indeed. Today, the population of Egypt is much larger than that of ancient Egypt so the pressure on the Nile and the land is much more intense. Whereas old Egypt was self-sufficient in food production, modern Egypt must import food, especially wheat, to feed its people. Today, tourism is the 2 nd most important economic activity while in the past warfare with its attendant booty, captives, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and other semi-precious stones was the underpinning of the agricultural society. More intriguing is the fact that many of the farming techniques used by villagers along the Nile in the Upper Egypt direction are quite similar to the methods in use all those millennia ago. For instance, wells and winches look like the ones on the walls of antique tombs and temples and plows and yokes look the same as well. In many ways, even the government of Egypt today is not that different from that of the Pharaohs. Though ostensibly a republic, Egypt is actually more like a kingdom. Hosni Mubarak has been in power since 1981 and is likely to remain so until he dies. At present he is grooming his son to take over when he leaves the presidency. However, he just announced on October 21, 2010, that he will be running for a 6 th term. He was born, officially, in May 1928, making him 82 years old now. Of course, we saw no evidence of a pyramid or huge temple/tomb complex being built in preparation for him to secure his place in the afterlife. And the burial place for Anwar Sadat is modest even though very impressive. So there are obvious differences, but everyday Egyptians are probably as impotent in national affairs as they were in the time of Ramses the Great.


Addendum to Current Events Since I have been delayed in completing this journal until January, I can record an astonishing, hopeful, frightening, and still in flux occurrence. The Egyptian people have been in outright rebellion against Mubarak since January 25, 2011. People of all social strata, religions, and from all parts of the country have begun massive demonstrations against Mubarak, calling for his ouster. So far, he has resisted, agreeing only to fire his cabinet. This clearly does not satisfy the people because they are continuing to defy his calls for night curfews and a halt to the demonstrations. More and more people are joining the crowds and so far there have been 75+ deaths reported among the demonstrators. January 30 (a Sunday) is the start of a new work week for the Egyptians and it is a matter of great interest whether or not the people who have jobs will return to them. Commentators believe that if they do disperse and return to work, Mubarak will have temporarily prevailed. If not, he is more likely to be toppled. At present the Army appears to be siding with the demonstrators since there have not been any real attempts to disband the thousands of people. The military is guarding the ancient treasures of the country, the Pyramids of Giza, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, Luxor, and other important archeological sites. The latest information tonight (1/29) at around 10:00 PM EST concerns Mubarak's first ever appointment of a Vice-President, seen as an attempt to placate the people's calls for his immediate removal from office. But it is unclear at this time what Mubarak means by this appointment. And it has been said that people are not returning to work now that it is morning in Egypt. There is an unfortunate amount of looting and crime in the anarchical situation and it appears that the military and ordinary citizens are working together to protect property and facilitate public safety. The most heartwarming pictures I have seen document the Army and citizens linking arms in the garden of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and protecting that treasure house from looting and pillaging. Army tanks are also ringing the property outside the garden area. At present a fire is raging in a building next to the Museum and Doctor Zahi Hawass, First Minister of Antiquities, is fearful that the building's collapse could spread the fire to the Museum itself. The fire is currently being fought by both professionals and citizens.


Jan. 30 Update: the fire was evidently brought under control and the people of Egypt have not returned to work or halted their protests. If Mubarak goes, who and what will follow? Jan. 31 The crowds are getting larger with a projected goal of reaching “Million Man Status.” It has also been reported in our press that talks are now taking place between Mubarak's new Vice-President and some of the apparent leaders of the uprising. What that will come to is another issue altogether. We can only wait and see, of course. Still there is little violence against the demonstrators and the ordinary people are still acting as their own militias to protect their neighborhoods and property. The Army still seems to be more on the side of the demonstrators than the government. Don't know if they crowds reached a million today but certainly there were more than before. Feb. 1: Apparently Mubarak has announced that he will NOT seek re-election in September but work instead for a smooth transition from this point in time to the transfer of power after the elections. This concession follows the largest group of protesters yet in Tahrir Square today. Formal speech was supposed to further clarify Mubarak's intentions, promises, etc., to the country at large. Feb. 2: Unfortunately things have gotten more violent now because it appears that the police who are loyal to Mubarak have dressed themselves in plainclothes and are calling themselves Pro-Mubarak demonstrators. They have come armed with weapons such as whips and boards and have been attacking the peaceful protesters. So far today, the casualties announced are 1 killed and 400 wounded. Where is the Army now? Perhaps the “colonels” need to come out and demand that Mubarak leave now and get the crowds to disburse and go back to more normal activities. Feb. 3: The situation have deteriorated in Cairo since yesterday. There is more violence, looting and pillaging around other parts of the city, and the Army seems to have disappeared from the scene. There was a big apology from the new Prime Minister as he discussed the violence leashed upon the peaceful protesters by the Pro-Mubarak thugs. He promised a full investigation into the aggression perpetrated yesterday producing at least 8 deaths and many injuries, some of which required hospitalization. Even Egyptian and foreign journalists were physically attacked and some were taken in “protective custody.” There is no end to this demonstration in the foreseeable future.


Feb.4: The “Day of Leaving” in the words of the anti-Mubarak demonstrators. The leaders of the protest had announced that they wanted today to be the day that Mubarak would step down. It has been a much calmer day and the pro-Mubarak thugs have been kept out of the Tahrir Square so there has been little or no violence. Thousands of people, including families with children, are in the Square keeping vigil while negotiations are going on behind the scene between Mubarak and many foreign governments including the USA trying to persuade Mubarak to leave now and do it with dignity and peace. Again, we just have to wait and see what transpires. Feb. 5: Now the news from the Prime Minister is that he has conducted meetings with the protestors and now believes that “stability” is returning. In other words, he believes that Mubarak and the government will just wait the demonstrations out. He stated he feels the whole “uprising” will be over by Friday—but which Friday? Can this be true? News this morning is sketchy at best on the topic. Feb. 6: Banks opened yesterday and people queued peacefully to withdraw money and the situation stayed calm. The Muslim Brotherhood will be meeting with the new Vice- President in a move that had been denied only yesterday. The United Nations says that 300 people have been killed during the “peaceful” demonstrations. The government is urging people to return to work and let life get back to normal. It is unclear how much longer the protests can go on. Maybe Mubarak really can just wait them out! Feb. 7-10: The people stayed in Tahrir Square; they remained peaceful but insistent that Mubarak must go. The military maintained vigilance and did not allow the demonstrators to be molested or attacked. But it was unclear what they would finally do to bring the crisis to an end. Late on the 10 th , there was apparent confusion since the military seemed to announce that Mubarak would step down on that day and many world leaders, including Obama, thought the government would fall on Feb. 10. However, despite many announcements Mubarak stayed on. Feb. 11: At noon in the US, it was announced that Mubarak had stepped down and flown with his family to Sharm-el-Sheik, a resort on the Red Sea where he has a resort to himself. The outpouring of joy, relief, jubilation, thanksgiving, and hope was touching to see in the Square as the Egyptians celebrated. Amazing to see that a peaceful demonstration by ordinary people, even though it lasted from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11, had brought down a dictatorial government! Maybe Gandhi's methods still can prevail in the modern world. What a miracle! Now we have to hope and pray that the Egyptians can


bring this confrontation and victory to fruition in a real democracy of and for the Egyptian people.

Note: At the conclusion of the formal demonstrations, it has been announced that 17 artifacts disappeared from the Museum during the standoffs. Two of them were connected with King Tut, but it appears that the great bulk of treasures was unharmed and remains safe in the national treasuretrove. Note: The day after Mubarak's departure, the demonstrators themselves, helped and guarded by the military, carried out the cleanup in Tahrir Square. Surely this testifies to the responsibility and civic duty of the thousands of people who brought down Mubarak peaceably. May they continue on the road to a fair and just society for all the Egyptians. But Mubarak is not nicknamed Pharaoh; that appellation is accorded to Doctor Zahi Hawass, the powerful Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. This renowned Egyptologist jealously and rightfully guards the magnificent heritage of ancient Egypt from further plundering, theft, desecration, or exploitation. Indeed, he IS the modern Pharaoh of old Egypt. There are 78,866,635 Egyptians living today on that narrow strip of land along the Nile and in the Nile delta, making Egypt the 16 th most populous nation in the world. It is estimated that during all the millennia of ancient Egypt no more than 1,000,000 people lived there at any one time. Today, Egypt is a young country with a median age of 24. Life expectancy is an average of 72 years with women outliving men by about 5 years. It is believed that life lasted no more than 40 years for most ancient Egyptians though there were some very long-lived Pharaohs like Pepi I, Amenhotep, and Ramses the Great, these men making it into their late 80s and early 90s! The ethnicity of most residents of this country is labeled Egyptian (99.6%) and the religion most practiced is Islam (somewhere between 85 and 90%) with the rest being Coptic Christians. National ID cards are required in Egypt and religion is a pertinent identifying label since Muslim men are not allowed to marry non-Muslims. The number of Jews remaining in Egypt was 55 during the time we visited; about 35 live in Alexandria and 20 in Cairo. Christians are not legally persecuted or discriminated against in this country where Islam is the state-supported religion.


The literacy rate shows the second class citizenship accorded to Egypt's women: 83% per cent of men are considered literate but only 60% of women. A strange figure when considered against ancient Egypt's culture in which women had more rights than in any other group of people in the ancient world. Women could buy and sell property then, they could divorce their husbands, they could even study to be scribes so they were literate. And of course, in the royal class, women were very powerful as leaders, mothers, and regents, and at least one woman became Pharaoh in her own right and actually ruled as a woman, not a male impersonator (Hatshepsut, 5 th ruler in the 18 th Dynasty from 1479 to 1457). At least 20% of Egypt's citizens today live below the established poverty line and there is a huge divide between rich people and poor ones. There is only a very small middle class and 10% of the citizens control the vast amount of the country's riches, resources, land, and everything else. That may not be so different from ancient times when there were three classes: the royals who were immensely powerful in every way, the merchants and craftsmen in the middle, and the peasants at the bottom of the pyramid. There is no real tradition of either democracy or capitalism in Egypt. The capital city of ancient Egypt moved about at the whim of the Pharaohs and even of Alexander the Great, but the current capital city is clearly the biggest city in the country, Cairo. This huge metropolis contains 22 million of Egypt's people. It is spread out enormously and it is congested, smoggy, dirty, and still vibrant with street life, night life, great restaurants, good hotels, amazing houses of worship, and the looming presence of the Great Pyramids hovering above and so near to downtown. We were really amazed to see that the Great Pyramid of Giza is clearly visible in many parts of the city, rather like Mt. Rainier so clear outside of Seattle! The mountain and the pyramid might be near each other in age—well, not really, but they are both staggering backdrops. Our guide warned us about the traffic in Cairo and if anything his rather outrageous comments turned out to be understatements. He told us that the white lines in the streets are merely suggestions which no one heeds, that traffic lights are non-existent, that most drivers never take a driving test or possess a license to operate a vehicle, that we would share the roads with horse-drawn buggies, heavily laden burros, and pedestrians who must take life-threatening chances to get anywhere. The moving


vehicles would often get so close to each other that only the proverbial coat of paint separated them. Yet we never saw any contact. But the most amazing thing about all this was the fact that the traffic did actually move despite all this and that we never saw an accident of any sort. Not only that, the traffic flowed without constant horn blowing, screeching brakes or shrieking tires. However, it did move ever so slowly! Trips of a few blocks would take half an hour or more. To drive across the city took much longer. Yet, like the drivers in India, the Egyptians were polite and considerate—road rage is not a big problem here even though driving a vehicle is frustrating and frightening. But before we could begin to feel relatively benign about Cairo traffic, we were told many are killed in traffic accidents each year, more pedestrians than drivers or passengers in cars or trucks! As congested as are the roads however the place where we suffered the most claustrophobia due to the enormous population of Cairo was the prestigious, must-be- visited National Museum of Cairo—the home of so much of Egypt's archeological treasure. It had to have been 100 degrees inside when we visited and there is no air- conditioning! The crowds had to move as one organism because there was simply no space to be called “personal”. Of course, most of these people were tourists rather than natives and our guide told us we were not seeing it at its most crowded since we were not here at high season. I cannot even imagine how any more people could have been packed into that building whose walls bulged outward under our attempts to pass by the marvelous statuary, sarcophagi, textiles, jewelry, weapons displays, and funerary objects! The historical wealth of Egypt is on casual display here and yet less than 10% of the holdings are on exhibit at any one time! Here Zahi Hawass is indeed the Pharaoh and he rules his kingdom with an iron hand. He determines what will be seen, whether or not pictures can be taken, when rooms are closed off, when construction takes place, what information is supplied—the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is his home and his castle! But it is still Egypt's treasure house and it is truly magnificent. A new museum is in the planning stages and it is much needed, but since all projects here are very slow to complete, it will be at least another 10 years before Pharaoh Hawass has another palace. One of the biggest problems in Cairo is the lack of coordinated trash and garbage pick-up and disposal. When it is done at all, it seems to be individuals who take it upon themselves to do something about it. Usually, the trash and garbage just pile up along the streets and create the feeling that Cairo is not just untidy but unhealthy as well. We had read that some of the poor Christian citizens have traditionally attempted to deal with the garbage in order to salvage what is valuable from it. They apparently are said to


pick the trash up and carry it into the districts where they live in order to sort it out. But what happens to the “non-valuable” stuff when they finish their “work” is never revealed.

Because of the Aswan High Dam, electricity is available inexpensively to almost all citizens of the country, so the cities and towns are brightly lit and there is no problem with “black outs” or periods of no power availability. At present eight of the twelve turbines in the Aswan Dam provide enough energy for all Egypt's needs and excess can be sold to neighboring countries. But Egypt's population is growing at a very rapid rate so it is not inconceivable that the people will overwhelm even the 4 turbines not supplying their electricity. Agriculture is still Egypt's number one economic activity just as it was in the millennia under the Pharaohs Farm products include the most important export, Egyptian cotton, which is an especially fine grade of long fiber material that is grown in very few other places in the world. The Nile delta has been especially hospitable to this plant because of the rich soil, the water saturation levels, and the constant refreshing of these conditions by the annual flooding. Now, however, the Egyptians are facing the one really big drawback of the Aswan High Dam. Because flooding is controlled and because the enriching silt backs up behind the dam in Lake Nasser, those wonderful soil and water conditions are dwindling away. The lustrous, durable, comfortable long fiber cotton may be threatened now. Other agricultural products are rice, corn, wheat, beans, fruits, olives, dates, vegetables like okra and eggplant, and livestock including camels, cattle, water buffalo, sheep and goats. Camels & water buffalo are used as work animals as well as food. Sheep and goats produce wool products as well as serving as food. Other economic activities include textile manufacturing, food processing, hydrocarbon production, cement-making, some mining for semi-precious stones as well as gold and silver. Despite a brisk and important tourism industry, Egypt is still basically an agricultural nation. However, the country does possess important natural resources which are gradually being exploited. There is oil, though not in great amounts, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead and zinc. A word must be said about a fascinating part of tourism in Egypt and that word is “security.” We were totally amazed and freaked at the apparent protection we were under the whole time we were in the country. From the moment we arrived at the Cairo Airport, concerns about our safety seemed uppermost in our guide's mind and in his


logistics. When we boarded our minibus to take us to our first hotel in downtown Cairo, we were preceded and followed by official small trucks bristling with big guns and tourist policeman in uniform sitting behind them, apparently at the ready. Not only that, a plainclothesman from the tourist police boarded our bus after we were all settled and sat right up front with the bus driver. Our guide told us that we should ignore him but that he would be with us all the time we were in Cairo. The trucks dropped away after we reached the hotel and we were not accompanied by them again until it was time to return to the airport at the end of the trip when they rejoined our caravan. However, that was not anywhere near the end of the security we saw! At every tourist site, there were guards sitting behind bullet proof shields with big guns drawn. There were soldiers and policemen in turrets at intervals along main roads. We saw Tourist Police, Soldiers, regular policemen, all involved in security for tourists. It was quite clear that President Mubarak does not want a repeat of the tourist attack in 1997 at Hatshepsut's Temple where about 60 tourists were killed, mostly Japanese and Swiss people. Tourism plunged as many countries warned their nationals not to travel to Egypt until the situation was clarified and security increased. A militant Islamic group at first claimed responsibility for the attack as well as other smaller ones around the country, but when it was realized that the people of Egypt were outraged by the attacks and demanded that the government punish the group and restore the confidence of tourists so tourism would resume, the group back-pedaled and tried to blame the attacks on Israel and its sympathizers. However, the Egyptian government was not fooled and it was constantly pressured by its own populace to prevent any further such attacks. After all, tourism brings in 11% of the nation's revenues and provides many jobs and supports many private businesses. The country simply could not afford any further mayhem against tourists. The Tourist Police and other security measures have done an effective job since 1997 and only isolated events have occurred since with very little loss of life. The biggest threat now seems to be against people in remote areas who are kidnapped for ransom, but those events are few in number as well. Since our return home, we saw, along with the rest of the world, that fundamentalist groups have not been totally quashed since a terrorist attack was perpetrated on a Coptic Christian Church in Alexandria during the New Year's services. Many of the churchgoers and passersby were killed and wounded in this terrible massacre. One


possible explanation for this action is a continuing goal of destabilizing the Mubarak government and establishing sharia law and government in Egypt. Our guide did tell us that American tourists, few in number as they are compared to other nationalities, get the most protection since our government demanded it or tourist warnings on travel to Egypt would be instituted by the State Department. Most Americans take those warnings very seriously and do not travel in places considered dangerous. While we were a little discomfited by the number of armed men we saw, none of us confessed to feeling uneasy after a couple of days in Egypt. It appeared we were being protected as much as possible, but I am glad that I did not read about the attack in 1997 before we went on our visit since the details of that attack revealed that the murderers were dressed in the uniforms of the Tourist Police! Besides occasional outbreaks of violence by the country's fundamentalists who want Egypt to be an Islamist state, the nation does face other constant problems. Most of these are due to the strange and basically hostile terrain it occupies. The most threatening of these natural events are droughts, frequent earthquakes, flash floods, landslides, hot driving windstorms, dust storms and sandstorms. All these help to increase soil loss and desertification. Human-caused problems include pollution of the Nile, their only source of water, and loss of fertile land due to the burgeoning population which creates a demand for housing and the consequent loss of former farmlands. HISTORICAL TIMELINE Egypt has been a recognized and unified country for 5,110 years! It is generally recognized as the oldest continuous civilization and country in existence. Because of that longevity, a short history is really an impossibility. But for convenience, a timeline will be provided for the sites we saw. Of course there were people living in Egypt before Narmer, the first Pharaoh, united the kingdoms of Lower and Upper Egypt into a single nation, but this timeline will begin with Narmer. Upper and Lower Egypt had different crowns for their kings before Narmer united them and combined the crowns into one. The designations for the two parts are confusing since they seem paradoxical. Upper Egypt is the part of the country closest to the source of the Nile, Lake Victoria. Lower Egypt is the part closest to the Mediterranean, the delta of the Nile. Upper Egypt's crown was shaped rather like a bowling pin and was white in


color while the crown of Lower Egypt was red and shaped like a wide-mouthed vase. Narmer combined the crowns by inserting the white crown into the opening of the red crown. From his time onward, Pharaohs wore this double crown, the Pschent symbolizing the unification of the two parts of the nation. Thirty-one different dynasties ruled ancient Egypt from about 3100 BC to 30 BC. This estimate of the number of dynasties comes from an Egyptian monk (Manetho) who lived in the first half of the 3 rd century BC. Though his divisions can be questionable, modern Egyptologists have accepted them for convenience and uniformity. Egyptologists define a dynasty as the reign of a group of rulers from the same family. The other convenient divisions adhered to by modern archeologists and historians concern the periods for the dynasties. At present, the histories are divided thus: 1. Early Dynastic: Identified as the first and second dynasties, from 3100 BC to 2686 BC, including as Pharaohs, the aforementioned Narmer and 15 other kings. 2. Old Kingdom: Includes the third, fourth, fifth and sixth dynasties, from 2686 BC to 2181 BC, with familiar names like Zoser, Snefru, Cheops, and Cephren, Pepi I and II, along with 21 other rulers. 3. First Intermediate Period: Includes the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth dynasties from 2181 BC to 1787 B. C., but no widely familiar names are present though there are 34 different rulers during this period. 4. Middle Kingdom: Includes only the thirteenth dynasty from 1787 BC to 1705 BC with an indeterminate number of kings but at least 15 of them. No familiar names exist among these rulers. 5. Second Intermediate Period: Includes the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth dynasties from roughly 1704 BC to 1540 BC with 13 known rulers and many others not known (usually just listed as “many kings” in the 14 th , 15 th & 16 th dynasties. No familiar names are included among these rulers either. 6. New Kingdom: Includes the eighteenth (Golden Age of Egypt), nineteenth, and twentieth dynasties from 1540 BC to 1069 BC. This dynasty includes many of the most famous of the Pharaohs, with Amenhotep I, II, III, Thutmose I, II, III, VI, Akhenaton (heretic Pharaoh who proclaimed there was only one god), Hatshepsut (female Pharaoh), King Tut, and Ramses II (self-proclaimed “The Great”).


7. Third Intermediate Period: Includes the twenty-first, twenty-second, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth dynasties from 1069 BC to 525 BC. Though 8. this period is 500 years long, the only well-known name is Ashurbanipal: familiar from the Bible and part of an Assyrian occupation of Egypt from 671 to 664 . 9. Late Period: Includes the twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth dynasties from 525 BC to 332 BC. Some of the familiar names from these dynasties are not Egyptians but Persians and Greeks, like Darius the Great and Xerxes. 10. Alexander the Great: He gets a dynasty designation of his own even though he is the only member of it. This thirty-first dynasty lasted from 331to 323 BC and though short and surviving only one ruler's lifetime, there are many evidences of Alexander's presence in Egypt. 11. Ptolemaic Kings: Though they could legitimately constitute a 32nd dynasty, for some reason (unknown to me) they are not so labeled. At any rate, their rule runs from Ptolemy I in 323 to the Cleopatra with whom we feel well-acquainted. She finished out the Ptolemaic hegemony in 30 BC. After this period, Egypt's history is dominated by Romans, Arabs, Turks, French and even the British for about 70 years. Even when other peoples ruled them, the Egyptian people maintained their ethnicity and their character. The biggest change for them came with two religious “invasions” when the Romans brought Christianity in 41 AD with the arrival of St. Mark the Apostle and when the Arabs brought Islam into Egypt through their conquest of the Byzantines in 640 AD. Since l952, the Egyptians have again been an independent nation as they were under their own ancient Pharaohs Though much diminished in numbers and percentage of the population, Coptic Christians continue to live in relative peace with the Muslim majority. RELIGIONS OF EGYPT For a full day, we participated in a Spiritual Tour of Cairo which included visits to Jewish, Christian and Islamic places of worship. Judaism Our young guide, Hany, told us with very little obvious discomfiture that at present only


55 Jews live in Egypt: 35 in Alexandria and 20 in Cairo. We visited the Ben Ezra Synagogue during our Spiritual Tour of the city. It functions today only as an historical monument and the most-visited Jewish site in Cairo. In modern times, the Jews were “invited” out of the country in 1956 after relations between the Arabs and Israelis deteriorated into war. Nor were they asked to return after the peace treaty was signed between Egypt and Israel. However, it is important to remember that despite these modern events, Jews lived in Egypt for many thousands of years and their history in the land of the Egyptians is deserving of some comment. As they have in most parts of the world, Jews in Egypt have experienced sporadic periods of acceptance with longer ones of repression. During Pharoanic times, Jews were present throughout the kingdom. The Hebrew Bible records stories of Jewish experiences under Pharaoh, though it never specifies which Pharaoh. Many Biblical scholars maintain the belief that the Hebrews were in captivity in Egypt under Ramses the Great, but there is no archeological or other external evidence of that 400 year sojourn. Some scholars look for internal evidence in the Bible itself and believe that the story could be plausible. But at present the story has to be accepted on faith rather than empirical evidence. The story of Moses in the bulrushes discovered by Pharaoh's daughter is another Biblical event that cannot be substantiated in historical or archeological records. Some researchers believe that the daughter of Hatshepsut (the female pharaoh) was the person who adopted Moses from the Nile. But all these are speculations without physical or written foundation. All through the varied periods of history in Egypt, Jews are have been present including ancient times. They have gone through Christian ages, Turkish rule, Islamic domination, the Mamelukes, Roman and Byzantine times. Though persecuted often and tolerated occasionally, they survived in Egypt for thousands of years. At some times, Jews held positions of power in whatever government held sway and at other times they were exploited and made to pay exorbitant “taxes” for the privilege of living in their communities. Sometimes, their synagogues and their scholarship were respected and valued and at other times their houses of worship were burned and their schools destroyed. But it took modern events of the 20 th century to bring Jewish life in Egypt to a complete end. Zionism and the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel sealed the fate of Jews in most of North Africa.


Christianity According to tradition, Christianity has its oldest roots in Egypt! The Bible states that Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled into Egypt to escape Herod's determination to kill Hebrew first-born males because the Magi had told him they had come into Judea seeking a new king. According to the teachings of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Holy Family sought sanctuary in a grotto in Cairo, now enclosed within the Coptic Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, dating from the 4 th century. The church is dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus, who were soldier-saints martyred during the 4th century in Syria by the Roman Emperor Maximian. It is considered the oldest of Cairo's Christian churches. The crypt which is under the current choir contains the remains of the original church where tradition says the Holy Family lived. Originally, this crypt was the main sanctuary of the church until the newer edifice was raised above it.


Another important Coptic Christian church in Cairo is the “Hanging Church” whose real name is Saint Coptic Orthodox and it dates from third century AD It is located above a gatehouse of the Babylon Fortress, an early Roman structure. The nave of the Hanging Church is suspended over a passageway into the fort. The land surface has risen almost 30 ft. since Roman times and the original tower of the fort is partially buried now. Because of this geologic factor, the elevation of the church is not as dramatic as it must have been in earlier times. Incidentally, tradition has it that Joseph may have worked at the Babylon Fortress during the time the Holy Family lived in Cairo. In this church is a mosaic map indicating the many small towns along the Nile where Christian churches associated with the Holy Family's residence in Egypt were built. Many of the ones still extant claim direct connections with the Family. They may claim to have an article of Mary's clothing or a piece of furniture created by Joseph, or something belonging to the Baby Jesus. The whole concept was a revelation to me because I had never heard any of these stories, nor had I ever read or been told anything about the Holy Family's residence in Egypt.


According to our guide, who is a Coptic Christian, there is no attempt to prevent Christians from practicing their faith in Egypt nor does he feel there is any outright discrimination against them. They make up 10-15% of Egyptians. Of course, Christianity preceded Islam in Egypt because it is a religion at least 600 years older than Islam (Mohammed was born in 570 or 571 AD). When the Rome fell in 410 AD and the Byzantine Church remained in control of Christianity in Egypt, the ascendance of Christianity held for another 300+ years until the Arabs poured into Egypt and captured it, bringing Islam as their religion. This history of Christianity in Egypt is a sad one because of persecutions by the Romans, after they themselves had introduced the religion to the region in 37 AD with the mission of St. Mark to the Egyptians. However, Emperor Diocletian (ruling from 284-305 AD) ruthlessly persecuted them, killing many thousands, because he perceived their religion to be a grave threat to the state religion of Rome. In 312 AD the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity himself and made it the official religion of Rome. Between the Byzantine Christians and the Coptic Christians grew an insurmountable difference of opinion regarding the true nature of Christ. The “great schism” at the Council of Chalcedon occurred in 451 AD when the Byzantine Patriarchate demanded that the Copts accept the doctrine of the dual nature of Christ (both human and divine) and the Copts absolutely refused it. From then on, there was conflict and persecution of the Coptic Christians who were completely decimated and demoralized. When the Arabs conquered the territory of Egypt, there was little to no resistance by the Coptic Christians against the imposition of Islam. They continued to practice their own religion through discretion and restraint. Since Mohammed considered both Jews and Christians “people of the book,” there was little outright conflict between the two faiths. Occasionally, the Muslim leaders would need more tax monies for their own purposes and would exact patently unfair fees against both Jews & Christians living amongst the Muslims. But unlike the Jewish population, the Coptic Christians have been allowed to remain devoted to their own sect of Christianity and have continued live relatively peacefully in Egypt.


Islam The Arabs brought their religion with them when they invaded Egyptian territory in 642 AD. For a while, the Jews, Christians, and Muslims coexisted in the country fairly easily. But as the leaders became more grasping, discrimination commenced and became institutionalized. By the time that the Turks took over in their expansion of the Ottoman Empire, Islam had become the dominant religion and morphed into the state religion as well. Today, 85% of the Egyptian people self-identify as Muslim and the state continues to support the religion in many ways: funding the imams, the schools, construction of new mosques, declaring official holidays connected with the religion. The Sunni branch of Islam is dominant and there are very few Shia practitioners in the country.

There are many old mosques in the country and minarets are to be seen all over every populated areas.

During our day-long spiritual tour of Cairo, we visited the magnificent Ottoman Mosque of Mohamed Ali Pasha in the Cairo Citadel.


Although we did not visit the inside of the mosque of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala'un the green dome of was a wonderful sight on its own. The view of the capital city below the Citadel in grand.


Since Muslims are required to pray 5 times daily and many choose to do so in the mosques, there is always activity around these houses of worship. There is a traditional architectural pattern for mosques, though there are many levels of opulence. There is always an outer courtyard where the purification obligation can be performed before entering the mosque. This means there are fountains, water taps, or a well, since washing of feet, hands and face is required. The mosque inside is oriented towards Mecca so that the members are facing that city when they kneel for prayer. There are no decorations, no icons, nor statues in mosques, due to Mohamed's dictum against representation of living things. The words “There is no god but Allah and Mohamed is his Prophet” are written in gold Arabic letters in many mosques but that is the only decoration. However, the mosques are often quite beautiful with colored tiles, usually in blue, domes soaring above the prayer floor, colorful prayer rugs, gold or gold-painted pulpits, columns of marble or granite or other colorful stones for roof support. Minarets (the towers from which the calls to prayer are issued) are fanciful and reflect the country from which their style originates. The minaret is formed of a base, a pillar, and a conical or onion-shaped dome surmounted by a decoration consisting of from 3 to 5 balls separated by narrow shafts. These symbolize the five pillars of Islam: 5 prayers daily, a once in a lifetime visit to Mecca, regular alms-giving to the poor, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the profession of faith “There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is his Messenger”.


Primarily utilitarian, they can be quite beautiful in themselves, and no particular number is required on an individual mosque. The minaret's function is to provide a high place from which the muezzin can issue the calls to prayer five times daily.

In Egypt are found minarets of Turkish, Moroccan, Persian and Egyptian styles.

Islam has become divided in more modern times into two sects: Sunni and Shia. The Egyptians are followers of the Sunni tradition. The chief difference between the two stems from the period after Mohamed's death. Some followers believed the rightful leadership should pass to a member of the Prophet's family and chose Alī ibn Abī Ṭ ālib , his cousin/son-in-law, to be their leader. That group became the Shia Muslims. Others of Mohamed's followers felt that an election should determine the leadership and they elected Abu Bakr as their first Caliph. These Muslims are now practitioners of the Sunni branch of Islam. Through the years other differences have arisen but they are mostly political and cultural. The chief beliefs of Islam are shared by both sects (the 5 pillars), the reading of Koran and the hadith (sayings of the profit), and the celebration of various holidays. There are many more Sunni Muslims than Shia—90% of the world's Muslims identify themselves as Sunni and only 10% as Shia. However, both sects recognize each other as Muslims. An important characteristic that Muslims share with Jews is their belief in one God only; no trinity or “son of god” is recognized in Islam. As a matter of fact, Mohamed cautioned his believers against too much praise and adoration offered to him. He said he was the “slave of Allah only” and not a divine being and specifically asked his followers not to deify him as Christians had done with the “son of Mary.” THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN RELIGION The religious beliefs that predominated among Pharaohs and their people until the Romans brought Christianity into the territory was thoroughly interwoven into the culture and lives of the Egyptians.

It is a complex system of belief with many gods and goddesses symbolizing important beliefs and practices. However, there are aspects of this religion which are not entirely


alien to religions of today. For instance, there was a strong belief in a resurrection and an afterlife as well as a “judgment day” to determine worthiness to enter that afterlife (rather like Christianity and Islam). Places of worship were considered important and necessary (as among Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus). There is a creation story to explain how humans arrived on the earth in a certain place (these myths are important in almost all the world's religions, including those of our own Native Americans). A respect for human life is also evident in Egyptian practices since tombs were important for deceased persons—both to secure their passage to the afterlife and to allow continued veneration of the dead by their progeny. Of course, very few people in Egyptian society could afford the kind of tombs that Pharaohs and their noble kinsmen could erect for themselves. But there is evidence that lesser folks also built modest tombs and were remembered by their children and grandchildren. Mummification was a vital part of Egyptian faith since it was believed that the mummified body was necessary to resurrection. Even poor and lowly Egyptians greatly desired that their dead bodies be mummified and if that was an economic or logistic impossibility, they wanted something of their physical selves to be buried with them so that when they entered the afterlife their “ka” (soul) could recognize their physical bodies so that body and soul could be rejoined for eternity. Pharaoh Akhenaton (grandfather of King Tut) conceived the idea of monotheism. For this, he was considered a heretic by his successors. During his 20+ years of rule, he made strenuous efforts to establish this belief among his people. But upon his death, the succeeding Pharaohs and the people reverted immediately to their ancient beliefs. For most Egyptians their most important gods were Isis and her husband Osiris, their son Horus, the falcon-headed protector god of the sky, and Hathor (the cow-headed goddess) who was both nurse and wife to Horus. The experience of Osiris was the origin of the resurrection belief. The story holds that Osiris is killed by his brother, Set, the evil one, and then dismembered and his body parts scattered. Sounds a bit like Cain and Abel, doesn't it? Anyway his distraught wife, Isis, searches all over the earth and brings all the pieces together and brings Osiris back to life.


Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 66 Page 67 Page 68 Page 69 Page 70 Page 71 Page 72 Page 73 Page 74 Page 75 Page 76 Page 77 Page 78 Page 79 Page 80 Page 81 Page 82 Page 83 Page 84 Page 85 Page 86 Page 87 Page 88 Page 89 Page 90 Page 91 Page 92 Page 93 Page 94 Page 95 Page 96 Page 97 Page 98

Made with FlippingBook flipbook maker