Egyption History & Travel - 2010

Priests were very important figures in Egyptian life because of their close connections with and service to the gods of the temples where they were stationed. They could be revered as interpreters, celebrants of the various rites, advisers to the Pharaohs, propitiators of the gods, and liaisons between the people and the gods. Pharaohs themselves claimed divinity to increase their power and enforce their hegemony over the land and the people. In general, the people and the priests seemed to accept this claim of Pharaoh as god. Since religion and culture were often synonymous in ancient Egypt, it was necessary for stability and harmony in the nation that the Pharaoh be acknowledged as divine. Another tradition which helped cement the Pharaoh's claim to divinity and the right to rule was the often cited belief that a god had impregnated the Pharaoh's mother who was previously a virgin. Does this sound familiar at all? At any rate, it seems clear that religion in Ancient Egypt was a vital element in life and culture. Because of their strong belief system, the Pharaohs and nobles built many temples, tombs and pyramids on the walls of which were carved the stories of the faith. Today, those ancient religious structures connect us with the people who lived all those years ago and help us understand their beliefs and practices. A Necessary Comparison If half of our group had not just been in 2 other North African countries (Tunisia and Morocco), this comparison would not be necessary. However, Kay and I had spent about 5 weeks divided between the two nations in May this year, so the contrasts were bound to be fresh in our memories. The caveat I must state before going any further is that all these thoughts will be based on our personal observations of the places we visited in all three countries. Places we did not see could have revealed totally different impressions than the ones I will discuss here. We cannot claim to have seen even a majority of any of the three countries. However, I still believe that our perceptions of the differences and similarities have validity in seeking to understand this visit to Egypt. Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco are all part of the Maghreb, the part of the Mediterranean conquered by the Arabs and Islam. All three were also made part of the Greek expansion under Alexander the Great and together became an important colony under the Roman Empire. And in more modern times, all three have been influenced by French incursions

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