Egyption History & Travel - 2010

I NTRODUCTION 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. C URRENT M ILLENNIUM 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


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