The Desert Sands of Ancient Egypt

CULTURE | May 4, 2019

Desert in Egypt. Source: (pinterest.com)

There is a lot more to Egypt than just the sands of its deserts. Even though there is no rain in Egypt, the Ancient Egyptian culture has produced historical achievements such as creative art forms, and an unusual writing system called hieroglyphics that uses pictures instead of words. Egypt’s water source came from the Nile River in which they built a unique irrigation system from to provide water for its inhabitants as well as provide rich produce.

Egypt’s early history began with a belief in the afterlife and a polytheistic view (belief in many gods) on religion. The Pharaohs of Egypt spared no expense on their tombs and included various types of jewelry and other items they believed they would need in their next life. Some Egyptian kings had their bodies wrapped as mummies before placing them in their adorned coffins.

Camels – mode of transportation. Source: (tourradar.com)

Camels first came to Egypt from Arabia in the 1st Century AD through the Nabataeans. In the desert, camels make the best transportation system. They can move smoothly and easily through the desert much like a boat moves on the water. What is even better is that they can go without food and water for many days. Besides using them for traveling through the desert, camels are also used for transporting cargo.  

Colossi of Memmon. Source: (wikipedia.org)

In Egypt, there are many monuments and massive statues. These statues, located west of the Nile River, are of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III who reigned during the 18th Dynasty. The statues are 60 feet in height and weigh 720 tons. Each one was carved out of a single block of sandstone. They were once considered to be guards for the mortuary that used to be behind them, but earthquakes and floods have had a deteriorating effect on the area leaving it mostly vacant.

Sphinx of Giza. Source: (instyle.com)

The Sphinx is a mythical creature that has the body of a lion and the head of a human. It is located on the west bank of the Nile River in Giza, Egypt. This is the oldest known monument in Egypt as well as the largest and oldest in the world. It is believed to have been built originally during the reign of Pharaoh Khafre (2558-2532 B.C.). At some point, this massive monument was abandoned and ended up being buried in sand up to its shoulders. The first modern attempt of trying to recover it was in 1817 A.D. by an Italian archaeologist who was able to uncover the chest. Then in 1887, the chest, paws, altar, and plateau were uncovered as well as flights of steps. After uncovering it, measurements were able to be taken and it was measured to be one hundred feet in height, thirty-five feet in length, and ten feet in width. The Egyptian government restored the head in 1931 after erosion had damaged it in 1926. More renovations were done in the 1980s and 1990s. No one knows for sure how the nose got damaged, but it appeared to have been done by some type of instruments during the 3rd and 10th centuries CE. 

Temple of Horus. Source: (wikipedia.org)

The Temple of Horus (or Edfu) is the second largest one in Egypt as well as the best preserved. It was uncovered from the sand in the 1860s by a French archaeologist. Ptolemy II began the construction of it in 237 B.C., but it took 180 years to complete it. Included in its architecture are the main entrance, a courtyard, a chapel, and a “birth house” called the Mamisi. In this bathhouse, an annual festival would be held called the Festival of Coronation to honor the pharaoh’s birth as well as the “divine” birth of Horus. Huge pylons stand at the entrance that are 118 feet in height and depict battle scenes of Ptolemy VIII wiping out Horus’ enemies. Past the courtyard is a court called the Court of Offerings where two statues of Horus stand made of black granite. The Festival Hall leads to the Hall of Offerings which then leads to the Sanctuary, the holiest region of the temple. Inside of the Sanctuary is a black granite shrine dedicated to Nectanebo II. 

Abu Simbel. Source: (foundtheworld.com)

This is one of two temples of Abu Simbel that was originally constructed during the time of Ramses II as a symbol of victory of the Kadesh Battle. The temples were located in a remote area so they were not discovered until 1813 with only the heads of the statues appearing above the sand.

At the entrance are four monumental statues that have been carved out of solid rock, all of Ramses II. One of them was damaged during an earthquake. There are several smaller statues of family members and others between his feet as well as beside him. Some of the smaller statues are representative of his wife, Nefertari.

Inside of the Temple of Abu Simbel. Source: (ancient-origins.net)

Just inside of this temple in the first hall are two rows of huge columnar statues. Further inside of the temple is a shrine of three gods seated with Ramses II sitting beside them as though on the same level with them. As a show of his power over upper and lower Egypt during that time, Ramses II had numerous monumental statues of himself placed throughout the temple. All along the walls are hieroglyphics throughout the temple illustrating the culture and various military battles. The positioning of the temple faces the sun in such a way that twice a year, the first rays of the sun will shine all the way down the length of the temple and shine inside to the rear of the innermost shrine. Included in the decoy on the walls are pictures of various gods.

Because of the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the original location of this temple was in danger. Thanks to UNESCO, relocation, and reconstruction took place to keep it safe. This reconstruction project costs $42 million which took four years to complete.

Who knows what else may be buried underneath the sands of Egypt yet to be discovered?

Tags: egypt

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Penny Chavers


Penny, besides writing, loves to spend her time with family and friends. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the piano, board games, and taking online classes on topics that interest her.