The People of Egypt
When most people think of Egypt, they think of the Great Pyramids, the Nile River, pharaohs, and biblical stories, and many may even consider it to be the cradle of civilization. An African country, Egypt blends the old with the new and has one of the longest histories of any modern country. Ancient Egypt is also home to some of the earliest developments of centralized government, writing, religion, and monument construction.
With a population of over 90 million people, Egypt is the 15th most populous country in the world. I loved seeing the different colors of the Egyptian people. I recall that my mom’s complexion blended in as we travelled further north in the country where the majority of the people looked more Middle Eastern, but as we travelled further south I started to fit in with the Nubian population. The largest ethnic group in Egypt is the ethnic Egyptians who make up over 90% of the population. There are various other groups living there that include Arabs, Turks, Sudanese, Palestinians, Iraqis, and Greeks just to name a few. The majority of the population is approximately ninety percent (90%) Sunni Muslim, nine percent (9%) are Coptic Christians, one percent (1%) are other Christian denominations, and twelve percent (12%) are non-denominational Muslims.
Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is known as the “City of 1,000 Minarets” but it felt like there were more. A minaret is similar to a tower and it is where the Islamic call to prayer is made. The call to prayer is issued five times each day – dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. In most modern mosques, the prayer is called from the prayer hall via microphone to a speaker system located on the minaret. The most famous one in Cairo is the Muhammad Ali Pasha, or Alabaster Mosque, which can be seen when approaching the city from any side. The mosques that I saw were simply breathtaking.
The Nile River
The Sahara desert covers most of Egypt resulting in the majority of its people living close to the banks of the Nile River due to the arable land that is found there. The great Nile River can be considered the lifeline of ancient Egypt going as far back as the Stone Age. Over years, the Nile was considered to be the longest river in the world but now more recent studies are suggesting that the Amazon is longer by including an estuary and the longest connecting tidal canal. The Nile is a north flowing river that is shared by 11 countries – Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, and Egypt. Because of this, there have been several political disputes on water rights that have spanned many decades. Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya have all expressed their frustration with each complaining that Egypt dominates the water source.
The Nile has two major tributaries, The Blue Nile and the White Nile. The northern section of the Nile flows north and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Nearly all the cultural and historical sites of Ancient Egypt are found along the Nile. Part of the tour that my mother and I took included a cruise down the Nile that stopped at different parts of Egypt to experience how the past meets the present. We literally got to sail into antiquity seeing current villages and ancient temples. I have to say, I often forget that my first cruise was actually down the Nile River. I guess because it wasn’t a huge ocean liner but it was a cruise none the less and on the Nile at that! It was truly an awesome experience!
- Egypt is home to 1/3 of the world’s antiquities, while Luxor is referred to as the world’s greatest open air museum.
- A Nile cruise will afford the opportunity to explore an ancient civilization with over 5,000 years of history.
- Permanent settlements gradually started on the banks of the Nile River around 6,000 BCE thus beginning Egyptian civilization. The Nile was seen as the source of all life in Egypt so many of the most important Egyptian myths concern or make significant mention of it.
- Each year the Nile River flooded for about six months, so in order to track when it occurred Egyptians developed a calendar containing 365 days divided into 12 months of 30 days each. We still use that calendar system to this day!
- The Nile River is surrounded mostly by desert which allowed few invaders to attack Egypt. Equipped with such a great barrier, Egyptians concentrated on a myriad of things like improving farming techniques, spinning cotton into clothing, and creating art, government, philosophy, and pyramids.
- Ramesses the Great, one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, reigned for 67 years, had nearly 200 wives, 96 sons, and 60 daughters. He died around 96 years of age and Egypt fell into a steady decline following his death. His 3,000 year old mummy is on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
- Pharaoh is the highest rank in Egyptian civilization and the first female to hold this title was Hatshepsut who is regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs. However, the most famous female ruler was Cleopatra who became queen of Egypt at 18 years old and was renowned for her intelligence.
- Drink plenty of water; I made the grave mistake of going to Egypt in August and it was over 110 degrees in the shade.
- If you are female, bring a few scarfs in case you want to enter a mosque – one for your head and one to cover your shoulders and upper body if you are showing too much skin.
- Haggle away! They have different prices for people from different countries.
- Research the cost for your itinerary. Some people may charge you to enter places that are actually free to visit.
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