Depending on where you are in Egypt, it can feel as if time were standing still and you were transported into the past. The pyramids, the tombs, temples, and hieroglyphs all give a glimpse into a part of Egypt’s mystical and magical past. Take a walk with me back in time as I show you some intriguing parts of ancient Egypt that I was fortunate enough to explore.
The Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is where ancient Egyptians buried their pharaohs who reigned during the 18th – 20th dynasties from 1539 – 1075 B.C. The Great Ramesses II, Queen Hatshepsut, Seti I, and King Tut were all buried here along with their riches. It has been estimated that there are 63 tombs in the valley (King Tut’s being the most famous) with more being discovered as technology advances.
Ancient Egyptians believed there was an afterlife in a new world and prepared their dead accordingly. When people think of mummies, the first place that comes to mind is usually Egypt. Although mummification was practiced in several other cultures, it was one of the defining customs in ancient Egypt. The practice of preserving the human body was even more elaborate for the pharaohs whose souls were not only supposed to reanimate after death but they also were supposed to become one with the gods. As such, the tombs of the pharaohs were filled with materials that they would need in the afterlife. These items would include jewelry, pets, food, wine, furniture, masks, and other items that a king or queen would need.
Because it was known that these tombs were filled with the riches of royalty, the Valley of the Kings has been repeatedly raided by tomb robbers, treasure hunters, and archeologists for centuries leaving them with only the decorated scenes from Egyptian mythology until a great discovery was made in 1922.
King Tutankhamun (aka King Tut)
King Tut is the most famous Egyptian pharaoh for all the wrong reasons. The boy king started his short nine year reign around the age of 10 until he died at age 19. So why is he so popular? In 1922, his tomb was discovered practically intact, packed with his death mask, jewelry, furniture, and so much more. It gave great insight into the ancient culture and stirred worldwide press coverage. His tomb artifacts can now be viewed in museums around the world. As a matter of fact, Tut was probably the only pharaoh I knew about before visiting Egypt, but once I left it was quite clear who the great pharaoh really was.
Pharaoh Ramesses the Great
Ramesses the Great (aka Ramesses II) ruled Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC and is estimated to have died around the age of 91. In entertainment, Ramesses II is one of the most popular candidates for the Pharaoh of the Exodus, but there isn’t any documentation or archaeological evidence to support this. He ruled for approximately 66 years, which is a feat within itself considering that the average life span around that time was not even close to that! Ramesses the Great was a major builder and is most famous for his monuments at Abu Simbel. It felt like everywhere we turned there was a statue of this powerful king. Unfortunately, some of his monuments have been destroyed, but I can only imagine what greatness I would have beheld had they not been. While Ramesses the Great was a major ruler, there is yet another who is regarded as one of the most successful pharaohs ever and guess what… it was a queen!
Pharaoh Hatshepsut reigned for approximately 22 years and left her undeniable mark in history. She established trade routes, oversaw the preparations, and funded trade expeditions as well as raids that led into Sinai. She was one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt and her temple in the Valley of the Kings gives a hint of her greatness.
Hieroglyphs is a writing system which uses symbols to represent objects (such as tools, animals, or boats) and ideas (such as motion, time, and joy). Archaeological discoveries suggest that Egyptian hieroglyphs may be the oldest form of writing. The earliest evidence of an Egyptian hieroglyphic system is believed to be from about 3300 or 3200 BC, and the Egyptians would go on to use hieroglyphs for the next 3,500 years.
The hieroglyphic system used in historical Egypt had between 700 and 800 basic symbols, called glyphs. That number grew during the last centuries of ancient Egyptian civilization because of an increased interest in writing religious texts. Egyptians wrote hieroglyphs in long lines from right to left and from top to bottom. They did not use spaces or punctuation.
To date, Egypt has been one of my favorite expeditions. I just fell in love with the country, the people, and the history. I was so humbled to have been able to spend time in the glory and history of such an extraordinary country. Do you have any additional knowledge of Egypt or its culture? If so, please share… I’d love to hear your experiences!