Top 10 Fun Facts About Egypt
Egypt is a country with a long and rich history. Some of the earliest known civilizations were located in Egypt. The first signs of human activity date back to around 4,500 BCE. For 3000 years it was the breadbasket for much of the Mediterranean world. It had trade routes to Asia, Africa, and Europe through the Red Sea, which linked it to India, China, and other East Asian countries through trading partner states like Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Egypt was occupied by the Arabian Caliphate from 642 to 1085 CE when it was largely restored to Egypt under the Ayyubids. The Islamic customs and culture of the country were preserved in a vibrant form. Later the Ottoman Empire occupied and ruled Egypt from 1517 until 1867. The British took over control of Egypt in 1882 after the fall of the Mamluk Sultanate, which had been ruling the country for centuries. The British rule was marked by a period of great upheaval and instability for Egyptians, resulting in large-scale social conflicts after World War I and culminating with massive demonstrations and strikes on April 6th 1952 called “the revolution” that toppled King Farouk I from power. The revolution was a turning point in Egypt’s history and resulted in three decades of free officers’ rule, with the Free Officers Movement, led by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, abolishing the monarchy, abrogating the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that had recognized Egypt as a British protectorate, establishing a republic and declaring an end to the British military presence. [or]The country has since been plagued with political instability and violence.
When Mohamed Morsi became president in June 2012 as head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party he inherited an economy already wrecked by 30 years of corruption and mismanagement under Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. The IMF estimates that Egypt’s economy contracted by 2.8% in 2012 and has only grown 0.1% during 2012 and 2013. Tourism, one of the main sources of hard currency, has been hampered by terrorist attacks and vilification by Western media sources. Foreign investment has dried up and inflation is rampant. The national debt is expected to reach 95% of GDP, the highest level in Egypt’s history. The budget deficit overshot the 15% target set by Morsi’s government in July 2013, rising to 16%.
President Morsi also failed to move on long-standing issues like improving human rights and fighting corruption as he was seen to support a crackdown on dissenters who opposed him as well as the Muslim Brotherhood which he was part of. Morsi was slow to push through the legislature a new constitution, which further raised suspicions over whether he wanted to rule with an iron fist.
After Morsi declared himself the country’s leader for life in November 2012, millions took to the streets calling for his ouster. The opposition ultimately took several large-scale protests, on June 30th, 2013, and August 14th, 2013, to demand Morsi’s resignation.
Egypt’s military, which had been toppled by the Free Officers Movement in the 1952 revolution, has announced it will run the country until a new constitution is drafted and elections are held.
The military took power from Morsi on July 3rd, 2013. It announced a plan to remove Morsi on July 5th, 2013 citing a lack of support from the Muslim Brotherhood. A few days later reports out of Egypt stated that the military was refusing to hand over power to a civilian government.
A new constitution was ratified on January 14th 2014. Elections for the president and parliament are expected to be held sometime in Spring 2014. The first round of elections will not take place until April or May 2014 as the country’s new law on political parties did not allow for a suitable amount of time.
The Egyptian government is facing a myriad of troubles: A 13-year long state of emergency, general strikes, postponed elections and international concerns over Egypt’s human rights abuses (under Morsi, from Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, etc.) have all hurt the economy. The tourism industry has since been decimated by attacks on tourists, both civil and military.
Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is an Egyptian General and former chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Al-Sisi is a loyalist of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that was in power at the time of his appointment as Defense Minister in August 2012.
On 18 January 2013, Al-Sisi in a nationwide TV and radio address announced he had removed Morsi from power, suspended the constitution, and would be calling for presidential and Shura Council elections. Al-Sisi was promoted to Field Marshal by then interim president Adly Mansour.
Al-Sissi ascended to the presidency on June 8, 2014, where he promised to restore stability to Egypt following two years of political turmoil.
Egypt’s cultural history dates back over 5,000 years. Ancient Egyptians were accomplished builders, using massive stone blocks that were often taller than 2 meters (6 feet). The Pyramids of Giza were built in the Fourth Dynasty, around 2570 BCE. During subsequent dynasties, the temple architecture became more elaborate and closer in the form to the architecture of ancient Greece. Although no Egyptian temples or palaces remain today, many Roman-era buildings from ancient Egypt survive.
1. The Ancient Egyptians built most of their pyramids as tombs for pharaohs
The pyramids are one of the most enduring symbols of Ancient Egyptian civilization. The large stone structures have fascinated tourists and scholars alike since they were built over 4,500 years ago.
Yet, while it’s obvious that they were used as tombs for the pharaohs who commissioned them, newer evidence suggests that these massive structures could also have served as giant solar temples where the afterlife cult was performed.
Found across Egypt, Ancient Egyptian pyramids use an astonishing variety of techniques. It is often claimed that these differences show that many cultures worked on building all types of pyramids; however, this is not necessarily true.
2. Mummification was how they preserved the dead
To the ancient Egyptians, life wasn’t over when a person died. They believed that by preserving a dead person’s body — through the process of mummification — their soul would live on in the afterlife. To the ancient Egyptians, life wasn’t over when a person died. They believed that by preserving a dead person’s body — through the process of mummification — their soul would live on in the afterlife.
3. But how did ancient Egyptians mummify a body?
Ancient Egyptians mummified bodies in three main steps — cleaning and grooming the body, wrapping it and putting it in a coffin.
Cleaning the Body
First, royal embalmers removed any organs that weren’t needed during mummification. This included the intestine, stomach and liver. Then they cleaned out the cavity with palm wine and filled it with dried flowers. They put natron — a chemical found in desert soil — into the empty space, to dry out the body from within. The body was left for 40 days so that all moisture could evaporate out of it. The bones also shrank during this time period.
Making the Body Ready for Wrapping
After 40 days, the embalmer unwrapped the body and cleaned it. They removed the skin from each body part as well as the hair on top of the head. They wiped out all injury marks using a mixture of honey and wine. The embalmer then used resin — a material that formed naturally from trees — to smooth out any blemishes or wrinkles on the body. After pressing linen into the skin, they shaved all hair off with a razor called a barber’s razor, except for eyebrows and eyelashes. This would make sure that mummification went smoothly. Finally, the embalmer wrapped the body back up.
Putting the Body in a Coffin
After wrapping the body, they placed it in a wooden coffin. The coffin was made of cedar wood and covered in resin. The ancient Egyptians decorated coffins with carvings of gods and animals. In some cases, they even placed models inside the coffins showing how people lived their lives — one model even showed a potter making clay pots! Finally, they put a lid on top of the coffin with an image of the dead person’s face on it called a death mask.
As time went on, ancient Egyptians perfected the mummification process. They even discovered ways to make their mummies last longer — for more than 3,000 years longer! Understanding how they did it helps us learn more about life in ancient Egypt.
4. The bandages unwrapped from an Ancient Egyptian mummy could stretch for 1.6km
The task of rolling up a mummy was one of the most difficult jobs in Ancient Egypt, as the bandages could unravel and stretch for up to 1.6km in length.
If you are an accomplished roller, you’d still need 83 hours to complete this task.
Initially, they were soaked in embalming liquid and wrapped with two layers of linen. The next step was to wrap bandages around them using a technique known as ‘dool’ followed by another layer of embalming. The bandages need to be rolled up one at a time. They would then be tied with a rope and loosely bound together at several rings to prevent them from unraveling.
5. The Great Pyramids of Giza are the largest ancient Egyptian pyramids, located near Cairo in Egypt
The Pyramid of Khufu, also known as the “Great Pyramid,” is a stone structure built during ancient times in Giza. This pyramid was built to serve both as the world’s largest tomb for Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu and its only completed monument with smooth sides from top to bottom. The pyramid, which is the largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis located outside of Cairo, Egypt, was built to honor Pharaoh Khufu. The Pyramid of Khufu stands at a height of approximately 146.5 meters (481 feet) and on its north-south axis, it measures 230.4 meters (755 feet).
Khufu lived from about 2589-2566 BC, and he was the second pharaoh to come from the Fourth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He was a ruler of this country from 2589 to 2566 BC and before his reign there had been no rulers for over 700 years.
The Pyramid of Khufu is the largest pyramid in Egypt, its size is almost double that of a smaller pyramid previously built by Pharaoh Sneferu. The Pyramid of Khufu consists of three major parts, namely the base, the body, and the capstone or headstone. . The base is made up of limestone blocks that have been carved with images of sacred animals: a bull’s head (for Osiris), an eagle (for Horus) and a baboon’s head (for Anubis). The body has smooth sides that were cut with precision and the Egyptians measured the height of the pyramid with a “sedge” (a bent piece of reed) and a “measure stick”. The cap stone is made up of limestone blocks that have been carved with images of sacred animals: an ibis (for Thoth), mongoose (for Bastet), a crocodile or hippopotamus, and two-horned cows.
The outer surface is smooth, there are no pits for a staircase, but there are two cliffs on one side. One cliff faces East, and another cliff faces West while the north-south axis runs through the middle. The apex of the pyramid is on the North-South axis.
The structure is an excellent example of a self-supporting, or stepped structure. The outer layer of limestone blocks are laid in a north-south direction with the capstone (the flat top) at the northern end. The second layer of blocks are placed along the sides and bottom of course they would align with the first layer; therefore they do not need a mortar and form a solid wall. In order to construct this pyramid, the Egyptians used a simple technique that does not require mortar and creates an excellent building. It is called “piling”. Piling is a technique that involves the building of large numbers of stone blocks, called “courses”, laying them longitudinally on top of each other, and then covering them with another layer.
The first step was to lay down the foundation, which was a type of platform made out of small blocks or sand. Each block was then placed on top and fitted in place with the help of wooden wedges, which were inserted in between each block. Once all the small blocks were in place they were covered with another layer of sand and one more layer of small stones were placed over that. Next, a second and third layer of large blocks (or “courses”) were laid above this. This process was repeated for a total of six layers until the pyramid got its height. The blocks, which were put perpendicular to the axis of the pyramid, became a single unit.
According to some scholars, most of the stones in the Great Pyramid were never moved from their original positions after they had been placed and they would not have needed any further maintenance. However, according to another author, mud was used in ancient times as mortar that would help hold together large stone slabs. They claim that there is no other building in Egypt that has mortar because it is not necessary for the stability and strength of its structure.
6. Egypt has a population of about 90% Muslims, who are primarily Sunnis, and 10% Christians
The Muslim majority population in Egypt is around 90% with the remaining 10% being Christians. The 10% of Christians in Egypt are also primarily Sunnis, but there are some Coptic Egyptians.
Egypt’s Christian population is smaller than its Muslim population as they inhabit the country for about 1,000 years less than Muslims. This difference between these groups has increased after the Islamic invasion of Egypt which started in 641 AD.
In the early times, many Egyptian Christians identified themselves with the Copts from Alexandria, who were mostly Greek Orthodox Christians.
7. Cleopatra was a queen of Egypt but she was not Egyptian
Cleopatra VII, or Cleopatra the Great, was a powerful queen of Egypt and the last member of the Ptolemaic dynasty
Cleopatra is best known for her relationship with the Roman Leader, Julius Caesar, and their affair was one of the most documented and speculated about in history.
After Caesar’s death in 44 BC, Cleopatra became involved with another Roman leader, Octavian. After stealing Octavian’s ships to escape him after he refused her request to marry him in 32 BC, she also made a strong enemy of Marc Antony who would eventually be defeated in battle by Octavian.
She committed suicide on August 12th 30 BC during the Battle of Actium which caused Egypt to be conquered by Rome six years later.
Cleopatra was born on August 15, 69 BC in the city of Alexandria, Egypt as Cleopatra V. Her father was Ptolemy XII and her mother was Cleopatra Selene II. She had a brother named Ptolemy XIII who would later be poisoned and die before they all committed suicide to avoid Octavian. (Octavian would eventually become Augustus Caesar.)
Cleopatra was an intelligent woman who learned how to speak, read and write Greek during her childhood which made her one of the most educated members of her realm. She understood Roman and Egyptian languages and also knew how to speak Latin which she learned from Julius Caesar during their travels together in his campaign.
Cleopatra married her brother, Ptolemy XIII in order to secure her nation’s allegiance to Rome. When she became queen of Egypt, she quickly made an alliance with Caesar who was engaged to her sister Arsinoe. In return, Caesar honored Cleopatra’s marriage treaty with Ptolemy XIII and the two were able to rule together as a team.
On August 12th, 30 BC Cleopatra began the process of being turned over to Octavian (later renamed Augustus) by committing suicide after being defeated at Actium. “The Battle of Actium was fought between the fleet of Octavian (the future first Emperor Augustus) and that of Antony and Cleopatra. This battle was the last battle between the Roman Republic and the forces of Octavian. As a result, Cleopatra’s Ptolemaic kingdom fell and Egypt became a Roman province. However, Cleopatra was able to retain her throne with at least nominal independence as first Queen of Adiabene and then Queen of Egypt.”
Cleopatra’s position in history as a powerful woman is because of the fact that she had an affair with Julius Caesar in Rome during his campaign in Gaul.
8. Egypt is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage sites
1) Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
2) Historic Cairo
3) Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
4) Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
5) Wadi el-Hitan (Whale Valley)
6) Saint Catherine Area
7) Abu Mena
9. The ancient Egyptians invented a 365-day calendar that was divided into 12 months
The ancient Egyptians divided their year into twelve months—three seasons—each consisting of four weeks with seven days each, with extra days intercalated as necessary:
The Egyptian solar year consists alternately of 12 intervals known as “months” and 13 intervals known as “weeks”. The 12 months are divided into four weeks of 7 days and the 13 weeks are also divided into 7 days. The extra week is added at the end of the year, after the last month in order to reconcile the solar and lunar years. The long hours of daylight on a specific day were assigned to a specific month (or season) and regarded as an agricultural period. Thus, three seasons included four months of 30 days each and a season was considered to start in one month but the end —particularly with regard to harvesting— in another month.
10. Make-up was used by both Egyptian men and women
Egyptian make-up was used to protect the wearer from the sun and to ward off evil spirits. It was usually green or black, offered protection from the sun, and was believed to have magical healing powers.
The Ancient Egyptians used eye shadow or kohl to protect the eyes from the glare of the sun. They also used lead-based eye make-up called galena. Both men and women wore this on their eyes. Kohl was also used to darken around the eyes which enhanced their appearance. The Ancient Egyptians stroked their eyebrows upwards with a special type of eyebrow brush called an okolie.
Colored clays, such as red ochre and yellow ochre, were mixed with plant oils to make lip glosses which were worn either alone or under lipstick made with dates, resin and honey. Men usually wore plain lip glosses but women sometimes added carmine (a red pigment) or henna (a reddish paint).