Egypt is home to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and an increasingly popular travel destination, but did you know it also has many surprising facts?
Ancient Egyptians enjoyed playing board games. One such popular Senet variant, similar to knucklebones and snakes and ladders, was even used as burial remains by Pharaohs for afterlife purposes!
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza stands as an iconic icon of Egypt and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, as well as being its last remaining pyramid from ancient Egypt and a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing millions of tourists every year to Egypt.
Many are unaware that pyramid building in Ancient Egypt was only recently initiated. At first, pyramids resembled more closely the ziggurats found in Mesopotamia than traditional pyramids do today. Not until around the Fourth Dynasty did they truly take shape as the structures we recognize today with aboveground burial chambers, mortuary temples and covered causeways being included into each pyramid built. Furthermore, any Egyptian king who constructed them during this time period were later mummified and interred within them!
Scientists still are unsure exactly how the first pyramids were erected, though various theories exist as to their construction. One popular theory suggests that thousands of workers used wet sand as a lubricant when moving massive stone blocks around, which would explain why such large blocks fit so comfortably into tight spaces. Ramps or hoists may have also been employed.
One of the surprising Egyptian facts you may not be aware of is that ancient Egyptians did not use slave laborers to build their impressive monuments; rather, labor brigades drawn from peasantry were marshaled by their government during dry season for this task.
Did you know that the Great Pyramid of Giza weighs as much as 16 Empire State buildings? And speaking of pyramids, did you know that Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs contain over 700 symbols?
Cleopatra was the last of the Pharaohs and used her beauty to seduce both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony with her charms. Legend holds that her death by asp bite caused by one bite is attributable. Unfortunately, many myths surrounding her life and death remain, making it important that we decipher truth from fiction when it comes to Cleopatra.
One of the most enlightening facts about Cleopatra is her Greek heritage and membership of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt following Alexander’s conquest. Cleopatra became one of her family dynasties’ first rulers to learn Egyptian fluently while fully immersing herself into its culture, gods, and ancient customs.
As soon as her father Ptolemy XII died in 51 BC, she and her brother became co-rulers of Egypt. However, due to political errors which cost her her position she fled Egypt for Syria before eventually arriving in Rome where she met Mark Antony (an influential Roman general). Mark Antony eventually proposed marriage, leading them into having their son together named Caesarion.
Ptolemy XIII’s attempts to prevent Cleopatra and her brother Antony from seeing each other proved futile; ultimately they succeeded in retaking Egypt together after an intense series of battles between their armies and Cleopatra’s army. This memorable event of Cleopatra history is among her most significant facts.
Cleopatra was defeated by Caesar, and made joint ruler with her younger brother Ptolemy XIII of Egypt. Cleopatra used her charismatic charms to seduce Caesar and marry him; at this time she was reported as one of the most beautiful women alive at that time – her beauty being enough to move entire armies under her influence. Her academic talents enabled her to speak up to nine languages (including her native Greek and Egyptian languages), she was an accomplished strategist, skilled tactician, as well as expert strategist.
The 12-month calendar
The Egyptian calendar is an intriguing piece of history. Divided into 12 monthly periods and used for millennia, it may have been the first calendar to introduce February. A Roman ruler known as Numa Pompilius is said to have added January and moved February backward in 452 BCE.
The Nile River runs through Egypt and is one of the world’s most iconic waterways. Rising each summer due to rainfall in its source region, which causes floods that deposit sediment necessary for agriculture and plant life – without which much of Egypt would remain barren and desert-like. Ancient Egypt was formerly an extremely wealthy Roman province during this period when their pharaohs constructed 118 pyramids as royal tombs along its length.
Egypt boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than any other African country, including Ethiopia and Nigeria. Their flag features black, red and white stripes along with a gold hawk for easy recognition of these remarkable landmarks.
Egypt boasts many impressive sights in addition to the pyramids. There are 21 protected areas spread across Egypt that cover deserts, mountains, coastal regions, wetlands and river islands; these protected sites can even house rare species like cheetahs and cobras!
Ancient Egyptians enjoyed board games such as Senet, which involved throwing sticks to move your pieces across a board. So popular was it, that even Pharaohs were buried with Senet so as to keep themselves entertained during afterlife. Additionally, ancient Egyptians were the first people to divide a day into 24 hours, perhaps in response to Judaism and Genesis, where God rested on the seventh day. Hourly division was set at 60 minutes – likely chosen because this number divides easily with other numbers.
The high literacy rate
One of Egypt’s most striking characteristics is its impressive literacy rate. This success can be attributed to government efforts to provide equal access for women and girls in rural areas, as well as Egyptians themselves being passionate learners.
Early Egyptian writing systems used hieroglyphics – pictures with symbols that used pictures or sophisticated symbols – but gradually they evolved into hieratic, demotic and coptic writing styles which allowed Ancient Egyptians to convey ideas more efficiently while communicating more openly. All three formats also included vowels making pronunciation simpler.
Egypt boasted an illiteracy rate of only 14.9 percent among people nine years of age or older in 2021 – much lower than the global average of 25.2 percent, due to Egypt prioritizing education for its citizens.
Egypt has taken steps to increase literacy through making school attendance mandatory for all children, expanding its school system by building new schools in remote and rural areas, and winning the 2021 UNESCO Prize for Literacy award.
Egypt may be best known for its pyramids, sphinxes and mummies, but there’s much more to this sprawling modern nation than meets the eye. Egypt boasts incredible ancient monuments, scorching deserts and bustling cities – not forgetting 21 protected regions teeming with wildlife such as cheetahs, crocodiles and cobras roaming freely! Additionally, Suez Canal links Europe and Asia directly, making travel between continents easier without traveling all around Africa!
The Red Sea
The Red Sea is a narrow strip of water separating Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, created when Africa and Arabia separated due to plate tectonics. It’s home to a unique marine ecosystem boasting breathtakingly beautiful marine life.
Ancient Egyptians were intrigued by nature. They frequently created drawings and carvings of animals such as cheetahs, leopards and crocodiles in their drawings and carvings, taking great care to limit hunting activities while protecting habitats.
One fascinating fact about ancient Egypt is that cats were revered. Believed to protect both land and people, cats were kept as pets in every household as part of tradition.
Ancient Egypt was known to be fascinated with board games! This was especially prevalent among its upper classes who enjoyed hosting tournaments and hosting parties around board gaming tournaments.
Egypt is an impressively fascinating destination, boasting centuries-old pyramids and temples dating back millennia. Furthermore, Egypt boasts the world’s longest river, as well as several UNESCO-listed sites such as Luxor, Abu Simbel, and historic Cairo that make for a fascinating journey.
Egypt offers something for every traveler, be they history buffs, culture enthusiasts or adventurers. When your friends want to visit, show them these fascinating Egypt facts – who knows, maybe you will convince them to put Egypt on their bucket list! This post is part two of our ‘fun facts’ series covering popular travel destinations – to read Part One click here.