Egypt is an amazing land filled with amazing ancient monuments, scorching deserts and bustling cities – here are 10 facts you might not know about Egypt:
1. Without the Nile River, Egypt would be a desert. Each year it floods, depositing rich black soil that helps trees and plants flourish.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The Great Pyramid of Giza (or Cheops’s pyramid) is the oldest and largest of three primary pyramids at Giza, bordering modern-day Cairo. Construction took 20 years and involved using over two million stone blocks cut, transported, assembled into this massive structure – its dimensions being so great that ancient Greek historian Herodotus estimated that 100,000 men were needed to construct it!
Khufu, the fourth Pharaoh of Egypt’s fourth Dynasty, ordered that this pyramid be constructed as his royal tomb. Its smooth angled sides were intended to symbolize sun rays and help his soul ascend into heaven. There are two additional pyramids at Giza as well as an enormous statue of Sphinx which was constructed during Khafre’s rule prior to Khufu.
At present, it remains unclear exactly how Egyptians managed to cut and lift these massive stones into place, yet these structures were constructed without using modern tools or equipment – evidence that ancient Egyptians possessed impressive building techniques and mastery over building technologies. Ancient Egyptians also excelled in shipbuilding techniques – the 44-meter-long Khufu ship is still standing today, its wooden nails and tenons showing ancient carpentry skills at work; in addition to being used on the Nile, ancient Egyptian ships were often used for trade with neighboring countries.
The Nile River floods every September.
Egypt boasts scorching deserts and bustling cities. But without one of its key natural resources – the Nile River – Egypt would not be what it is today. Each September, monsoon rains fall on Ethiopian Highlands and flow down through tributaries like Blue Nile, White Nile, and Sobat River into this ancient river, flooding it annually during Egyptians’ “akhet season”.
Silt produced by the Nile nourishes the land, enabling farmers to cultivate food crops that would not thrive in desert conditions and helping build structures like pyramids – without it Egypt would have become an uninhabitable desert!
So it is no surprise that ancient Egyptians regarded the Nile River as sacred and a gift from their gods, worshipping Hapi as its fertility god and offering sacrifices of animals and humans in order to please him; temples were even constructed dedicated to him!
The Nile is the world’s longest river and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Fed by Lake Victoria in Africa, and running north from Lake Victoria as its White Nile section. Eratosthenes was an ancient Greek mathematician, geographer, and astronomer who calculated Earth’s circumference using geometric equations; his calculations came within 1.4% of modern measurement – only 1.4% off!
Cleopatra was not Egyptian.
Jada Pinkett Smith-produced Netflix show Queen Cleopatra starring Adele James has drawn widespread criticism for casting Cleopatra as an African-American woman. While Cleopatra wasn’t actually Egyptian; her family stemmed from Macedonian Greek generals contemporaries of Alexander the Great who founded Ptolemaic Dynasty; thus making Greek her native language and contemporary busts and portraits depicting her as white.
Cleopatra was not simply known for her race; her story is complicated by more than that. Rome was fearful of Cleopatra as she wielded an unparalleled political force. Even after Rome killed off their father in 51 BC, Cleopatra managed to stay co-ruler alongside her brother as co-ruler of Egypt alongside him and even raised scholars due to knowing several languages including her native Greek dialect, Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew – among them were spoken within her reigning territory of Egypt!
Eratosthenes used her data to calculate Earth’s circumference! Even before her untimely demise from poison, Cleopatra had left an impressive legacy that extended over 21 years, during which she preserved Egypt’s independence from Hellenistic Europe and Roman rule while upholding ancient Egyptian civilisation and honoring ancient gods, while maintaining her position as leading sovereign of eastern Mediterranean states. Cleopatra would likely not be amused by all the hoopla surrounding her race–she just wanted to make life better for her fellow women!
The Egyptians invented the 12-month calendar.
Ancient Egyptians developed their own method for keeping track of time. While modern timekeeping systems use hours and minutes as time markers, their system was based on lunar cycles and changing seasons; their first system began with lunar months marking a new year that coincided with harvest season’s start.
Egyptians soon noticed that annual Nile River flooding coincided with Sirius (Sothis) rising heliacally into the sky, prompting them to adopt a predominantly solar calendar which divided each year into 12 months with 30 days each, plus five extra epagomenal days at its conclusion.
Due to incompatibilities between lunar and solar calendars, ancient Egyptians devised two distinct calendars – civil calendar and seasonal calendar – in order to meet their needs.
To bridge this disparate set of circumstances, ancient Egyptians created a calendar based on both sidereal solar year and Sirius rising heliacal. This cycle lasted 365 days long, matching with seasons through an official civil calendar consisting of 12 months each with 30 days plus five extra days at its end.
Claudius Ptolemaeus of Alexandrian was one of many Roman philosophers who popularized and utilized this lunar-solar calendar throughout antiquity and later created the Gregorian calendar using this same lunar-solar schematized system of years. Ancient Egyptians would instead count years by Pharaohs who took control over thrones; each time this occurred a new year would start.
The country has a high literacy rate.
Egypt once known for being one of the world’s major food producers has transformed into an urban nation where manufacturing and tourism now outweigh agriculture. Egypt boasts several UNESCO-listed monuments such as Giza’s iconic pyramids and Great Sphinx as well as Luxor’s hieroglyph-lined Karnak Temple and Valley of Kings tombs; plus Ottoman landmarks like Muhammad Ali Mosque in Cairo as well as its Egyptian Museum’s collection of antiquities.
Egypt is a member of the African Union, Gulf Cooperation Council and Organization for Islamic Co-operation. Egypt boasts one of Africa’s strongest armies that frequently take part in United Nations peacekeeping missions worldwide.
Egypt boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage sites – more than any country in Africa – including the Great Pyramids, Sphinx and Luxor’s Valley of the Kings tombs.
Ancient Egyptians believed in over 2,000 gods and goddesses, each embodying different aspects of reality; for instance Anubis was seen as guarding graves and making judgment calls in the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptian farmers were master gardeners, producing fruits, vegetables and crops both for personal consumption and export. Additionally, they raised ducks and geese as food sources and hunted desert game such as antelope, gazelle, ibex and lion for sport hunting expeditions. Perfumers made perfume with ingredients such as cardamon myrrh olive oil for perfume making.
The Egyptians loved board games.
Ancient Egyptians enjoyed partying, dancing and playing board games. They also loved gambling by placing bets on things such as cheetahs and cobras – something which they had to work hard for yet still found ways to have fun while making a living.
Egyptians’ most beloved board game was Senet, an age-old race game where players race pieces around an intricate track of holes or squares; the first player who reaches its end wins.
Historians and archaeologists have discovered evidence of senet dating back to Predynastic period Egypt up through Late Old Kingdom period Egypt. An actual senet board and pieces were even discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb!
Mehen was another famous ancient Egyptian board game dating back to Predynastic period. Similar to senet but with different rules and an intriguing name – named for the Snake Deity Mehen! – this ancient game lasted decades and featured on board tables across Egypt.
Mehen involves throwing flat sticks that were darker on one side and lighter on the other, then depending on where they landed you could move your piece along a zigzag pattern across a board. It was enjoyed by people of all social classes; wealthy individuals even kept boards at home made out of wood that could be easily stored; some may have even had fancy ones made of exotic materials!