Why I Love Ancient Egypt

Me in front of one of the Giza pyramids
I realized recently that I've never sat down and explained why I love reading and writing about ancient Egypt.

My love of Egypt started with what I learned from the Bible. I loved hearing and later reading the stories of Joseph and Moses. I loved the part of Matthew's gospel where the holy family flees to Egypt. I've always wondered where they stayed and what they did while they were there: did Joseph take up carpentry in cosmopolitan Alexandria's Jewish quarter? Or did he take his family to the vibrant Hebrew community on southern Egypt's Elephantine Island? Or somewhere else entirely?

Like many other American families, we watched The Ten Commandments on television once a year, and when The Prince of Egypt came out in 1998 it became and remains one of my favorite movies. In fact, I'm listening to the soundtrack as I write this.

When I was eleven years old, I told my mother that I wanted to be an Egyptologist. That was also the year I dressed up as the female pharaoh Hatshepsut for a history class report. I distinctly remember starting to read Egyptian historical fiction that year, although my selection remains pretty small because I'm so picky. I started writing fiction set in ancient Egypt as well.

In 2007 I graduated high school and flew almost 7000 miles to Cairo, where I studied Egyptology for a semester at the American University in Cairo. Although I transferred to a school in the U.S. for various reasons, I did get to visit the pyramids of Giza. I also visited Alexandria, the city where Cleopatra lived and died, and Bahariya Oasis, home to the Valley of the Golden Mummies where hundreds of Greco-Roman burials have been discovered. There are so many things I wish I'd done, but I'm grateful that I was able to experience everything that I did.

I love ancient Egypt because it stands unique among the civilizations of the ancient world. Although it is long gone, you can still catch flickers of it in the scriptures of great world religions and the faded, peeling paint of weathered monuments.

The Egyptians thought of the afterlife as a higher plane of existence, a sort of layer over this world. And in a sense they were right. You look at an artifact behind museum glass, or a photograph of women dancing on the walls of a tomb. Suddenly, if only for an instant, you're close to someone who is thousands of years away. They are long gone. But, somehow, they are still here.

2 comments:

  1. I love ancient Egypt for many of the same reasons--such a unique and mesmerizing ancient civilization. I can't wait to go back to visit!

    (And I did a report in 7th grade on Hatshepsut. Little did I know that would be the start of a long love affair).

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  2. My report was very fortunate too. We drew scraps of paper with the names of Egyptian pharaohs on them. I got Khufu but I traded with a friend who got Hatshepsut, because she liked pyramids. Boy, am I ever glad I did! She's only a secondary character in my WIP but I can already tell she's going to make her presence known!

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