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From Pharaohs to the Arab Spring

Chennai had been experiencing an unusually hot climate. Apart from the summer heat peaking in May, this time it extended through July. Even August had been experiencing temperatures above normal. Mercury had shot 100F above for a few days.

From Pharaohs to the Arab Spring

A visit to Egypt made Chennai appear a cool resort! Temperatures exceeded 110°F with suggestions of crossing 120°F.

My children joined from the US at Cairo, capital of Egypt. The desert country is highly urbanised and Cairo alone accounts for a quarter of the country’s population   with 20 million, resembles Mumbai’s. Pretty much everyone lives along a 20-km width on either side of the Nile. Over the years, the infrastructure has been well-built. A 22 km long elevated highway provides easy commuting from the airport to different parts of the metro Cairo. 

I have read about the Egyptian civilisation flourishing even 4500 years ago. Archaeologists have done extensive work in unravelling the history and the grandeur of Egypt. This was substantially aided by the skills and technologies developed by the ancient Egyptians over vast areas including architecture, engineering, biology, sculpture and calligraphy. 

 

The Great Pyramid of Khufu - surviving wonder of the ancient world

Ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife and it was so important to them that as soon a person became a pharaoh, he started getting his tomb ready which was either building pyramids in the old kingdom or digging huge tombs underground later on.  These were massive structures built of stone and date back to 2500 BC and earlier i.e. 4500 years ago. Typical pyramids were thousands of blocks of precisely cut stones each weighing about 2 tonnes. For example, the great pyramid in Giza near Cairo has 2 million of these stones. The beautiful geometry of the pyramids had been conceived and placed to astronomically accurate positions and has withstood the ravages of weather for centuries. The mummy of the powerful king was kept in the pyramid along with gold, precious stones and anything else they deemed might be necessary for their afterlife.

 

Mummification - the amazing ritual 

One of the most amazing rituals was the mummification of dead bodies. This technique helped preserve human bodies for thousands of years and gave us insights into how some of these people died and how long they may have lived. Mummification was a long process taking over 70 days. The internal organs were removed except for the heart, then the body was covered with salt to drain out the water and then wrapped neatly in linen and cotton and finally packed in wooden or stone boxes called a sarcophagus.

The solid stone structures have survived the hot air sand cover; these had in a way helped in keeping these in tact for centuries. Over the past couple of hundred years archaeologists have unearthed these wonders through passionate, painstaking efforts. 

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