Egypt was one of the world’s first civilizations, with a history that reaches back 5000 years through the sands of time. It’s where writing and two-dimensional drawing and paper began. The god Amun-Ra personified the sun shining down on the deserts — and Osiris, the god of death, inspired a belief in the afterlife that led to the construction of the pyramids.
Life in Egypt clings to the green ribbon of the Nile River that snakes through the country with humans and animals along its length. It’s home to hippos, the Nile crocodiles, and the asp — the poisonous snake that may or may not have sealed Cleopatra’s doom. It’s also a stopover for millions of birds migrating from Europe to Africa.
Egypt has also been the crossroads for human invaders for centuries: Ottoman invaders, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the British. In the past few decades, there’s been rising tension and violence between religious conservatives (see: the Muslim Brotherhood) and secular factions.
But the Egyptian people you’ll meet on the street? They’re friendly, welcoming, and eager to show you the country they love. And with good reason. In addition to the massive shrines in the desert, there’s a world-class museum with the largest collection of ancient artifacts in the world and mosques decorated with breathtaking mosaics. You can also sail on a romantic felucca (Egyptian sailboat) along the Nile, scuba in the Red Sea, navigate the sci-fi calcium formations in the White Desert, or simply enjoy a cup of tea while watching the hustle of daily life.
In this episode, we explore Egypt’s dynamic dynastic history, enjoy the antics of King Farouk, dish about The Mummy, and lots more. Then we recommend five books we love that took us there on the page: a fantasy about the djinn, a photo-rich guide to Egyptian antiquities, a novel about sisters navigating the Arab Spring, and two fictional approaches to history that cast a spell on Mel.
From Treehugger: 9 interesting facts about the Nile River
And here’s a BBC timeline that stretches from 7000 BCE until 2018.
Our podcast episode The Library: Endless Books, Reading Nooks, and Lots of Possibility
White Desert National Park looks a little something like this:
The Visitors by Sally Beauman features several real people: Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon discovered King Tut’s tomb; Herbert Winlock was a curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (He several documents for the Museum that you can read online.)
The Visitors also vividly describes a handful of posh hotels and manors. There’s Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, the Grand Continental in Cairo, the Mena House in Giza, the Winter Palace in Luxor, and Lord Carnarvon’s family estate: Highclere Castle. Click through for beautiful photos!
The new Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open in 2022. Read all about it.
From Cairo to the Cloud is a documentary about the Geniza. It includes interviews with 40 experts who chart the discovery and scholarship of rare random that make for a rich ‘medieval Facebook.’ Here’s a discussion with the director from the Seattle Jewish Film Festival in March 2021.
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Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
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