Egypt’s Daily Life – Buying a New Caftan

egypt_1244

Is it the design, or the style or the invisible customer that makes this man crack up?

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More from Egypt so0n!

IMG_0636-3Brigitte

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EGYPT – Healing While Vacationing

Egypt plans to attract millions of tourists through Virus C medical tourism program

Tue, 14/02/2017 – 15:40

Tourists in Karnak despite terrorist attack

Egypt’s Health Ministry has announced its medical tourism program for Hepatitis C virus patients, in coordination with the Tourism Ministry.

Lionel Messi will arrive on Wednesday in Cairo to promote the program, it added.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ministry said Egypt has been the focus of attention of all countries in the wake of its success in treating around one million Hepatitis C patients.

A plan has been made to attract millions of tourists through the program, which includes treatments for psoriasis, Rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, acne and eczema.

The program offers ‘environmental treatments’ at Pharaoh’s Bath (Hammam Feraoun), Moussa’s Springs (Oyoun Moussa) and Ras Sidr in Sinai; as well as at various locations Siwa, Marsa Matrouh, the New Valley, the Oases and Aswan, the statement read.

Specialized teams of doctors were trained on medical tourism through seminars, in order to turn Egypt into a well-known destination for environmental treatment around the world.

In all, the Ministry was able to cure around 942,000 patients of Hepatitis C virus at a cost exceeding LE three billion by end of January.

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This might be one way of having fun while getting cured!

More from Egypt soon

IMG_0636-3Brigitte

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EGYPT Without The Crowds

CNN recommends Egypt among best 20 destinations not to be missed

Tue, 07/02/2017 – 15:38

These world-wandering experts have seen the world and here they share their favorite destinations, and why they think they are 'not to be missed'. CNN

From pilots to travel photographers, train aficionados to tour guides, these world-wandering experts have seen the world.  Here they share their favorite destinations, and why they think they shouldn’t be missed.

Visit Egypt without the crowds

“I’d highly recommend going to Egypt now,” says Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie & Kent.
“I traveled there at the end of 2015 and it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see these sites with few crowds. For instance, at Abu Simbel, I was in Ramses temple and had it all to myself for a few minutes.
“As I was climbing up the narrow staircase into the center of Cheops Pyramid, there were only a few people that I had to sidestep. It’s a very different experience doing that when the crowds (and heat) are at full force,” says Kent.

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Just another reminder not to miss the experience of a live time – namely to spend time alone – even if it is only for a few minutes – with a pharaoh!

More from Egypt soon

IMG_0636-3Brigitte

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Archaeologists Accidentally Discover 3,000-YEAR-OLD Royal Tomb in Egypt

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a 3,000-year-old tomb believed to be of a royal Egyptian scribe in the vast necropolis at ancient Thebes.

PUBLISHED: 17:37, Fri, Feb 3, 2017 | UPDATED: 18:13, Fri, Feb 3, 2017

The newly discovered tomb was filled with carvingsWASEDA UNIVERSITY

The newly discovered tomb was filled with intricate carvings

The tomb, located within the modern day city of Luxor, belongs to a man named Khonsu who is described as a ’true renowned scribe’.

The chamber dates back to the Ramesside period around 1200 BC and is elaborately decorated with images of gods, humans – and baboons.

The spectacular discovery was made by a team of archaeologists led by Professor Jiro Kondo from Japan’s Waseda University.

The L-shaped chamber was uncovered as teams cleared debris from the forecourt of the tomb of Userhat – an Egyptian officiThe tal who served Amenhotep III – the grandfather of Tutankhamun.Professor Kondo told Seeker that the team were stunned by what they found inside.

He said: “On the north wall of the entrance doorway, we found a scene showing the solar boat of the god Ra-Atum being worshipped by four baboons showing the pose of adoration”.

We found a scene showing the solar boat of the god Ra-Atum being worshipped by four baboons.

Professor Jiro Kondo

Baboons are believed to have been revered in ancient Egypt, and were often associated with wisdom, science and measurement – and are believed to have been the spiritual muses of the scribes.The discovery would suggest that royal scribe Khonsu may have held baboons in extremely high regard for them to have been carved in such a prominent place in his tomb.

The depiction of baboons has long baffled historians, as they are not native to Egypt.

Carving of Ra-Atum's boat worshipped by baboonsWASEDA UNIVERSITY

Carving depicts god Ra-Atum’s boat being worshipped by baboons

Historians suspect the primates were brought to the country from Nubia – a region that encompassed part of modern day Sudan.The discovery of the latest carvings resemble previous findings, reaffirming the belief that the baboon was incredibly popular in Egypt and many other parts of Africa.History suggests baboons were kept by the ancient Egyptians as beloved pets, and were most likely trained to pick figs.

Khonsu and his wife worship gods Osiris and IsisWASEDA UNIVERSITY

Khonsu and his wife worshipping the ancient Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis

It is also believed the word ‘baboon’ may even derive from the Egyptian god Baba, who was worshipped by the earliest of human settlements in predynastic times.Professor Kondo added that the southern wall of the previously unknown chamber depicted Khonsu and his wife worshipping the ancient Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis.

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While visiting Egypt an archeologist told me, “You can start digging anywhere in Egypt and you are sure to find something.” It certainly looks like it.

More from Egypt soon

Brigitte

 

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Photo Of The Week – Can You See Me Now?

egypt_1308-2

NO, I can’t! But I can hear you on my cell Phone!

More from Egypt soon

IMG_0636-3Brigitte

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A New Way To Rob Egypt’s Antiquities

Why a TED Prize Winning Platform May Inadvertently Rob Egypt of Its Buried Antiquities

A TED prize-winning platform is promising to teach anyone how to analyse satellite images to identify buried archaeological sites. The mission hopes to uncover and protect archaeological sites; but could it give looters the edge over the governments’ lacking resources to protect them?

Egypt has been in a never-ending battle to protect its priceless history from both looters and decay since the age of pharaohs. However, in the age of technology, this battle is about to reach a pivotal turning point thanks to TED prize winner Sarah Parcak, who has created a new technique that will be available online and promises to turn anyone into a space archaeologist able to identify undiscovered heritage sites using space satellites from the comfort of their own home. On the surface, this powerful new resource is well-intentioned and could inspire a new generation of explorers and discoveries; but in an ailing post-2011 Egypt, could it have a disastrous effect in aiding looters to pillage Egypt – and other countries riddled with conflicts – of their ancient cultural treasures?

Currently, there are not enough safeguards in place to effectively combat looters in Egypt; the strategy currently employed seems to be focused on repatriating stolen artefacts after the fact, rather than preventing their theft in the first place. Providing the government with an opportunity to finally get ahead of looters is the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s professor and pioneering space archaeologist Sarah Parcak. Her research has already uncovered 17 potential pyramids in Egypt, as well as thousands of forgotten settlements and lost tombs by using remote sensing infra-red images captured by satellites. After analysing the images collected from satellites as well as drone photos, Parcak’s then applies the data into an algorithm that detects subtle changes in vegetation and topography that often signals the presence of buried man-made structures.
Parcak claims her methods have been 90 percent successful in finding significant discoveries, although some Egyptologists, including Associate Professor at the University of Aswan and founder of Egypt’s Heritage Task Force, Dr Mona Hanna, believe Parcak’s success rate may be exaggerated. “I heard about what Sarah was doing, but am a little skeptical as many of her discoveries have not been confirmed on the ground,” she says. Despite the criticism, several of Parcak’s findings have been confirmed, but with 1000 potential sites to explore, it will take time and plenty of resources to be able to confirm all her findings on the ground. However, the pressing issue at hand isn’t whether her method works, but rather the fact that she was awarded a 2016 TED Prize worth a million dollars to develop Global Xplorer, an online platform that will teach anyone the space archaeologist’s techniques to discover the planet’s unexplored potential archaeological sites, beginning with completely mapping out Peru to eventually cover the entire planet.
Although this wonderfully grand idea of creating an army of explorers could enter us into a new age of understanding the origin of mankind, it will also provide looters with the knowledge required to rob Egypt of its priceless heritage. “What she is providing is a double-edged weapon. Of course, I am in support of an open source platform that will help academics, but Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Syria and others will all face pandemic looting, which is already happening. The last thing we need, especially with the absence of law enforcement in unstable or conflict zones, is to tell looters where to exactly look,” explains Hanna.

As one of the few fighting on the frontlines in the war against looters in Egypt, Hanna and the Egypt Heritage Task Force have neither the authority nor the resources required to catch tomb raiders in the act, but have made it their mission to document the evidence, case by case, and learn as much as they can about these criminals and the organised network often employing them. According to Hanna, “There are different types of looters. There are the ‘villagers’, who are gangs usually made of family members like brothers or cousins, who go and excavate together in search of loot. Then we have the official mafia, that is an organised gang who receives funding, archaeological knowledge and are trained on how to use geo-sonars in the Gulf and abroad, and then come back ready to attack sites that have items they know they can sell.”

The latter looter is likelier to adopt Parcak’s methods and platform long before the common villager; in either case, the victim of these cultural raids is not only Egypt’s ancient heritage but also its present-day youth. “Sometimes, they use children, because they are small and agile enough to go down and bring up little objects. In Abusir el-Malek, I was told by several families in the village that around 25 children died helping looters in a single year between 2012 and 2013,” describes an alarmed Hanna. Even more troublesome is the fact that there is no true measure of the fatal devastation caused by looting, as families often refuse to tell doctors or authorities the truth about their deaths for fear of imprisonment.
In the case of villagers, looting is simply the only means of survival, a desperate ploy to overcome the crippling economic conditions and attempt to make ends meet by any means. Organised criminals, on the other hand, are often employed by “collectors who are obsessed with a specific period and commission these gangs to go and loot. These gangs tend to jump between sites and the traces they leave are lunch boxes and very little evidence,” a disheartened Hanna describes. Aiding and abetting these criminals to smuggle these items out of the country is what Hanna describes as a “corruption network that existed even before 2011, though the amount of loot leaving the country wasn’t as big as it is now.”

With looting already on the rise in a post-2011 Egypt, the pressure is mounting on the Egyptian government to provide a solution to a problem which is about to get a technological boost. It seems to be a safe assumption that the government isn’t prepared for Parcak’s revolutionary platform. As Hanna points out, “the government knows exactly what sites are being looted, but they do not have the resources or the know-how to deal with it. People are excavating one kilometre away from the Pyramids, and yet nothing has been done.”

Coupled with the variety of problems Egypt is trying to overcome, when it comes to archaeology, preservation trumps excavations, as even the Valley of Kings is degrading at an alarming rate because of the all-time low in tourism whose money is used to maintain these sites. “When I started in this business 34 years ago, tourists could cover all 62 tombs going from one room to another. We learnt over the last 10 years or so, that the masses of the groups coming in were generating so much heat and perspiration that they were providing the elements for fungi to grow, damaging these sites,” explains veteran freelance Egyptologist Sherif Samy. In an attempt to slow down the degradation, the government only allows access to 6 or 7 of the 62 tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

As it stands, what mankind have discovered of Egypt’s Ancient past is only a fraction of what remains buried, as Parcak estimates that “less than 1 percent of ancient Egypt has been discovered and excavated.” But this claim is extremely difficult to confirm, as looting has been taking place for centuries and there’s no telling of how much of Egypt’s history has been lost.
To effectively stop looters before the damage is done, multiple ministries will have to work together and present a grass roots approach that financially improves the livelihoods of villagers, possibly turning villager looters into Egypt’s first line of defense against organised network. “If people are making money out of cultural heritage they will be the first to protect it. We need to introduce small projects that will improve the livelihood of villages that contain cultural heritage components and through working with the community we can start protecting these sites. No security measure will stop the looting unless we decide to invest in economic development and education,” Hanna believes.

This may not solve the problem overnight, but over time could provide vulnerable archaeological sites with a local security network that can detect strangers in the area and alert authorities before they illegally excavate. However, time is not on Egypt’s side as Parcak’s online platform is reportedly launching early this year. Technological advancement is inevitable and shouldn’t be stopped but rather prepared for. In Hanna’s opinion, “What we need is a grace period of 10 years so things can stabilise, and then after that, you can put whatever resources you want online. In moments of conflict and unrest, I think it becomes a naïve project that will only lead to more looting, which is obviously not the project’s intention.” Hopefully, the platform will implement strict registration process to weed out potential looters and the program will coordinate with UNESCO to ensure that discoveries made are protected before being mapped out.

The Global Xplorer platform idea is noble, but a much larger debate is required as its implication will affect several countries that will not be able to secure these discoveries during times of conflict. “People in conflict situations become responsible for their cultural heritage and need to step up and protect it when the government isn’t doing their job properly. It becomes a responsibility for all of us, and I urge everyone to stand up and help,” an adamant Hanna expresses.

In a perfect world, Egypt’s government would embrace this platform, secure new sites discovered, and even implement the use of social media during new excavations to inspire archaeologists and tourists to visit. But this isn’t a perfect world and as it stands Egyptians don’t care about their heritage as much as foreigners do, which is why Egyptians would often rather focus on education and its ailing economy before seriously tackling this incredibly difficult and technologically evolving looting problem. It is for these reasons Global Xplorer, although revolutionary and well intentioned, is destined to fail in protecting these sites, as it will give looters an upper edge in a battle that governments in conflict zones have few resources to fight

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The ancient burial sites have been looted since they were first built. It is even believed that the men who helped construct them became the robbers.

It is a sad fact that this has not abided as this article shows. and worth yet, that new technology can make this problem worth.

But even if it possible soon, through new technology, to see Egypt’s  treasures from the comfort of you own home, believe me it will never be the same as touching, feeling, and smelling the real thing – of standing in front of one of Ramses II bigger than life status.

More from Egypt soon

ramses II postcardBrigitte

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Egypt’s Heritage in Danger?

With tourists scarce, Egypt struggles to maintain heritage

With a shaky economy following years of unrest and a huge drop in tourists, Egypt is struggling to preserve its fabled archaeological heritage.

Maske Tutanchamun (Getty Images/AFP/M. El-Shahed) The golden mask of legendary Egyptian boy king Tutankhamun

From Alexandria on the Mediterranean to the Great Pyramid of Giza – the last of the Seven Wonders of the World – and Aswan to the south, the North African country is home to impressive ancient monuments.

For years, the sites were able to rely on a steady stream of ticket sales to finance their upkeep. But since Egypt’s 2011 revolution, the number of tourists visiting the country has dwindled, leaving authorities scrambling to make up for lost revenues. “Since January 2011, our revenues have fallen sharply, which had a strong effect on the state of Egyptian monuments,” Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told.

Tourismus in Ägypten (DW) Sightseeing in Luxor

From more than 15 million in 2010, the number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped to 6.3 million in 2015. Years of political tumult after the 2011 uprising that unseated strongman Hosni Mubarak and a jihadist insurgency following the army’s 2013 overthrow of his Islamist successor Mohamed Morsi have discouraged many from visiting.

Revenue from entrance tickets to historical sites dropped to about $38 million in 2015, from about $220 million in 2010. “It’s catastrophic,” said Fayza Haikal, an Egyptologist and professor at the American University of Cairo. Zahi Hawass, an archeologist and former antiquities minister, said the country’s heritage has suffered as a result. “With the lack of funding, you cannot restore anything. Look at the Cairo museum. It’s dark,” he said, referring to the famed Egyptian Museum in the capital’s Tahrir Square. “And you cannot ask the government to support you because the economy is not that good. And antiquities are deteriorating everywhere,” he said.

Ägypten Archäologie Ramses III. mit Sohn Amon-herchopeschef (Reuters) Ancient Egyptian wall painting

Administering the country’s antiquities takes about 38,000 employees, including on-site workers, technicians, Egyptologists and inspectors, the ministry says. The government has relied on foreign handouts since Morsi’s overthrow, and finally decided to float the pound last year as part of an economic reform program connected to a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

An important part of an economic revival would include the return of tourism, a main hard currency earner for Egypt.  Until then, Enany is trying to limit the damage. “I try to do extra activities to increase revenue,” he said.

For example, the Egyptian Museum, home to the golden mask of Tutankhamun and mummies of pharaohs, now stays open into the night, he said. Annual passes are also available to encourage Egyptians to visit the sites.

Patrons and archaeological missions still contribute to the preservation of Egypt’s ancient heritage, but the funds cannot cover everything. “Priority is given to restoration,” said Haikal. “But there are excavations that have been stopped due to lack of funding.” The excavations “have waited for 5,000 years and can wait,” she said, but important restoration work has also been delayed. “At the very least we identify what needs restoration, and we do the minimum to keep them in a proper state.” Enany is also pushing for granting public access to more sites, as was done with the recently opened tombs of Nefertari and Seti I in Luxor.
The Malawi museum in the southern province of Minya has also been reopened, after a mob looted it during the bloody unrest following Morsi’s overthrow.

Ägypten Pyramiden von Gizeh (picture-alliance/Arco Images) The pharaoh-faced Sphinx of Giza is one of the ancient world’s iconic monuments

The Grand Egyptian Museum near the Giza pyramids should also be opened, at least partially, in 2018. On some projects, the ministry can get special funds, such as for recent work done on the synagogue of Alexandria and the Abu Mena church, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hawass, who advises Enany, says the minister needs more support and also for authorities to think beyond Egypt by undertaking exhibitions abroad. “Why leave Tutankhamun in the Cairo museum, in a dark area. No one sees it,” he said. “Tutankhamun can bring money!”

Date 10.01.2017

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When I (Brigitte) went to Egypt the first time in 2010 the 15 million tourist visiting that year made it very difficult to really see and appreciate the sites. But when I went back after the revolution of 2011, in 2012. and 2014, I  often was the only one in a temple or tomb, like my time with Tutankhamun – no, there was nobody else and I stood mesmerized  in front of his mummy for a long time.

As is mentioned in this article the tourists have not come back in full force yet, and since the US Government has  recently lifted travel warnings to Egypt, this is the time to go. You won’t have to stand behind a crowd trying to see what the tour guide is talking about. Therefore — maybe  the time not to delay a lifelong dream is NOW?

Bon Voyage!

More from Egypt soon

IMG_0636-3Brigitte

 

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Egypt’s Daily Life – Spare Parts Needed?

Egypt not being a throw-away society everything can be repaired and yes, spare parts are available……

egypt_1209-jpg-2…some parts maybe a bit rusty because they are not new, but rust can always be removed with elbow grease!

More from Egypt soon

IMG_0636-3Brigitte

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New Year in Egypt and around the World

bestnewyearevecelebrationsacrosstheglobeegypt_13874393001

The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the first day of spring. The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical or agricultural significance. The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year’s Eve festivals pale in comparison. The Romans continued to observe the New Year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun. In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 B.C, established what has come to be known as the Julian calendar. It again established January 1 as the New Year. But in order to match the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

THE CHURCH’S VIEW OF NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS:

Although in the first centuries AD the Romans continued celebrating the New Year, the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations, and New Year’s Day was no different. New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision by some denominations. During the middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Years. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.

NEW YEAR TRADITIONS

Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year’s resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian’s most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers. It celebrated the ripening of the orange crop in California. Although the Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902, it was replaced by Roman chariot races the following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the sports centrepiece of the festival. The tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth. Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to revaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate the New Year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus. The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a symbolic representation of the New Year was brought to early America by the Germans. They had used the effigy since the fourteenth century..

FOR LUCK IN THE NEW YEAR

Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man. Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune. Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the New Year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is eaten on New Year’s Day.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR AND PEACE TO THE WORLD.

More from Egypt soon

Egypt_1747-2

Brigitte

 

Posted in Egypt, Islam, Pyramids, Religion | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas in Egypt

 

by Nermin Sami and Jimmy Dunn

Egypt celebrates The Nativity (Christmas)

Because of the time the Holy Family spent in Egypt with the infant Jesus, Christmas is a very special celebration in Egypt. In Egypt, Copts, who are Egypt’s traditional Christians, have their own Pope who is the head of the Coptic churches of Egypt and the Sudan. Copts consider St. Mark to be their first Pope. He introduced Christianity to Egypt, and for hundreds of years, Alexandria was the home of the Pope. Today his cathedral is in Cairo, where services are usually held in the ancient Coptic language.

A surprising number of Egyptian traditions have survived from ancient Pharonic Egypt, and perhaps one of the most striking is the Coptic calendar. Each of the names of the twelve months in the Coptic calendar retains a vestige of an ancient deity or feast, no doubt reflecting the conservative nature of the inhabitants of the Nile Valley.

Egyptian Orthodox Christians (or Coptic Christians) celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on January 7th, a date equivalent to the 29th day of the Coptic month of “kiohk, or Khiahk”, though this date in relation to the western calendar advances over long periods of time. Of course, in many other countries Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, though celebrating Christmas on this date is not unique to the Copts. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church also celebrates Christmas on January 7th. The difference in the dates comes from the difference between the Coptic and Gregorian calendars. This means, for example, that beginning March 1st of 2100 AD, the Coptic Christmas will be celebrated on the 8th day of January in relation to the Western calendar.

Much of the Christmas celebration actually begins in the last week leading up to Christmas. This is when much of the cooking takes place, and like in the west, homes are decorated with lights and Christmas trees.

Some Christmas trees are real, but many are artificial. One will even find Christmas trees in Coptic operated businesses. Christmas cards are also sent out.

An Egyptian Christmas Card produced on recycled paper

Christmas in Egypt is not nearly as commercial as it is in the west, and indeed, there seems to be a specific effort to make it less commercial. Stores are not nearly as crowded as one might expect. In fact, many gifts are purchased at special Christmas bazaars that support local charities. Other bazaars are more commercial, but still some of their profits usually go to charity.

Nowadays, the Coptic Nativity is celebrated by a special midnight service in the church, followed by the ringing of the church’s bells. Some Coptic Christians travel to various churches that are traditionally considered to be situated on the route of the Holy Family as they traveled through Egypt, but the largest service is held by the Coptic Pope in Saint Mark’s cathedral in Cairo. This service, usually conducted by the Pope at the 11:00 PM service, is even broadcast on Egyptian TV. However, some services may last from about 9:00 PM until as late as 4:00 AM. Most of the churches are decorated with colored lamps, mangers and angels. Most of the faithful attend church in their newest clothes, and it is a very wonderful experience.

Another Christmas scene

Copts also make special sweet biscuits for the Nativity that are decorated with a cross. In fact, it’s the same “kahk” that Muslims make for Eid el fitr. Whether Egyptians are Muslims or Christians, their way in celebration is the same.

In the Egyptian Coptic church, a special bread called “Qurban” is given to people during the service in the church and it is also available outside the church after the service. It is made in very large quantities for the big festivals. Qurban bread is decorated with a cross in the middle, surrounded by twelve dots. Of course, those dots represent the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.

After the service, families go home to break their fast and children receive new clothes and gifts. The meal is called fatta, and usually consists of meat and rice.On Christmas morning people visit friends and neighbors. Children are given El ‘aidia, a feast gift consisting of a small sum of money to buy sweets, toys and ice cream.

Christmas Otherwise

Christmas in Egypt is not limited to the Copts. Certainly there are, though limited, a number of other Christian sects in Egypt, some of whom celebrate Christmas on the same day as in the west. However, westerners themselves have a long tradition of spending Christmas in Egypt, and more than a few hotels and other facilities cater to western style Christmas affairs.This all started back in the grand old days of Egyptian travel during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when many wealthy Europeans would winter in Egypt. Then, wonderful establishments such as the Mena House would “dress” for Christmas, when the whole ground floor was turned into a winter scene with artificial snow and frosted trees and plants. Log fires would burn merrily in the many fireplaces, while elegantly dressed women, their escorts in full evening dress or splendid uniforms, would continue to arrive until late in the evening.

However, today, many Muslims in Egypt even get into the Christmas spirit. Though they may not celebrate Christmas as directly, it is not unusual for Muslims to participate in some of the celebrations, just as Christians in Egypt sometimes celebrate Muslim holidays. This is really one of the more interesting aspects of Egyptian life, where there is often a surprising amount of interfaith coexistence.

Today, the Christmas season remains a high season in Egypt, a difficult time to find a room at many of the finer hotels, and between the westerners and the Copts, one can enjoy a rather extended “Christmas season”.

Trivia

The birthplace of the Christmas Tree is Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long antecedent to the Christian era. The palm-tree is known to put forth a shoot every month and a spray of this tree with twelve shoots on it was used in Egypt at the time of the winter solstice as a symbol of the year completed.

The palm-tree spray of Egypt, on reaching Italy, became a branch of any other tree (the tip of the fir was found most suitable from its pyramidal or conical shape) and was decorated with burning tapers lit in honor of Saturn, whose saturnalia were celebrated from the 17th to the 21st of December, the period of the winter solstice. Later, this tradition was carried forward for the Christmas season.

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Whatever your faith – let this be a moment of peace and joy for everyone, everywhere in the world.

More from Egypt next year

Brigitte

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