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Life as a common person in Egypt - Accurate Essays

Life as a common person in Egypt

Life as a Common Person in Egypt

Looking back on my life experiences, I note that none can compare to the time that I spend in Egypt. My dad enjoyed writing, he always dreamed of being a scribe in Pharaoh’s court. At that time, it was essential to put down everything in writing. Scribes were highly respected because they could read and write. For that reason, my whole family moved to Egypt to support him. This turned out to be the best adventure of my life. Pharaohs ruled Egypt at that time; the subjects considered him more than a king. In their eyes, he represented the gods and he possessed the secrets of heaven and earth (Casson 4). He was the personification of the gods. His main role was ensuring there was peace, making laws, controlling the economy, inspecting irrigation works, construction of major buildings and temples and honoring the gods. He had possession of the land, mines and national treasure. Everyday, he had to acknowledge the chief god. Failure to do this meant losing his divine power. The Pharaoh’s second in command was the chief overseer, also known as the vizier, and beneath that position were the governess, scribes and overseer.

We lived in a house in the Northern part of the town. The houses were made of bricks. The bricks were molded using mud and chopped straw (Steele 16). The mud and straw were mixed together and then poured into molds. These molds were then placed in the sun to dry. The result was hard bricks that were plastered together to make beautiful houses. In poor homes, the floors were made of packed mud, and for the roofs, they used palm logs for support. These homes had only one room with little furniture in it. The windows were small and quite high .It was rare to find plastered or painted walls as this was only done in rich homes.

The wealthy families lived in the suburbs or in the countryside. Their houses had three sections: a reception, a hall and private rooms. They had elevated ceiling with pillars for support. Wood was very expensive at that time so most homes had little furniture. Included in their homes were servant quarters, silos, stables and a room set apart for worship. Some of the houses had pools and palm trees to provide shelter. The roof was my favorite place in the house; my family spent most of the hot months on the roof. We cooked, ate and slept there. Despite protests from my mother, my father still kept statues of gods and goddesses in our home. He argued that it was for protection.

Our mode of dressing was determined by the climate. It was mostly hot in Egypt and Egyptians used linen to make clothes. The men put on short skirts referred to as kilts. Rich men had their skirts pleated while older men had longer kilts. While working, men wore a cloth wrapped around the loins (Challen 15). Egyptian women were expected to wear straight fitting outfits fastened with a strap. To accessorize their outfits, brightly colored jewelry made from beads, gold, stones and clay were worn. Those who were lucky had wigs for their feet and their heads. For footwear, most people walked barefoot though a few wore sandals. It was not a requirement for the children below the age of puberty to put on clothes.

Cleansing was very significant for the Egyptians. In wealthy households, the master would stand in the bathroom and the servants would pour water on him or her. Everyday I had to go to the river to take a bath. After bathing, I applied perfumed oils to prevent my skin from drying. It was necessary for people of all ages to apply make-up. There was a variety of cosmetics for the face, eyes, nails, lips and cheeks. Make-up was alleged to have supernatural and healing powers. The eye color used was known as kohl and it was applied using a stick. It was a tradition to have some sort of jewelry. Rings and talismans were worn to keep off evil sprits and bad omens (Casson 8). Both women and men wore studs, hoops, necklaces, trinkets and anklets. The noblemen and women put on beaded collars known as wesekh and pendants. Their jewelry was made of precious stones, electrum, carnelian, silver and lapis lazuli.

The first thing my mother did when she woke up was to prepare breakfast. Open fire and clay ovens were used for cooking. Straws, reeds and dried up droppings were used to fuel the fire. The common people used utensils made of clay while bronze, silver and gold utensils were used in noble households. The staple food was bread (Challen 18). To make bread, wheat was grinded against two stones to make flour, which was further pounded to make fine flour. Beer was the most common beverage. However, it was only found in wealthy homes. It was prepared from barley. Dry barley was baked into loaves, the loaves were then were mixed with dried grain, water, and left to ferment. Other types of foods were figs, grapes, leeks, cucumbers, lettuce and pomegranates.

Religion played an important role in our lives. Temples were a concealed sanctuary for the deities to live in. Not all the gods had temples. A few were only worshipped in specific parts of the country. Female and male deities were kept separately, each with its own temple and supporters (Casson 8). The temples had three divisions: the shrine where the deities were placed, a large hall and an open courtyard. The Egyptians honored stones, trees, mountains and animals. A number of the animal gods were characterized by human forms. Other gods were symbolized as half-human and half-animal. These gods were bathed, clothed and even given food. Most of these gods were specific and included ‘the god of the sun’ and ‘god of life’. Even though these gods were invisible, the people believed that they were able to descend to earth and take the form of the animals or statues.

During our time in Egypt, a close friend of my father passed away. It was hard to comprehend what happened so I sought the advice of a priest. Before his body was placed in a tomb, it had to be mummified (Steele 26). Mummification was a practice used to preserve bodies for entombment and the next life. The Egyptians believed that the home of the spirit and soul was a mummified body. In the event that a body was destroyed after death, the spirit would be destroyed too. This process was sophisticated and costly and only wealthy people cold afford it. Special priests performed this practice. Mummification was not only done to humans but also to animals associated to gods e.g. cats, crocodiles and rams.

Marriage was consecrated in ancient Egypt. Girls from poor background married at the age of twelve, while those from well-off families married when they were much older. The parents arranged a good number of these marriages, although a few had the privilege of choosing their own partners. Pharaohs were allowed to have a number of wives, while his subjects more often than not had one wife. Pre-nuptial agreements were signed before the marriage. The man was supposed to give the wife an allowance. The agreement stated that the wife was allowed to keep any property she brought into the marriage. Divorce was allowed but it was rare. If a husband failed to treat the wife with respect, the wife sought refuge with her family. The family would then try to talk the husband into changing his behavior.

The family was greatly valued, while children were regarded as a blessing. A married couple with no children would offer sacrifices to the gods and goddesses to bless them with children. Others would leave letters at the last resting place of their deceased relatives asking them to speak to the gods on their behalf. If all these practices failed, couples resorted to the use of supernatural powers (Steele 30). Adoption was an option but it was rare. Each member of the family had a role to play in the household. The father was the head of the family and he would work all day to provide for the family. The mother was in-charge of the house; she would cook, clean and take care of the children. Wives and mothers were highly esteemed in the society (Casson, 8). Even though they were expected to obey their husbands, they were still equal in many ways. They could own land and have their own businesses.

Boys were expected to learn from their fathers on how to farm, do business or construct while girls would stay home with their mothers to learn how to take care of the household. Families that could afford to take their children to school sent their sons. Girls stayed home with their mothers. Although girls did not attend school, they could still have an occupation. Women worked as musicians, house cleaners, dancers, perfume markers, mourners and priestesses. In the event of death, boys inherited property like land while the girls inherited the property in the house for example jewelry, utensils, and furnishings. If a family did not have sons, the daughter was allowed to inherit land.

Majority of Egyptians at that time spent their leisure time on the river Nile. The activities they engaged in included swimming, fishing, boat riding and hunting animals likes crocodiles. Several people engaged themselves in boat games, where two teams would compete against each other. Hunting was also a favorite pastime. The animals hunted included the hare and the fox. Wealthy Egyptians held extravagant parties for enjoyment. These parties had plenty of food, wine and beer. Musicians, acrobats and dancers were taken into service to provide entertainment; everyone appreciated musicians who played instruments like the harp and lyre. Festivals were held by the priests to honor the deities. A statue of the god to be honored was paraded through the streets. Ordinary people were allowed to hold festivals for the gods who they believed were friendly.

The Egyptians had healers to deal with the illness. These healers believed in faith healing. The priests gave instructions for purification rituals, which involved bathing and shaving hair (Steele 24). The priests forbade certain foods that included raw fish and unclean animals. The Egyptians were also subjected to dream analysis in order to find the cause of illness or a cure with the aid of magic. These religious and purification rites were part of the lifestyle.

Works Cited

Casson, Lionel. Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. Print.

Challen, Paul. Life in Ancient Egypt. Saint Catharines, Canada: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2004. Print.

Steele, Philip. Ancient Egypt. New York, NY: Rosen Pub, 2009. Print.

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