Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Life of the Pharaohs: Festivals and Celebrations | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Usually whenever we find a book published on Ancient Egypt, its subject will either always be on the pharaohs’ tombs and their pyramids, or the religion of the pharaohs and their temples. There are very few books that deal with the everyday life of the pharaohs, and I can assure you that most people do not know anything about their lives other than that they built pyramids and tombs. This picture does not reflect the reality of the pharaohs’ lives, and how they enjoyed each day on earth.

They had numerous festivals and celebrations, and even the Greek historian Herodotus commented on this saying that “the life of [ancient] Egyptians are all festivals and celebrations…as one festival ends in one city, another begins in another city.”

This is something that we know for a fact from documents and scenes depicted on antiquities, where we see different occasions being celebrated with music and dance. We see [images of] dancers wearing beautiful clothes and adornments dancing to the music, while the guests are either eating or drinking the food, drink, and fruit [on offer], or they are having conversations that were recorded by the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics in the form of dialogue between the depicted figures. This is something that distinguishes ancient Egyptian art, which in addition to the scenes depicted on the walls of tombs or temples also includes dialogue and language to explain these scenes. From this, we know details of ancient Egyptian society, what ancient Egyptians thought about, and how they enjoyed their lives. They lived and loved in another world; they did not wish for any other life for they considered this life to be the most beautiful in the world. They loved their country; its sun, its air, and the Nile, and they also loved their land, so they built and populated the world, leaving behind a great cultural and spiritual legacy. I hope that we protect this for future generation so that they can benefit from this.

Perhaps one of the finest images of a festival or celebration can be found on the walls of the tomb of “Nakht” which is part of the Theban Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile (opposite Luxor). This image depicts three female musicians playing musical instruments, while male and female guests are served food and drink by beautiful young men and women.

The difference between ancient Egyptians and other societies of that era was that the ancient Egyptians were more optimistic about death…yes they were scared of it, but they did not dread it, for they prepared for this whilst they were still alive, with the idea being that only the good would enjoy life in the afterlife, while the wicked would go to hell. They believed that every departed soul had to swear to the Gods that they did not commit evil, and that they lived their lives according to Maat [the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, law, order, morality, and justice].

The ancient Egyptians have placed an image of their daily lives on the walls of their tomb in the hope of undertaking the same practices and celebrating the same festivals that they did in this life [in their afterlife]. The ancient Egyptians also believed that the spirits of the dead lived amongst them and influenced their lives. One of the most beautiful examples of ancient Egyptian literature was a passage of text written by a man to his dead wife, in which he begged her mercy so that her soul does not haunt him; reminding her of every good thing he did for her sake, and asking her forgiveness for any wrongs he committed against her.

The Pharaohs knew life, and so they wrote for themselves immortality.