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EGYPT CULTURE AND TRADITIONS

The Culture of Egypt has six thousand years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilizations. For millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that influenced later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After the Pharaonic era, Egypt itself came under the influence of Hellenism, for a time Christianity, and later, Arab and Islamic culture. Today, many aspects of Egypt's ancient culture exist in interaction with newer elements, including the influence of modern Western culture .

Culture is a term that has different meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word "culture" is most commonly used in three basic senses :


  • Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
  • An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group


LANGUAGE

The Egyptian language, which formed a separate branch among the family of Afro-Asiatic languages, was among the first written languages, and is known from hieroglyphic inscriptions preserved on monuments and sheets of papyrus. The Coptic language, the last stage of Egyptian, is today the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Hieroglyphs were written on peoples front doors, so that the news of the pharaoh would travel amongst everyone.

The "Koiné" dialect of the Greek language was important in Hellenistic Alexandria, and was used in the philosophy and science of that culture, and was later studied by Arabic scholars.

Arabic came to Egypt in the seventh century and Egyptian Arabic has since become the modern speech of the country. Of the many varieties of Arabic, it is the most widely spoken second dialect, probably due to the influence of Egyptian cinema throughout the Arabic-speaking world.

In the Upper Nile Valley, around Kom Ombo and Aswan, there are about 300,000 speakers of Nubian languages, mainly Nobiin, but also Kenuzi-Dongola. The Berber languages are represented by Siwi, spoken by about 5,000 around the Siwa Oasis. There are over a million speakers of the Domari language (an Indo-Aryan language related to Romany), mostly living north of Cairo, and there are about 60,000 Greek speakers in Alexandria. Approximately 77,000 speakers of Bedawi (a Beja language) live in the Eastern Desert..



LITERATURE



Ancient Egyptian literature dates back to the Old Kingdom, in the third millennium BC. Religious literature is best known for its hymns to various gods and its mortuary texts. The oldest extant Egyptian literature are the Pyramid Texts: the mythology and rituals carved around the tombs of rulers. The later, secular literature of ancient Egypt includes the 'wisdom texts', forms of philosophical instruction. The Instruction of Ptahhotep, for example, is a collation of moral proverbs by an Egyptian administrator. The authors of the literature of the Old and Middle Kingdoms (through to the middle of the second millennium BC) seem to have been drawn from an elite administrative class, and were celebrated and revered into the New Kingdom (to the end of the second millennium). In time, the Pyramid Texts became Coffin Texts (perhaps after the end of the Old Kingdom), and finally the mortuary literature produced its masterpiece, the Book of the Dead, during the New Kingdom.

The Middle Kingdom was the golden age of Egyptian literature. Some notable texts include the Tale of Neferty, the Instructions of Amenemhat I, the Tale of Sinuhe, the Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor and the Story of the Eloquent Peasant. Instructions became a popular literary genre of the New Kingdom, taking the form of advice on proper behavior. The Story of Wenamun and the Instruction of Any are well-known examples from this period.

During the Greco-Roman period (332 BC − AD 639), Egyptian literature was translated into other languages, and Greco-Roman literature fused with native art into a new style of writing. From this period comes the Rosetta Stone, which became the key to unlocking the mysteries of Egyptian writing to modern scholarship. The great city of Alexandria boasted its famous Library of almost half a million handwritten books during the third century BC. Alexandria's centre of learning also produced the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint.

During the first few centuries of the Christian era, Egypt was the ultimate source of a great deal of ascetic literature in the Coptic language. Egyptian monasteries translated many Greek and Syriac works, which are now only extant in Coptic. Under Islam, Egypt continued to be a great source of literary endeavour, now in the Arabic language. In 970, al-Azhar University was founded in Cairo, which to this day remains the most important centre of Sunni Islamic learning. In 12th century Egypt, the Jewish Talmudic scholar Maimonides produced his most important work.



RELIGION

Ancient Egyptian religion was a polytheistic system that saw the world as in conflict between forces of order and chaos. The Pharaoh, representative of order on Earth, was seen as divine and descended of the falcon god Horus. There was a strong cult of resurrection in the next life centered around the god Osiris.

Coptic Christianity became popular in the Roman and Byzantine periods, and Egypt was indeed one of the strongest early Christian communities.
Today, Christians constitute from approximately 5-10% of the population.

Islam in Egypt came to the country with the successors of the Prophet Muhammad, and is today the dominant faith with over 90% of the population adherents, almost completely of the Sunni denomination.

 

VISUAL ART

Egyptian art in antiquity :
The Egyptians were one of the first major civilizations to codify design elements in art. The wall paintings done in the service of the Pharaohs followed a rigid code of visual rules and meanings. Early Egyptian art is characterized by absence of linear perspective, which results in a seemingly flat space. These artists tended to create images based on what they knew, and not as much on what they see. Objects in these artworks generally do not decrease in size as they increase in distance and there is little shading to indicate depth. Sometimes, distance is indicated through the use of tiered space, where more distant objects are drawn higher above the nearby objects, but in the same scale and with no overlapping of forms. People and objects are almost always drawn in profile.

Early Egyptian artists did have a system for maintaining dimensions within artwork. They used a grid system that allowed them to create a smaller version of the artwork, and then scale up the design based upon proportional representation in a larger grid.

Egyptian art in modern times :
Modern and contemporary Egyptian art can be as diverse as any works in the world art scene. Some well-known names include Mahmoud Mokhtar, Abdel Hadi Al Gazzar, Farouk Hosny, Gazbia Sirry, Hussein El Gebaly and many others. Many artists in Egypt have taken on modern media such as digital art and this has been the theme of many exhibitions in Cairo, in recent times. There has also been a tendency to use the World Wide Web as an alternative outlet for artists and there is a strong Art-focused internet community on egroups that has found origin in Egypt .



SCIENCE
Egypt's cultural contributions have included great works of science, art, and mathematics, dating from antiquity to modern times

ANCIENT EGYPT

Mathematics

The ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to implement Mathematical numbers. The traditional view of Ancient Egypt's 'additive' scholars reports that Egyptians confined themselves to applications of practical arithmetic with many problems addressing how a number of loaves can be divided equally between a number of men.

Medicine, Technology, Imhotep : Considered to be the first engineer, architect and physician in history known by name, Imhotep designed the Pyramid of Djoser (the Step Pyramid) at Saqqara in Egypt around 2630-2611 BC, and may have been responsible for the first known use of columns in architecture. The Egyptian historian Manetho credited him with inventing stone-dressed building during Djoser's reign, though he was not the first to actually build with stone. Imhotep is also believed to have founded Egyptian medicine, being the author of the world's earliest known medical document, the Edwin Smith Papyrus.

Ptolemaic and roman egypt
The silk road led staright through ancient Alexandria. Also, the Royal Library of Alexandria was once the largest in the world. It is usually assumed to have been founded at the beginning of the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy II of Egypt after his father had set up the Temple of the Muses or Museum. The initial organization is attributed to Demetrius Phalereus. The Library is estimated to have stored at its peak 400,000 to 700,000 scrolls.

One of the reasons so little is known about the Library is that it was lost centuries after its creation. All that is left of many of the volumes are tantalizing titles that hint at all the history lost due to the building's destruction. Few events in ancient history are as controversial as the destruction of the Library, as the historical record is both contradictory and incomplete. Its destruction has been attributed by some authors to, among others, Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, and Catholic zealots during the purge of the Arian heresy, Not surprisingly, the Great Library became a symbol of knowledge itself, and its destruction was attributed to those who were portrayed as ignorant barbarians, often for purely political reasons.

A new library was inaugurated in 2003 near the site of the old library.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, designed by Sostratus of Cnidus and built during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter served as the city's landmark, and later, lighthouse.


Mathematics and technology

Greek mathematics, as that term is used in this article, is the mathematics written in Greek, developed from the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD around the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Greek mathematicians lived in cities spread over the entire Eastern Mediterranean, from Italy to North Africa, but were united by culture and language. Greek mathematics of the period following Alexander the Great is sometimes called Hellenistic mathematics. The word "mathematics" itself derives from the ancient Greek μάθημα (mathema), meaning "subject of instruction". The study of mathematics for its own sake and the use of generalized mathematical theories and proofs is the key difference between Greek mathematics and those of preceding civilizations.

Alexandria, being the center of the Hellenistic world, produced a number of great mathematicians, astronomers and scientists such as Ctesibius, Pappus and Diophantus. It also attracted scholars from all over the Mediterranean such as Eratosthenes of Cyrene.


Ptoemy
Ptolemy is one of the most famous astronomers and geographers from Egypt, famous for his work in Alexandria. Born Claudius Ptolemaeus (Greek: Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαίος; c. 85 – c. 165) in Upper Egypt, he was a geographer, astronomer, and astrologer.

Ptolemy was the author of two important scientific treatises. One is the astronomical treatise that is now known as the Almagest (in Greek Η μεγάλη Σύνταξις, "The Great Treatise"). In this work, one of the most influential books of antiquity, Ptolemy compiled the astronomical knowledge of the ancient Greek and Babylonian world. Ptolemy's other main work is his Geography. This too is a compilation, of what was known about the world's geography in the Roman Empire in his time.

In his Optics, a work which survives only in an Arabic translation, he writes about properties of light, including reflection, refraction and colour. His other works include Planetary Hypothesis, Planisphaerium and Analemma. Ptolemy's treatise on astrology, the Tetrabiblos, was the most popular astrological work of antiquity and also enjoyed great influence in the Islamic world and the medieval Latin West.

Ptolemy also wrote an influential work Harmonics on music theory. After criticizing the approaches of his predecessors, Ptolemy argued for basing musical intervals on mathematical ratios (in contrast to the followers of Aristoxenus) backed up by empirical observation (in contrast to the overly-theoretical approach of the Pythagoreans). He presented his own divisions of the tetrachord and the octave, which he derived with the help of a monochord. Ptolemy's astronomical interests also appeared in a discussion of the music of the spheres.

Tributes to Ptolemy include Ptolemaeus crater on the Moon and Ptolemaeus crater on M
ars.


MEDIEVAL EGYTP …. Mathematics in medieval Islam
In the history of mathematics, mathematics in medieval Islam, often termed Islamic mathematics, is the mathematics developed in the Islamic world between 622 and 1600, during what is known as the Islamic Golden Age, in that part of the world where Islam was the dominant religion. Islamic science and mathematics flourished under the Islamic caliphate (also known as the Islamic Empire) established across the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, Southern Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, and, at its peak, parts of France and India as well. Islamic activity in mathematics was largely centered around modern-day Iraq and Persia, but at its greatest extent stretched from North Africa and Spain in the west to India in the east.

While most scientists in this period were Muslims and wrote in Arabic, many of the best known contributors were Persians as well as Arabs, in addition to Berber, Moorish and Turkic contributors, as well as some from other religions (Christians, Jews, Sabians, Zoroastrians, and the irreligious). Arabic was the dominant language—much like Latin in Medieval Europe, Arabic was the written lingua franca of most scholars throughout the Islamic world.


Use of the term "Islam"

"There have been many civilizations in human history, almost all of which were local, in the sense that they were defined by a region and an ethnic group. This applied to all the ancient civilizations of the Middle East—Egypt, Babylon, Persia; to the great civilizations of Asia—India, China; and to the civilizations of Pre-Columbian America. There are two exceptions: Christendom and Islam. These are two civilizations defined by religion, in which religion is the primary defining force, not, as in India or China, a secondary aspect among others of an essentially regional and ethnically defined civilization. Here, again, another word of explanation is necessary."

"In English we use the word “Islam” with two distinct meanings, and the distinction is often blurred and lost and gives rise to considerable confusion. In the one sense, Islam is the counterpart of Christianity; that is to say, a religion in the strict sense of the word: a system of belief and worship. In the other sense, Islam is the counterpart of Christendom; that is to say, a civilization shaped and defined by a religion, but containing many elements apart from and even hostile to that religion, yet arising within that civilization."





MODERN EGYPT

Ahmed Zewail … (born February 26, 1946) is an Egyptian chemist, and the winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry. Born in Damanhur (60 km south-east of Alexandria) and raised in Disuq, he moved to the US to complete his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. He was awarded a faculty appointment at Caltech in 1976, where he has remained since.

Zewail's key work has been as the pioneer of femtochemistry. He developed a method using a rapid laser technique (consisting of ultrashort laser flashes), which allows the description of reactions at the atomic level. It can be viewed as a highly sophisticated form of flash photography.
In 1999, Zewail became the third Egyptian to receive the Nobel Prize, following Anwar Sadat (1978 in Peace) and Naguib Mahfouz (1988 in Literature). In 1999 he received Egypt's highest state honour, the Grand Collar of the Nile.




Egyptology

In modern times, archaeology and the study of Egypt's ancient heritage as the field of Egyptology has itself become a major scientific pursuit in the country itself. The field began in Arab Egypt during the Middle Ages, but was later led by Europeans and Westerners in modern times. The study of Egyptology, however, has in recent decades been taken up by Egyptian archæologists such as Zahi Hawass and the Supreme Council of Antiquities he leads.

The discovery of the Rosetta Stone, a tablet written in ancient Greek, Egyptian Demotic script, and Egyptian hieroglyphs, has partially been credited for the recent stir in the study of Ancient Egypt. Greek, a well known language, gave linguists the ability to decipher the mysterious Egyptian hieroglyphic language. The ability to decipher hieroglyphics facilitated the translation of hundreds of the texts and inscriptions that were previously indecipherable, giving insight into Egyptian culture that would have otherwise been lost to the ages. The stone was discovered on July 15, 1799 in the port town of Rosetta, Egypt,and has been held in the British Museum since 1802.




Sports

The most played most-watched sport in Egypt is Footbol (Soccer). Egyptian Soccer clubs especially El Ahly and El Zamalek are known throughout the Middle East and Africa and enjoy the reputation of long-time champions of the sport regionally. They enjoy popularity even among non-Egyptians.

Egyptian football team won the African Cup of Nations seven times setting a new record in Africa (years: 57, 59, 86, 98, 06, 08, '10). Although it's the first African country who joined FIFA, it hasn't made it to the World Cup except only two times in 1934 and 1990. In the World Military Cup, Egypt won the title 5 times, and was the runner-up another 2 times.

Other popular sports in Egypt are basketball, handball, squash and tennis. The Egyptian Squash team is always known for its fierce competition in worldwide championships since the 1930s till today. Handball has become another growingly popular sport among Egyptians as well. Since the early 1990s, the Egyptian Handball Team has become a growing international force in the sport, winning regional and continental tournaments as well as reaching up to fourth place internationally in 2001. The Junior Handball team reached the first rank in 1993 under the lead of Captain Gamal Shams, and it hosted the tournament in 2009 setting a record in the audience number specially the match between Egypt and Denmark in the semifinals, the stadium was completely full.

In older times (1930s and 40s), Egypt was a power house in Weight lifting, Boxing and Wrestling with several Olympic and world championship medals.

Local sports clubs receive financial support from the local governments, and many sporting clubs are financially and administratively supported by the government.


Cinema

Egyptian cinema is a flourishing film industry, since 1930s, with a long history. As a result, the Egyptian capital has been dubbed the "Hollywood of the Middle East", where the world-renowed Cairo International Film Festival is held every year which has been rated by the International Federation of Film Producers' Associations as being among the 11 top class film festivals worldwide.

Due to the simplicity of the Egyptian Arabic, most of Arab TV and cinema has been affected notably by the Egyptian Arabic.

Egyptian cinema is considered the largest within Arab cinema




Music and dance

The mamba is very popular in Egypt and can be found especially in the country's capital, Cairo.
African music is a rich mixture of indigenous Egyptian, Arabic, African and Western influences.

As early as 4000 BC, ancient Egyptians were playing harps and flutes, as well as two indigenous instruments: the ney and the oud. However, there is little notation of Egyptian music before the 7th century AD, when Egypt became part of the Muslim world. Percussion and vocal music became important at this time, and has remained an important part of Egyptian music today.


Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings to the creative work of luminaries such as Abdu-l Hamuli, Almaz, Sayed Mikkawi, and Mahmud Osman, who were all patronized by Khedive Ismail and who influenced the later work of Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim Hafez and other Egyptian music giants.

From the 1970s onwards, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly important in Egyptian culture, particularly among the large youth population of Egypt. Egyptian folk music is also popular, played during weddings and other festivities. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Egyptian music was a way to communicate social and class issues.
The most popular Egyptian pop singers are Amr Diab, Mohamed Mounir and Ali El Haggar.

Belly dance, or Raqs Sharqi (literally: oriental dancing) in Arabic, may have originated in Egypt, and today the country is considered the international center of the art.


The Egyptian Center for Culture & Art (ECCA) Makan

ECCA records and promotes traditional Egyptian music styles that are increasingly in danger of being relegated to the status of an exotic and de-contextualised tourist curiosity, or placed on the shelves of academic archives far from the daily lives of their dwindling practitioners. This helps to see what is written down and what not.

ECCA encourages efforts to return Egyptian music to the critical role it has played in the daily life and imagination of the Egyptian people, and to share this rich resource with the world community. A number of strategies and activities that support these aims include the systematic recording, documenting and archiving of current practice so as to make it available to scholars, musicians and to an increasingly broad-based audience.

 

Cuisine

Egyptian cuisine consists of local culinary traditions such as Ful medames, Kushari and Molokhia. It also shares similarities with food found throughout the eastern Mediterranean like kebab and falafel.

long trousers when you visit a mosque.





Major Public holidays:
Day Description
1st day of Spring
(2nd Monday afterthe Coptic Easter day)
It is called Sham El-Nessim day
(Just avoid going out on this day to national parks and the zoo)
25th April Sinai liberation day
1st May Workers day
23rd July 1952 revolution day
6th October Armed forces day, victory day 1973
13th October Suez liberation day
23rd December Victory day
Eid El-Fitr Breakfast feast comes right after the Holy fasting month of Ramadan
Eid El-Adha Sacrifice feast Comes right after the pilgrimage season, it lasts for four days

 

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