Sun Gods and Eternal Waters

The Great Pyramids

Giza, Egypt

I went to the Giza pyramids a year ago, but without a guide and immediately after an exhausting marathon 30 hour trip to Luxor, so I didn’t get as much out of the experience as I could have. This time, I went with an art history professor from American University in Cairo, and while we didn’t get much time to take artsy photos as I did on the last trip, I learned an awful lot, and saw a lot of things I didn’t know were there last time I went.

From Giza by Tour Guide

Ancient Egyptians believed that an individual was composed of three parts: the body, the ka and the ba. The ba was what we conventionally consider the soul, it flies away to the afterworld at death, is often pictured as a bird with a human head, and returns in search of its body after death. The ka, which our guide characterized as the intellect, remains on earth and must be provided with shelter and sustenance (real or, in a pinch, symbolic food and water) after death. The pyramid is shelter for the soul of the pharoah, generally accompanied by smaller pyramids for his wife and important female relatives.

From Giza by Tour Guide

Beyond that are the mustaba, to shelter the ka of the pharoah’s important advisers, nobles and hangers on.

From Giza by Tour Guide

Ancient Egyptians also believed that the ba had to cross the Eternal Waters in order to reach heaven. Water and its ebb and flow, of course, were crucial to the success of the great Nile culture, and understanding and navigating those waters was an important skill for an ancient Egyptian. They interpreted the Eternal Waters quite literally, and dug symbolic boat pits beside each pyramid to represent the vessel that would care the ba across those Eternal Waters.

From Giza by Tour Guide

But inside what I took on my last visit to be an incredibly ugly and incongruous monstrosity beside the Great Temple of Kufu turned out to house a treasure I never would have guessed at, an actual boat that was probably once used in service to the Pharoah Kufu himself, was buried with him, and has been reconstructed more or less in situ in the Boat Museum. I won’t bore you with the details here, since you can find them in the captions of the photo album.

From Giza by Tour Guide

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