Year: 2019

How Did the Egyptians Keep Clean?

When you are obsessed with another culture, you tend to ponder its nature in every detail: what did people wear, how did they cook, where did they go for recreation and how long did they live. Everything is of interest including bathing rituals. I think about modern man’s focus on cleanliness (witness the plethora of products on market shelves) and wonder how people lived with dirt and grime—and no washing machine! Wow. They had to rub it out at the river’s edge on themselves or their clothing.

I know they had amazing baths in ancient Rome and no doubt some type existed in Egypt. After all, they were an advanced society with ample access to water. I am sure that it was environmentally friendly according to today’s standards given the natural resources used. Now our water heaters eat up energy and the world is evolving toward tankless models to stem the tide of waste. If people are going on paleo diets, why not adapt old bathing procedures and be mindful of the need to go green.

Heating water was no doubt an issue for the Egyptians who had to use fire instead of an electric or gas appliance. We can’t do that safely today although in the late 19th century, this was the mode of operation, especially in the Old West. It was a long process so family members had to use the same water until it turned cold. I imagine this is true for the Egyptians, except maybe Cleopatra, who got her own bath all to herself, complete with essential perfumes and oils.

Since you can’t replicate the old ways of the ancient world, you can only do what you can these days to be judicious with energy usage and feel more responsible. Taking shorter showers and smaller baths is certainly useful in this regard. Tankless water heaters are the major methods of choice to save money on utilities (source: If we all got a new unit, imagine the savings worldwide. You are right in line with the Egyptians who certainly went tankless by necessity! Ha! So we can emulate them in spirit by not storing water at a high temperature, even when not in use. Like them, we use water when needed in the moment. In fact, there is no reason to do otherwise.

My favorite Pharoah

When you study something for any length of time, whether you want to or not, you develop favorites. While I try to be as objective as possible when I research and write about the Egyptians, I do have a few favorite figures. One of the most impressive individuals from that time period for me is Ramses II.

There were a lot of Pharaohs and many of them are well-known. Everyone has heard of King Tut, for example. The boy king’s mask is probably the most memorable piece of art from the whole culture. While I am truly fascinated by him, Ramses II really stands out for me for a number of reasons.

First, he ruled for a long time. In fact, he is the longest documented ruler of Egypt, serving for an amazing 67 years (Pepi II ruled for 94 years, although there is not enough documentation to officially support that claim).  To put that in perspective, the average life span for a man during that time frame was only about 33 years, although Pharaohs and other higher-class members of society often lived longer. In fact, Ramses lived to be 96, outliving many of his 200 wives and 156(!) children.  Just about everybody considered him a relative, and with all those kids, wives, and concubines running around, that may have been more accurate than not.

Second, he was considered a great military figure. His father brought him on campaigns from a young age. By the time he was 10 years old, he had achieved the rank of Captain. He continued in his father’s footsteps by reclaiming areas lost to the Hittites over the years, including a battle over Kadesh. He was very proud of his military victories and they are well-documented.

Another reason I find him so interesting is because he carried out a lot of construction projects during his reign. He completed a hall and temple that his father had started, then built his father a funerary temple at Luxor. His own, the Ramesseum, is located in Thebes. The temples of Abu Simbel are also attributed to him. He also founded and named a capital city after himself, Pi-Ramessess. He also built a temple for his beloved wife, Nefertari, and for his sons – the largest of those at the Valley of the Kings, KV5.

All in all, his reign was marked by stability and prosperity. He established and secured the borders of Egypt, opened up new trading routes, created and completed many buildings, and supported the creation of many works of art. Many rulers after him took his name as a sign of honor. To me, that makes him stand out significantly over some of the other Pharaohs and leaders of Ancient Egypt. I am always interested in learning more about him and his accomplishments.

Do you have a favorite figure from Ancient Egypt? If so, why? Let me know in the comments!