From the land of pyramids, pharaohs, and papyrus, we bring you a look at Egyptian culture past and present. Grab a cup of mint tea, fire up the hookah, crack open a novel by Naguib Mahfouz, play some songs by Abdel Halim Hafez, or put on a movie starring Omar Sharif and join us while we share recipes, music, jokes, videos, and current events from Egypt.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Small World Saturday: Papyrus, Egypt's Gift to the World

This blog is about everything Egyptian and although Egypt’s history is long and her culture fascinating, she is but one nation in this world of ours that grows smaller with each day. Every Saturday, we’ll post a theme. Participants will post a picture, story, song, poem, recipe, craft project, piece of art – anything, really – that tells us something about your city/town, state/province, or country for that week's topic. Our hope is that through this weekly meme, we’ll learn more about our countries and cultures.

This week's theme is PLANTS, so tell us something about how plants, crops, trees, flowers are used or any special meanings they may have in your part of the world.

Next week's theme: PROVERBS

Here are the rules:

1. Please keep your posts family friendly.

2. Enter the link to your specific Small World Saturday post ONLY in Mr. Linky, as this makes it easier for us all to find the posts.

3. We reserve the right to remove any links that are not from Small World Saturday participants and are not linked directly to the weekly post.

Today's Scribe:
Let's face it, most people don't think of plants and greenery when they think of Egypt.  That's understandable considering that the overwhelming majority of the country is surrounded by the shifting sands of the Sahara Desert; however, as a satellite image of Egypt reveals, not only does a river run though it but that river takes the shape of a flower!  Thanks to the Nile River, Egypt has lots of plant life (about 2075 native species, in fact).  One plant stands out above all the others because it became the very foundation on which Egypt's rich history was recorded.

Those clever ancient Egyptians found a way to turn the papyrus, a beautiful plant that grows along the banks of the Nile River, into a paper product that has withstood the test of time.  It's hard to imagine any other plant playing as important a role in shaping Egypt into the country that we all know today.  In fact, if it weren't for papyrus, we wouldn't know nearly as much about the development and history of Egypt as we do because so much of it was recorded on scrolls of papyrus paper!

As useful as it was for making paper, papyrus was also used to make the boats that carried workmen up and down the Nile collecting the plant.  These portable lightweight boats made maneuvering through the marshes easy and efficient.  Sails made of, you guessed it, woven papyrus reeds were used on wooden boats, and papyrus pulp was used as caulking between the planks. What versatility!

Much of what we know about life in the ancient Mediterranean world comes from papyrus.  Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used it to record the events that shaped their civilizations.  This portable writing medium made it possible to record everything from treaties to medical treatments.  Did you know that a urine-based pregnancy test used in ancient Egypt was found on a papyrus?

A papyrus described a test in which a woman who might be pregnant could urinate on wheat and barley seeds over the course of several days: “If the barley grows, it means a male child. If the wheat grows, it means a female child. If both do not grow, she will not bear at all.” Testing of this theory in 1963 found that 70 percent of the time, the urine of pregnant women did promote growth, while the urine of non-pregnant women and men did not. Scholars have identified this as perhaps the first test to detect a unique substance in the urine of pregnant women, and have speculated that elevated levels of estrogens in pregnant women’s urine may have been the key to its success.  (Source)

Flowers and trees fill gardens and line streets in Egypt; wadis and oases are surrounded by greenery; crops grow on farms all along the banks of the Nile.  And while each of them has a role in Egyptian life, none is as important to the culture and history of Egypt or as versatile in terms of its use as the papyrus.  If Egypt is the gift of the Nile, then surely the papyrus plant is Egypt's gift to the world!  


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