Below we’ll introduce some of the more interesting and unusual facts about ancient and modern Egypt.
Egypt is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating countries in the world. From the ancient civilization that gave us the Great Pyramids and Sphinx to the modern Arabic-speaking nation, Egypt’s history, and culture are full of surprises.
General Egypt Facts
1. Egypt spans two different continents. The country is located in the northeastern corner of Africa and the western corner of Asia. The Sinai Peninsula connects them. Other transcontinental countries include Turkey and Colombia. Egypt borders Sudan and Libya in Africa, and Palestine and Israel in the Middle East.
2. Arabic is the official language of Egypt, and Islam is the predominant religion, with around 90% of the population being Muslim.
3. Although Egyptians speak Arabic, and the country is named the “Arab Republic of Egypt”, Egyptians are not Arabic. Egyptians are an ethnic group with a long history tied to the Nile Valley.
4. While most of Egypt is desert, with the vast Sahara Desert covering much of its land area, most of Egypt’s population lives in the fertile Nile River Valley. This is also where the ancient Egyptian civilization thrived.
5. Egypt is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, with a recorded history dating back over 5,000 years. Pharaohs ruled Egypt from around 3100 BC to 332 BC when the Macedonians from Northern Greece took over. This is the period we generally refer to as “Ancient Egypt”.
6. Egypt is famous for its iconic ancient monuments. The most famous are the Great Pyramids of Giza, which are the only remaining structures of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Fun Facts About Ancient Egypt
7. Ancient Egyptian men, women, and children wore makeup. They used a substance called “kohl” to darken the area around their eyes. This was a precursor to modern-day eyeliner.
8. Some men also wore fake metal beards. Pharaohs and high-ranking officials wore these ceremonial events to show their statues.
9. Cats were highly revered in ancient Egypt. Killing a cat, even accidentally, could lead to severe punishment or even death. Cats were often mummified just like humans. Bastet, who had a cat’s head and a human’s body, was the goddess of protection, pleasure, and health.
10. Besides cats, many other animals were mummified in Ancient Egypt. These included ibis (a kind of bird), hawks, snakes, crocodiles, and dogs.
11. The Egyptians sometimes cut off people’s fingernails and toenails after they died. This was to prevent them from scratching others in the afterlife.
12. The term “crocodile tears” comes from Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians believed that crocodiles shed tears while devouring their prey. The term now refers to insincere tears.
13. Birthmarks were a big deal to the Ancient Egyptians. They believed that birthmarks held special significance, such as indicating a person’s divine connections or past life experiences. Some birthmarks were considered lucky, while others were seen as unfortunate omens.
14. Love and fertility potions were commonly used in ancient Egypt. These potions often included ingredients like myrrh, honey, and mandrake. People believed that using these potions would attract love and promote fertility.
15. The last pharaoh of Egypt was a woman. Cleopatra VII was known for her extraordinary intelligence and fluency in multiple languages, including Egyptian, Greek, and Latin. Although she is often portrayed as very beautiful, historical sources indicate that her main appeal was her intelligence, not her looks.
16. The Great Pyramid of Giza is aligned with the compass’s cardinal points and with the Orion constellation’s stars. Inside the largest pyramid, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, air shafts between the King and Queen’s chamber may also align with certain stars.
17. Some people think the pyramids were built by aliens, time travelers, some unknown lost technology, or by using water canals to transport the huge blocks. These theories have largely been debunked, and scientists now know how the pyramids were most likely built.
18. Ancient Egyptians were among the first to invent toothpaste, which they crafted using ingredients like crushed rock salt, mint, dried iris flowers, and pepper.
19. The world’s oldest dress was discovered in Egypt. The “Tarkhan Dress” is estimated to be over 5,000 years old, showcasing the ancient Egyptians’ advanced textile skills.
20. Egypt signed the world’s first known peace treaty. The “Treaty of Kadesh,” was signed between the ancient Egyptians and the Hittite Empire in the 13th century BC.
Interesting Facts About Modern Egypt
21. Egypt’s official name today is the “Arab Republic of Egypt”. From 1958 to 1961, it was called the United Arab Republic and was joined with Syria. After Syria left, Egypt kept the name United Arab Republic until 1971, after which it chose the name Arab Republic of Egypt.
22. In 1968, two massive rock-cut Egyptian temples were moved to save them. The temples of Abu Simbel would have otherwise been flooded when Lake Nasser was created by the Aswan Dam.
23. In 1997, 62 tourists were massacred in Egypt. Called the Luxor Massacre, six gunmen held the tourists hostage in the famous Temple of Hatshepsut and systematically killed them for 45 minutes. The attack resulted in a massive downturn in tourism in Egypt for years.
24. In 2005, another attack occurred. 88 people were killed at the tourist resort of Sharm el Sheikh, but this time they were mostly locals. Again it had a major impact on tourism for years.
25. Egypt is Africa’s third most populous country, with 112.7 million people. Only Nigeria and Ethiopia have more people. Among the countries of the world, it sits in the 14th spot, between the Philippines and Congo.
26. Cairo, Egypt’s capital city, is the 3rd largest city in Africa by population. It has a population of 10 million, or 22 million, in the Greater Cairo area. That makes it the 7th largest population center in the world, between Mexico City, Mexico, and Beijing, China.
27. Cairo has been ranked the 4th worst in the world for traffic. There are some 2.3 million cars in Cairo and another 1.1 million in neighboring Giza. Locals are accustomed to crossing roads by walking out between cars whenever they see a hint of a gap.
28. Cairo has a “City of the Dead”. It is not a horror movie setting but a historical district where people live among ancient tombs, turning mausoleums into homes and businesses.
29. Egyptians have a tradition of painting eggs, but not for Easter. Every year, Egyptians celebrate the “Sham el-Nessim” festival, which dates back to ancient times and involves eating pickled fish, colored boiled eggs, and onions as part of the tradition.
30. There are whale bones in the Egyptian desert. Egypt is home to the “Valley of the Whales,” a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Western Desert, where numerous ancient whale fossils have been found, indicating that the area was once submerged under the sea.
31. Egypt’s Red Sea is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. It has been well-known as a diving site since it was first popularized by Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s 1956 documentary The Silent World. It is also one of the cheapest places in the world to go scuba diving.
32. Tourists and pilgrims alike hike (or ride camels) to the top of Mount Sinai every day. It is the place where, according to the Bible, Moses received the 10 Commandments from God.
33. Egypt’s national dish has macaroni in it. Koshari, a popular Egyptian street food, is an unusual yet delicious dish made from a mix of rice, pasta (usually macaroni), lentils, and chickpeas, and topped with fried onions and spiced tomato sauce.
34. Egypt has a thriving underground music scene, especially in Cairo and Alexandria, where local bands blend traditional Arabic music with contemporary genres, creating a unique fusion of sounds.
35. The “Eye of Horus” from Ancient Egypt is still popular today. The symbol was an iconic emblem in ancient Egyptian mythology. It was believed to offer protection, good health, and rejuvenation, making it a common amulet and tattoo choice even today.
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