The Arts and Culture of Egypt The Greatest Contribution of Egypt to World Culture Art and Culture of Egypt Egypt is perhaps the most fascinating of the ancient civilizations. Its one of thelongest in the west, beginning in approximately 3000 B.C., and lasting until nearly 300 B.C. With a recorded history of five thousand years its among the earliest civilizations. For years, Egypt maintained a markedly complex and steady culture that influenced later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. What is remarkable about Egypts culture is not their rapid growth and development, but their ability to conserve the past and succeed with fairly little change. Ancient Egypt is the foundation in the history of western art. Pyramids and sphinxes have symbolized Egypt for a long time, and a closer look reveals artistic genius in many forms. Today, many aspects of Egyptian ancient culture exist in interaction with newer elements, together with the influence of modern Western culture, whose roots has itself been in Ancient Egypt. The cities of Egypt including its capital, Cairo has been renowned for centuries as a center of learning, culture and commerce.
Language The first written ancient Egyptian language whichformed a separate branch among the family of theAfro-Asiatic tribe is known from hieroglyphicinscriptions preserved on monuments and sheets ofpapyrus. The "Koiné" dialect of the Greek languagewhich was later studied by Arabic scholars, was centralin Hellenistic Alexandria, and was used in thephilosophy and science of that culture. The Arabiclanguage came in the 7th century and Egyptian Arabichas since become the modern speech of the country.
Literature• Egyptian literature dates back to the Old Kingdom, in the third millennium B.C., the oldest being the Pyramid Texts, the mythology and rituals carved around the tombs of rulers and the later, secular literature of ancient Egypt includes the wisdom texts, a form of philosophical instruction. The Middle Kingdom was known as the golden age of Egyptian literature. Some well-known 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. During the first few centuries of the Christian era, Egypt was the final source of a great deal of ascetic literature in the Coptic language. Egypts vast and rich literature constituted an important cultural element in the life people and in the Middle East as a whole. Egyptian novelists and poets were among the first to experiment with modern styles of Arabic literature, the styles of which were widely imitated. The first modern Egyptian vernacular novel Zaynab by Muhammad Husayn Haykal was published in 1913. Vernacular poetry is the most popular literary genre amongst Egyptians, represented by Ahmed Fuad Nigm (Fagumi) and Abdel Rahman el-Abnudi.
Religion Ancient Egyptian religion saw the world as in conflictbetween forces of order and chaos and the Pharaoh,representing order on Earth, was seen as divine anddescendent of the falcon god Horus.Egypt was indeed one of the strongest early Christiancommunities with the Coptic Christianity becoming popularin the Roman and Byzantine periods. Christians constituteabout 10% of the population today.Islam, today being the dominant faith with 90% of thepopulation in Egypt, came to the country with thesuccessors of Mohammed.
Arts Contemporary Egyptian art can be as diverse as anyworks in the world art scene. The Egyptians codifieddesign elements in art and were one of the first majorcivilizations to do so. The wall paintings done in thetime of the Pharaohs followed a rigid code of visualrules and meanings. Egyptian art as shown in paintingand sculpture is both highly figurative and symbolic.Much of the surviving art comes from tombs andmonuments, where there is an emphasis on life afterdeath and the preservation of knowledge of the past.
Architecture Ancient Egyptian used both sun-dried and kiln-baked bricks, finesandstone, granite and limestone, as with the absence of trees itprevented the use of woods as building materials. Over time primitivestructures of clay and reeds matured, and there emerged greatmonumental structures of granites, with very thick walls. Hieroglyphic andpictorial carvings were widely used to adorn the structures, includingmany motifs, like the scarab, sacred beetle, the solar disk and the vulture.The certainty of existence of life beyond death resulted into massive andremarkable architectural style to house the mummified bodies.Construction of these monuments commenced as soon a pharaoh wasnamed, and continued till he was dead. Some of constructions are verylarge and finely decorated, while some are moderately small like KingTutankhamens tomb, as he died very young. Two of the famousarchitectures of Egypt are the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx ofGaza.
Pottery• Ancient Egyptians used steatite and soapstone to carve small pieces of vases, amulets, images of deities, of animals and several other objects. They also discovered the art of covering pottery with enamel. These varied types of pottery items were deposited in the burial chambers of the dead. It was customary to craft on the walls of the tombs cones of pottery, engraved or impressed with legends relating to the dead occupants of the tombs. The cones contained the names of the deceased, their titles, offices which they held, and some expressions proper for the memorial services.
Sculpture The ancient art of Egyptian sculpture evolved tosymbolize the ancient Egyptian gods, and Pharaohs,the divine kings and queens, in their physical form.Enormous and magnificent statues were built torepresent gods and famous kings and queens. Theywere intended to give eternal life to the "god" kingsand queens, as also to allow the subjects to see themin physical forms. Well known examples are that of theSky God, Horus and the God of funeral rites, Anubis.
Hieroglyphs A hieroglyphic script is one consisting ofan array of pictures and symbols, some ofwhich had independent meanings, whereassome were used in combinations. This style ofwriting continued to be used by the ancientEgyptians for nearly 3500 years. Many artworks of the period included hieroglyphs andit constituted an amazing part of ancientEgyptian arts.
Paintings The ancient Egyptians created paintings tomake the after life of the deceased a pleasantplace and accordingly, beautiful paintings werecreated. The paintings survived due to theextremely dry climate. The paintings are paintedin such a way that it shows a profile view, and aside view of the animal or person. Someexamples of such paintings are the paintings ofOsiris and Warriors.
Music As early as 4000 BC, Egyptians were playingharps and flutes, including two indigenous instruments,the ney and the oud. Its a rich mixture of indigenousEgyptian, Arabic, African and Western influences.Drumming and vocal music also became an importantpart of the local music tradition. ContemporaryEgyptian music can be traced back to the work ofcreative people such as Abdu-l Hamuli, Almaz andMahmud Osman. Egyptian folk music is also popularand played during weddings and other festivities.
Festivals Egypt is quite famous for its various festivals andreligious carnivals, also known as mulids. Though usuallyassociated with a particular Coptic or Sufi saint, they areoften celebrated by all Egyptians irrespective of creed orreligion. Ramadan, celebrated with sounds, local lanterns-fawanees and much flare has a special flavor in Egypt andmany Muslim tourists from the region flock here to witnessthis spectacle. The ancient spring festival of Sham en Nisimhas also been celebrated by Egyptians for thousands ofyears, usually between the Egyptian months of Baramouda(April) and Bashans (May) following Easter Sunday.