Egyptian culture and traditions, mourning Ceremonies

Facts about mourning ceremonies

Mourning ceremonies is a very distinctive custom in Egyptian culture.

The Greek historian, Herodotus, mentioned in his book “the history of Egypt”: when it happened and an Egyptian died, the Egyptian women stained their heads and faces with mud.

They left the dead body at home then wandered and roamed the village’s roads slapping their faces tearing their clothes, and beating their chests.

The eldest son – so called ‘Mother’s supporter’ or ‘Ayon Mot’- wore leopard skin during the offering ceremonies to his late father’s soul.

Prince Zaw II who witnessed the reign of king Pepi II narrated how he celebrated the burial of his late father prince Zaw, in an extraordinary funeral procession which was never arranged for any of the southern princes.

Prince Zaw II added that he had bogglingly implored king’ Nepher Korie”, The monarch of North and south to bestow him a coffin, clothes and perfume jars in addition to birds as offerings.

Meanwhile, the same was applied of king ‘Seti by his sin’ Ramses II as shown in the scenes of Abydos Temple.

In the Egyptian villages, the women stained their faces with the so-called ‘Niela’ from a Persian word (blue clothes for mourning and this was never adopted by the Arab people.

You can notice the characteristics of culture in Egypt through this custom.

Ancient Egypt culture, mourning ceremonies
Mourning ceremonies in Egyptian culture

A verse from a Turkish poem by Kamal Pasha Zada who accompanied sultan “Selim I” during his campaign to Egypt, translation of which was that Egypt is such a beautiful face with blue tears due to such blue color of the river Nile.

Moreover, the Turkish, Persian, and Arab poets used to combine between the Nile and the tears.

But most probably that such blue color mentioned by the Turkish poet refers to Egyptians women who used to stain their faces with blue color to express their sorrow and grief.

A resemblance among the Pharaonic, Islamic, and Modern Egypt is the Egyptians tradition to announce their sorrow and mourning.

History mentions that the Ancient Egyptians used to revive and celebrate the fortieth day of the deceased.

As for the origin of this tradition, came from the legend of God “Osiris” who was murdered by his brother “Seth” who also dismembered his body into forty parts and scattered these organs one in each province which were forty at that time.

Yet the Old Egyptians made a tomb for each piece of the scattered body and such forty pieces remained mummified, keeping time for forty days.

Since that time, the Ancient Egyptians used to mummify their dead, keeping them for forty days after having them treated with different materials wrapped in linen before they were buried.

The revival of the fortieth day of the dead person is well known today in Egypt.

Facts about mourning ceremonies in Egyptian culture
Egypt culture, woman puts her hand upon her head as a sign of mourning

Egyptian culture: mourning ceremonies in Islamic Egypt

However this was not the case in Islamic Egypt as far as we are concerned, yet it is commonly used tradition today in Egypt.

He who ever has a dead person never forgets to revive the fortieth day of his deceased.

Expressing the sorrow and grief continued by the same token during the Islamic dynasties.

Al-Maqrizi mentioned in the incidence of the murder of Khamarawyh the son of Ahmed Ibn Tulun that he had taken his leave to Damascus on the eighth day of Sheban in the year 282 A.D. and reached the district if “Yomnet Al-Asba”, then Damascus.

He was murdered by his servants and Harem. He was carried to Egypt in a coffin.

The arrival of the coffin god witnessed a dramatic reception by his Harem and the Harem of his boys, the wives of his commanders, and the women of al-Qataee; then capital of Egypt, let alone the screaming, sorrow and grief, men took off their breasts, and extraordinary activity in the whole country until the burial was done.

Drums were beaten in a funerary ceremony when the coffin of al-Malik al –Saleh Najm Al-Din Ayub was transferred from al-Rhoda Castle to his tomb in Bein Al-Qassrin.

When al-Malik al-Saied Mohammed Ibn El-Zahir Bebeirs died funerals were made for this occasion all over Egypt.

Princesses roamed the city beating their breasts cladded in black clothes.

Culture in Egypt: mourning ceremonies in Mameluk Egypt

During the Mameluk dynasty, when Sultan Al-Malik al-Mansour Qalawon decided to attack the Mongol in Damascus, he placed in his lieu as a sultan his son al-Malik Al-Saleh Alaa al-Din Aly in 679 A.H.

However, he suffered from a disease and died on Friday, 4th of Sha’ban. The Sultan expressed his sorrow and grief and loudly screamed mourning his (Oh, dear son).

He took his cap off and dropped it on the floor, and the princes followed suit. They wept for one hour, and the Sultan put on the white clothes for several days mourning his sin.

Ancient Egypt culture, mourning ceremonies
Egypt culture, cloth of mourning

Mourning ceremonies are still persistent to our present day as a part of Egypt culture.