We have a lot of facts about ancient Egypt culture, and now we are going to discuss Flooding of the Nile and Nile river picnics.
The ancient Egyptian was considering the Nile as the artery of life for them. They considered it as a holy thing, so they worshiped god “Hapi” as a god of the annual flooding of Nile.
And they made the festivals and celebration for this river. We will discuss her 2 important facts about the Egypt Nile River in ancient times.
The first fact: Flooding of the Nile (Wafaa El-Nil celebrations).
The second fact: picnics in the Nile River.
Flooding of the Nile
The ancient Egyptians used to celebrate the day of the Nile by having popular festivals and celebrations, full of joy and fun. Among those festivals was “Lailat El Dama” which falls in June every year.
In this feast, they attributed the inundation of the Nile to the tears of goddess Isis because of the murder of her husband god Osiris.
This belief was dominant in Egypt until very recently as on 17 June there was another festival known as “The Night of the Drop” or “Lailat el Noqta”.
In this day the water of the Nile seemed to have a greenish color which was considered to be a sign of the beginning of the inundation fully achieved in the where dams and canals gave way to water and flooded the lands.
The ancient Egyptians believed in a fact that unless a celebration of this kind took place in the due course then, the Nile inundation would not occur.
The priests of “Gabel El Selsela” (Near Kom-Ombo) used to celebrate of “Hapy” (the Nile-god) in the splendid festival by throwing a sealed sheet of papyrus mentioning on it that they set the water free to rise and increase.
The pharaoh or his representative attended this celebration accompanied by priests, nobles, and dignitaries and masses of people holding a wooden statue of “Hapy” to the Riverbanks.
The masses bowed to the statue of the god and prayed clamoring for his favors and blessings.
The priests recited the religious hymns and burned incense while people were dancing, (most probably a part of this celebration took place on boats in the Nile).
They sanctified that day to the extent that king Ramses III offered to the Nile a statue of a beautiful lady to be his consort.
By the coming of autumn, the water of the Nile subsided and the statues returned back to their shrines.
Egyptian culture: Flooding of the Nile during Fatimid Dynasty
The celebrations of the Fatimids of the Rising of the Nile were restricted to the Caliph sailing to the Nilometer in order to attend the ceremony called “perfuming the Nilometer”.
Unless the water of the Nile rose to 16 cubits which were the ideal quantity enough to irrigate the cultivable land, the Caliph would not have made this official mission.
At that day, the country made an official celebration as the Caliph rode in a splendid procession shared by the masses to the Nilometer in order to perfume the structure.
Meanwhile, the person in charge flung himself in the basin and held its shaft with his feet and left hand, while perfuming with the right hand.
During the ceremony, the reciters of the Quran made the reading of the Holy Book in turns and that concluded the celebration after which the Caliph returned to his palace.
Before the reign of the Fatimids, the people used to call every day for the rising of the Nile water until they prohibited this custom to avoid the price hikes.
The country kept the secret of the Nile rising from the people until the Nilometer recorded 16 cubits, at that time the Caliph rode to the Nilometer to attend the subject celebration.
Egypt culture facts about celebration of the Nile during Mamluks Dynasty
During the Mamluks Dynasty, the celebrations took two steps first by perfuming the Nilometer and the second by breaking the dam of the gulf.
During the Fatimid period, the second step took place in the third or fourth day of the first stage.
However, things changed in the Mamluk era since the celebration took only one day when the Sultan or his representative climbed down from the Citadel of al-Gabal with the emirs, commanders of the army and dignitaries of the country to the river in boats adorned with colored flags and bright standards.
They used to beat drums and launch firecrackers until the procession reached the Nilometer building, where the person in charge flung himself while in full fatigue in the fountain of the Nilometer in order to perfume the shaft (which means coating it with perfume).
Then the Sultan or ship representative got out and took his seat in the pavilion distributing the uniforms and caps to the governor of Fustat, the Captains of the Sultan’s ship and the prince’s boats.
After that, the Sultan’s Golden ship flanked by boats of the princes adorned with a wide gamut of colors, set out to the river, followed by other boats full of spectators who wished to attend the splendid scene so that the surface of the River Nile could hardly be seen.
In the location of the gulf dam the representative of the Sultan with the dignitaries waited on the bridge of the dam, while the Sultan went on his horse from “Fom al-Khalig” (The Mouth of the Gulf); to the exterior site of the dam, holding in his hand a golden hoe and gave the dam three strokes, before he rode back.
Then the masses holding hoes to break the dam, so that the water could pour into the gulf. The Sultan would then leave to the citadel.
Ancient Egypt culture: Picnics in the Nile
The ancient Egyptians used to picnic in the meadows and River Nile in canoes, collecting flowers and catching fish, shooting at birds, hunting the hippopotamus and dancing to the music if the flutes and pipes.
This had mostly taken place in the festivals, feasts, and special occasions. An example was the nobleman “Ty” who was hunting the hippopotamus in a papyrus canoe. The Egyptians continued to be fond of Nile picnic in gigantic royal boats.
Al-Maqrizi relayed from the book “al-Zakhaer” that among the items been taken out of the palace in 461, during the Caliphate of al-Mustansir were the canopy of the Sultanship and boat, which were sued by the Wazir Ahmad Ibn Aly in 436, with gold paint of 2700 Dinars. Meanwhile, Abu Sahl al-Tisatary had built a royal ship.
The silver for al-Mustansir’s mother with ornamentation of its gallery of 130.000 Dirham.
In the meantime, 400.000 Dinars were necessary to build the 36 royal ships for Nile picnics with the tools, ornamentation, carved statues, canopies, crescents, etc….
Egyptian culture: Nile Picnic during Mamluks Dynasty
A tradition respected by the Mamluk sultans was that after building the ship, a big celebration was held in the River Nile, in which the Navy ships had usually made parades and maneuvers which the public liked to watch on the banks of the Nile, or in rental boats.
We conclude from al-Maqrizi that the Fatimids had given good care and attention to the leisurel boats and they painted it with gold which entailed much cost for adorning and ornamentation.
This tradition survived in the Mamluk period not only for the Sultans but also for the public who took rental boats to watch the military parades of big ships.
No wonder since the ancient Egyptians adored the river Nile, and those who succeeded them followed suit, because the Nile has always been a symbol and source of fertility and artery of life, and the meadows alongside the banks tempted them to picnic in the Nile.
These two important facts about Egypt culture show that that the Egyptians paid a great attention and respect to the Nile River.