In the eyes of travellers, there are effectively two Egypts. There’s the Egypt of the Red Sea, with resorts dotted along the coast offering tourists all the luxuries one would desire. Places like Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, where the East embraces the West, create a sense of cosmopolitanism rarely seen in the rest of the country. And then there’s the Egypt of the Nile. Tourism, yes, famously so. But a different kind of tourism. Travellers here wish to be transported back to the past. They wish to catch a glimpse of Ancient Egypt.
For many of us, a trip to view Egypt’s ancient wonders is a bucket list activity. To see up close what we have only seen in photographs and tv documentaries before. You’ll learn new things when you are there, of course, but the experience can be augmented by giving yourself a quick education on Ancient Egypt before you go. Here are five books we’d recommend that will open your eyes to the incredible world of Ancient Egyptian civilizations.
Ancient Egypt: 5 Book Recommendations
#1 The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present – Toby Wilkinson
You cannot separate Egypt’s history from the Nile. The Nile is Egypt, past and present. Understanding how the Great River has shaped the fortunes of the region is important to gain perspective on the way of life of the Ancients. Almost all of Egypt’s famous treasures are touched by the Nile, and Egyptologist Tom Wilkinson takes the reader on a journey to explore the meanings of each. Wilkinson will bring you through to the near-present, charting not just the life of the Ancients but the adventurers who worked to uncover their secrets, all with the backdrop of the importance of the life-giving river that runs through the heart of Egypt’s history.
#2 The Complete Tutankhamun – Nicholas Reeves
Widely seen as the go-to book for all things King Tut over the last 30 years, The Complete Tutankhamun is a comprehensive guide to both the discovery of the fabled tomb and the search for the meaning of the treasures found inside. It is perhaps overlooked just how much the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb has shaped our views of modern Egypt. It facilitated our understanding of the Pharaohs and fomented the popular culture of everything from The Mummy movies to games like Book of Tut. Nicholas Reeves sheds light on that understanding, showing how the discovery of the tomb brought Ancient Egypt into modern consciousness.
#3 The Pyramids: The Mystery, Culture, and Science of Egypt’s Great Monuments – Miroslav Verner
We are going to let you into a little secret: The Pyramids of Giza are a little disappointing. Not from the sense of seeing them towering above you – it’s a sight to behold. But once you get used to the scale, you’ll notice that there is not a lot to do in this Giza suburb. Inside (they let a limited number of people go in each day), there’s not much to explore either. While it might sound like we are selling the experience short, the point is that the Pyramids require context, and you won’t get that when viewing them, at least not without a knowledgeable guide. Miroslav Verner’s masterwork will provide that context, allowing you to see the Pyramids in a whole new light.
#4 The Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt – John Baines and Jaromir Malek
Thus far, the books on this list have concentrated on one single element of Ancient Egypt. The Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt is a more comprehensive look at the combined history of the region. It covers all aspects of the Ancient World, including the art, religion, architecture, culture, and politics. Baines and Malek’s work will feel a little basic for serious students of Egyptology. However, for those looking for an entry point its perfect, particularly before their first trip to the country.
#5 The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt – Richard H. Wilkinson
If you don’t know your Amun from your Ra, then reading Richard Wilkinson’s comprehensive guide will make you an expert. It’s an incredibly detailed work, providing insight into the evolutions of the religious figures of the land and their impact on society and culture. Importantly, it separates fact from the myths of Egyptian gods that we have fostered in popular culture. A wonderful work, and one that you will keep referencing long after your return from your trip.
Have you visited Egypt? Are you a fan of Ancient Egypt? What books would you recommend people read on the subject? Perhaps you would like to follow in the footsteps of these Egyptians just like Levison Wood and other explorers have done.
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