The first thing that will come to your mind when you hear "Egypt" is The Pyramids. For thousands of years, these astonishing creations were there to represent the Egyptian civilization.
The Ancient Egyptian believed in life after death, which was the motive to find ways that protect the bodies in good condition, Hence the idea of building tombs and mummification.
In this essay, we will take a small tour of the ancient Egyptian architecture mindset.
The evolution of the tombs
We now know that the tombs were one of the very first things The Ancient Egyptian created. But these tombs went through phases until they reached the final form of The Great Pyramid. The Mastaba was born. It is a flat-roofed structure, which consisted of two rooms: the burial chamber for the mummy, it was underground, and the chapel was for the gifts and offerings, food, and everything that the deceased could use in his afterlife. Mastabas were made from mud-brick at the beginning then later from stone. It was 20-30 feet above the ground.
Imhotep was a priest, healer, and a great architect. He was responsible for designing The Pharaoh's eternal home. He was very creative in that he came up with the idea of placing six Mastabas, one above the next, to create the first-ever Egyptian pyramid. It was 204 feet in height, the tallest structure ever made at this time. It was called the stepped pyramid, and it wasn't considered a true pyramid because its sides weren't flat. It was made of limestone.
Then came Snefru, who tried to build a true pyramid when it caved in because of its steep slope. It was called the Bent Pyramid.
Snefru's son Khufu learned from his father's mistakes and built the Great Pyramid in Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World today. It's about 481 ft tall. 2.3 Million limestone stones were used in the construction.
The second pyramid at Giza was built by Khufu's son Khafre. This pyramid is smaller than the Great Pyramid. It is about 470 ft tall. Khafre also gave the order to Construct The Great Sphinx, adjacent to his pyramid, thinking that it will protect the pyramid from getting robbed.
The third belongs to Mankaure. Comparing to The Great Pyramid, it is only one-tenth of its size.
Building the pyramids continued during The Middle Kingdom, and by the time the New Kingdom started, building pyramids stopped, and Egyptian focused on building temples. They stopped worshipping pharos and start worshiping Gods. Egyptians built temples for the gods where rituals were performed, and offerings were presented to the gods to protect Egypt from disasters.
Temple of Khons
One of the largest temples in Egypt is Amun-Re at Karnak, and Khons temple also in Karnak. The temple is dedicated to the moon god Khonsu at Karnak. It is considered as a prototype temple representing this period.
It has two great pylons to form a breathtaking entrance. Four grooves are cut on its facade to house masts with banners. The necessary elements of an Egyptian temple, most of which can be seen at Luxor, are the following: an approach avenue of sphinxes leading to the double-towered pylon entrance.
An important vertical element was standing in front of the facade, and it was the obelisk", It connects the earth with heaven. Then you can see a court with 28 columns hall, with a voided space in the middle open to the sky.
Beyond the court comes a smaller hall called the hypostyle with fewer columns, where the offerings were presented to God. Columns' capitals took shapes of plants that grew beside The Nile River, like the papyrus and the louts.
At the heart of the plan, you can find the sanctuary, it is a very dark special space, and only the highest priest and the pharaoh could enter this place. At the end of it stands a statue of the God or Goddess at the shrine.
Temples were usually telescoped at the plan and section. The more you go in, it gets darker, and the height decreases. This height difference creates the clear-story windows that guarantee that the light will enter the whole space and it will always be illuminated.
There is no doubt that Egyptian Architecture will continue to amaze the world every day with the new excavations, leaving scientists, archeologists, and architects with many questions about the construction process, the tools they used, and the brilliant architecture mind that had no boundaries or limits.
● Dr. Mir Mohammad Azad, October 2017, A Case Studies of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, Research gate.
● The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, July 2020, Ancient Egyptian architecture, Britannica
● Aaron Adair (Gilgamesh), September 2012, Ancient Aliens? The Pyramids, gilgamesh42.wordpress.com.
RANA SAMIR ABOELSEOUD MOHAMED
A passionate architecture student from Egypt with a focus on sustainability, renewable energy, and reduced ecological footprint. Experienced with low-cost, energy-efficient homes, and recycled construction materials. I won a second-place award in " Roof Proof " by Hand Over, which helped find a solution for slums to provide them with a sustainable, recycled, and affordable green roof.