Relaxation in Ancient Egypt

Published: 12th February 2010
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While we may view the Egyptian culture through a shroud of mystery, in many ways the daily life of the Egyptians and particularly their leisure time was spent pursuing many of the same activities that we enjoy today. Music played an essential role in the lives of ancient Egyptians. A frequent source of enjoyment for ancient Egyptians was the attendance of festitivites and banquets. Sensual activity and eroticism were a central aspect of these parties. Consumption of wine, beer and narcotics was not uncommon.

Music was an integral part of both Egyptian culture and religion. It was believed that music pleased the gods and mortals alike and nearly any festival or banquet included musicians. The three female musicians wall relief found at the Tomb of Nakht dated Dynasty XVIII 1450 B.C. is a single example among dozens of artifacts depicting how integral music was to ancient Egyptian society. Archaeologists have also unearthed a number of musical instruments. Unfortunately, Egyptians did not annotate their music so we are unclear on how it may have sounded.

Paintings and Egyptian sculptures found in tombs suggest that the majority of the musicians were female. The performances of these female musicians was most often accompanied by dancers. The ancient Egyptian band consisted of flutes, harps, lyres, drums and lutes. Egyptian statues depict the Egyptian goddess of music Hathor holding a rattle-like instrument called the sistrum. Performances by the female musicians was a standard practice at the temple of Hathor.

Music was most often enjoyed at a banquet or festivity. Nearly as commonplace as music, was the wine. The Egyptians also enjoyed beer which was often flavored with regional fruits. These banquets emphasized the exotic and erotic with special emphasis on pleasing the senses of taste and smell. To "expand their minds," Egyptian party guests often added a narcotic lily flower to their wine.

To enhance the party experience, those who attended a banquet were often given flower blossoms to sniff during the entertainment. Servants would place a sweet smelling ointment on the wigs of partygoers believed to have delivered a pleasant fragrance.

The center of attraction at an Egyptian banquet was sure to be the performance of the dancers. In ancient Egyptian culture men generally danced with men and women with women. The performances fo the Egyptian dancers ranged from postured and slow rhythmic movement to more acrobatic dancing.

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