It’s early morning and the sun is rising over
Thebes, one of the great cities of the ancient world. Nebtawi
is still asleep. He lives in a simple house, set among tradesmen,
craftsmen, metalworkers, scribes and stonemasons.
Nebtawi is a master craftsman, so he gets a little extra time
in the morning because he doesn’t have to show up at work
until the others have all arrived. Finally he gets up, gets
dressed and joins his family for breakfast. As usual, they sit
on the ground and eat with their fingers. Their breakfast is
typical: figs, dates and bread, butter and honey, all washed
down with fresh milk.
The kids go off to school, then it’s time for Nebtawi
to go to work. He opens the door to the sounds and smells of
the nearby butchers, bakers and shopkeepers getting ready for
Like most other Egyptians, Nebtawi walks to work – a building
site where he is supervising the construction of a new temple.
The building is complete now, so the site is swarming with artists,
who are decorating the fresh plaster on the walls.
It’s another hot day and, by mid-morning, Nebtawi needs
a break. He finds some shade and drinks some cool wine from
a pitcher. But soon he’s back on site, checking on the
work and stopping occasionally to give some advice or correct
Lunchtime has always been important for site workers and Thebes
is no different. Nebtawi joins some other workers for bread
and fish, caught earlier that day from the Nile.
Then it’s off to a meeting with other master craftsmen,
who are working on a number of different projects throughout
the city. Before he knows it, work is over. Nebtawi packs up
and walks home. When he gets back, he finds his two sons doing
their math homework on small pieces of papyrus.
It’s time for dinner and the family sits down to a good
meal of roasted meats, lentils and carrots. By the time they’re
finished, it’s getting dark, so Nebtawi lights a small
oil lamp and sits back with a cup of beer.
His kids persuade him to play senit, a popular board game. Each
player has six wooden cones and must get them to the other side
of the board and then back again. They throw four wooden sticks
to determine how far each piece can move at any one time.
His sons are getting better at this game and Nebtawi is lucky
to win. By the time they finish, it’s time to put his
boys to bed. Then he and his wife blow out the lamp and hit
the sack: time for sleep.
Where to Next:
A Day in the Life of a Pharaoh,
A Day in the Life - Introduction