Just outside Thebes, the sun is rising on a small
house near the Nile. Nafrini is already up - with a farmer
as a husband, plus three small children, she's got a lot to
She starts by preparing breakfast of bread and fruit for her
family who, judging from the noise, are all now out of bed.
Like most Egyptian women, she's wearing a rough linen dress
and has a reed necklace with an amulet to the pregnant goddess
Tawaret - believed to help during the danger of childbirth.
Although they aren't wealthy, Nafrini and her husband, Sebi,
can still afford a servant, Akana, who helps around the house
and with the children. Once her husband has left for work,
Nafrini leaves the kids with Akana and goes to the market.
She needs to stock up the store cupboard - basics like lentils,
chickpeas, lettuce, onion and garlic. She might buy meat for
a special occasion, but it's much too expensive to eat every
When she gets back, she sprinkles water and natron cleansing
salts to keep the insects away. She puts down charcoal and
powdered bebet-plant to kill the fleas.
Today is laundry day, so Nafrini gathers up the bed linen
and the children for a trip to the river. She quite likes
this job. The day isn't too hot yet and she gets the latest
news and gossip from her friends - always keeping one eye
on the kids.
She normally puts the laundry in the river and pounds it against
a large stone - this is long before detergent or soap. But
today, all the best stones have been taken, so she has to
tread the laundry against pebbles in the shallows. When everything
is clean, she lays it out to dry in the sun.
While she waits, she tells the children to look for some reeds,
straw and dried dung to fuel the fire. When the washing is
dry, she fills her large water-pot and they all go home.
After putting away the laundry, she sits down with Akana and
the children for a light lunch of bread and lettuce. The children
are arguing and pulling each other's hair, so she tells them
to go out and look for wild honey, which she uses to sweeten
food - sugar won't be discovered for thousands of years yet.
With the house now quiet, Nafrini can get on with some cooking.
She lights the conical mud fire and starts grinding emmet
wheat to make flour for the bread. She adds water to make
dough, which she rounds off into flat loaves and then puts
in the oven.
While the bread is baking, she starts on the beer. From the
oven, she takes some partly-baked barley dough and crumbles
it into a large vat. She adds some water and date juice, and
leaves it to ferment.
The bread is baked, the children have brought back some honey
and Sebi will soon be home, so Nafrini starts on dinner. Today,
the Tutanwhatsit family is having a stew of lentils, chickpeas
and onion. Nafrini knows Sebi will be happy, because the night
before he had been grumbling about eating nothing but bread.
Everything is put in a clay pot and goes into the oven.
Sebi arrives home and the family sits down to eat. By the
time they've finished, it's six o'clock and the sun has almost
set. With no electricity, their day follows the rise and fall
of the sun. They all go to bed and are soon fast asleep.
Where to Next:
A Day in the Life of a Pharaoh,
Virtual Egypt - Tour through
some of the New Kingdom's most historic sites as they are
Hieroglyphics - Spell your
name or take the quiz