Egypt's Golden Empire
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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 do.

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 day.

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:
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Egypt's Golden Empire A Day in the Life