EgyptianDiary

Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht by Richard Platt, 2005.

A young boy in Ancient Egypt, Nakht, is excited because his family will soon move to Memphis because a distant relative has offered his father a job working as a scribe.  Memphis is a large, important city, with more opportunities than Esna, where the family currently lives.  Nakht is also training to be a scribe, so he begins writing an account of his family’s journey to Memphis and what they encounter when they arrive.

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The journey to Memphis includes a boat trip down the Nile, past the City of the Dead near Thebes, where pharaohs are buried.  When they arrive in Memphis, they make themselves at home in their new house, which is bigger than their old one.  For the first time, Nakht has a private bedroom of his own, and the wall is decorated with a hunting scene.  Nakht also has a bed to sleep in, although he is still more accustomed to sleeping on a mat on the floor, as he did back in Esna.

In Esna, Nakht’s father had taught him his lessons as a scribe, but in Memphis, Nakht begins attending a school with other boys.  There, he practices his writing as always, although he must also learn the older, more formal hieroglyphic form of writing used on the walls of temples and for public inscriptions as well as the less formal writing used more commonly.  Nakht also receives lessons in building and engineering, which includes calculating the weight of the building stones, how many people it would take to move them, and how much food and drink the workers would need during their time of service).  Sometimes, their teacher also takes the students places for lessons, like taking them to the fields near the river so they can see how to build canals and how farmers water their fields.

There are many exciting things going on in Memphis.  Ships come and go from many places.  When the Nile floods, Nakht describes how the Controller of Granaries sets the taxes on grain for the following year by measuring the highest height of the Nile during the flooding time, which is an indicator of how good the next year’s grain harvest will be.  Nakht and his sister Tamyt witness the funeral procession of a scribe, complete with dancers, paid mourners, and a procession of servants carrying all of the furniture and supplies to be loaded into the man’s tomb for him to use in the afterlife.

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Then, Nakht learns that his father and other scribes are investigating tomb robberies in Saqqara.  Nakht and Tamyt have never seen the tombs before, but their father refuses to let them come with him.  Instead, the two of them sneak over by themselves to have a look.  While they are there, they witness the robbing of a tomb!  They get a good look at an unusual ring on the finger of one of the robbers and are shocked to later see an identical ring on the finger of a very important person!

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At the end of the story, when Nakht and Tamyt are rewarded for their role in catching the thieves, it is revealed that the current king of Egypt is Hatshepsut, who is actually a woman.

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Among the other things that Nakht explains about his life are how the doctor treated him when he broke his arm, how grain is harvested, how different types of craftsman work, and how houses are built.  Nakht also undergoes a special hair-cutting ceremony as a coming-of-age ritual.

There is a section in the back that explains more about Ancient Egyptian history and society.  It also explains Egyptian writing, religion, mummies, and tombs.

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