April 24, 2008

Current Thought - Sham El Nessim

The ancient Egyptians aren’t being called ancient for no reason. They were the first civilized nation in the world or at least they are competing on the first place with those guys on the Mesopotamia. Historians start recording the history of civilized Egypt from 3150 BC which was when King Narmer (aka Menes) unified the two kingdoms (upper and lower Egypt) under his ruling. Yet the essence of civilization could be traced back to year 5500 BC when the first community settled by the river Nile.
The Egyptians created a perfect model of civilization; they started by agriculture, cultivating corps with surplus, using this surplus in trade. They maintained a strong political system, a strong military and they were even the first in history to sign a peace treaty. They had a solid legal system, they created their own calendar and they were the first to embrace monotheism. They were the first to write (one of the things they are competing on with the Mesopotamia guys), they were the first to believe in the after life, and they practiced medicine with signs that they even performed surgery. Culture nourished in their time and they even celebrated feasts.
Most of the ancient Egyptians feasts were either related to their agriculture oriented life or religion based celebrations. One of these celebrations that is still known to that day is Sham El Nessim.
Sham El Nessim is almost the only ancient Egyptian feast that is still celebrated by the Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians used to celebrate that day as they believed it was the day the world was created. They celebrated the renewal of life each year. It was originally called Shamo. Shamo’s celebration could be traced back to the old kingdom or little earlier.
That day remained of sound importance in the life of Egyptians, in the time of Moses and after the ten plagues the Israelites were finally granted the permission of the Exodus. It was the day before the Egyptians were about to celebrate Shamo. And so Shamo and Passover came to a union. Another interesting union happened in the time of the Christ when Egypt was a province of Rome. The event of crucifixion took place in the time Jews were celebrating Passover and so both Abrahamic religions that the Egyptians new so far were related to Shamo in a way. Later on, when the Arabs brought Islam in Shamo was still part of the culture. Things changed, the Egyptian views about the creation of the world have changed but the celebration was still a part of the traditions. The Arabs amended El Nessim (which is fresh air in Arabic) as the word Shamo was similar to the Arabic word Sham (which means smelling), and so the old Egyptian holy feast changed to be the feast of smelling fresh air. The Egyptians though kept most of the old rituals or serving salted fish, lettuce and onions to their visitors and to themselves. Though no one could ever remember what does these symbols mean but they are still keeping the rituals. They even added cookies to the menu as cookies are the way Egyptians celebrate feasts and being the day following the Easter Sunday, the cookies of that feast is always on the menu.
The very pure Egyptian feast is the only proof that Egypt is still Egypt. I placed a bet a couple of days ago in a post that the chances of having an Egyptian Islamic state like Iran or Saudi Arabia are null. And my proof is Sham El Nessim. After around 5000 years of history Egyptians are still performing rituals that are related to their old Gods. They have changed the name added the other related feasts to the calendar but they never stopped celebrating it. After 5000 years, Egyptians are still keeping the secrets of salted fish, still eating onions and lettuce. They added the colorful eggs to their menu and the cookies or the Easter day.
I will know that Egypt is about to turn into an Islamic state monster when the Muslim radicals succeed in convincing Muslims that these rituals of celebrating Shamo is against Islam because Islam gave us two feasts to celebrate. And if at any given point of time my Christian neighbor stopped giving me the big plate of cookies. Egyptians make, now buy, cookies so that they can share in feasts. Whenever we stop exchanging those really bog plates of calories I will know it is about time to find another place to live.
So, my fellow Egyptians whether you like the salted fish or not there is no excuse to ever dump celebrating the day of creation. Because it is not the creation of life that we are celebrating but it is the creation of the oldest civilization in this world (forget about the Mesopotamia guys *wicked wink*)


my pixie's mommy said...

Dear Shimaa,

I started reading your blog after searching for Sham El nessim. Living abroad it is the egyptian festival that I feel most strongly about. My 5 year old little angel is looking forward to the story that I have not made up yet in celebration of Shamo ;)

Anyways 3 hours later I still don't have a story but have been through so much of your blogs. i have so many thoughts to share with you. sooo many memories poked into live. But for now all i can say is I hate these damn fairy tales that paint us in the lights of the castle window waiting with our hair dangling to be cherished, loved and held....
For live is filled with so many like myself ... human forms shaped into women and men that are being incarnated into the mistakes and misjudgments their predecessors made.
After an almost 10 year relationship i am still having to remind myself that he will never be my prince and i am no closer to being his queen.

It is lovely reading you

My pixie's mommy

Shimaa Gamal said...

Welcome “My Pixie's Mommy”

I have two types of days, regular days and really good days. Thanks to your words this day turned to be a really good day though I have expected it to be another ugly regular day.
I am really feeling speechless and I am looking forward for you sharing your thoughts and memories.
As for the story about Shamo ;) I will be more than happy to help.
Thank you for your really sweet words and thanks for sparing some of your time to go through my thought-less thoughts.

Happy Sham El Nessim :)
Your’s Shimaa