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Date Added: June 05, 2007 10:56:43 AM

Egypt’s House of the Dead
The typical estate of a member of the ancient Egyptian nobility was built in what we would call today as suburban or rural areas. It was built as close as possible to waterways that served as a fast means of transportation, but far enough to avoid being affected by floods. The estate compound was composed of the main house, where the women had their own rooms, grain silos, stables, gardens, servants’ houses, and kitchen. It was separated from the agricultural area or fields by a wall.


    The main house featured high ceilings, tile floors, painted walls,  flat roofs, stools, and for the very rich, extremely expensive chairs, wood and wicker tables and beds, and wood chests used for storage. The house was usually at least two stories high built from the same sun baked bricks that the ordinary people used for their homes.  However all gates were made of stones, and if readily available, stones and other construction material were also used. Flat roofs gave occupants additional living space and could be reached through an open staircase.


Homes of powerful and rich Egyptians showed harmony with nature. They built formal gardens, ranging from several fruit trees to an entire garden stocked with trees, fish ponds, animals and birds. Egyptians also planted flowering plants, fruit bearing vines such as grapes, and herbs such as bay laurel.


Ancient Egyptian philosophy put more value on life after death rather than one’s present existence. This is the reason why so much time, effort and money was devoted to the construction of the “homes of the dead” -- the pyramids. The Giza pyramid is famous for being the only surviving wonder of the Seven Wonders of the World.  All others survive only through writings and illustrations. The beautiful and historic Giza pyramid is also the top tourist attraction of modern Egypt.

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India’s Ancient City of Harappa
The city of Harappa existed in India about four thousand years ago. It was evidence of the existence of an extraordinarily advanced civilization. Homes in Harappa were similar to homes in ancient Egypt, structures with flat roofs made with sun-baked bricks. Every house had its own courtyard, supply of water (wells) and bathroom. The city had a sewer system made of clay pipes in individual houses that led to underground sewers and from there, drained into bodies of water. Women and men wore colorful clothes and ornaments.


The people of Harappa were extremely capable farmers. Their crops were harvested and stored within the city, and used and enjoyed by all residents. There is no information on the homes of the nobility because they did not seem to exist.  Houses were generally the same size and had the same facilities.  Yet the city was well organized and had straight streets and a sewer system.  These interesting facts have made Harappa one of the most visited sites in India today.

Taj Mahal
Not as ancient as Harappa, but infinitely more beautiful is the Taj Mahal. It is a monument to enduring love and beauty, built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to the memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after giving birth to their 14th child. The Taj Mahal was completed after 22 years of labor by 20,000 people and a thousand elephants. Mumtaz’s body lies inside a cenotaph decorated with jewels. The palace is made of white marble and set against a background of plain and water. The interplay of colors caused by the reflection of the Taj Mahal on the water makes the palace change its colors. It is pink at sunrise, white against the dark of the night, and gold by moonlight.


    Famous women such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Diana have visited and paid homage to what is said to be the most beautiful single structure in the world. It is the leading tourist attraction in modern India.

Cities in Ancient China
For a total of 1,500 years, ancient China was ruled by only two families. Ancient Chinese cities reflected clear divisions between the elite and ordinary people. The elite lived in comfort inside the walled cities; the merchants and artisans lived just outside the city walls but could expect no help when the city was attacked; and peasants lived in villages, vulnerable to invaders and criminals.


        The elite which included the ruling families, priests and warriors lived in palatial homes made of mud and wood. The ruling nobility could afford to use tiles for their roofs and bricks for their palaces. Like the Egyptian nobility they were buried in beautiful tombs, complete with chariots and works of art, and even servants, buried alive with their masters, and expected to serve them even in the next life.


The Forbidden City
The heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City, has been the seat of 24 Ming and Qing emperors who governed the vast country through a combination of edicts and military campaigns. It took the Ming dynasty emperor Yongle some14 years to build the city. At that time, the capital of China was in Nanjing but Yongle decided to transfer it to Beijing. Puyi, China’s last emperor lived in the Forbidden City until 1924.


With the victory of the Communist-led revolution in 1949, the Forbidden City has  been transformed into a museum and continues to be one of the the biggest and best made government complexes in the whole world, containing over a million historic and beautiful artefacts.


The first line of defence of the Forbidden City is a moat that measures 150 feet wide and a wall that is 25 feet high. It has an Inner and Outer court, The Outer Court includes the Meridian Gate, the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony or throne room, and the Hall of Protective Harmony. The Inner Court houses the jade seals used by the emperors and the residence of the empress. There are six eastern and six western palaces in the Forbidden City. The city is a favorite with local and foreign tourists, who are awed by its unparalleled beauty and opulence, including the riveting view of yellow roofed palaces and halls set against stunning red walls.


The past lives on in these ancient cities, palaces and tombs, and we are lucky to be able to see what men have been able to achieve thousands of years ago.

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