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The Gardens of Ancient Egypt

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The Gardens of Ancient Egypt

The Egyptians love(d) their gardens, which were always to be found in private, public, and shared spaces such as courtyards. Several papyri revealed show how the Ancient Egyptians prepared landscaping plans around all types of buildings.Shown below is a partial plan of an Ancient Egyptian temple showing the landscaping on the temple proper [Beni Hassan]

Shown below is a landscaping plan of a garden in Ta-Apet (Thebes).

As far back as Egypt’s most ancient known past, there were parks and gardens. In a document from Pharaoh Snefru’s time [2575–2551 BCE], we read about the design of a beautiful park and how the landscaper:

"dug a great tank and planted fig-trees and vines. . .In the middle of the garden he made a vineyard, which yielded much wine."

Landscaping public places was essential in Ancient Egypt. For example, Ramses III [1194–1163 BCE] planted trees and papyrus plants in Luxor (Thebes) [as stated in the Harris Papyrus, i. 7,11] and in the new town, which he founded in the Delta he made:

"great vineyards; walks shaded by all kinds of sweet fruit trees laden with their fruit; a sacred way, splendid with flowers from all countries, with lotus and papyrus, countless as the sand."

In the same above-mentioned Harris Papyrus [i.8,3-4], the text indicates that flowers and exotic plants were imported from all countries and were planted in parks for the enjoyment of gardening and growing flowers.

The Ancient Egyptians were fond of trees and flowers and of raising numerous and rare plants. As such, according to Athenaeus:

". . . was the care they bestowed on their culture, that those flowers that elsewhere were only sparingly produced, even in their proper season, grew profusely at all times in Egypt; so that neither roses, nor violets, nor any others, were wanting there, even in the middle of winter."

Several remarkable pictures from Ta-Apet (Theban) tombs from the time of the New Kingdom [1550–1070 BCE] give us further details as to the arrangement of the gardens and country houses.

Large gardens were usually divided into different sections, with the main areas dedicated to the orchard (date and sycamore trees) and vineyard. The flower and kitchen gardens also occupied a considerable space, laid out in beds; and miniature trees, herbs, and flowers were grown in red earthen pots exactly like our own, arranged in long rows by walks and borders.

A typical Ancient Egyptian house (as depicted on a found papyrus) had a high castellated wall surrounding the section. The house is located at the back of the property, surrounded by a double row of palms and high trees. The vineyard is located in the center of the plan. The luxuriant vines, with their large purple grapes, are trained on trelliswork built up with stone. The path leads straight up to the house hrough these vinewalks. The plan also shows a part of the garden resembling a small park. Here, there is a fishpond surrounded by palms and shrubs. Two doors lead out of this garden; one into the palm garden, which occupies a narrow strip on either side of the property, and the other to a “cool tank”.

In all cases, whether the orchard stood apart from or was united with the rest of the garden, it was supplied, like the other portions of it, with an abundance of water preserved in spacious reservoirs; on either side of which stood a row of palms, or an avenue of shady sycamores.

[An excerpt from The Ancient Egyptian Culture Revealed by Moustafa Gadalla]