02. Ancient Mediterranean, Art & Humanities

Student Series! Cities of Shifting Sands

Student Series! Cities of Shifting Sands

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

This quote, though cliché and overused, perfectly describes the creation of the world’s greatest empires. The same applies to Ancient Egypt. Tons of planning went into creating the towns and cities that resided in Egypt. Construction was also a huge challenge, compared to the methods and equipment used in modern times. The Egyptians were clever in their methods however, and my purpose for this post is to display their ingenuity and creativeness.

One may think to themselves when seeing an impressively large building or engineering feat: How could humans build something like this? When we reflect upon how much work and effort went into building structures in Ancient times, it can be obvious planning would be a very important part to incorporate into the process of construction. The Ancient Egyptians had many factors to include when planning out the cities and towns that made up their empire.


Lack of resources and trade with other people meant that the Egyptians were solely dependent on the one resource they had: The Nile. When planning a city, the proximity of the buildings to the river was extremely important. If the buildings were too close to the river, the mud bricks that made them up would dampen and collapse. Another huge factor was the height of the settlement above the flood grounds of the Nile. In order to take advantage of the Nile’s seasonal flooding, city planners had to carefully identify the parameters of the flooding as to ensure no resources or effort went to waste when during the farming cycle.

Egyptian towns and cities were not all made equally. Some are great examples of what happens when every painstaking detail is planned out, others display a rushed and rather crappy product. The town of Deir el-Medina is a great example of thoughtful and patient planning. The town contains a main street with 10 houses on both sides. Each house held 3 rooms, a kitchen, and a yard outside. They also had a underground storage cellar and compartments in the walls for worshiping the gods while at home. Like other towns at the time, Medina had a well for water, but didn’t have bathrooms. Unlike other towns however, Medina used stone bricks for construction instead of the popular mud bricks due to the distance of the town from the Nile River.



Not every construction project was a success for the Egyptians. Just look at the town of El-Amarna. The houses in this city were built barrack-style, with very small rooms. Unlike a lot of towns, Amarna didn’t have a well. Citizens had to walk long distances every day just in order to bring water back. This was obviously poorly planned and probably not the best town to live in.
When planning a city, one must consider all the outside factors and different possibilities in order to create a successful residence. This proved to be challenging for Ancient people. But when planning was done correctly, citizens were provided a safe area where their needs were catered and they remained blissful.

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