During the first period, the Egyptians were surprisingly advanced. They
were probably the first shipbuilders in the world. In fact, the Saitic Pharaoh
Necho (610-595 B.C.) sent an expedition to circumnavigate Africa 2000 years
before the Portugese King Henry the Navigator did the same. Ships were necessary
because they made travel and trade on the Nile feasible (as opposed to caravans
of goods through the hot desert.) The Egyptians even pictured their creator and also the sun-gods
as being sailors. Ra, the sun god, was said to sail his boat across the sky every day until he reached the underworld at night. There, Osiris, the ruler of the underworld, pulled him through the "other" Nile River there until he reached the opposite side, where he would start his trip over again.
The Egyptians also had one of the first written languages. In fact, they had three written languages - hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic. Hieroglyphic comes from the Greek hieros, meaning "sacred", and glyphein, meaning "to carve". An example of hieroglyphics is shown in the picture on the left.
Hieratic writing evolved from these early hieroglyphics. It was a form of cursive writing using a pen on papyrus. From this, the Demotic style developed.
It was first possible for modern people to decipher these ancient languages after 1798, when Napoleon was in Egypt with his soldiers. One of his soldiers found a stone near Rashid (Rosetta) with three kinds of writing on it. One was Greek, one was hieroglyphics, and the other was Demotic. They could read the Greek and assumed that the other inscriptions had the same meaning. The stone, called the Rosetta Stone, is now in a British museum.
Now, the Egyptians use Arabic, which is shown on the right. It is taken from the Qur'an (Koran, the holy book of the Islams) and reads: "God, there is no god but He, the Living, the Everpresent, the Eternal. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on Earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave. He knows that which is before them and what lies after them and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His throne includes the heavens and the earth. The preserving of them tires him not."
Click here to see a map of Egypt.