The cats of Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, they worshiped a cat goddess, Bastet (also known as Bast or Baset). I have loved this fact since I was little, because I got tired of watching movies and cartoons where the cat was the bad guy. I was (and am) a cat lover, through and through.

Because of Bastet, cats were sacred to the Ancient Egyptians. The bodies of pet cats where mummified along with their owners, cat statues were carved and royal cats were even given elaborately jeweled collars and necklaces.

Alexandrian cat, by me

Cats are everywhere in Egypt, to this day. They are underfoot at monuments, in markets, on the streets. Some of them are ugly and vicious, wild things. Others are much more friendly and will come when you call them. The rough cats in the meat market in Cairo sat underneath the carcasses and licked the blood. An adorable orange tabby wound itself around my legs at the Cairo museum. We saw two cats tear chunks of fur off each other in Alexandria.

Cats! by me

There’s a very interesting custom that derives from Bastet, that our tour guide finally explained to us. When you walk down the street in Egypt, you often hear Egyptian men making an odd noise as you walk past. Bsbsbsbsbsbs, they hiss. I was confused.

Apparently, Egyptian men compare sexually attractive women to cats. And so they make that noise, bsbsbsbs, because it is the same noise they make to call a cat, after the name Bastet. Interestingly, cats actually to respond better when you make that noise. And maybe women too?

Djoser's Dog by me

There are some stray dogs around too, for you dog lovers.

3 Comments

  • By Laura, February 9, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    ugh. and a token dog photo. enjoy. there is no story about him, he was never worshipped and he isn’t all that cute. ok dog lovers. enjoy.

    hilarious.

  • By Sebastian, February 11, 2010 @ 3:58 am

    They were sacred… but I presume they were killed, when their owner died?

    Or were dead pets mummified prior to the noble’s death — were healthy cats allowed to carry on living after their owner died…?

  • By Hezabelle, February 11, 2010 @ 4:01 am

    A bit of both, depending on the person. With some pharaohs even their servants weren’t allowed to survive them, so I wouldn’t put it past them to take the cat too.

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