Charlotte Booth, How to Survive in Ancient Egypt (Pen & Sword, 2020)
Have you ever wanted to visit Ancient Egypt? That might not happen any time soon, but if you ever get the chance you now have a guidebook thanks to Charlotte Booth. You will know where to go and what to do, or perhaps more importantly, what not to do. She even provides a handy shopping list in case you forget to pack your loin cloth.
The year is 1360BCE and you have just arrived in Thebes. Booth provides a background briefing on Egyptian culture and chronology then she gets down to the business of showing you how to live here. She covers housing, job-hunting, eating and drinking – do not drink the water! Booth points out that you must get a grasp on religion because it is everywhere and complicated. Your average life expectancy is low, so stay healthy by bathing and using the right ointments, and it might be best to stay away from the local GP. If you are married, think carefully about having children, though female contraception is gross enough to put anyone off. Booth continues with your choice of hair, clothes, and make-up for men and women. Clothes are simple but you can optimize and accessorize and wear jewellery. For things to do when not working; Egyptians play games indoor and outdoor, and there are also public entertainers. The ‘downside’ to all this is that you must obey the laws, or you will end up in front of the court, though if you do, a bribe might work. If that fails, you could face some hard labour in the quarries, or worse; you do not want a death sentence in Ancient Egypt!
Once you get past the time travel gimmick, Booth’s book is a useful introduction into the world of the Ancient Egyptians. Informative photographs, illustrations, and text boxes, and one very rude piece of graffiti, add to Booth’s engaging text. Thankfully, the Egyptians liked their art drawn from all walks of life, so we know a lot about them, and Booth balances her guidebook to incorporate a surprising amount of information across the spectrum. Like all ancient cultures, the Egyptians were very different from us, but also very alike. While the book is not referenced, Booth includes a solid foundational bibliography if you want to know more, and after having read her book, I think I do.