Chasing the Past in Egypt

Unearthing long-buried ancient history in the land of the Kemites.

Pourzal maneuvers through a passageway leading to a pyramid's sarcophagus room.

Finally, I made it to Kemet! Ehh ... wait, I mean Egypt ... I guess?

It's hard to accept that only remnants and distant memories of Kemet, the ancient civilization now called the Arab Republic of Egypt, remain. (The original people called their country Kemet, a word literally meaning "nation of the black people.")

Participating in an African-centered study tour led by cultural historian, author and ASA Restoration Project Director Anthony Browder was a spiritually and culturally enriching experience for me. This journey evoked pride, anger, wonder and anguish.

Reading about ancient Kemetic history and culture is one thing, but traveling there, seeing and touching artifacts, and learning about this civilization when it was at the pinnacle of its creativity allowed me to reach a previously unattainable level of cultural awareness.

My stay in Egypt lasted three weeks, and I spent most of my time in Cairo and Luxor.  During week 1, I participated in a study tour sponsored by IKG. As an American African -- I reverse the order deliberately -- visiting Kemet likely meant much more to me than it did to most of its traditional European or European American visitors. I traveled the Nile as a pilgrim to witness the greatness of my ancient ancestors and to learn to use newfound insight to enrich my life.

There, I walked through ancient pyramids, sites and temples that our ancestors built thousands of years ago using technology that we can't identify or replicate today. I saw the pyramids in and around Giza, the Sphinx, the temples of Abydos and Dendera, as well as temples and tombs in and around Luxor. There is great debate about what some of these ancient sites were used for and how they were built. For example, there is evidence to suggest that the pyramids had many uses, such as (but not limited to) a tomb, an almanac, a sacred place of spiritual initiation and even a geodetic marker.

For some, thinking about Egypt as a place for a pilgrimage may seem odd, but consider that the people of the Nile Valley civilizations of Kemet and Nubia considered it the holy land, the way many today view Jerusalem.


The late Dr. Asa Hilliard III, a psychologist and cultural historian, noted that Kemites (people of Kemet) and Nubians migrated across central and northern Africa thousands of years ago and influenced the diverse cultures of western Africa, from which most American Africans descend.

Civilization and humankind came from Africa. Paleontologists have proved that the first homo sapien sapiens emerged out of Africa more than 250,000 years ago; geneticists have proved that every human being on earth is genetically related to the African progenitors of the human race. So going to Africa could be considered a pilgrimage for all people. As Nas and Damien Marley point out in their latest album, Distant Relatives, "We're all African."