A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ironic Timing: Wafa' al-Nil and Isis' Tears

In a bit of ironic timing, August 15 traditionally marks the date when Egypt begins the annual celebration of Wafa' al-Nil, "the fullness of the Nile," marking the annual Nile flood. Along with Sham al-Nassim in the spring, it is one of only two holidays to date from Pharaonic times. As I noted yesterday, in Ancient Egyptian folklore the annual flood was attributed to the tears of the goddess Isis, weeping for the dead Osiris. And there is mourning in Egypt today on this year's Wafa' al-Nil, though the Nile flood ended in 1964 with the closing of the floodgates on the High Dam at Aswan. (August 15 is the modern date for the celebration, but in earlier times it was held when the Nile reached a certain height. There were several Nilometers, including a surviving one at Roda Island in Cairo.)

The flood nearly to the Pyramids, 1927
In a post four years ago I discussed the celebration of Wafa' al-Nil and the history and importance of the annual inundation; and I refer you there.

Whatever side one takes in the troubles today, there are many to mourn on all sides. Isis was able to reassemble and resurrect Osiris. Let's hope her descendants can do the same for Egypt.

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