By Shady Roshdy
Luxor, Egypt, Jan 20 (EFE).- Paganism is witnessing a “rebirth” in Egypt driven by a growing number of tourists who visit the Middle Eastern country to “worship” its ancient gods.
Spiritual meditation retreats are on the rise in Egypt with more and more tourists seeking “sacred” experiences in the country’s historic temples.
“Groups of worshipers sit in a circle and sing hymns worshiping ancient Egyptian gods,” Wael Said Soliman, Egyptologist at the Sinai Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotels, tells Efe.
“The tourists are led through temples and archaeological sites by a ‘prophet’ to meditate and reflect.”
But not all visitors to the temples approve of these practices, prompting the Egyptian authorities to issue certain restrictions, like in 2011, when the government limited permits to access temples and pyramids at night.
“Before, there were groups that requested a special visit to the pyramids at night or after the official opening hours, for which the government allowed a special pass,” adds Soliman, who used to take visitors on the overnight tours.
During these visits, people would spend hours inside the pyramids meditating or sleeping in the king’s sarcophagus in the burial chamber.
MORE MEDITATION THAN WORSHIP
Soliman, who has served as a tour guide for spiritual groups for 15 years, says that the trips are mostly focused on meditation within a temple or taking an ancient pilgrimage route.
When a group seeking an alternative experience arrives in Egypt, a so-called “prophet” or spiritual guide chooses the location where they will meditate and the god they will worship during the trip.
“During the meditation circle the prophet starts repeating a name of a god in song form, and the practitioners repeat the name,” according to the expert.
Some participants start whaling or faint and lose consciousness during the sessions, the professor adds.
Popular destinations include Karnak, in southern Egypt, which is home to the temple of Amun-Ra (the sun god) while others go exclusively to the chamber of the Sekhmet, the goddess of war and healing, in the same complex.
“These practices are not a religion since the same prophet and the place of meditation and the god they are going to follow can change each year,” says Soliman.
“One year it could be here in Egypt, another in Peru, since there are no fixed rules to worship one god and every ancient civilization has its gods and holy places that can be suitable for meditation,” he says.
The owner of a perfume shop that is dedicated solely to the rituals of the worshipers and is nestled in the entrance to the Pyramids of Giza complex tells Efe that worshippers buy the essential oils to “help with the meditation process.”