More than two thousand years ago an Indian sailor was found on one of the Red Sea coast; he was close to death and was taken to the authorities in Alexandria. Then the sailor made an offer if they let him go to his home country he would guide the Egyptians to a direct sea way to India shorter than any other. This represents the start of direct communications and trade exchange between Egypt and India.
A new book, India and Egypt.Influences and Interactions, traces the origins of historical links between Egypt and India to ancient times through a collection of research conducted by Egyptian and Indian scholars.
The hundreds of images in the book help the reader see the differences as well as the similarities between the two cultures, revealing, for one, how far back Egyptian and Indian cultures have interacted in the field of art with paintings, sculptures and different motifs.
Indian artifacts like pots or cosmetic cases were discovered in ancient Alexandria. Painted on these pots were pictures of Ancient Egyptian gods like Anobees. Another surprising discovery in India was a collection of small bronze statues of Ancient Egyptian god Horus in the ancient Indian city of Gandahar.
A statement released by the Indian embassy asks: Did you know that Egyptian mummies were wrapped with linen imported from India? Do you know that the pharaohs were influenced by Indian architecture in building their temples? Did the expeditions of Queen Hatshepsut go as far as India? Why was the Lotus sacred for both Indians and Egyptians?
The book also speaks about business ties between the ancient civilizations.
According to a press release, the book also highlights how old trade routes played an important role in cementing trade exchange and relations between the two peoples. It goes on to show how relations developed between India and Egypt in the modern era, especially during the liberation movements led by Mahatma Gandhi and Saad Zaghloul Pasha.
We can deduce that Egyptian businessmen used to sail to India on business trips by letters they sent to their wives back home. A lot of Egyptian businessmen who traded spices were sent to India and some even lived there. According to the book, their first mission was to import Indian products and their second was to spread the word of Islam.
Indians historians like Mahmoud Zakaa Allah say that while it was impossible for Indians to travel because of limitations placed by the Hindus, a look at the business relations that existed at the time show that some Indians had to have traveled to East Africa.
A lot of stories were told about Indian businessmen in Egypt and there is a lot of evidence that prove they resided here. For example, there are a lot of Indian art motifs used in mosques.
In the chapter dealing with geographical explorations, Mustafa Al Abaadi revealed how exploration activities played an essential role in bringing the people of India and Egypt closer together.
He also referred to the interest of Alexander the Great in identifying a direct route linking India and Egypt as well as his belief that Indus was the main source of the River Nile.
The book offers a wealth of valuable information on an ancient relationship not many know about, revealing secrets of interaction between the two cultures and the influences they had on one other.
The book was translated into Arabic by translators in the Indian embassy in Cairo Mohamed Hamed Ali and Khaled Nagy Ali. The Arabic text was edited by Basheer Ahmed, director of Maulana Azad Center for Indian Culture in Cairo.