Ancient (& Modern) Egyptian Wit & Wisdom


Ancient Egyptians appreciated proverbs and aphoristic thinking. As an Egyptian writer very interested in wisdom literature, I must say it makes me especially proud to consider that my life work is a continuation of my cultural heritage. Here’s a short piece about how growing up in Egypt influenced the type of writer I became.

I can also that, by and large, my contemporary compatriots are heirs to this appreciation of wit and love of pithy sayings.

Growing up in such a word-loving culture and at an early age reading the work of great aphorists —such as Gibran, Wilde, Blake, Kafka and Nietzsche, I began composing such short meditations as a teenager, part philosophy/psychology/poetry/spirituality.

It amazes me that, 8 books later, I’ve acquired an international reputation as ‘one of the world’s great aphorists’ and my sayings have gone viral, are taught in classrooms and even used in religious services…

Here’s a selection of my short reflections:


Impulses we attempt to strangle only develop stronger muscles.

There is only one way to live against one’s own nature: unhappily.

History does not repeat itself; human nature does.

The small spirit is quick to misperceive an insult; the large spirit is slow to receive a compliment.

However jeweled the mind, we also think through its defects.

Time heals old wounds only because there are new wounds to attend to.

A good listener helps us overhear ourselves.

Marrying for looks is like buying books for their pictures—a good idea, if one cannot read.

Opposites attract; similarities last.

Below, are fine examples of the timeless insights found in the outer and inner temples of Luxor, on the walls as well as monuments. It was amazing for me to discover these Ancient Egyptian sayings—all pre-religious, obviously, yet corresponding to the great faith traditions.

Remarkable, in addition to the miracle of the pyramids, etc... what these ancients knew

As a Latin saying puts it: Mortui Vivos Docent [The Dead Shall Teach the Living]


The greatest Master cannot even take one step for his disciple.

The disciple must experience each stage of developing consciousness.

Therefore, he will know nothing for which he is not ripe.

Understanding develops by degrees.

All seeds reply to the light, but the color is diverse.

An answer brings no illumination unless the question has matured to a point where it gives rise to this answer which thus becomes its fruit. Therefore learn how to put a question.

The kingdom of heaven is within you, and whosoever shall know himself shall find it.

While searching the laws of harmony, we will discover knowledge.

Nature is the best and the shortest route towards knowledge.

A price should be paid for every joy.

The inner light glows in peace and meditation.

True sages are those who give all they have without cruelty.

Every man is rich in excuses to safeguard his prejudices, his instincts, and his opinions.


Meantime, by way of contrast, here are light-hearted, contemporary Egyptian sayings as a window into our culture and national psyche:

If you're going to steal, steal a camel and if you're going to love, love the moon. (The origin of Go big or go home?)

If you marry the monkey for their money, the money will go away yet the monkey will stay. (Don't marry for money.)

If your sweetheart is made of honey, don't lick them all up. (Don't take advantage of others or take them for granted.)

The belly dancer dies while her waist is still twitching. (Our picturesque take on old habits die hard.)

Overturn the jar and the girl becomes like her mother. (Widely-used, bizarre way of saying girls become their mothers.)

If you get between an onion and its skin you won't get anything except its stink. (Our colorful way of saying mind your own business/keep out of the affairs of others.)

If the dog has something of yours, call him Master. (When you need to deal with someone, but would prefer not to...)

If you trust men, you trust water in a sieve. (All men are dogs.)


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