Giza Plateau, Egypt

Walk Like An Egyptian by Bangles

All the old paintings on the tombs
They do the sand dance don't you know? Read full Lyrics
One day while on a ferry boat, Liam Sternberg watched other passengers attempting to keep their balance as the boat rocked side to side. With their arms in the air and flailing about, it looked to him like a silly dance and reminded him of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. In what might be a fleeting scene for most, for a songwriter, it morphs into much more. In this case, Sternberg created what would become one of the most recognizable of all classic '80s songs.

The Great Pyramids and Sphinx
photo: Justin Novelli
But even the Bangles didn't initially want to record "Walk Like An Egyptian." In fact, it was difficult to drum up interest in recording it from anybody. And when they finally agreed to it, not one of them was particularly thrilled with the final product.

"Walk Like An Egyptian" appeared on the Bangles' 1986 album A Different Light. It was a million-selling single that reached #1 on the Billboard charts in the United States. And while it is by far one of the most memorable of the Bangles' songs, in this writer's opinion, it is nowhere near their best work. I think the rocking ladies might agree with me, particularly drummer Debbi Peterson, whose vocal verse contribution was cut from the final version of the track - she was relegated to background vocals and tambourine.

While the tune's lyrics don't specifically describe the dance move Sternberg witnessed on his ferry boat, they do beckon the listeners to "walk" like Egyptians. But what exactly does that mean? I'm sure you can picture the hieroglyphics in your mind – they're just about cliché at this point in history.

Hieroglyphs with Cartouche at Egyptian Museum
photo: Daniel Mayer
Ancient Egypt was a civilization in northeastern Africa, along the Nile River, from 3100 BC – 330 BC. Its success is mostly attributed to the regularity and predictability of the flooding and controlled irrigation of the Nile River Valley, which allowed for social development as well as massive and steady population increases for centuries, if not thousands of years. They developed a writing system of pictures and symbols meant to correspond with words or ideas. These can still be seen inside museums (on artifacts) as well as inside various pyramids – if one is so lucky to get the opportunity to travel to Egypt to see them.

The ancient Egyptians accomplished many achievements during the pinnacle of their society, including medicine, mathematics, irrigation and farming, the construction of monuments such as pyramids, obelisks, and temples, and even the first known peace treaty with the neighboring Hittites. Egypt was known for its strength and beauty. Many of their precious works were carried off to other civilizations to be honored and appreciated by their contemporaries. The ruins of this once-great society have drawn in travelers for centuries, particularly to the pyramid complex of Giza, where one will find the Great Pyramids.

Located on the outskirts of Cairo, the Giza Plateau overlooks the capital city of modern-day Egypt. Its three pyramids, along with the Great Sphinx, is the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The first and largest of the three pyramids was built between 2560 and 2540 BC by Khufu, and is made up of 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing 2.5 to 15 tons. Khufu's son, Khafre, build the second around 2520 BC and included the construction of the mysterious (and now nose-less) Sphinx, the lion with the head of a pharaoh (or a queen) which stands sentinel for the entire tomb complex. The third pyramid is much smaller than the first two, built in 2490 BC by Menkaure.

The monuments are thought to be built to house the remains of dead kings and their servants. Part of the king's soul, or his ka, remained with the corpse and proper care was needed for the king to become a king of the dead. All kings were buried with many precious possessions and various other items that he might need in the afterlife, as the people of Egypt believed death to be the start of a journey to the next world.

Thousands of years later, we have a pop group singing about the "sand dance" in the desert, which started a silly craze that overtook the nation for a spell, in a recording that, like it or hate it, will likely last longer than even the pyramids.

Justin Novelli
October 2, 2020
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Comments: 1

  • Glenn From Seattle from SeattleFactually, the great pyramids on the Giza plateau were not tombs nor did they contain the remains of deceased pharaohs. Much like the "world is flat" nonsense that existed centuries ago, modern technology debunked that old myth years ago.
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