I was fascinated by the homes of the Egyptians.
In the city, you see an endless amount of apartment dwellings. (I’m sure there were individual homes, but I didn’t see them as we drove from one destination to another.) They range in age, style and height but they consistently demonstrate similar characteristics.
Patios are almost non-existent and windows are small and closed. (I think the extreme heat and the blowing sand discourage patio life as we know it.) Every structure is made of a similar type of brick and stucco and all are beige, grey or pale red. Many of the buildings are literally coated in a layer of sand. Window air conditioning units are a luxury and apparently the responsibility of the tenant. Almost all the city apartment buildings are unfinished. (We learned that finishing a building results in higher taxation, therefore, the owner leaves several apartments incomplete.)
When we moved to the villages, I found similar buildings but on a much smaller scale. Homes were still made of brick, but they were single family dwellings crowded together on narrow streets with shared walls and simple structures.
Many of these homes had rock floors, small rooms, one or two stories with concrete stairs and open air roofs. Although they were humble by our standards, they were like our homes featuring a room to welcome guests, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and storage rooms. Each woman was proud of her home and offered to show us around.
As we walked the alleys to visit our sponsored children, it was the doors of the homes that captivated my attention. On day two of our village tours, I began snapping photo after photo. I was fascinated by the variety, beauty and styling of these significant entries into their homes.
Even the most humble dwellings had large doors and proud thresholds. Some doors were of simple wood, painted pale pastels and sometimes carved with designs. The homes that were a bit more affluent featured fabulous wrought iron doors with inserts, designs, color and flair.
I asked myself “Why would they place so much emphasis on this single feature to a home that is humble on the inside?” The doors appeared extravagant compared to the living conditions on the inside.
I asked the local leaders about the significance of their doors, but they just looked at me a bit confused and said they didn’t know. (I think they thought I was strange and maybe wondered if I even had a door on my own home.) The more I noticed the doors, the more I noticed the way the years of sand, wind and sun had left them weathered and with a hint of stories to tell. Some were real statement pieces and others were simple markers of dwellings and families. All of them seemed to stand with dignity and purpose.
A little “research” revealed that ancient Egyptian homes of the wealthy had front and back doors. Each door was built about four feet off the ground to reduce the amount of sand that worked its way inside the home. (I suspect to also discourage the snakes which we learned like the cool, smooth floors inside the homes.) The door was reached via a ramp or stairs. The windows were cut high to keep out sand and often had bars on them to keep out wild animals and to reduce theft.
A peasant’s home was tiny compared to the homes of the nobles, but it was still very nice. Each family had their own dwelling with a door that led into an open courtyard with walls, but no roof. From the courtyard, a ramp led up, and a door led inside the house.
Since no one seemed to know “why” they had such impressive entries, I began to speculate on my own. I imagine these doors had more purpose than just the function of protecting the home from sand or marking a simple dwelling. I suspect they were to speak of the character, importance and even the hospitality of the home owner. Maybe they were meant to honor those who crossed their thresholds or maybe they were meant to demonstrate a level of success or influence.
I’ve also been thinking about the door of my own home.
It’s a single, simple, metal door. It has the dual purpose of shutting out those who don’t belong while opening to invite in those who do. I try to keep the entry to my home warm and welcoming with a swept porch, a simple wreath and a pot of flowers. When you come to my door I hope it says I care about you, that I thought about your arrival and it whispers an invitation that says “Won’t you come in?”
If my simple door has so much purpose, then I can appreciate the culture and people who have such a significant tradition of creating impressive, enduring and beautiful works of art to mark their homes. I feel like they whispered an invitation to me to come in and experience their way of life.
Scripture has a lot to say about doors.
In John 10:9 Christ said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
And in Revelation 3:20 we read “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
And I love Psalm 24:7 which says, “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”
The ancient Egyptians did not invent the concept of a door, although I did discover they are credited with inventing the first door lock! The cast iron works of art do a good job of pointing toward truth, but they are no substitute for the root established in Christ. He is the door. He is a warm, welcoming and enduring entry point to an eternal home and a place of belonging. He even whispers an invitation to come into His dwelling place. Surely we will be wise and open wide the doors of our own heart in response to His gentle knocking.
May we let the King of Glory come in.