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Mars, the invincible planet

With NASA recently confirming traces of water on Mars, Ahram Online takes a look at the planet's distinguished status in the ancient Egyptian's worldview

Mahmoud El-Dossoki, Tuesday 6 Oct 2015

"During ancient Egyptian times, Mars was one of the five restless planets," says the archaeologist and astronomer Hani Zarif.

The mobile planets in ancient Egyptian astronomy are drawn in the circle of animal horoscopes at the Dandara temple in Qena governorate, Upper Egypt.

The drawing, inscribed in the Middle Kingdom, represents five shapes of Horus. The planets are "restless" due to their constant movement in the sky.

Planet Mars, courtesty of Mahmoud El-Dossoki

Zarif adds that due to its red colouring Mars had the attention of ancient Egyptians, who called it Har Dashr (Red Horus), as revealed in Dandara temple.

They also affiliated Mars with blood, war and destruction.

"Due to its red colour, it was viewed as the deity of war, known as Aries to the Greeks, and as Mars to the Romans," he added.

Planet Mars, courtesty of Mahmoud El-Dossoki

However in 969 CE when the Fatimids wanted to build Cairo, they named it after the astrological sighting of Mars, the invincible planet, hence the Arabic meaning of Cairo (Qahera).

In Arab history Mars was always associated with bad luck, violence and war, according to the astronomer and archaeologist Mahmoud Haggag.

"In old Arabic poetry Mars is quite vivid and is associated with heat waves whenever it comes close to the earth. It was viewed as a bad omen because it was always associated with war," Haggag concluded. 

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