Red Sea Buddha statue confirms links between Ancient Egypt and India

Amira Noshokaty , Wednesday 3 May 2023

The discovery of a marble statue of the Buddha at a temple in Berenike on the Red Sea proves that cultural exchange among various civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt and India, occurred naturally due to trade between nations.

Chinese Traditional Medicine book
Chinese Traditional Medicine book, Chinese overseas publishing house.


A marble statue of the Buddha was discovered last Wednesday at a temple in Berenike on the Red Sea. The statue, measuring 71 centimetres in height, was found by the American-Polish archaeological mission during the excavation of the prominent early Roman period temple dedicated to the Goddess Isis.

The latest finding provides evidence of trade between Egypt and India during the time of the Roman Empire. Although there is no evidence that Buddhism was practised in ancient Egypt, the statue demonstrates the cultural exchange between both civilizations.

"The journey on this old trade route was long. Therefore, it was not unusual for merchants bringing spices and silk from India to take their deities with them," explained Nahla Imam, Egypt’s representative at UNESCO and the heritage consultant of Egyptian the Ministry of Culture, to Ahram Online.

Imam, also a professor of Customs and Traditions at the Higher Institute of Folk Arts, highlighted that this finding refutes claims that cultures stole from one another, as it reflects the legitimate cultural exchange of heritage elements.

"There is a common cultural factor in all religions. The theory of structural anthropology states that humans are essentially similar, differing only in environment and geography and that all religions were found to regulate human relationships. Therefore, no religion sanctions murder, theft or lying," stated Imam, adding that she supervised a PhD dissertation on similarities between the Chinese acupuncture map and the Arab Hegamma (Cupping).

The similarities between ancient cultures and religions are pretty inspiring. India remains the most striking example.

According to Ibrahim Shalaby’s third book of the series titled "From the Memory of Land and River", Al-Balsam Publishing House 2020, the social heritage of India and Pakistan was a rich, harmonious, and diverse pool of cultures and religions.

Shalaby describes how a saying of Christ – "Life is nothing but a bridge, cross it but do not build on it" – decks the gateway of the grand mosque in the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri – where Emperor Jalal-ud-din Akbar met every Thursday with scientists and philosophers, as well as religious scholars and holy men of various faiths.

He also highlights how Akbar founded the idea of the unity of all religions based on the Sufi belief of Ibn Arabi in the unity of existence.

"I hope we start searching into what was happening on the spice route in the direction from Egypt to India. We should also start searching into African trade routes because it was also a rich route of ancient trade of spice and camels. The more we discover, the more we learn about ourselves and that we are essentially similar as humans," Imam said.

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