When I posted yesterday’s blog identifying the passage in Al-Maqrizi’s Al-Khitat that Giorgio Tsoukalos claimed proved aliens aided in the design of the Egyptian pyramids, I literally had just found the passage as I was writing my blog. Now that I’ve had more time to review the material and translate more of Maqrizi’s text, I’d like to review what we’ve learned from this material.
Let’s begin by remembering what Giorgio Tsoukalos claimed:
Now, obviously, the Al-Khitat, written around 1400 CE is not “Ancient Egyptian,” but the fact that the book hasn’t been translated into English (to my knowledge) lets Tsoukalos get away with making any claim he likes for it. But now that I have more of it translated, let’s go through what Maqrizi says. You can find my in-progress translation here, and I will be adding to it as I translate more of the book. It’s two volumes and a thousand pages, so finding all the pyramid passages will take a bit of time.
Al-Maqrizi says explicitly that the Arabs know nothing solid about ancient Egypt, only mutually contradictory myths and legends with no foundation. “There is no agreement on the time of their construction, the names of those who have raised them, or the cause of their erection. Many conflicting and unfounded legends have been told of them.” This is not a good sign, but it does eliminate Al-Maqurizi as a suspect in the creation of Tsoukalos’ alien-intervention myth.
So, if not Al-Maqrizi, then who? Maqrizi quotes at great length the work of Ibrahim ibn Wasif Shah (d. 1203), who tells of the wonders of the pyramids. This material is scattered across the Al-Khitat, primarily in chapters 10 and 40, and it makes following the story somewhat complex.
Ibn Wasif Shah begins by discussing the legendary King ’Adim (or ’Ad), the leader of the Adites, the Arabian desert people who in the Qu’ran (89:6-13) are punished by God for their sins. According to Ibn Wasif Shah, King ’Adim ordered the rocks cut for the Two Pyramids—these would be the pyramids of Dashur—but he did not actually construct them himself. The chronology is unclear, but around this same time two demons or Fallen Angels appeared to him and taught him science before being cast into a well in Babylon to await judgment. These “angels cast out of heaven” must be the “Guardians of the Sky” Tsoukalos is referring to, but there is no explicit discussion of the angels having anything to do with cutting the rocks for the pyramids. This much Maqrizi relates in chapter 10.
In chapter 24, Maqrizi takes up the story again with Sourid (or Saurid), the figure most closely associated in Islamic lore with the building of the pyramids at Giza. Saurid has a dream in which he sees a meteor shower and some bad astrological omens predicting the Great Flood of Near Eastern myth (Qu’ranic version, of course) and therefore builds the two largest pyramids, filling them with treasures and covering them in silk. (The story is also given in almost identical words by Murtadi and Ibn ’Abd al-Hakam.) We are then told that the Copts hold that Shaddad ibn ’Ad, the son of King ’Ad built the pyramids at Dashur with the stones cut and left behind by King ’Ad. Apparently—and I am not clear on this—Saurid is descended in some way from Shaddad.
Ibn Wasif Shah explicitly connects these events to the wickedness preceding the Flood, recounted most explicitly in Genesis and the Book of Enoch but also known in Islamic lore. He has Saurid’s chief priest recount a dream in which angels descend from heaven to punish mankind for wickedness and sin, and declaring that any who wish to be saved must go to the Ark to be rescued from the imminent Flood. Saurid then builds the pyramids to preserve science and knowledge, presumably that given by the Fallen Angels, when the Flood comes. This is a widespread Arab myth.
Now since we know that the Arabs also had a tradition that pyramids were built by Idris, whom they identified with Hermes and Hermes with Enoch, the Hebrew prophet, it is no stretch to see a parallel here with Enoch’s “heavenly tablets” (1 Enoch 106:19) on which are engraved the secrets of the forthcoming flood, as well as the “books of my forefathers” from Jubilees 21:10 that discuss secret knowledge. This makes much more sense as the mythic wellspring for Ibn Wasif Shah’s claim that the Giza pyramids were covered in scientific treatises engraved in their interior chambers than any facts. As we all know, (a) the Giza pyramids do not feature hieroglyphic inscriptions and (b) those pyramids that do have them are not scientific treatises on antediluvian scientific knowledge—let alone Ibn Wasif Shah’s astronomical tables and “the list of events of past eras under their [the stars’] influence, and when they must be examined to know the future of everything about Egypt until the end of time.” Since Ibn Wasif Shah was wrong about the interior design of the pyramids, the purpose and content of the hieroglyphics, and pretty much everything else, we have no reason to believe him about Fallen Angels either.
Erich von Däniken, in History Is Wrong, claims that Idris and Saurid were identical based on Maqrizi’s chapter 33, but in actuality Maqrizi in that passage merely asserts that Idris, Enoch, Saurid, and Shaddad were all proposed by various peoples as the builders of the pyramids—they were not identical with each other. Now here’s the kicker: In Odyssey of the Gods (1999) von Däniken mistakenly calls Maqrizi’s work, which he paraphrases, cites, and partially quotes, “ancient Egyptian texts” (2000 English trans., p.74)—this must be where Tsoukalos got his mistaken idea! It’s even the same wording!
So, in sum, the tale told my Ibn Wasif Shah in al-Maqrizi’s Al-Khitat is very much in keeping with the Near Easter flood myth dating back to the Sumerians. In all the versions, human become sinful, in part due to corruption from sinful gods, demigods, or angels, leading to the high god(s) sending a flood to cleanse the earth. It is interesting that these fallen creatures all do the same thing. Compare Oannes of Babylonian myth, the Watchers of Enoch, and the angels who visited Ad:
In each case, too, the beings are thrust back to the depths. Oannes (as Uan, or Adapa) is punished for revealing his knowledge by being confined to the underground Apsu sea. The Watchers are thrust into a pit in the deserts of Mesopotamia. The Angels of ’Ad are buried in a well at Babylon. In 1 Enoch and in Ibn Wasif Shah the transmission of knowledge from heaven to humanity is the primal sin that enrages God and unleashes the Flood. (In the earliest Flood myth, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the source of the corruption is not named.)
The substantive identity of these stories should serve to prove that the Arabs merely translated to Egypt myths once told of Mesopotamia, as indicated by the fact that the stories supposedly originate with ’Ad of Iram, a legendary king in Arabia, not Egypt. This agrees very well with what we know of pre-Islamic Arabian myths, where the Tower of Babel was once believed to have been built by the Fallen Angels (probably derived from the Babylonian belief in the Enuma Elish [6.53-63] that the Babylonian temple of Esagil was built by angry Annunaki) and to have a relationship of some sort with the eventual revelation of astrology and science by Abraham (Eupolemus, qtd. in Eusebius, Praep. Evan. 9). Too, it agrees with the Judeo-Christian legend of Seth’s children (the pre-Flood men of old) inscribing all knowledge on pillars before the Flood:
Note that the “fire” and “water” exactly parallel Saurid’s dream, and Siriad (the land of Sirius) was identified with Egypt. I think we’re starting to get the picture. It's the same story, but in a much older and less folktale form.
I find all these connections fascinating and could go on for many more pages, but let’s stop there for now. I think this is sufficient to cast doubt on any claim that the Al-Khitat records an alien architect at Giza.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.