How to Make an Egyptian House Out of Cardboard

Egyptian moon image by Galyna Andrushko from

The houses of common Egyptians during the time of the pharaohs were made of Nile mud mixed with straw that was sun-dried in brick moulds. Roofs, like many roofs in Egyptian towns and cities today, were flat. Families who sweltered indoors in the heat would use the roofs as cooler outside rooms. Some homes opened directly onto courtyards with shallow pools. Decorated posts supported the roof along that missing wall. Mud brick houses lasted through several rainy seasons along the Nile before they began to crumble and had to be patched or replaced. You can use a cardboard shoebox as a perfect base to replicate an Egyptian house from 2000BC.

Remove the lid of the shoebox and set aside. Measure one-third of the long side of the shoebox and mark on both sides. Measure half the height of the shoebox, at the one-third mark on both sides, and mark that point. Measure half the height of the shoebox at both corners most distant from the one-third mark. Using a ruler and a box cutter, mark and cut away the sides of the box, halfway up from the floor of the box between the one-third marks. Set the excised cardboard aside.

Put the lid back on the box and mark it at either side where it meets the one-third cut in the lower box. Remove the lid and cut it between the one-third marks into two pieces --- one-third box top and two-thirds box top. Set the larger piece of box top aside and place the shorter piece back on the box, over the walls of the "house."

Cover the edges where the box top overlaps the box with paper masking tape. Measure ceiling-to-floor inside the house at the edge of the opening. Cut two pieces of cardboard, 1 inch wide and 1 inch longer than the measurement. Fold the top and bottom of these pieces over a half inch at the top and the bottom to make 90 degree angles. Cut a length of cardboard from the extra box material, 2 inches wide and 2 inches longer than the distance from floor to ceiling. Trace around a glass on the leftover box top and cut out the circle.

Paint the entire box a light sand colour matt paint inside and out. Give it two coats for extra coverage. Paint the two short pieces of cardboard and the longer piece the same colour. Paint the round piece of cardboard pale green or pale blue. When the paint is dry, decorate the two shorter pieces of cardboard in Egyptian column patterns with hobby paints. Copy stylised figures from history books and museum catalogues or just colour the columns in bands of ochre, turquoise, jade and gold. Glue the bent top and bottom pieces of the columns to the ceiling underside and floor of the opening to the house.

Draw a line down each side of the painted longer strip with a brown marker. Begin to draw cross pieces an inch down from the top and up from the bottom. This is the ladder to the roof. Use the box cutter to remove the top and bottom sections between the rungs. Angle the ladder against the roof at one edge of the open side of the house, with the foot of the ladder inside the walled courtyard. Dab glue at the top and bottom of the ladder to stick it to the roof and ground.

Glue the painted pool to the floor of the courtyard. The house is finished. You may whitewash the exterior if you like and make cardboard trees to "plant" in the courtyard around the pool.

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