Egyptian Time Machine

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Traveling alone the Nile River in Egypt is a magical journey into the past. Lined by greenery extending into the desert, the river takes you through an ancient civilization known for its archetectual wonders and mysterious origins. As a child, I imagined myself as a Pharoah, ruling the Great Kingdoms as I discovered new temples. I gazed at the walls, admiring the colors and images of the past heroes of Egypt, completely surprised that they were created more than 6,000 years ago. I wanted to know more; I wanted to understand who these people where, how my family fit into the complex puzzle that is Egypt, and how we ended up there. So I did what any child with an imagination would logically do.


I built a Time Machine.

Its body was a Delorean. If you don’t know what that is, first slap yourself, then go watch “Back to the Future.” 

Inside were relics from my ancestry, like tools and gems collected from all the kings. I mingled with the ancient Egyptians and talked with them about life in America. They didn’t get it.

The Time Machine brought a narrative to my adventures in Egypt, because as a kid, things can get boring really fast. Yes, it was a figment of my imagination, but maybe reality couldn’t have measured up anyway. So, I thought.

2 years  ago, I resumed my journey. Instead of the Delorean, my Time Machine was the tiny cells embedded in my cheek. The Genographic Project is an initiate through National Geographic that looks into the origins of Man. The study can tell you who your most distant ancestor was, and how he/she migrated through the world via a small swap of cheek cells. Through those cells, I was able to travel more than 60,000 years into the past and get a glimpse into my origins.


The results came nearly two months later. I had been checking my status almost daily, hoping that my DNA would confirm everything I thought about my ancestors’ history.

I opened the email.  I blinked a couple of times, refreshed the window, and checked that my name was listed correctly.  “Ahmed Zaafran.”  I was stunned.

“Your DNA (from  your father’s side)l is consistent with Western Europe.”


 It turned out that my most distant ancestor’s descendants ended up primarily in England, Scotland, Spain, and Italy. While incredibly interesting, it was in stark contrast to the narrative in my mind. How did this happen? Did they get the results right?

Should I buy a kilt?

Well, what I found out next was profound. Yes, people who live in Western Europe share my DNA. This is a fact. But the journey my most distant ancestor undertook led to future generations in multiple regions.

This is his story. This is my story.

I’m going to name him Zaafran, and his descendants will bear the same name for continuity’s sake.  Zaafran was the name of my great-grandfather.

Zaafran began his journey in Central Asia more than 30,000 years ago. He and his followers migrated west out of Asia. Their final destination was Western Europe by way of the Middle East, over the Pyrenees, and onward to the Iberian Peninsula. They arrived there over 4,000 years ago.  The majority of his children are there today.

However, along the way, Zaafran took a detour south towards Egypt around 8,500 years ago while the rest of the clan headed west. He and his people arrived in Upper Egypt (South Egypt—the Nile River runs the opposite direction) there they achieved unheard of advancements such as cattle domestication and cultivation of agriculture. This was the Middle Neolithic time of the world. They settled in the western desert of Egypt, in an area called Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba. What is beautiful about this time is that the Sahara was not a burning desert like today; it was a vast savannah full of grass, an ideal environment for cattle herding.

Archeological sites continue to exist there today, including observatories that they used to study the universe.

At the same time, the Sahara was home to giant lakes the largest of which was called  “Megachad”, and was thought to be larger than the Caspian Sea, the largest lake in the world today. It is thought that some of Zaafran’s descendents traveled on that lake and landed as far south as Chad and Cameroon. Some of them stayed there and bear the same DNA as mine.

My extended family still resides in Upper Egypt in a town called Minya. It is not far from the area inhabited by Zaafran over 8,500 years ago. As more evidence is uncovered, we are finding out that our ancestors inhabited Egypt prior to the first Pharoah Dynasty of Egypt.


What I hope comes of this is more inquiry. I want my children and extended family in Egypt to know their origins; to know that their history will be recorded and remembered. Yet, there is still much work to do, in essence a retrograde analysis of my grandfathers’ past and what his story was. The more I find, the more I trust that the Time Machine built by a child’s imagination gliding down the river Nile, was not a fruitless process. It was a reality, a treasure trove discovered by the microscopic code found from within.


* To embard on your own journey, go to to get started. Please share your results and tell us your story.