The smiling city
El Minya is called the 'Bride of Upper Egypt' due to its location which is roughly at the border of Upper and
Lower Egypt. It lies about 153 miles south of
Cairo and is a center for the manufacture of soap, perfume and sugar processing. It is also the provincial capital. Once a cotton center, there are some fine houses here, though not very old, which housed the Greek and Egyptian cotton barons, but now house government offices.
The city of
Minya is of considerable size, it has a university, and a fairly bustling atmosphere. As Minya is an area with large groups of Christians, and the 1990’s saw tensions between them and the Muslims. Today things are safe, but Minya’s police do not allow its foreign visitors to move around town unescorted. People of Minya have a reputation of being very friendly and honest. The city itself has relatively little to offer, beyond old colonial houses that now are victims to decay. They are all set in between large trees.
The site lies on the Eastern Bank of the Nile, 20 km south of the city of
Al-Minya. It houses 39 rock-cut tomb decorated with scenes depicting local and regional life during the Middle Kingdom. Many of these have scenes of violent warfare and military training.
Tomb of Amenemhet (tomb 2): Amenemhet is described as the 'prince of the Oryx Nome' and was a governor of the Oryx name. Here one finds one of two inscriptions within the necropolis that help define Egyptian life in this period. It consists of thirty-two lines on the door. There are also unusual scenes depicting hunting in the desert on the north wall. His tomb is unusual for having a false door on the west, where the dead are suppose to enter.
Tomb of Khnumhotep (tomb 3): A governor under Amenemhet III (about 1820 BC), Khnumhotep's is described as 'the hereditary lord' and his tomb is beautifully done with scenes of daily life. His biographical inscription within the tomb is 222 columns of text and help define Egyptian life during this period. There are also acrobats over the door.
Tomb of Khnumhotep I (tomb 14)
Tome of Baqet III (tomb 15): If ever there was an imaginative person, the father of Kheti (see below) was one. A strange tomb with scenes depicting a hunt for unicorns, a serpent-headed quadruped, a 'Sethian' animal and a griffin. Apparently, the Egyptians felt that their were evil forces in the desert, and hunting their helped to preserve order. Others show wrestlers and gazelles involved in strange behavior.
Tomb of Kheti (tomb 17): During the 11th Dynasty, Kheti was a governor of the Oryx nome. The tomb has depictions of daily life during the period.
About two miles south is the
Hatshepsut in an area popularly called Istabl Antar (Stables of Antar).
Dayr al-Barsha is a few km. south of Dayr Abu-Hennis, on the east bank of the Nile, There, we visit the Church of St. Bishoy, and see its beautiful decorations and paintings of various shapes of the cross Saint Bishoy, like St. John the Short a fourth century hermit, escapec the Wadi al-Natroun after it had been attacked by raiders and settlec in this area It is located east of the Nile opposite Mallawi. It contains a number of rocky tombs, of which the most important is DjehutHotep tomb that dates back to the middle kingdom.
The monastery on the eastern side of the
Nile from Minya, and a 30 minutes drive in northern direction, is no longer inhabited. Traueiiers to the place in the 18th century des”u bed it as poor place where monks lived too with normal families. here all inhabitants were naked. Today it is mainly a church where much of the interior is cut directly into the rock. Pillars form a tiny squared court in front of the typical sacred platform where a curtain keeps the most sacred items off-hands to non-clergy But you can see it all through.
The story of this site is that Aba Hunwas a ‘oracksmith’s son who was tortured for his C I’riuiian faith But by showing great strength he managed to convert the Roman governor of Pelsium to Christianity. The interior contains locked parts relating to Aba Hur but you can still get a view in if you stand on your toes. The only unique feature to the church is that the sacred anea is not elevated from the rest of the church. it is also always fascinating to realize how large parts of the inner structure that has been cut directly out of the rock.
Tell El amarna was the city of
Akhetaten (The Horizon of the Aten). It was created by
Egypt's heretic king, Akhenaten for his revolutionary religion that worshiped Aten during the Amarna Period.
The ancient capital of Akhetaten lies some 365 miles south of
Cairo in a natural amphitheater between inhospitable cliffs. This narrow opening exists for some twelve kilometers along the
River and has a half rounded depth of about five kilometers.
This is the place where, in about the fifth year of the king's reign, we are told that by divine inspiration, Akhenaten build his capital.
The area is divided into suburbs, with the so-called "central city" housing the Royal Palace and The Great Temple (The Per-Aten), as well as various buildings archaeologists have labeled official (police, taxes...). It is here in one such building, the 'records office', that the Amarna Letters were found by a peasant woman. This area of Amarna was completely excavated in the 1930s. The other residential areas consist of the
City or Suburb, the Main or
City, and the worker's village.
The central City was apparently carefully planned, while the other residential zones where not. In these other areas, the spaces between the earliest large houses was gradually filled up with smaller clusters of homes.
Temples Here, we find the
Temple as well the
Temples at Amarna are considerably different then most cult temples of ancient
Egypt. They were, of course, solar temples, with the essential elements consisting of a small obelisk on a high base and an altar. Though solar temples had been built during the
Old Kingdom, the worship of the Aten did not require the equipment and architectural elements found in these older establishments, with the exception of the altar. There was no need for a naos because there is no deity to be sheltered.
However, some temple elements are essential. These attributes include a general rectangular plan enclosed within a tremenos wall which is symmetrically about a longitudinal axis and orientation with the facade facing the west. There are also the pylons as entrance fronts to courts together with a circuitous entrance to conceal the interior from the eyes of the uninitiated. There must also be a slaughter court, the altar and trees flanking the entrance approach. Most of these features, which had been characteristic of Egyptian Temples since Archaic Period, could not easily be absent even at Amarna.
The most basic element of an Aten temple is the altar, to which a ramp or stairway ascends from the west in the middle of the court, surrounded by a temenos wall. The altar platform could occasionally be surrounded by a wall and fronted with a porch. Some also could be abutted by four ramps oriented toward the cardinal points. The altar was usually surrounded by rows of offering tables. The court housing the altar could also be preceded by another court or more.
Temple of the Aten
Temple is on the northern edge of the Central City. It is partly covered over by the modern cemetery of el-Till. The enclosure wall for this temple extended back from the modern road for some 750 meters, and is now represented by a low, straight ridge. Within, the sanctuary was very similar to that in the
Temple and is marked by a group of isolated rubble heaps near the back.
There is a long, low mound to the south of the temple running east-west with visible broken pottery. This pottery is actually broken bread moulds, and the line marks the site of the central bakeries.
At the end of this bridge is the massive foundations for a bridge that crossed the so called
Royal Road in front of the King's House by means of brick piers. There remains some ancient timbers that once bound the brickwork together. On the far side of the road was the
Palace, consisting of a complex of courts and halls of which only foundations remain.
Temple of the Aten
In recent years, some consolidation and restoration has been carried out at the
Temple. This included the erection of a replica column. A prominent brick enclosure wall also remains, which was once strengthened by towers on the outside. There are brick pylons at the entrance, and others which subdivided the interior of this building. In the back of the temple stood the sanctuary originally built of limestone and sandstone.
This temple had a foundation layer of gypsum that is now covered over by sand. However, modern stone blocks have been laid atop the sand in order to provide the basic outlines of this temple.
A circular walk beginning at the middle of the north side of this small temple's enclosure wall reveals other parts of the Central City. There is a tall ridge of sand and some rubble that runs northward from across the street through the middle of a small palace built of mud brick. Known as the King's House, it probably accommodated the Royal Family on their visits from their
Behind the King's House and the
Temple (further from the
River) were a group of government buildings built of mud brick. This is actually where the famous Amarna Letters were discovered by a peasant lady in 1888.
City Sometimes Known as the South Suburb
Southwards from the
Temple is The Main City, which was the principal residential area of the ancient city that ran south to the vicinity of the modern village of el-Hagg Qandil. It was the part of the city occupied by the most important people (other than the king), including the vizier Nakht, the high priest Panehsy, the priest Pawah, General Ramose, the architect Manekhtawitf and the sculptor Tuthmosis (Thutmose). Probably connected to this quarter was a river temple, still in use under Ramesses III and even later through perhaps the 26th Dynasty.
It was probably laid out just after the Central City. There is a platform here built in order to allow visitors to view the interior of one of the private houses which has been cleared and repaired in recent years. Though probably a senior official, the owner of the house is unknown. Here, there are also the ruins of grain silos.
Further south, roughly half way between el-Hagg Qandil and the desert edge of the site on the edge of the
City, the famous bust of Nefertiti was discovered in Thutmose's workshop.
Elsewhere the city has grown up, as cities will, in an irregular haphazard way, as citizens erected buildings where they felt it was convenient. Some suggest Akhenaten lacked the resources to control the rapid growth of his
new city and regulate its plan (other Egyptian cities are much more carefully laid out).
The North Suburb is separated from the Central City by a depression. It was apparently dominantly inhabited by essentially a middle-class including a strong mercantile component. It was not begun until the middle of Akhenaten's reign and was abruptly abandoned, apparently at the end of his reign. Afterwards, apparently the houses were re-inhabited by those who could not afford to travel back to
Thebes after the end of the Amarna Period.
There were large estates built here initially between the West and East roads, and subsequently middle class houses and slums which apparently even blocked the streets were added.
Still further north is the
Palace that the locals call "The Palace of Nefertiti" (Kasr Nefertiti). This was a self contained residence built along three sides of a long open space, which itself was divided by a wall and pylon. The residential part had gardens and reception rooms with columns along its rear. In the northeast corner is the most famous part of this residence, consisting of a garden court. A central chamber on the north side, known as the "Green Room", was painted with a continuous frieze representing the natural life of the marshes. Each room has a window from which the sunk central garden could be viewed. In recent years, the walls have been somewhat restored and some of the missing column bases have been replaced with modern replicas. There were animal pens further to the west on the north side and also a court containing three solar altars, of which nothing now exits but their foundations. This palace was probably originally built for one of Akhenaten's major queens, but was later converted for use by Princess Meritaten.
Farther to the north where the cultivation ends at the cliffs there is also a
City, which was a separate residential area that served a major palace known as the
Palace. The palace itself is located just north of the residential area. This was probably the main residence for Akhenaten's family. Most of this is now gone, but there is a length of a massive brick enclosure wall pierced by a huge gateway at the palace.
On the road to the North Tombs, one passes a watchmen's house, and a short distance to the west and north of this lie the remains of three large mud-brick solar altars in the form of square platforms with ramps that are known as the Desert Altars. The northernmost of these had four ramps of well-rammed sand and probably an altar in the center.
The necropolis consists of more than twenty-five tombs facing the base of the cliff front that is located on the east side of the desert plain, which reaches a height of about eighty-five meters and south of the Royal Wadi Six tombs are located at the north side near Darb El-Malik and known as the North Tombs. These were probably tombs owned by fairly high officials, while nineteen more tombs are located in the south and known as the South Tombs. These southern tombs were owned by a mix of officials.
These tombs are built to be highly complicated to ensure that they are protected from thieves. Most of them start with an open court that leads to three chambers. Within these chambers there are papyrus columns that meet in the rear end. There a statue of the dead would have been placed looking toward the entrance.
The North Tombs were once encroached upon by an ancient Coptic Christian settlement, and groups of little stone huts on the hillside below the tombs belong to these people, who converted tomb number six into a Church. From these tombs, there is an excellent view of the valley below.
The South Tombs are the larger of the two groups of tombs. They are cut into the flanks of a low plateau in front of a major break in the cliffs, where the rock is of poor quality. However, here one finds tomb number 25 which was built for the "God's Father", Ay, who would later become pharaoh. Though often not as imposing as the tombs in the north, they do have their charm, as well as more variety. On the other hand, many of the South Tombs contain little or no decoration and some had barely been started before the city was abandoned. Some of these tombs were also used for later burials, and amongst them are pot shards mostly dating from between the 25th and 30th Dynasty.
The Workers (or Eastern) Village
To the east in a little valley on the south side of a low plateau that runs out from the base of the cliffs between the Royal Wadi and the southern tombs there is an interesting settlement dubbed "the workmen's village". It is a walled enclosure of very regular houses along several parallel streets. Archaeologists believed it housed workers working on the rock tombs nearby (which, incidentally, though built for the royalty and courtiers, were mostly never occupied). However, this walled town had a guard house at the only exit, and it seems more likely to have been to keep the workers in than anything out (the main city was protected by no such wall, for the whole site, including the workmen's village, is enclosed by high cliffs).
The Royal Tomb built for Akhenaten lies in a narrow side valley leading off of the Royal Wadi some six kilometers form its mouth. Its basic design and proportions are not unlike those of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at
Luxor). However, it was intended for several people, including the king, a princes and probably Queen Tiy so there are additional burial chambers. There is also an unfinished annex that may have been intended for Nefertiti.
Here, the quality of the rock is poor, and so the decorations of the tomb were cut into a thin layer of gypsum plaster. Hence, most of the decorations have not survived and most of what is left is in the chambers of princess Meketaten.
At Kom el-Nana, south of the main city and east of the modern village of el-Hagg Qandil is an enclosure thought to have surrounded another of Akhenaten's sun temples. Recent excavations have revealed brick ceremonial buildings and the foundations of two stone shrines. The northern side was occupied by a Christian monastery during the 5th and 6th centuries, AD.
There is also far south of the city an unusual cult center known as the Maru-Aten. While it has completely disappeared under the cultivated land, this appears to have been a special function cult structure.
Amarna is unique in
Egypt. Even cities built up by foreign rulers did not suffer its fate. It was established most probably from scratch, and appears to have been completely abandoned a short time after Akhenaten's death. Today, considerable research continues at this location that should eventually uncover more of the secrets of the most interesting pharaoh's reign.
The City of the Dead, or Zawiyet el-Mayyiteen, was for me one of the greatest sights of all of Egypt Perhaps much because of the surprise. It is has been called the World’s largest burial ground. It must be the place worth most domes Every grave, or mausoleum is topped by a one, all looking shaped the same way. Looking down at the burial ground in southern direction the domes seem to just go on and on until they disappear in the haze The City of the Dead is a short taxi ride out of Minya center crossing the
There is a church, which combines Byzantine and basilica arts dating from the 4th century. There is also a church carved out in the mountain for
St. John ‘Hennes’. This is
St. John’s, Monastery and is located just to the south of Antinos. There are Cicsses Greek and Coptic graffiti and prayer niches all around the church is thought to date from the time of Empress Helena. Dayr Abu Hinnis is a Christian village, with three Orthodox, and two Evangelical churches. The most important location related to the Holy Family is Kom Maria ‘the hill of Maria, a slightly elevated hill of sand just outside the village where the Holy Virgin is said to have rested. Kom Maria is less than one kilometer from the fifth century Church of Abu Hinnis which was founded by St. John the Short, a Coptic hermit and saint who lived in Wadi Al-Natrun, and fled to this area in A D. 407 after the Wadi Al-Natroun had been attacked by raiders Remarkable in this area are the dozens of sixth century hermit caves and the rock-cut church in the mountains between Dayr Abu Hinnis and Dayr el—Barsha There, we see wonderful paintings o the archangel instructing Joseph to take the Holy Family to Egypt [Matthew 2:13] and of King Heroc giving oruers to slay the children of Bethlehem [Matthew 2: 16]. These are the oldest murals in the vorlc depicting the fight to
The area of Kom Maria and Dayr Abu Hinnis is usually quiet with only a fey people coming for prayer. But, if you go there in January, on the day the church commemorates the murder of the children of Bethlehem or in June, on the day of the commemoration of the Holy Family crossing the border at Al-Anish, Sinai you will witness an unsurpassed celebration. The bishop of Mallawi determines every year the exact days of the celebrations on these occasions, the Bishop crosses the
Nile in a boat decorated with paintings of the Holy Family He walks with the congregation in a very heart-touching procession with icons and singing deacons through the village ending in celebration at Kom Maria. There you witness a spiritual celebration you will not forget in your lifetime
Huya was the Superintendent of the Royal Harem and Steward of Queen Try, mother of Akhenaten. His tomb is noted for the life-size statue of the deceased which still stands, The mummy of Huya was found in the deep shaft which now is open and can be looked down into. Most of the wall decorations show Akhenaten and his mother it is really just at one place that Huya appears. It is on the right wall, where he is decorated by Akhenaten.
Being n front of the parade, holding the flag was a great deal in the time of Akhenaten Ahmose was his fan bearer and was one of a few dignitaries who could ~ford build his own tomb in the mountainside over Akhetaten His tomb was never finished perhaps corresponding with the abandonment of the city altogether in 1360. The few wall-decorations that have survived T~ show scenes from the royal palace and the army’s preparations for baffle.
Tuna el-Gebel, as it is known now, was the necropolis of Khmun (Hermopolis) for several centuries. The distance between the city and the necropolis is 5 km. The urban history for this region goes back at least to the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE, and would last a couple of centuries into the Common Era, The oldest monument found evidence that, It is made up of six stelae which indicated the boundary between Hermopolis and Akhetateri (Tell el-Amarna), the ancient capital of Akhenaten, Few people make it out here. This part of
Egypt offers few amenities for travellers, even if Minya (65 km north) has one of
Egypt’s best 3 star hotel deals, Getting out here involves hiring a taxi for the day and being accompanied by a police officer. The good thing is that you will have the place to yourself, but most visitors to
Egypt will have problem putting Tuna el-Gebel’s attractions into a historical framework. The sights here are not part of the golden ages of
Egypt, and do not give light to
It lies on the western bank of the
Nile, about 8 km, away form Mallawi. It was the capital of the region at that time and was called “Hermopolis”. It contains the relics of the Greek city where there are a number of basilica pillars. It is similar to the Acropolis temple in
Greece. According to tradition, after going to Bir al—Sahaba, the Holy Family crossed the Nile from east to west and continued to Al—Ashmunayn, 9 km north of Mallawi, There, we visit the ruins of the colossal Corinthian columns of the basilica at Al—Ashmunayn that was once the famous Hermopolis Magna which probably dates back to the first half of the fifth century. In the church you see the location of the sanctuary and the baptismal font. The church is built on the location of a late pharaonic or perhaps Ptolemaic temple. Near the church is an agora, a market dating back to the Greek period of
Egypt. On the stones of the agora are some ancient Greek writings. This indicates that this basilica was in the center of the is ancient Greek city. Western scholars believe the tradition of the Holy Family probably started in al¬ Ashmunayn. Since ‘A history of the Monks in
Egypt’ a book dating to around A D 400 and the first reference to this tradition, only mentions Hermopolis or al-Ashmunayn (See Stepher Davis in ‘Be Thou There’,
Cairo, 2001). In the nearby
Al—Ashmunyan, we can visit the Orthodox Church of Saint Wadanion, and a small
Tomb 15 belongs to
Ill, and is the earliest of the tombs that are open. Baqet was the Governor of the Oryxnome there are a number of murals in the tomb, including papyrus gathering and a desert hunt. The rear wall shows 200 wresting positions in many registers, and the south wall shows the officials of Baqet punishing people who have evaded taxes. The quality of the scenes is very high, much better than those of his son, Kheti. The most lifelike of the wrestling scenes are shown here; they are very detailed and accurate. There are many burial shafts in the tomb, along each wall, It is likely that many family members were eventually buried in the tomb with him.
Kheti buried in tomb 17, is the son of Baqet and the governor of Oryx name. The open chamber originally had six slender papyrus columns, only two remain. Its is obvious that they were only decorative, as they hang freely from the ceiling. His tomb is decorated with scenes of hippos, hunting scenes, dancer and senet players, musicians, and offering scenes, The rear wall has scenes of wine-making and vineyards. It is very similar to the tomb of
Ill, with many of the same scenes painted inside. A fine scene of Kheti’s boats, near the entrance, is well-preserved.
Otherwise, the artistic level of decoration in this tomb is inferior to the ethers on the ridge. There are scenes of copulating animals, a particularly Old Kingdom motif, and the first of the elaborate wrestling scenes. Some believe the scenes are painted there because Kheti was an afficianado of the sport, others apply more symbolic meaning to them -- the black vs white wrestlers represent struggles of life and darkness.
Amenemhat lived during the first half of the 18th Dynasty and prepared his tomb under the reign of
Ill, in the Theban necropolis, on the hill currently occupied by the
Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. Judging initially by his main functions, “steward of the vizier” and “scribe accountant of grain in the granary for the divine offering of Amon”, he appears to have been a simple scribe within an immense institution which amounted to hundreds. However, Amenemhat was a rich and educated dignitary Indeed, he dug a large sized tomb, catalogued today as IT 82, and whose decoration seems have been finished. This includes the texts and the necessary images for his survival in the beyond according to the different models of rebirth available in Egyptian thought. In it, Amenemhat follows the tradition of his social class. But IT 82 includes a certain number of characteristics which make it all the more interesting. Thus, Amenemhat has re¬employed the great funerary maxims of the
Old Kingdom, the Pyramid Texts, like a few other rich characters of his time. Moreover, the tomb is especially rich in information about the Egyptian concept of death and rebirth, about divine beliefs in general. Therefore, even if it corresponds well enough to the norm for the contemporary Theban burial, by its architecture and its iconography, it also includes much originality. Each tomb is the reflection of the choices of its owner and the expense which he could devote to his burial, tomb 82 is quite unique within the creations of the 18th Dynasty.
The latest tomb that is open on the ridge, the tomb of Khnumhotep (3) is very similar to that of Amenemhet, his predecessor. There is an imposing portal outside this tomb, with doric columns and a large doorway, befitting the importance of the Governor of the
Desert. This tomb dates form almost I a century later than those of Baqet and Kheti. At least one scene in the tomb shows Syrian’s paying tribute to Khnumhotep. Their clothing and hairstyles, very different from the Egyptians, is shown in detail. A number of insights into Egyptian feudal life were found in the inscriptions in this tomb, giving Egyptologists a good picture of life in the 12th Dynasty. An elaborate inscription “h of 222 vertical registers details the duties, lineage, marriage and other details of Khnumhotep’s life. There are only a few pieces of the statues in the sanctuary niche, but the niche itself is decorated with colorful scenes of fishing an netting birds.