Nearby Antiquities

Mallawi the fogotten heart of Egypt

Most of the antiquities in El Minia lie in Mallawi, approximately 70 kilometres south of the city of El-Minia.  There are, however some early tombs about 12 kilometres north of El- Minia belonging to the old kingdom known as "Fraser tombs. The connection between El Minia and the old kingdom is interesting as Khufu himself, the builder of the great pyramid originates from this region. In fact the name Minia comes from the old name ‘’Minat Khufu’’ which literally means the birthplace of Khufu.

North of El Minia too, there is the city of El Bahnasa which is known in Greek as "Oxyrynchus", it had a wealth of papyri that gave us a great deal of information about Egypt and its literary life during Ptolemaic and Greek times.  This goes to show that we are in a special part of Egypt that has within its wealth of antiquities representations that almost span its entire history. It is also important to mention that Mallawi has its own museum which contains many exquisite pieces not to be found anywhere else in Egypt. This museum still waits to receive the attention it deserves.

The Jewel of Mallawi, and indeed the whole of El Minia is certainly "El Amarna or  the Horison of the Sun". The city was founded by Amenhotep IV of the 18th dynasty, the pharaoh who changed his name to Akhen/aten to make the syllable Aten (sun) integral to it. Central to Akhenaten’s vision was the creation of a place suited, in its purity for the symbol of light and enlightenment. He called it Akhet/aten or the Horizon of the sun, but the name was later changed to El Amarna after a tribe of nomads who settled in a modern village nearby.

The site itself is enormous and was originally encircled by 14 boundary stelae. The only remaining two that are still intact lie in the vicinity of New Hermopolis.

The city of Akhenaten or El Amarna is considered  the only ancient city in Egypt that retained much of its internal plans despite its abandonment and destruction afterwards.  It was made up of temples, government establishments, palaces, homes, gardens and burial tombs. Most of it was built of mud brick except for important buildings that were faced with local stones. The ceremonial and administrative buildings included the Royal Residence and the Temples of Aten.   Despite damage there are still a number of beautiful reliefs to be seen, the most famous of all is the one depicting Akhenaten with his wife Nefertiti and his daughters with their arms stretched upwards towards the sun.  Other significant scenes are the window appearance of the royal couple which resembles the ceremonial appearance of western royal families in our days. Interestingly, the art historian Camille Paglia regarded the royal court of Amarna as a model for most western monarchies.

Mallawi shares borders with the city of Abu Korkas  with its famous cliff tombs of the Middle Kingdom in Bani Hassan. This is one of the most outstanding sites in El Minia if not the whole of Egypt. Some of these tombs are known for their magnificent scenes including the famous wrestling scene and the acrobatic dancing girls. There are also some beautiful industrial scenes including weaving, spinning and goldsmith mingled with country living ones showing catching birds and gathering papyrus.

Three kilometres east of Bani Hassan is the rock "Shrine of Artemedios". It is a small temple cut in the rock. It belongs to the middle kingdom but decorated in the New Kingdom style by the famous queen Hatshepsut. It is dedicated to a local deity representing a fierce aspect of Hathor, the Goddess of love, fertility and beauty. Here in the desert her wild nature is revealed hence her identification with the Greek huntress ‘’Artemis’’. Many references are given to this place including "Mouth of the Wadi" or "She who opens the stormy rains" but the name that is known by today is "Istabl Antar", after the famous Pre-Islamic poet "Anter".

"Bani Hassan" is  certainly one of most breathtaking sites in the whole of Egypt and the whole area including "Istabl Anter" should be a must on any visitor’s itineraries to EL Minia.

The "Deir El Bersha tombs" belong mainly to Middle Kingdom families although some are as old as the old kingdom. The most famous of all is ‘’Djehutihotep’s’’ tomb with its magnificent scene depicting the transportation of a 60 ton colossal statue from the nearby Hatnub quarries of alabaster. Hatnub is regarded as the capital centre of alabaster possibly in the whole of Egypt. The ancient Egyptians used to refer to alabaster poetically as solid water,’ to describe its enchanting translucent quality that was greatly admired by the Egyptians.  In fact Khufu used the same Hatnub Alabaster in the building of his great pyramid.

Apart from the ancient and Greco-Roman monuments, El Minia is an important centre for Coptic Christianity. The most important of all is the Monastery of the Virgin at Gebel El Teir, Smalut. It is believed to be the place where the holy family stopped during their flight to Egypt. The church was built by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great in 4C. Interestingly too, El Minia is known to be the birthplace of "Maria El Kebtia", the coptic wife of prophet Mohamed.
The other significant site is Ansana ( Antinopolis/ Sheikh Ibada), known for its fresh water well called the "well of the cloud" as it is said to have sprung from the ground when the baby Jesus wanted to drink. The City has however  an earlier history dating back to the New Kingdom but became famous in Roman times when Emperor Hadrian found a city there to commemorate the death of his beloved friend Antinus.

In modern times El Minia became famous for being the home of a number of notable Egyptians figures including writers Taha Hussain and Lewis Awad, the famous film director Shadi Abdel Salam, musician Amar El Sheriey and  Hoda Sharway, the leader of the feminist movement at the turn of the 20th century.