The Historical Monument

Ancient Hermopolis used to be the capital city of the 15th Nome of Upper Egypt. It lies now in Mallawi, governorate of El-Minia. It stretches about 5 km from Al-Ashmunin (eastern Hermopolis) to Tuna El Gebel (western Hermopolis).  It is within close proximity to the famous site of El- Amarna, almost constituting its western border.  In fact the commonly visited boundary stela of the city of El-Amarna lies in the north border by Tuna El Gebel.

The city was named after "Hermes" the Greek equivalent of the Egyptian ‘Thoth’, the lord of time, the  inventor of writing and the guardian of thought who revealed to the Egyptians all knowledge on astronomy, architecture, medicine and Alchemy.  

Prior to Ptolemaic times, the city carried its Coptic name 'Shemnu' that is derived from the ancient Egyptian 'Khemnu', which means the city of eight or "Ogdoad", referring to its mythological origin which later gave rise to its current Arabic name Ashmunin. "Ogdoad" are made of four male deities and their feminine counterparts, the principals of creative powers whose interaction enabled harmony to be born.

Archeologically, The city of Ashmunin contains remnants of a temple dedicated to Thoth, known as the temple of "elevated spirits". This temple is architecturally similar to the famous Parthenon in Greece. Nearby there is a chapel dated to 19th dynasty which was re-dedicated to Alexander the Great.

There are remains of a Roman basilica as well as a place named after the famous Cleopatra VII who was reputed for her love of knowledge and was considered a great scholar in her own right. She is thought to have frequented the academy at Hermopolis and possibly built a harbour there. In fact the city of Hermopolis had in ancient times close links with Alexandria and its famous library and transmission of knowledge took place between these two major capitals of thought.

In Tuna El-Gebel (western Hermopolis), the main highlight is Petosiris tomb which has the appearance of a small temple. The tomb in fact belongs to Petosiris and his family which consists of five generations of writers. The inscriptions on the tomb’s walls attest to the owners' concern with preserving knowledge for the benefit of future generations.

Close to Petosiris tomb is the tomb of Isadora, the Greek girl who allegedly drowned in the Nile in pursuit of love in the prime of her youth. The inscription on the tomb describes in poetic language the father’s grief over the loss of his daughter. The story of Isadora became the subject of many folk tales and literary artistic expressions. The site contains as well a burial gallery or catacombs that were reserved for the sacred symbols of Thoth, the baboon and the ibis (incidentally the figure of Thoth in his ibis headed form is the symbol of Cairo university as well as many learned societies and institutes all over the world).  

One of the most interesting finds in Tuna El Gebel is Taha Hussain's rest house. Taha Hussain is known as the dean of letters and the architect of Egypt’s modern enlightenment. Taha Hussain  was a native of El Minia; he was born in Maghagha and was drawn to Tuna El Gebel following the excavations made by his archeologist friend and relative Sami Gabra. It is said that the story of Isadora inspired some of Taha Hussain’s writings particularly ‘’Doaa El Karwan’’ that was written in the course of his stay at Tuna El Gebel.