Location of Al-Minya Governorate
How to Reach Al-Minya
Exciting Things to do in Al-Minya This Spring
1. Tell El-Amarna
First, we will explore Akhetaten (also spelt as Akhetaton), which means the Horizon of Aten. It was Egypt’s capital city during the reign of King Akhenaton and Queen Nefertiti, his wife. The city is currently known as Tell-El-Amarna. Visiting it is one of the adventure-packed things to do in Al-Minya this Spring.
Before the reign of Akhenaton, ancient Egyptians worshipped many gods, especially Amun. Akhenaton united the gods and encouraged worshipping one supreme god, the sun disc Aten. Furthermore, he built a new city on the Nile’s eastern bank. It later became the centre for worshipping the God Aten. He also established massive temples in honour of the new God Aten and three huge palaces in the area. That’s why Akhenaton was called by some people the heretic king.
What exists nowadays are the ruins of Akhetaton. It has several modern villages with many ancient Egyptian monuments and tombs. Explore the 25 tombs dedicated to the Nobles and courtiers in the area. The tombs are divided into two groups: six in El-Amarna North Tombs and 19 in El-Amarna South Tombs. On the walls of the tombs, appreciate the colourful Pharaonic drawings and inscriptions, which represented royal and common street life during the time of Akhenaton.
High in El-Amarna North Tombs, enjoy the panoramic views of the northern side of Tell El-Amarna and discover how vast the ancient city was. The tombs worth visiting in the North Tombs are those of Huya, Mery-Re I, Pentu and Panehesy. South of the North Tombs is El-Amarna South Tombs. These tombs include that of Ay, Maya, Ipy, Mahu and Tutu. Between the North and the South Tombs is the Royal Valley which has El-Amarna Royal Tombs, where you can visit the tombs of Akhenaton and the royal family.
2. Beni Hassan
About 45 kilometres away from Tell El-Amarna is Beni Hassan Tombs. Visiting these two destinations in one trip is one of the most adventurous things that can be done in Al-Minya this Spring. Beni Hassan contains the most impressive and well-preserved tombs of the Middle Kingdom. Unlike other Pharaonic cemeteries, ancient Egyptians built these tombs on the Nile’s eastern bank. They are divided into two parts; the Lower and the Upper Cemetries.
The Lower Cemetry in Beni Hassan has around 800 tombs, most of which are shaft graves. Diverse workers from the First Intermediate Period, Middle Kingdom, and late Old Kingdom were buried there. On the other hand, the Upper Cemetry include 39 tombs cut horizontally into rocky cliffs. It is the graveyard of the officials during the Eleventh and Twelfth Dynasties. You will get fascinated by the wall decorations of 12 of these tombs. The well-painted scenes of daily life activities, like agriculture, hunting, war and playing games, will catch your eye.
Tomb of Baqet III
One of the remarkable things to do in Beni Hassan Tombs is to explore the tomb of Baqet III, also spelt as Pakhet and Baket. On its left wall, you will see several scenes of daily life activities, including hunting in the deserts, weaving, making sandals, collecting taxes, and fishing. You will also find different species of birds and fish on the wall. On the opposite wall, you will find more scenes for animals. As per the east wall, it depicts a battle with 220 pairs of wrestlers. To clearly show the interaction, each pair has a red-painted wrestler and a brown-painted one.
Tomb of Khety
The son of Baqet III and the governor of the 16th Upper Egyptian nome is Khety, also spelt as Kheity, Kheti and Kehte. His tomb is another worth-visiting landmark in Beni Hassan. It has a room that contains two columns with lotus capitals.
Similar to his father’s tomb, there are exciting wrestling scenes on the east wall of the tomb. These painted scenes portray 122 pairs of wrestlers in various positions, ready to storm castles and fortresses. Below these scenes is a group of defenders fighting their attackers.
To the entrance’s left, there are some beautiful paintings that depict hunting in the desert. Additionally, you will find a sculpted scene of Khety and his wife presiding over all daily life activities.
Tomb of Khnumhotep II
The tomb of Khnumhotep II is another fantastic destination in Beni Hassan. To reach its forecourt, walk through a long rock-sided walkway. The tomb’s entrance is in the form of a portico with two fluted proto-Doric-style columns. You will then see a chapel with two shaft tombs and square columns. In 222 lines, the life of Khnumhotep II was recorded on the chapel’s walls.
There is a statue shrine at the end of the chapel. On both sides, you can see a painted scene of Khnumhotep II fishing and fowling. To the left of the tomb’s entrance, feast your eyes on the most famous painting: a delegation of 37 Amu (an ancient Egyptian word that referred to people who lived in east and northeast Egypt) dressing in beautiful, colourful clothes and bringing eye paint to Khnumhotep II. On the west wall is a lovely scene of three monkeys helping collect figs from the trees.
Tomb of Amenemhet
Also, among the top things to do in Al-Minya this Spring is to visit the Tomb of Amenemhet, which has the finest decorations of all tombs in Beni Hassan. You can reach it through a rock-sided walkway. Like the Tomb of Khnumhotep II, its portico has two columns. Facing the door, explore the ruins of the statues of Amenemhat, his wife, Hetepet, and his mother, Henu.
Besides these statues, your eyes will capture striking paintings that depict daily life activities and the practice of various crafts and professions. The ceiling is charming, too. Each segment of the ceiling has a yellow rectangle with hieroglyphic inscriptions. Each rectangle is flanked by a bigger rectangle with a yellow and red check pattern and surrounded by red and yellow squares.
3. Tuna Al-Jabal
Another fantastic destination in the Al-Minya governorate is Tuna Al-Jabal in Malawy. It is located west of the ancient town of El-Ashmunein (Hermopolis), which complements it. These two areas were known as eastern and western Hermopolis in the past. Exploring these two ancient cities is among the top things to do in Al-Minya this Spring.
Tuna Al-Jabal contains various monuments from the Late Period, the New Kingdom, the Ptolemaic era, and the Roman era. Explore its unique burial homes, decorated with marvellous Greek motifs and religious inscriptions. Additionally, snoop around the cultural salon of the most influential Egyptian Writer Taha Hussein which witnessed important seminars and festivals.
Catacombs of Mystery and Excitement
What Tuna Al-Jabal is most famous for is the large four Catacombs of the Ancient Town of Knoum or Hermopolis (El-Ashmunein). Archaeologists are still discovering new things in these archaeological catacombs. This area was used for burying animals and birds, particularly baboons and ibises because they symbolised Thoth, the god of wisdom.
In the catacombs, you will find mummified baboons and ibises, a limestone statue of the Baboon, and a temple for the baboons and ibises’ funeral rituals. You will also find the only human tomb of Ankh-Hor, the High Priest responsible for mummifying the ibis. His mummified body is in the Egyptian Museum; however, his sarcophagus is still in Tuna Al-Jabal.
The Ibis Catacombs
Scouting around the Ibis Catacombs is also among the top things to do in Al-Minya. Descend an entrance to the underground galleries of the animals’ cemetery and explore the mummified ibises. Their remains were brought to the area in painted wooden coffins, small limestone sarcophagi and simple terracotta jars. In addition, you will admire the several sophisticated corridors and cult chambers the early kings of the Ptolemaic era built with altars and reliefs.
Tomb Chapel of Petosiris
A short walk from the Ibis Catacombs is the full Tomb Chapel of Petosiris. It is one of the earliest finds the archaeologists found in Tuna Al-Jabal. The High priest of Thoth built this most splendid and elaborate tomb before the beginning of the Ptolemaic era in Egypt. Similar to the Ibis Catacombs, it has high-quality reliefs and underground galleries. Peer into the remarkable wooden inner coffin of Petosiris and appreciate its glass inlaid with hieroglyphic inscriptions.
Inside the Tomb Chapel of Petosiris, you will get fascinated by the mixture of Greek styles and Ancient Egyptian traditions. For example, the portico has floral motifs, and this represents the Greek style. On the other hand, the chapel adjoins the four pillars, and this represents Egyptian tradition.
Tomb of Isadora
The Tomb of Isadora is behind the Tomb of Petosiris. Famous for her beauty and wealth, Isadora fell in love with a soldier whom she wanted to marry. However, her father refused, so the couple decided to escape. Unfortunately, Isadora drowned in the Nile while trying to cross it. Consequently, his father built this elaborate tomb and mummified her corpse. Then, he encased the mummy in glass and put it inside a mausoleum. Her mummified body is still visible until the moment. Mourning her, he wrote her a poem of ten lines in Greek. You can also see a small rocky pyramid before the tomb.
The Roman Water Wheel
Near the Tomb of Isadora is the ancient Roman Water Wheel, the biggest water wheel nowadays. Dropping by it is one of the most magnificent things to do in Al-Minya this Spring. You will get impressed by this one-of-a-kind Roman masterpiece that has a 30-metre well at its end.
4. Malawy Museum
Between Tunah Al-Jabal and El-Ashmunein is Malawy Museum. Visiting this grand two-floor museum is one of the amazing things to do in Al-Minya this Spring. Its four well-lighted halls display the finds of Tunah Al-Jabal, El-Ashmunein, and Tell El-Amarna. From the pre-dynastic era to the Islamic Period, it houses a distinct diversified collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts, antiquities and monuments. Explore a reasonable number of statues, sarcophagi, mummified animals, and ancient daily life instruments. Further, you can enjoy some educational and scientific research activities.
5. Monastery of the Great Saint Abu Fana Monks
Northwest of El-Ashmunein is the Monastery of the Great Saint Abu Fana Monks, also called Ava Fana and Ava Fini. It was named after the Coptic hermit Abu Fana. It is also known as the Monastery of the Cross because it has several finely carved and decorated crosses inside the church. Visiting it is among the top things to do in Al-Minya this Spring. The surrounding area was declared an archaeological site.
The monastery was largely destroyed, except for a historical church considered to be one of the world’s ancient churches. Indicating that it was built in the place of an ancient temple, you will find pieces of grey granite in the area. In addition, they have recently found 370 ancient coins dating back to the Roman and Islamic eras.
6. Al-Minya Corniche
Now, let’s move to Al-Minya City. In this modern city, enjoy strolling along the Al-Minya Nile Corniche, the most beautiful Nile-side corniche in Egypt. Appreciate the unrivalled views of the tree-lined Nile, with the yellow mountains against the backdrop. Taking a boat trip with your kids is also one of the awe-inspiring things to do in Al-Minya this Spring. To relax in a quiet place, you will find coffee shops where you can eat some food and sip your favourite drink.
7. Al-Minya Bridge
Al-Minya Nile Bridge is the best place where you can enjoy the cool morning breeze while taking in the stunning views of the Nile. Strolling along the bridge is one of the exciting things to do in Al-Minya on Spring and Summer nights. Additionally, the bridge is a perfect place for taking many photos as mementoes. You can also discover the nearby monuments and museums and learn about Al-Minya’s local history when you are on the bridge.
8. Pioneer Steamboat
Take advantage of visiting Pioneer Steamboat on the Al-Minya Corniche. It is the best destination where you can relax while enjoying the spectacular Nile views. You will also admire the beautiful decorations and the quiet environment. This lovely place offers high-quality food and drinks. Dining there is one of the jaw-dropping things to do in Al-Minya this Spring.
9. CityScape Mall
Are you into shopping? CityScape Mall is your right choice! Enjoying your time there is one of the alluring things to do in Al-Minya this Spring. It has several shops where you can purchase everything you need. You will find a directory of shops at each entrance to find what you search for easily and quickly. There are also world-class cinemas to watch your favourite new movies. In the open-air restaurants, relax and enjoy the greenery while eating your favourite food. Your kids will enjoy themselves in the Kids Area with its marvellous theme parks and novel games.
10. Al-Amrawy Mosque
Also, enjoy snooping around Al-Amrawy Mosque, the first and oldest mosque in the city. It is named after Amr Ibn El-As, a Muslim Companion of the Islamic Prophet. It is also known as Al-Wada’a Mosque (Farewell Mosque) because, around 500 years ago, people used to go there for funerals before crossing the river to the east to bury the dead. Immersing yourself in the Ottoman architectural style of the Al-Amrawy Mosque is among the best things to do in Al-Minya this Spring.
11. Fraser Tombs
Another significant archaeological site in the Al-Minya Governorate is Fraser Tombs, south of Tihna El-Gebel. Located at the top of the hill, it contains 15 numbered tombs named after George Fraser, the first one to run several excavations in this area. To reach it, take a leisurely stroll along the Nile Bridge to Al-Hawarta Village. Once you arrive, enjoy the mesmerising landscape of the Nile and the beautiful greenery. Additionally, unravel the secrets of Egypt’s Old Kingdom.
Having the shape of a mastaba, these Pharaonic cemeteries in Fraser Tombs were cut into rocks. The tombs date back to the era of the Old Kingdom, specifically the era of King Menkau Ra. They contain hieroglyphic inscription-carved limestone statues. Explore the second numbered tomb, which belongs to Ni Ankh Ka (Ni Ka Ankh), the Hathor’s chief priest and the palace’s supervisor. There is also a group of tombs that belongs to the priests of Hathor.
12. Akhenaton Museum
On the hunt for more attractions in Al-Minya city? Let’s head to Akhenaton Museum, also known as the New Aten Museum! Located in Al-Minya City, it was established to unleash the history of ancient Egypt during the reign of King Akhenaton and Queen Nefertiti. It also presents the ancient town of Akhetaton, Tell El-Amarna, to modern visitors. Ambling along the Nile Corniche’s boulevard and grabbing a snack in the food court are among the top things to do in Al-Minya this Spring.
Overlooking the Nile’s east bank, the pyramid-shaped five-floor Aten Museum is considered the third-largest museum in Egypt. It features 14 exhibition halls, a scientific library, a large conference hall, an open-air theatre, and a museum for kids. There are a group of surrounding bazaars where you can purchase souvenirs. There is also an archaeological restoration centre for the Faculty of Archaeology and Fine Arts students.
Aten Museum houses artefacts unearthed from nearby Tell El-Amarna. Explore the giant statues and beautiful paintings that belong to King Akhenaton and his family Queen Nefertiti, King Amenhotep III, and Queen Tye. You will also find a gallery of antiquities and distinctive objects found in the royal tombs. If you are curious enough, you may discover common traditions and beliefs of this ancient era. The museum is to open soon.
13. Gabal El-Tair
Twenty-five minutes away from Al-Minya City is Gabal El-Tair in the east of Samalut. Visiting it is among the most exciting things to do in Al-Minya this Spring. It is one of the significant sites the Holy Family went through during their journey in Egypt. Meaning the Mountain of the Birds, Gabal El-Tair takes its name from the massive number of migratory hornbills on its summit. It is also known as Gabal El-Kaff, Arabic for the Mountain of the Palm. It rises on the Nile’s eastern bank. So, when you are up the mountain, you will enjoy the heavenly views of the river and the surrounding greenery.
Perched high on Gabal El-Tair, Deir AI-Adhra (Monastery of the Virgin Mary) is 130 metres above the Nile. In the past, they used the rope only to reach the summit. That is why the monastery is also known as Deir Al-Bakara (Monastery of Pulley). Regardless, the place offers enchanting views of the Nile lined with lively green trees.
Gabal El-Tair has a small cave where the Holy Family rested for some days during their journey. During the Roman era, Empress Helena, the mother of Byzantine Emperor Constantine, ordered to hew the sublime Church of the Virgin Mary around this cave. The church has become one of the most significant pilgrimage sites as it attracts millions of visitors during the celebrations of the Holy Family’s journey.
The Church of the Virgin Mary has a Roman-basilica architectural style. To reach it, you should climb long flights of stairs. Once you enter it, you will be impressed by the interior’s small niches and pilasters with brightly coloured icons of saints and monks. The church has three sanctuaries and a nave with two side aisles and a western return aisle. Ten rock-hewn columns separate the side and western return aisles.
Also, among the most important archaeological sites in Al-Minya is El-Bahnasa. Located in Beni Mazar, this modern village witnessed different eras, from the Pharaonic to the Modern age. Scout its majestic ancient buildings and mansions built more than 100 years ago. Further, explore several spectacular monuments, bronze coins, clay seals, ancient papyrus texts, and vellum manuscripts.
El-Bahnasa was the capital of the 19th Upper Egypt Nome in the ancient Egyptian era. It was also the centre for the worship of Set, a deity during the reign of Ramesses III. The hieroglyphic name of El-Bahnasa was “Permezet” or “Per-Medjed”. The ancient Egyptians named it after the sacred sharp-snouted species of mormyrus (elephantfish) that ate the penis of Osiris after his brother, Set, cut him into pieces. You can find a one-of-a-kind limestone-glazed cemetery dating back to the 26th dynasty.
Then, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and re-established El-Bahnasa as a Hellenistic town. He made it the third-largest city in Egypt. In this Ptolemaic era, the city was named “Oxyrhynchus,” meaning the town of the sharp-snouted fish. You can find the ruins of an ancient temple and theatre. During excavations, an enormous collection of ancient Greek papyrus texts and coins were found. The texts focused on several aspects of life at this time, including administration, legal, social and economic issues.
El-Bahnasa remained a prosperous region in the Coptic era and became famous due to the several churches and monasteries built in this age. Unfortunately, all of them were destroyed except the ruins of the two-floor Byzantine-basilican-architectural-style Virgin Mary Church. You can explore some Coptic tombs with colourful inscriptions. Moreover, you will see the Virgin Mary Tree under which the Holy Family rested during their journey in Egypt. You can also explore the nearby well of the Holy Family from which the family drank during their trip.
El-Bahnasa took its name in the Islamic era. During this age, the city contained 5000 graves of sahaba, the companions of the Islamic Prophet Muhammed, due to major battles against the Roman army in this area. That is why the Arabs called it “Al-Baqi’ of Egypt” or the “Town of Martyrs” later on. Additionally, there is the “Dome of Seven Maidens” at the eastern end of the city. It was built to honour seven Coptic nuns who defended the Muslim armies in the conquest. You can also explore the Al-Hassan Bin Saleh Mosque from the Abbasid era and other Islamic archaeological structures.
Popular Food in Al-Minya
The Al-Minya Governorate is one of the agricultural governorates in Egypt. It represents around 6 % of the total cultivated lands in the country. Sugar cane, yams, onions and cotton are among its most important crops. It is also famous for producing different kinds of cheeses and creating molasses (black honey). Let’s experience the top popular food in the Al-Minya Governorate.
- Feteer Meshaltet: Sweet or savoury, feteer meshaltet (cushioned pie) is a flaky layered pastry that contains layers of dough and ghee. You can also eat plain feteer with a side of cheese, honey, tahini and molasses. Due to its versatility, locals refer to it as an Egyptian pizza.
- Mish: Trying feteer with mish is one of the best things to do in Al-Minya this Spring. Mish is old, fermented cheese that has a salty, pungent taste. It is made of Rumi cheese, salty Egyptian cheese or both.
- Molasses: Unlike mish, molasses is a sweet dish you can try with feteer and tahini. It is a nutritious byproduct of sugarcane, naturally rich in iron, calcium, potassium, etc. You will like it for sure!
- Battaw: Among the top things to do in Al-Minya this Spring is to try the Battaw. It is Egyp’s leavened flatbread which may include barley, corn, wheat, and fenugreek. As a light meal, you can eat it with any soft white cheese.
We have immersed ourselves in the history of ancient Egypt and explored the most exciting things to do in Al-Minya this Spring. Now, let’s check out the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya and its hidden gems. Additionally, what about visiting other popular Egyptian destinations during your stay in Egypt? Here are the nearby destinations you should drop by next: Best Egyptian Destinations to Visit This Year | and Your Ultimate Egypt Vacation.
Enjoy your vacation in Egypt!