Connecting the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt, locals dubbed the Al-Minya Governorate the “Bride of Upper Egypt” because of its strategic location. Stretching for more than 135 km on the Nile River’s both banks, the Al-Minya Governorate has nine municipal divisions: El-Idwa, Maghagha, Beni Mazar, Matay, Samalut, Al-Minya, Abu Qurqas, Mallawy and Dier Mawas. It has a myriad of archaeological sites, great monuments and historical ruins from the Pharaonic era to the Modern age.
On the hunt for some lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya?! We will list some fascinating areas in Al-Minya that you have probably not heard of before.
Born in Al-Minya Governorate
Al-Minya Governorate is the birthplace of many Egyptian celebrities. For example, Hoda Shaarawi, the pioneering Egyptian feminist leader who founded the Egyptian Feminist Union, was born in Al-Minya. Suzanne Mubarak, the widow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, is another female celebrity born in Al-Minya.
On the other hand, Taha Hussein, the most influential Egyptian writer and intellectual, was one of the male celebrities born in Maghagha, Al-Minya. Similarly, the former professional attacking midfielder and right winger Ahmed Hassan was born in Maghaghga.
Al-Minya has a desert climate with almost no rainfall all year long. Summers are arid and sweltering, with an average temperature fluctuating between 37°C (99°F) and 43°C (109.4°F). However, winters are cool and dry, with an average temperature fluctuating between 20°C (69.8°F) and 26°C (78.8°F). June is the hottest month in the Al-Minya Governorate, while January is the coldest.
Best Time to Visit Al-Minya
The best time to visit Al-Minya is from early March to late April or early October. During this time, you will experience good weather with pleasant temperatures. Additionally, you will enjoy outdoor tourist activities. You can also travel to Al-Minya from early May to mid-September for hot-weather activities. Al-Minya is also fantastic in winter, from late November to early February.
What to Wear in Al-Minya
If you travel to Al-Minya in winter, pack pullovers, heavy pants or skirts, a jacket, sunglasses and sports footwear. However, take cotton t-shirts, jeans, skirts, light footwear, sandals, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, beachwear and a beach towel if you travel in summer.
14 Lesser-Known Attractions in Al-Minya
There are many magnificent tourist attractions in Al-Minya that date back to different eras. If you want to unearth the history of Pharaohs, you will find a lot of Pharaonic sites. Unleash the secrets of Akhetaton, the capital of ancient Egypt during Akhenaton and Nefertiti’s reign.
Al-Minya was also an important place during the Coptic period because it was part of the Holy Family route. You can explore the cave inside Gabal Al-Tair, where they rested during their pilgrimage. Additionally, Al-Minya has a significant role during the Islamic period, too. Drop by the house of Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Marya Al-Qibtya, who was from Al-Minya. Furthermore, visit Al-Shaikh Obada Mosque, built by the Sahabi Obada bin Al-Samit in Al-Minya.
Due to agricultural prosperity, Al-Minya started to be urbanised in the first decade of the 20th century. It became a popular winter resort for Cairenes who like to stay in their Izbas (farmhouses) in winter. Meanwhile, it has a rich architectural heritage that includes several sumptuous palaces. Snoop around Abd El-Majeed Pasha Seif El-Nasr Palace and appreciate its stunning decorations.
Ready for an adventure-packed itinerary in Upper Egypt? Put your seatbelt on! We will explore the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya, starting our journey from the south of the governorate.
1. Istabl Antar
To the south of Beni Hassan Tombs, Istabl Antar (Antar Stable) is one of the most important tourist attractions in Al-Minya. It includes monuments that date back to five different eras. There are also ruins of a church dating back to the Coptic era.
Antar Stable is named after Antar ibn Shaddad, an Arabic knight and poet who had the greatest love story in the Arabian Peninsula. It is said that he visited this place for some time and established a stable for horses. During the Greek era, the Greeks called this area Artemis Cave to unite their god Artemis with the Egyptian god Pakhet.
The Great Temple of Pakhet/ Temple of Hatshepsut
The Great Temple of Pakhet in Antar Stable is one of the beautiful lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Also known as the Great Stable and the Temple of Hatshepsut, this cavernous underground shrine was carved in rocky cliffs during the Middle Kingdom. Queen Hatshepsut built it to worship Bakhet, a regional lioness-headed goddess associated with Hathor. Therefore, Bakhet is also a sun god, wearing the sun disc as part of her crown.
The temple contains a hall with eight rock-cut square pillars, only three left. You will admire the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the pillars that date back to Seti I and Thotmus III’s regions. The beautiful inscriptions where Queen Hatshepsut recorded how the Hyksos invaders destroyed the area during their invasion of Egypt will also catch your eye. These inscriptions include how she restored the area from the Hyksos and the things they ruined.
In the temple, you will find a corridor with various traditional scenes depicting Queen Hatshepsut while worshipping several gods. Seti I usurped part of these scenes and represented himself receiving the coronation from Amun and Pakhet. Walking through this corridor, you will reach a small sanctuary with additional usurped scenes that portray the coronation of Seti I.
The Small Temple of Pakhet
West of the Great Temple of Pakhet is the Small Temple of Pakhet, also known as the Temple of Alexander II and Speos Batn el-Bakarah (Cave of the Belly of the Cow). It is also among the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Queen Hatshepsut and her daughter, Neferure, started building it to dedicate it to Pakhet, too. However, it was only completed when Alexander II was the ruler because several pharaohs defaced it.
On the right side, above the temple’s main gate, explore the unobstructed three scenes that depict the king in three situations; worshipping Shaw, offering sacrifice to Pakhet, and worshipping a number of other Egyptian deities. On the left side, appreciate the unparalleled scenes portraying the king worshipping Amun Ra’ and then Hur. The third scene shows the king offering a sacrifice to Pakhet.
Cemetery of Wild Cats
In the past, a wild cat symbolised Pakhet after being mummified. So, make sure to explore the remarkable cemetery of wild cats, one of the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Several mummified cats were buried there in ceremonial rituals during the Late Period. Ancient Egyptians wrapped their bodies in linen and accessorised them with golden amulets and semiprecious stones.
2. Hermopolis/ El-Ashmunein
Among the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya is Hermopolis, or El-Ashmunein. Hermopolis was complementary to the well-known attraction of Tuna Al-Jabal. In the past, these two areas were known as eastern and western Hermopolis. Discover several grand monuments and temples in Hermopolis from the Pharaonic, Roman, Greek, Coptic, and Islamic eras.
Hermopolis was the centre of worshipping the Pharaonic god Thoth, the equivalent of the Greek god Hermes. Therefore, the ancient Greeks associated Thoth with Hermes, resulting in the latter dominating the city under the guise of baboon statues. Consequently, they called it Hermopolis (the City of Hermes). It was also called Hermopolis Magna to differentiate it from the other city of the same name.
During the Pharaonic era, Hermopolis was the capital of the 15th nome of Upper Egypt, the Hare nome. Its ancient Egyptian language name was Khmunu, which means Eight Gods. In the Coptic language, it was known as Shmun, and the modern name of El-Ashmunein was derived from it.
Ruins and Monuments of El-Ashmunein or Hermopolis Magna
Explore the well-constructed mud-brick houses of wealthy people from the Pharaonic era. A surviving papyrus shows that there were 7-storey buildings in the city. You will also find shaft tombs that belong to the Pharaonic era’s end and the beginning of the Ptolemaic era. You will get fascinated by one of the most beautiful tombs of Ancient Egyptians in the area. It belongs to the Prince of the nome, Thoth-Hoteb.
Additionally, appreciate the astounding Temple of Philip Arhides with its decorated lintels that portray the Great Alexander. Also, visit the ruins of the Temples of Thoth, Djehuti, and Ramses II. You can also explore the ruins of the Greek Market Agora, which was built in 350 B.C. What exists in the market until now is several red-granite columns with Corinthian capitals.
Baboon Figure of Thoth
El-Ashmunein also has a small open-air museum, which is one of the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Explore the two colossal brown quartzite statues of Thoth as a baboon when they were worshipping the sun. Surrounding these statues, you will find a few masonry blocks and other stone carvings.
Basilica of Hermopolis
The ruins of the Basilica of Hermopolis are among the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. This church was one of the largest and most impressive churches that belonged to the Coptic era. It was built over the ruins of an ancient Greek place in honour of the Virgin Mary. Additionally, it gave its name to the nearby area Kom El-Kenisa, which means The Hill of the Church. You will be impressed by the amazing side galleries and red-granite columns.
3. Shaikh Obada Village
El-Shaikh Obada village in Malawy is also one of the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. It was named after Al-Shaikh Obada bin Al-Samit, a companion of the Prophet Mohammed. Located on the Nile’s east bank, it was significant during the Pharaonic era. Explore the ruins of the ancient temple of Ramses II, which was dedicated to Thoth and the gods of El-Ashmunein.
In the village, snoop around the ruins of the ancient town of Antinopolis, built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to memorise his friend. In addition, do not miss out on dropping by the house of the Islamic Prophet Muhammed’s wife, Marya Al-Qibtya. Located in the desert, this one-room fenced house was made of mud brick.
Shaikh Obada bin Al-Samit Mosque
Al-Shaikh Obada bin Al-Samit built a mosque in the northern part of this village. Later on, the mosque was named after the Sahabi. It is the first mosque to be built in Malawy and one of the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Overlooking the Nile River, it has an Ayyubid-architectural-style gate. Get fascinated by the dazzling lintel with its beautiful floral and geometric motifs. Additionally, explore its two minarets; one is modern and in use, and the other is made of mud brick.
Appreciate the unique decorations on both sides of the mosque. They lead to the square ablution room that has two ancient marble columns in its centre. Both of which have bases, capitals and painted decorations. However, one of them is uncarved, and the other one is fluting with a damaged upper section, exposing quartzite stone. At the end of the room, there is an ancient well for ablution, which is still in use. The prayer hall also has four additional columns with capitals and painted decorations.
4. Deir Abu Hanas
Among the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya is the Christian village of Deir Abu Hanas (The Monastery of Abu Hanas), also spelt Hennes or Hinnis. It dates back to the Roman period of Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine. The monastery has remarkable churches. There is a church carved into the rock; however, you need a permit to access it. The other church is named Abu Hanas, attributed to Saint Yohanas.
Church of Abu Hanas
In this Byzantine-Basilica-style church, you will see several manuscripts and portraits of icons. You will also get fascinated by the impressive domes which replaced the wooden ceiling. In addition, explore the beautiful arches with plant motifs on both sides of its walls, confirming that the church was built in the 6th century. On the altar, appreciate the splendid marble slab with Coptic inscriptions and the magnificent niches with brightly coloured icons.
5. Deir El-Barsha
South of the Monastery of Abu Hanas is Deir El-Barsha (the Monastery of El-Barsha), one of the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Opposite Malawy, it is also a Christian village on the east bank of the Nile. It has numerous limestone quarries where some of the workers’ tools were found there. Therefore, it was the primary source of limestone used for building temples and making statues from the New Kingdom to the Roman era. You will also enjoy the splendid drawings and portraits that date back to the early Christian period.
Deir El-Barsha has an ample Pharaonic cemetery, famous for its elite Middle Kingdom rock-cut tombs. The most famous one is that of the 12th Dynasty nomarch, Djehutihotep. Get impressed by the wonderful paintings of the “colossus on a sledge” that depict the transport of a gigantic statue using a slide and ropes. They facilitate the transport process by pouring water in front of the slide.
6. Kom Maria
Less than one kilometre from the Church of Abu Hanas is Kom Maria (The Hill of Maria). It is one of the most significant attractions in Al-Minya, where the Holy Family stayed during their journey from Palestine to Egypt. The feast of the Holy Family takes place in June every year. You will enjoy the unsurpassed bustling celebrations when the bishop crosses the Nile in a decorated boat with colourful paintings. In January, the church commemorates the slaying of Bethlehem’s children yearly.
Between Deir Abu Hanas and Deir El-Bersha are dozens of hermit caves and a church cut into rocky mountains. Inside the caves, you will be impressed by the thrilling paintings of the archangel warning Joseph to take the Holy Family to Egypt. Another painting shows Herod giving orders to murder the children of Bethlehem.
7. Al-Fouly Mosque
Among the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya is Al-Fouly Mosque, the most important mosque in the governorate. It is one of the Al-Minya Corniche’s nearby attractions. It gave its name to the governorate as it is known as Minya Al-Fouly. The mosque has a unique Andalusian style with mosaic-covered entrance stairs. Once you enter, you will be impressed by the main Arabic-style wooden gate and the artificial stone-covered walls. Also, appreciate the spectacular mosaic-covered floor and columns. Further, the ceilings and the lower part of the interior walls will capture your eyes with their mosaic style of art and Arabic ornaments.
8. Al-Lmty Mosque
Opposite Al-Fouly Mosque is Al-Lmty Mosque or Al-Fatmi Mosque. Built during the Fatimid era, it is the largest and the second-oldest mosque in Al-Minya City. Nevertheless, it is among the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Appreciate its astonishing Fatimid architectural style and its central open courtyard with four surrounding porticos. The unornamented geometric minaret is also fascinating as it comprises a square floor, an octagonal floor and an Ottoman-styled dome.
9. Zawiyyet Al-Mayyiteen
Have you ever thought about whether visiting a burial site could be cheerful? Zawiyyt Al-Mayyiteen (Corner of the Dead) is one of the off-the-beaten-track attractions in Al-Minya that you can explore for free. Stroll around this large cemetery and unleash ancient Egypt’s historical and cultural value.
Zawiyyet Al-Mayyiteen is also known as Zawyet El-Soltan, Zawiyyet Al-Amwat, and the City of the Dead. This burial site is located approximately 300 metres up the hillside. It is one of the world’s largest cemeteries comprising hundreds of mausolea topped with beehive-like clay or mud brick domes. When you climb the hill, you will see the arrayed and repeated domes look like a sea of white graves.
On Zawiyyet Al-Mayyiteen, peer at the remains of a small step pyramid of the late 3rd dynasty. It is famous for being the only pyramid established on the eastern Nile bank. Additionally, explore some rock-cut tombs of the late Old Kingdom of Egypt, including the Tomb of Khons, the ruler of the capital city and the chief of all priests.
Zawiyyet Al-Mayyiteen also contains the Tombs of Mohammed Ali Pasha, the first Speaker of the Parliament in Egypt, and his family. Mohammed Ali’s tomb itself was cut into the rocky mountains. There is also the Tomb of Huda Sha’arawy, which has an arabesque gate with Islamic inscriptions.
Be aware that Zawiyyet Al-Mayyiteen is still an active cemetery where many people visit their deceased relatives. So dress modestly, respect the local norms and never take photos of people without permission. You can take a local guide to show you around the place.
10. Tihna El-Gebel (Akoris)
Named Akoris in the past, Tihna El-Gebel in Al-Minya city is also one of the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Explore its ruins that date back to the Pharaonic and Greek periods. You will also find some tombs from the Coptic period and several Islamic monuments in the area.
The Temple of Nero
Tihna El-Gebel comprises the Temple of Nero, one of the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. It was dedicated to worshipping Sobek, the crocodile-shaped god of fertility and power. Therefore, you will find many mummified crocodiles in the temple’s ruins.
Although the temple was hewn out of a rocky mountain, it consists of three consecutive floors. The first floor has an ample hall with eight columns. Inside this hall, you will find granaries carved into the ground and four rock-carved tombs. There is also a shrine for Hathor, the god of sky, love and women. The second and third floors have rooms with heart-touching Pharaonic inscriptions on the walls and black ceilings.
11. Hathor Temple
The ruins of Hathor Temple are also among the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Dating back to the 19th Dynasty, King Merenptah carved it out of rocks in Samalut, intending to dedicate it to Hathor. Appreciate many colourful scenes depicting the King with Hathor. Furthermore, explore the splendid rock art that dates back to Ramses III and the remains of Hathor-headed columns.
12. Shafei Mosque
Moving from Samalut to Beni Mazar, do not miss out on visiting the Shafei Mosque, attributed to Imam Shafei. It is one of the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. This imposing mosque was built during the Ayyubid era. It has a striking beige facade and a giant dome. Wooden and covered with leads, it is one of the most beautiful domes in Egypt.
13. The Monastery of Saint Samuel The Confessor
Heading to Maghagha in the north, the Monastery of Saint Samuel The Confessor is among the top lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya. Visiting this archaeological monastery is one of the top things to do in the governorate. Explore the Cave of Saint Samuel the Confessor with the altar and the water tank fed from rainwater.
The monastery also includes four churches: Saint Samuel, Virgin Mary, Saint Misael the Anchorite, and Martyrs. Established on the site of a former church, the new Church of the Virgin Mary has three naves and twelve domes. The Church of Saint Misael the Anchorite has a pointed roof and colourful portraits of icons.
14. Al-Qaiati Mosque
Our final destination is El-Idwa in the far north of the Al-Minya Governorate. Drop by Al-Qaitai Mosque and get fascinated by its architectural style. It is among the oldest mosques in the governorate, dating back to the Ottoman Period. This one-of-a-kind rock-made mosque is among the lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya.
Appreciate the quaint mosque’s facade with its stunning motifs and muqarnas. The wooden minaret and lintel will draw your attention with spectacular geometric motifs and inscriptions. What will also catch your eye is the simple entrance with the semicircular arch. Walking through the corridor, you will reach the four courtyards separated by three white-marble-column-supported porticoes.
After a long day exploring ancient Egypt, you must be hungry now. Trying Egyptian food is among the top things to do during your itinerary to the Al-Minya Governorate. The most popular food there include mish (fermented cheese), molasses, feteer (cushioned pies) and Battaw flatbread. Let’s take a mouth-watering food journey through the governorate and find the best restaurants where you can try some local food.
Located on Taha Hussein Street in Al-Minya City, Bondokah Grill is one of the best restaurants you can go to for grills. You can try the stuffed pigeon, grilled steak or kebab. If you fancy Turkish food, you can order the Itsota, flavoured meat with delicious vegetables. If you are into Italian food, it has many wonderful Italian dishes, including Picatta.
Want to try koshary? Koshary is an Egyptian national dish that contains brown lentils, rice and pasta. Whether hot or mild, it is topped with tomato sauce, garlic vinegar, crispy fried onions, and chickpeas. Koshary Al-Omda is the best one to offer you a delicious bowl of koshary. It is also located on Taha Hussein Street, next to Al-Minya Sporting Club.
Si Foul is also among the lesser-known destinations in Al-Minya; however, you will be fascinated by its sandwiches. Located on Taha Hussein Street, it offers national dishes, like foul (fava beans), tamiya, fries, and white cheese with diced tomatoes. Overlooking the Nile, you will eat while you chill out and enjoy the picturesque scenes.
If you want to try delicious Syrian food on Egyptian land, head to Set El-Sham! Its shawarma sandwich is well worth trying. Try the chicken or the meat shawarma with fries, pickles and delicious sauce. Also, make sure to try their delicious dessert, Nabulsi Kunafa. It is made of kunafa dough, Nabulsi cheese, and fresh ghee. You will like it for sure! The restaurant is located on Taha Hussein Street, too.
Hotels in Al-Minya
The Al-Minya Governorate is full of monuments and historical buildings from different eras. You cannot explore all the attractions in Al-Minya in one day. Therefore, book a room to relax in at the end of the day and recharge your energy. This way, you will be able to continue exploring the hidden gems of Al-Minya the next day with a fresh mind and energetic body. Here are the top hotels in the Al-Minya Governorate:
- Pioneer Floating Hotel: Overlooking the Nile River, Pioneer Floating Hotel has rooms with air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a private bathroom, a flat Screen TV, and a closet. Its restaurant serves good food, with continental or American options. It also provides 24/7 front desk service and housekeeping.
- Queen Isis Floating Hotel: Enjoy your stay at the family-friendly Queen Isis Floating Hotel. It has free Wi-Fi and an air-conditioner. Other facilities include laundry, a restaurant, and a pool. There is also room service and 24/7 front desk representatives. You can also appreciate the charming view of the Nile during your stay there.
- Omar El-Khayam Hotel: Similarly, Omar El-Khayam Hotel has free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, a mini-fridge, luggage storage, laundry, and TVs in common areas. It offers a free full breakfast every day.
- Siva Nefertiti Hotel: Siva Nefertiti Hotel is a 12-minute drive from Akhenaton Museum. It has an air-conditioner and free Wi-Fi in each room. The shared facilities include a restaurant and a pool. It also provides laundry and daily housekeeping services.
- Grand Aton Hotel and Resort: If you want a place where you can relax and enjoy your time, head to Grand Aton Hotel and Resort. The room comprises an air-conditioner and a flat-screen TV. Some rooms come with a balcony to enjoy the mesmerising views of the greenery. Your kids will also enjoy swimming and playing in the garden.
- Horus Resort Menia: Another top hotel in Al-Minya is Horus Resort Menia. It overlooks the Nile Corniche, offering you spectacular views. The rooms come with free Wi-Fi and an air-conditioner. There is a free breakfast in the morning and a free parking space.
Now, our journey has ended! We explored some lesser-known attractions in Al-Minya and unravelled several secrets about ancient Egypt. Have you enjoyed the trip? Check out the most Exciting Things to do in Al-Minya This Spring. You can also visit other popular destinations in Upper Egypt, like Aswan, Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple.
Enjoy your stay in Al-Minya!