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Living in Luxor - Excursions: Trips from Luxor to Beni Hassan


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Sights at Benī Hassan

Benī Hassan („tribe of Hassan“) is the name of two villages in Middle Egypt. They are located about 20 km to the south of Minyā on the east bank of the River Nile half-way between Luxor and Cairo: Beni Hassan ash-Shurūq („the eastern tribe“ - inhabited) and Benī Hassan al-Qadīm („the old tribe“ - nowadays uninhabited). Benī Hassan al-Qadīm is famous for its 39 rock-cut tombs built into the steep hillsides overlooking the river with a fine view, probably the most important tomb group encompasses the Middle Kingdom necropolis of local nomarchs and their officials. A location on the east bank is not traditional for tombs, but the terrain to the west was most difficult. Twelve tombs are decorated, the four most famous are currently open to visitors (tombs of Khnumhotep II <BH3>, Kheti <BH17>, Baqet III <BH15> und Amenemhet <BH2>).

Necropolis at Benī Hassan
Necropolis at Benī Hassan

Necropolis at Benī Hassan
Necropolis at Benī Hassan, the accessible rock-tombs are colour-coded.
The little dots on the lower line mark about 900 (closed) shaft tombs.

Some of the larger tombs are famous for the quality of their wall paintings. They have biographical inscriptions and are decorated with untypical paintings of wrestling scenes, military activities, and daily life affairs which scarcely make reference to the life of the tomb's owner. Many of these scenes were in poor condition. Luckily, several of them were carefully restored in the 80s. Unfortunately but understandably enough, photography is no longer allowed inside any of the tombs.

Wrestling scenes in the Tomb of Amenemhet (BH2)
Wrestling scenes in the tomb of Amenemhet (BH2)

Khnumhotep II on fowling (BH3)
Khnumhotep II on fowling (BH3)

On the south side of an isolated river bed about 3 km east of Benī Hassan there is a rock temple called Istabl 'Antār (Greek: Speos Artemidos, "Cave of Artemis") which is dedicated to the lioness deity Pakhet. The 15 m wide temple was built by Queen Hatshepsut and enlarged by Thutmose III und Seti I. Pakhet („she who scratches“) is likely to be a more regional lioness deity worshipped specially in the area of Benī Hassan as "Goddess of the Mouth of the Wadi". Great numbers of mummified cats have been found buried nereby. Many are thought to have been brought great distances to be buried ceremonially during rituals.

Rock Temple Istabl 'Antār
Rock Temple Istabl 'Antār

Marginal note: A couple of kilometres south of Benī Hassan far from the street there is a 23 m deep fountain called Bir es-Sahāba („fountain of the cloud “). It is said that once when thirsty Jesus wanted to bring water from the river Nile this fountain came out of nowhere - including a cloud to shelter him from the sun.

The sightseeing at Benī Hassan is easy to combine with a visit of the archaeological site of Zāwīyat el-Maiyitīn and Tihnā al-Gabal.

Sights around Minyā

The city of Minyā ist the capital of the same-named governorate and called „Bridge of Upper Egypt“. About 230,000 inhabitants live in this university town. It was the capital of the Upper Egyptian cotton trade, but its factories now process sugar and produce soap and perfume. Minyā has a very pleasant town centre, numerous restaurants, a couple of hotels, and a beautiful corniche.

Between the villages of Sawāda und Benī Hassan there is the area Zāwīyat al-Maiyitīn with important remains of a city and predynastic necropolis, called Kōm el-Ahmar ("Red Hill"). Today, adjacent to the archaeological site, there is a vast old Muslim cemetery which is with 6 km in length one of the largest cemeteries in Egypt. In the hill behind the town site rock-cut tombs served as the burial places of local officials of the Old and New Kingdoms. Near the Red Hill there is a step pyramid (originally 15 m in height, now 5 m) dating to the Old Kingdom. Fragments of a temple can be seen on the northern side of the site which is dated to Amenhotep III (New Kingdom) and dedicated to Horus.

Zāwīyat al-Maiyitīn, fragments of the Temple of Horus
Zāwīyat al-Maiyitīn, fragments of the Temple of Horus, in the background domes of the cemetery

Tihnā al-Gabal is an archaeological site with a lion-shaped hill 12 km to the north-east of Minyā. It is best known for its Old Kingdom rock-cut tombs, the ‘Fraser Tombs’. Four of the fifteen tombs contain statues and carved hieroglyphics and are open to the public (Ni-ankh-kay <2 tombs>, Khanuka und Kahap). The most important tomb is the second tomb of Ni-ankh-kay which has the shape of a Mastaba tomb. In the area there are also remains of a temple dedicated to God Amun.

Tihnā al-Gabal, the Lion Hill, with temple and tombs
Tihnā al-Gabal, the Lion Hill, with temple and tombs


Coming the long way from Luxor it makes sense to spend the night in Minyā - especially because there is no other possibility for a overnight stay around Benī Hassan. Minyā has a couple of hotels in different price categories available.

Our Service in Luxor

For your trip starting at Luxor we organise a car, which takes you to the mentioned sights, and manage the overnight stay at Minyā. Kindly let us know your wishes, we make you a favourable offer.

Geographical Position

©Google - Route from Luxor to Benī Hassan    Environs of Benī Hassan, © Google
Route from Luxor to Benī Hassan (A) and environs of Benī Hassan (A), © Google

Travel Preparation

Beni Hassan: Art and Daily Life in an Egyptian Province Beni Hassan: Art and Daily Life in an Egyptian Province ~ Naguib Kanawati
To be publ. in February 2011

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