City of Akhmim, Egypt
Akhmim is a small town at a distance of 450 kilometers from Cairo. The town lies on the eastern bank of river Nile in Upper Egypt and boasts of a rich cultural past which dates back to some 6000 years. Though it was a major town in the Greco-roman period, but today the city of Akhmim is a small town and has not been affected by modernization which has transformed many other small towns of modern Egypt. Akhmim is only10 kilometers from Sohag, which is connected to many cities of Egypt.
History of the town
Almost every city in Egypt has been known by various names throughout their history and the same is true for city of Akhmim. The early Egyptians used to call the place Khent-Menu or Ipu while the ancient Greeks used to call it the Panopolis. The name was after the main god of the city known as Min who the Greeks referred to as Pan (god of fertility). The Coptics called the city Shmin or Khmin. The city was a very important center in ancient Egypt and was also the capital of then 9th upper Egyptian Nome. But in the middle ages, the nearby villagers used the materials for building their own villages and so many of the monuments no longer remain.
What to look for
There is not much to do in Akhmim and very few tourists visit the city. Akhmim looks like a town which has much of its past still embedded in it. The roads depict their old journey and the locals still perform almost every form of the distinctively old form of labor. The cotton factory produces some bright colored textiles on machines whose structures date back to the pharaonic times. Most of the buildings of the city are the color of the earth and the city roads has cars which dates back to as old as 1940.
Main attractions of the town
The main attraction of the city is a large statue of the Meryetamun who was the daughter of Ramses II. The statue is very large and is 11.5 meters tall and weighs 30 tones. The statue made of limestone is an example of pharaonic art and is one of the biggest statues of a queen. A statue of Ramses II has been also been unearthed and is now near the statue of his queen Meryetamun.
Necropolis of El-Hawawish is another place which is worth visiting and was the burial place for the governors of this area from 4th to 11th dynasties. Some tombs here are decorated with circular zodiacs.
El-Salamuni Promontory has rock cut tombs from the Greco-Roman period. The rock chapel at El-Salamuni is dedicated to local god Min and was constructed during reign of Tuthmosis the third. The Grotto of Pan is a temple dedicated to local god Min and Amun-Re and was built by Ay.
Around the town
The church of saint Mercurius is very close to Akhmim and has an almost fortress like appearance with richly decorated interiors in blues, gold and burgundy. There is a very interesting painting showing the birth of Jesus Christ and a very small museum by the church which has an extremely rare painting that is double sided and has Christ before resurrection on one side and after on the other.
Another thing of interest near Akhmim is the Martyr’s Monastery which lies in the mid-desert and is the victim of the prosecution of minorities. This monastery is the site of the barbaric act and has mummified heads of dead. A room also has bodies of Coptic martyrs all robed in white with crowns adorning their heads.
Besides the ruins, one of the other things of great interest unearthed in Akhmim was the Berlin codex, which owing to the place where it was discovered, is also known as Akhmim codex. It is a manuscript from the 5th century AD and was found at a Christian burial site. This papyrus bound book was wrapped in feathers and is being written in Sahdic dialect (Coptic).
Another important association of the city of Akhmim has been with the basis of the modern word chemistry connected with its old name Chemmis or Khemmis. Also some of the oldest books on alchemy have been written by a very famous alchemist Zosimos of Panopolis (old Akhmim).
Today Akhmim may not be one of the more known regions of Egypt but the town was a bustling regional and prosperous centre centuries back. The Greek period saw the town become a centre for alchemy and magic and also saw an amalgamation of the ancient Egyptian traditions with the Greek philosophy.