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Akhmim Travel Guide

 

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Akhmim is a small town 450 km from Cairo. The town lies on the eastern bank of the Nile in Upper Egypt and boasts a rich cultural past which dates back 6,000 years. Alhough it was a major town in the Greco-roman period, today Akhmim is much smaller and has not been affected by the intense modernization which has transformed many other small towns of modern Egypt. 

 

It's also worth noting that Akhmim is also only 10 km from Sohag, which is connects up to many major cities of Egypt and the wider region.

 

History of Akhmim

 

Almost every city in Egypt has been known by various names throughout their history and the same is true for the city of Akhmim. The early Egyptians once called it Khent-Menu or Ipu, while the ancient Greeks called it Panopolis. Panopolis 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. It was a very important center in ancient Egypt and was also the capital of the 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 See In Akhmim

 

Few tourists visit the city since there isn't much to do. Akhmim looks looks like a town still stuck in the past. The roads still have ruts from old journeys and the locals still perform almost every form of the distinctly old forms of labor. The cotton factory produces some bright colored textiles on machines that date back to Pharaonic times! Most of the buildings of the city are the color of the earth and the city roads have cars which date back to as old as 1940.

 

Main Attractions Of The Town

 

The main attraction in the city is a large statue of Meryetamun, the daughter of Ramses II. The statue is quite large at 11.5 meters tall and it weighs a massive 30 tons. The limestone statue is an example of Pharaonic art and is one of the biggest statues of a queen in all of Egypt. 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. It was the burial place for the governors of this area from the 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 the 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 Town

 

The church of Saint Mercurius is close to Akhmim and has an almost fortress-like appearance with richly decorated interiors in blues, gold, and burgundy. There is an interesting painting of the birth of Jesus Christ and a very small museum by the church with an extremely rare painting that is double sided and has Christ before Resurrection on one side and after Resurrection on the other.

 

Another interesting site near Akhmim is the Martyr’s Monastery which lies in the mid-desert. It is a place where religious Christian minorities were once persecuted. This monastery is the site of the barbaric act of beheading that was done to early Christians and has mummified heads of the dead. A room also has bodies of Coptic martyrs all robed in white with crowns adorning their heads to signify their martyrdom and salvation.

 

Historical Importance

 

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 A.D. and was found at a Christian burial site. This papyrus bound book was wrapped in feathers and is written in the Sahidic dialect (Coptic).

 

Another important fact about 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 once a bustling regional and prosperous center centuries back. The Greek period saw the town become a center for alchemy and magic and also saw an amalgamation of ancient Egyptian traditions with Greek philosophy, so it can be a very unique place to learn about and visit.

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