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Places in Egypt: Upper Egypt

Module by: Lisa Spiro. E-mail the author

Summary: Provides background information to some significant places in Upper Egypt that are represented in the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA) collection of digital texts, images and maps. Part 4 of a 4-part course on identifying places in Egypt, including major cities, archaeological sites, and regions.

Abû Simbel

Latitude/Longitude: 24° 24' 00" N/033° 01' 00" E

Figure 1: Original stereograph: "Looking down river across front of Abu Simbel temple, from the sand drift at north, Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
Looking down river across front of Abu Simbel temple, from the sand drift at north, Egypt.
Looking down river across front of Abu Simbel temple, from the sand drift at
                    north, Egypt. (AbuSimbel.jpg)

Although the name is not as familiar as Karnak or Giza, the magnificent temples here are some of the most recognized images in Egypt. As famous for their relocation ahead of the construction of the new Aswan dam as for the temples themselves, these structures are located on the western bank of what is now Lake Nassar, 180 miles south of Aswan in what was once known as Nubia. The two temples were built by Ramesses II (the Great); the larger features four massive statues of Ramesses seated on thrones, carved into the walls of the temple. The smaller temple was built in honor of Ramesses’ wife Nefertari, and was dedicated to Hathor, goddess of love, music, and beauty. It also features figures carved into the stone of the temple itself. Beginning in 1964 in a feat of archaeological engineering, these temples were cut into blocks and reassembled at a new location further away from the rising waters of the Nile.

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Al Fashn

Alternative Names: Fashn; Fashn; El Fashn;

Latitude/Longitude: 28° 49' 22" N/030° 53' 52" E

A small agricultural village in the governate of Beni Suef, in Upper Egypt.

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Al Kāb

Alternative Names: Nikhâb, Ancient Town of; Nekheb; Nekhab, Ancient Town of; Satma Kob; Kobba; Kobb; Koba; El-Kâb; Eileithyiaspolis; Eileithyaspolis; Ancient Town of Nikhab Eiteithyiaspolis

Latitude/Longitude: 25° 07' 10" N/032° 47' 50" E

Figure 2: Original stereograph: "Walled city of El Kab, ancient capital of Upper Egypt, S.W. from the door of a cliff-tomb, Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
Walled city of El Kab, ancient capital of Upper Egypt, S.W. from the door of a cliff-tomb, Egypt.
Walled city of El Kab, ancient capital of Upper Egypt, S.W. from the door of a
                    cliff-tomb, Egypt. (AlKab.jpg)

This region refers to two ancient sites on either side of the Nile, Nekheb on the east and Nekhen on the west. Both cities served as religious centers as early as the pre-Dynastic periods, but also flourished during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Nekheb was dedicated to the vulture goddess, Nekhbet, patron goddess of Upper Egypt. Nekhen served for sometime as the capital of Upper Egypt and was dedicated to the falcon god Horus; however, the city was later supplanted in importance by Edfu. In addition to numerous tombs, excavated areas also yielded two complete and one partial human-faced masks, used during the Fourth Dynasty.

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Al Karnak

Alternative Names: Karnak; El Kharnâk; El Karnak

Latitude/Longitude: 25° 43' 00" N/ 032° 39' 00" E

Figure 3: Original stereograph: "The Entire length of the gigantic temple of Amon at Karnak, (view N.W.) Thebes, Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
The Entire length of the gigantic temple of Amon at Karnak, (view N.W.) Thebes, Egypt
The Entire length of the gigantic temple of Amon at Karnak, (view N.W.)
                    Thebes, Egypt (Karnak.jpg)

Second only to the Pyramids at Al Jīzah in popularity with tourists, Karnak refers to the huge temple complex on the east side of the Nile, in Upper Egypt. Often referred to as one temple, Al Karnak is actually a series of temples, built and enlarged over a period of at least 1300 years, beginning in the 16th century BCE and contributed to by approximately 30 pharaohs, extending into Ptolemaic times. The complex is dedicated to Amon-Re, the King of the Gods. The complex also includes red granite obelisks, pylons, or great gates to the complex, and an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes, each holding a small figure of Amon-Re between its paws.

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Aswān

Alternative Names: Aswân; Aswân; Syeue; Syene; Syena; Es-Suan; Assuan; Assouan

Latitude/Longitude: 24° 05' 15" N /032° 53' 56" E

Figure 4: Original stereograph: "The Great Assuan Dam, N.W. from the first pylon of the Philae Temple--Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
The Great Assuan Dam, N.W. from the first pylon of the Philae Temple--Egypt
The Great Assuan Dam, N.W. from the first pylon of the Philae Temple--Egypt (Aswan.jpg)

Located at the first cataract on the Nile, modern Aswan is a small town on the east bank which faces the desert on the west bank. It is in what was called Nubia, and is the southernmost town of consequence in Egypt. It is a favorite tourist destination because of its proximity to numerous sites of interest. The island of Elephantine has evidence of civilizations existing before the dynasties of ancient Egypt, and apparently housed a Jewish community as well. The Temple of Isis and Kiosk of Trajan on Philae Island, like the structures at Abu Simbel, were deconstructed and rebuilt on New Philae (Agilkia) Island during the 1960’s. The region is also the site of enormous granite quarries, which provided much of the building materials used in ancient temples and statuary.

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Dandarah

Alternative Names: Tentyra; Denderah; Dandara

Latitude/Longitude: 26° 10' 09" N/ 032° 39' 19" E

Figure 5: Original stereograph: "The Beautiful temple of Hathor at Denderah--view S. over remains of a vanished city, Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
The Beautiful temple of Hathor at Denderah--view S. over remains of a vanished city, Egypt
The Beautiful temple of Hathor at Denderah--view S. over remains of a vanished
                    city, Egypt (Danderah.jpg)

Located in Northern Upper Egypt, this city was an important administrative capital from the end of the Old Kingdom to the end of the Middle Kingdom, and according to legend, was the site of a battle between the god Horus and the evil god Seth. Although some of the finds there were very old, including catacombs of sacred animals, the majority its archaeological remains date from the Roman era. Certainly the most impressive structure is the temple of Hathor, originally built much earlier but reworked and dedicated to the reign of Tiberius Caesar (14-37 CE). It features columns bearing the face of Hathor, as well as inscriptions of Cleopatra and her son Caesareon; numerous astrological and astronomical charts are engraved in the walls and ceilings as well. When Napoleon visited the area he found an entire Arab village living inside the temple; evidence of their fires can still be seen on some of the ceilings.

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Dayr al Baḩrī, Ḩawḑ ad

Alternative Names: Deir el Baḥari, Ḥôḍ el

Latitude/Longitude: 25° 20' 00" N/ 032° 34' 00" E

This location, situated in a natural rock amphitheater on the Western bank of the Nile, directly across from Karnak, and marking the entrance to the Valley of Kings, is most known for the beautiful temple of Queen Hatshepsut, a pharaoh of the New Kingdom. However, remains of two other temples can be found there, as well as a number of private tombs. A shaft tomb was found to contain forty royal mummies from the 11th Dynasty, which had apparently been reinterred there by 21st Dynasty priests. The mummies of priests were also found there. But Queen Hatshepsut’s temple is by far the most important aspect of the site, and the temple’s beauty has been compared to the Parthenon. Its reliefs and paintings have been carefully restored.

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Idfū

Alternative Names: Idfū Bahri; Idfu Bahari; Edfu; Edfou; Apollonopolis Magna

Latitude/Longitude: 24° 58' 00" N/ 032° 52' 00" E

Figure 6: Original stereograph: "Wonderfully preserved temple of Edfu, The, seen (N.) from top of first pylon--Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
Wonderfully preserved temple of Edfu, The, seen (N.) from top of first pylon--Egypt
Wonderfully preserved temple of Edfu, The, seen (N.) from top of first
                    pylon--Egypt (Edfu.jpg)

Located in Upper Egypt on the west bank of the Nile, Idfū is home to an almost perfectly preserved temple dedicated to the gods Horus, his wife Hathor, and their son Harsomtus, built during the Ptolemaic era. Almost completely buried in sand until excavated in 1860, it has yielded inscriptions, many still revealing their color. A stunning statue of Horus as the falcon stands guard at the temple, which contained numerous rooms, some used for the mixing of magical ointments. Not only is this the best preserved temple in Egypt, it is also the second largest, after the temple at Karnak.

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Isnā

Alternative Names: Latopolis; Latopolia; Latónpolis; Esneh; Esna; Asnā

Latitude/Longitude: 25° 17' 35" N/ 032° 33' 10" E

Although a door jamb of the Temple of Khnum is from the 18th Dynasty, the rest of the temple located here dates from the age of the Ptolemies and the Romans. The site was called Latopolis by the Greeks, in honor of the Nile Perch, and many graves attest to the veneration of the fish. The Temple, however, is dedicated to the ram headed god, a creator deity. Today, the city has a large Coptic community.

Luxor

Alternative Names: Al Uqşur; Luqsor; Luksor; Louksor; El Uqsor; El Qusur; El Kusur; El Aqsur; El-Aksur

Latitude/Longitude: 25° 41' 00" N/ 032° 39' 00" E

Figure 7: Original stereograph: "Magnificent desolation--the deserted temple of Luxor, S.W. from top of the first pylon, Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
Magnificent desolation--the deserted temple of Luxor, S.W. from top of the first pylon, Egypt
Magnificent desolation--the deserted temple of Luxor, S.W. from top of the first pylon, Egypt (Luxor.jpg)

Luxor is actually not one location, but three: under the name of “Luxor” you will find the city itself, on the east side of the Nile, the archaeological complex of Karnak only a short distance north of Luxor, and Thebes, which is on the west side of the Nile directly across from Luxor. Even the modern city of Luxor has a pharaonic look to it, as much of its building was completed during the period of Howard Carter’s excavation of King Tut’s tomb. In addition to the Mummification Museum, the city has another museum of local finds. Luxor is the base for trips out to the Valley of Queens, Thebes, and numerous other temples and tombs. This area has been a major tourist attraction since ancient times, and may indeed be referred to as the world’s largest open air museum.

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Nubia

Latitude/Longitude: 20° 00' 00" N/ 032° 00' 00" E

Figure 8: Original stereograph: "Kasr Ibrim (the fort of Ibrim) and a Nile vista to the N. N. F. in lower Nubia, Egypt.." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
Kasr Ibrim (the fort of Ibrim) and a Nile vista to the N. N. F. in lower Nubia, Egypt.
Kasr Ibrim (the fort of Ibrim) and a Nile vista to the N. N. F. in lower Nubia, Egypt. (Nubia.jpg)

A region in the southernmost portion of modern Egypt. Today the region is partially in Egypt while the rest is in Sudan.

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Philae

Alternative Names: Fīlah, Jazīrat

Latitude/Longitude: 24° 01' 00" N/ 032° 53' 00" E

Figure 9: Original stereograph: "Loooking down (N.E.) upon the island of Philae and its temples from the island of Bigeh--Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
Loooking down (N.E.) upon the island of Philae and its temples from the isLand of Bigeh--Egypt.
Loooking down (N.E.) upon the island of Philae and its temples from the isLand of Bigeh--Egypt. (Philae.jpg)

Called “The Pearl of Egypt,” Philae was an island in the area of Aswan, in the southern portion of Upper Egypt, and it was the location of the Temple of Isis and the Kiosk of Trajan as well as a few other temples. After the construction of the Old Aswan Dam, the island was partially submerged during certain times of the year, and algae discolored the stone as well as eroded some of the reliefs. The situation became more serious after the new Aswan High Dam was built, and the island was completely submerged, thus washing away the paintings that adorned the buildings. With help from UNESCO and Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, a coffer dam was built around the island, and the monuments were moved, stone by stone, to nearby Agilka island, which was carefully landscaped to look as much like Philae as possible.

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Ramesseum

Alternative Names: Osymandyas, Tomb of

Latitude/Longitude: 25° 44’ 00” N/032° 37' 00" E

Figure 10: Original stereograph: "Ramesseum, mortuary temple of Ramses II, The.-- N.W., toward tombs in the cliffs, Thebes, Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
Ramesseum, mortuary temple of Ramses II, The.-- N.W., toward tombs in the cliffs, Thebes, Egypt.
Ramesseum, mortuary temple of Ramses II, The.-- N.W., toward tombs in the cliffs, Thebes, Egypt. (Ramesseum.jpg)

Although this much-visited site, located on the Theban necropolis on the west bank of the Nile across from Luxor, is the home to several temples, this site is known to most westerners as the site of the Tomb of Osymandyas, immortalized in Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias”. Osymandyas is one of the names of Rameses II, who built a huge mortuary temple to the god Amen-Re at Ramesseum, as well as smaller temples in honor of his wife and mother. Damaged by the Nile flood waters, the temple and its colossi were of great interest to Europeans, and Belzoni engineered the removal of a seven ton head to London, where it was proudly displayed in the British Museum. This object, and the objects which Shelley knew to have remained in Egypt, inspired his very famous poem.

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Thebes

Latitude/Longitude: 25° 42' 00" N/ 032° 41' 00" E

Figure 11: Original stereograph: "Looking north to the mortuary temple of Sethos I., at Thebes, Egypt." (Underwood and Underwood, 1904). 7.75 x 4.2 inches. From TIMEA
Looking north to the mortuary temple of Sethos I., at Thebes, Egypt.
Looking north to the mortuary temple of Sethos I., at Thebes, Egypt. (Thebes.jpg)

The name Thebes generally refers to the entire region, on both the east and west banks of the Nile near the modern city of Luxor. This area served as the capital of Egypt in periods of both the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom, and is testament to the glories of ancient Egyptian monument building. The area, in Upper Egypt, encompasses the Temples at Karnak and Luxor on the east bank, and the Colossi of Memmnon, the Ramesseum, and the Valleys of the Kings and Queens on the west bank. Collectively, Thebes is home to the greatest concentration of major ancient sites in the world.

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