Esna is an Egyptian town in the region of Upper Egypt, located on the west bank of the river Nile some 54 km south of Luxor and 53 km north of Edfu.
Esna is one of the oldest cities in Egypt, 300 years BC, Esna was the capital city of the third Nome of Upper Egypt. Esna’s urban fabric still holds Ancient Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Coptic, Islamic, and modern layers of history. It is really an amazing experience and a fascinating imagination when you walk in the streets of the city nowadays in 2020 and you feel like your walking in history. The old 19th century houses connected together with the 700 years old ottoman market adjacent to the temple, where you will see people from the local community in their authentic costumes and in their local markets. It is really interesting and attracting me seeing local people in an indigenous or a bit elementary environment how they are living their life and spending their daily life activities. Moreover, Esna enjoys a rich intangible heritage in terms of its unique social structure where the city center is subdivided into spatial domains inhabited by deeply-rooted Esna families, and its traditional crafts—all on the verge of extinction.
- 1 Esna railway station (east bank of the Nile). Is on wrong side for the temple and main town. There is a handful of little cafes by the station. Taxis and tuk-tuks await but they have to cross the Nile by the 1990 "Elecricity Bridge" downstream, vehicles cannot use the old barrier bridge.
Trains from Cairo take 10 hr to Luxor then another hour to Esna, continuing to Edfu, Kom Ombo and Aswan. There are 10–12 per day, so you should be able to avoid an early-hours arrival or departure.
Buses between Luxor and Aswan pass through Esna; their frequency in 2020 is unknown. The bus stop is by the railway station on the east bank.
Esna is a regular calling point for Nile cruises between Luxor and Aswan. Actually they do not have a choice, because there is a lock system between the two bridges, where boats can be held up for hours.
Taxi's and tuk-tuks are available all throughout town, and offer a convenient transport from train or mini bus stations to the temple (there is not much else to see). Tuk-Tuks should not cost more than LE20.
- 1 Temple of Esna (Temple of Khnum). Daily Oct-May 07:00-16:00, Jun-Sept 07:00-17:00. It is large, impressive - no, look down! Built in the Ptolemaic-Roman period, the temple became covered with debris, which helped preserve it, so it is now 9 m below the modern street level. The only remaining structure is the hypostyle hall, which is very well preserved with a lot of color on the columns and ceilings. The ticket office is 200 m away from the temple, connected by a covered souk with the usual hawkers. Adult LE80, conc LE40.
- Old Esna Mosque – The one with the charming adobe minaret seen on the approach to the temple.
- Al-`Amriyya Minaret – The almost 1,000-year-old structure is of five unique minarets built by the Fāṭimid vizier Badr al-Jammali in different cities of Upper Egypt during the 11th Century A.D. It is the only remaining part of Jami’ al-`Amri. It is called Al-`Amri as a tribute to the Muslim Leader `Amr Ibn al-`Aāṣ.
- Esna's Coptic Churches and Monasteries – In the Coptic history, Esna is known as the “City of Martyrs” due to a series of Roman persecutions between 303 and 311 A.D. Therefore, the city and its surroundings are privileged with various religious destinations mostly related to these events such as the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church of Mother Dūlāji, Shrine of the Three Martyred Peasants, the Monastery of the Martyrs (Monastery of Saint Ammonius), and the Monastery of Saint Matthew the Potter
- Local Architecture – Esna is privileged with an abundance of architecturally significant buildings from different ears that can be rarely found in other cities of Upper Egypt. These buildings belong to the city's prominent families that still inhabit the city until today
- Esna Old Barrage – Constructed in 1908 to control the flow of Nile water, is an engineering masterpiece. A felucca ride would cross the barrage and offer a closer view of its articulate details and stone masonry work.
- Al-Qīsāriyya Market – Located directly to the south of the Temple of Khnum, this traditional covered market --established more than a century ago-- is one of Esna’s most significant features. In the past, several caravanserais used to exist along this market which was famous for the sale of fabrics, sewing tools, and tailors' shops.
- Wakālat al-Jiddāwī – Believed to be built by Ḥasan Bek al-Jiddāwī in the 1700s. The wakala (caravanserai) is overlooking the Temple of Khnum. It was one of Esna’s main commercial destinations during the 18th and the 19th centuries - being famous for the trade of many commodities including textiles, African ivory, and ostrich plumes.
- Bakkūr Oil Press – Built in 1897, is still run manually by local master craftsman Nāṣir Bakkūr, producing oil made of lettuce, sesame and arugula seeds. Since the Abbasid era, 9th century A.D.), Esna is a center for the oil pressing industry, especially for its production of lettuce seeds oil.