Minya is a city in Middle Egypt. Usually overlooked by tourists, this city has a long history and some interesting heritage to explore. It is home to over 250,000 people and lies about 245 km south of Cairo. Its strategic location in central Egypt has gained it the nickname Bride of Upper Egypt. It's a centre of Christianity in the country, as half of the town's inhabitants are reported to be Coptic Christians.
Minya was once an autonomous city-state that transformed into a nome or district of ancient Egypt called Oryx under the rule of Menes in its earliest recorded times. Then it became known as Menat Khufu as a tribute to Pharaoh Khufu who built the Great Pyramid of Cheops. From there, it went through alliances with Thebans and then the Hyksos, which didn't end up working out too well since the native Egyptian pharaohs gave the Hyksos a thrashing around 1540 BC and didn't do Minya many favors in the process. All that remains of the ancient civilization of Menat Khufu are these tombs that the rulers carved into some cliffs in nearby Beni Hasan since they were to poor to build pyramids.
Ancient Greece and Rome subsequently made their mark on the area, with settlements and cotton cultivation. The Roman Emperor Hadrian even had a separate city called Antinoöpolis built along the Nile nearby in memory of his eromenos Antinous. In 328 AD, the mother of Constantine had the Monastery of the Virgin Mary at Gebel el-Teir constructed on a site where the Holy Family was thought to have stayed during their flight from Herod.
And then, the Arabs established their presence by turning Minya into a robust medieval city complete with stately mosques and schools from about the 10th century on. Modern times saw it develop with some colonial-style architecture and separation into two districts, but then fall into a state of decay on account of the revolution of 1952, the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the subsequent nationalization of many industries from 1957.
There is the option of driving or taking the train from Cairo, Alexandria, Aswan, etc, as Minya has one train station connected to Egyptian National Railways, though English assistance might not be available:
- 1 El Minya Railway Station (محطة سكة حديد المنيا), ☏ +20 86 2363035.
- 1 Fraser Tombs (about 11 km north, on east side of Nile). More tombs pertaining to ancient Egypt.
- 2 Akhenaton Museum (متحف اخناتون). This is another Egyptian antiquities museum, the third largest in Egypt, but it is still in the process of completion. However, its architecture as it stands now definitely stands out, taking on the appearance of a pyramid. You can easily see it from the corniche on the other side of the Nile in Minya.
- 3 Al-Fouly Mosque (مسجد الفولي). A somewhat historic mosque, being several centuries old, where a calligrapher named Sayed Ibrahim taught before going to do calligraphy in many mosques around the world. It adds a nice touch to the riverine landscape anyway.
- 1 Minya Corniche. Nice place to unwind along the Nile, unless the Egyptian sun is beating down on you midday.
- 1 Set Elsham. For when you feel like some Syrian food. +20 106 060 1600.
- Arkhan Restaurant - in Grand Aton Hotel
- 2 Golden Ship, Kornish Al Nile. 09:00-23:45. In case you want to eat on a floating vessel.
- 1 Grand Aton Hotel (فندق جراند اتون) (north edge of Minya), ☏ +20 100 030 8020. a real Egyptian powerhouse of a resort. If you like swimming in pools and being on the Nile riverfront and eating decadent brownies from haute-cuisine restaurants, this place is probably for you.
- 2 Horus Resort Menia (منتجع حورس السياحى بالمنيا), ☏ +20 862 316 660. Another big resort on the banks of the Nile, right next to the Grand Aton.
- 3 Nile Saray Steamboat (باخرة نايل سراى), ☏ +20 100 155 9580. Steamboat hotel here.
As foreign tourist, be prepared for the possibility that the security/police might stop you when you want to leave your hotel and make you wait until the mobile tourist police arrives to accompany you for your protection.
- Beni Hasan is like a 45 km drive south of Minya, on the east bank of the Nile.