Rock Tombs, Aswan Kubbet el-Hawa
Farther north of Elephantine, on the hill crowned by the little sheikh's tomb known as Kubbet el-Hawa, are the rock tombs of the princes and grandees of Elephantine. The tombs date from the end of the Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom i.e. from the same period as the tombs of Beni Hasan, which they resemble both in construction and in decoration. There are fine views from the hill.From the boat landing-place a sandy path (moderate gradient, but fairly strenuous) climbs up to Tomb 31. Even more testing is the ancient staircase, consisting of two parallel flights of steps separated by a ramp up which the sarcophagi were drawn, which leads up to Tombs 25 and 26.
Tomb of Mekhu
The tour of the rock tombs begins at the south end with No. 25, the tomb of Mekhu (sixth Dynasty), the construction and decoration of which are somewhat crude. In front of the entrance are two small obelisks without inscriptions. The chamber contains 18 roughly worked columns, in three rows. Opposite the entrance, between two columns, stands a three legged stone table, presumably an altar, and in the rear wail beyond this is a niche approached by steps and closed by a stone screen, within which is a false door. On the walls are various scenes depicting the dead man receiving offerings. To the right of the entrance sacrifices are being made to him; to the left are agricultural scenes (plowing, harvesting; donkeys bringing in the harvest).
Tomb of Sabni I
Immediately adjoining No. 25 is No. 26, the Tomb of Sabni I, Mekhu's son. This has an unusual type of doorway, divided into two parts by a cross beam; in front of it are two small obelisks and a sacrificial basin. The chamber is divided into three aisles by 14 square pillars. On the rear wall the dead man is depicted with his daughters in a boat, hunting in the marshes: on the left he holds a throwing stick in one hand and the slain birds in the other; on the right he is catching two fish with his harpoon; in the middle birds are flying over a papyrus thicket.
Tomb of a Hekaib
To the right of tombs 25 and 26 the path continues up past two tombs buried in sand (Nos. 27 and 29) to Tomb 30, belonging to one Hekaib (Middle Kingdom). The chamber, divided into three aisles by six pillars, has a barrel vaulted roof. In the rear wall is a niche with the figures of two men and a papyrus plant, symbolizing the life force.
Tomb of Hekaib I
Beyond No. 30 is the Tomb of Hekaib I (No. 28), of modest size and decoration, with a figure of the dead man, depicted as a Nubian with a curious curled wig and dark skin.
Tomb of Prince Sarenput II
Farther into Kubet el-Hawa we come to the Tomb of Prince Sarenput II (No. 31), son of Satethotep and a contemporary of King Amenemhet II (12th Dynasty). This is one of the largest and best preserved tombs in the necropolis. The narrow entrance leads into a hall with six pillars, which taper towards the top; it has no decoration, but on the right is a handsome granite offering table.
Rock Tombs Small Chamber
Beyond the Tomb of Prince Sarenput II is a corridor with three niches on either side, each containing a rock cut statue of the dead man in the guise of the Osiris mummy. To the left of the first niche is a figure of the dead man and his son, the colors of which are excellently preserved. The corridor leads into a small chamber with four pillars, on each of which there are figures of the dead man; on some of them can be seen the grid of lines used by the artist in setting out his picture. In the rear wall of this chamber is a niche containing finely executed reliefs: the dead man at table, with his son in front of him carrying flowers (rear); the dead man standing on the right, with his mother at table on the left (right hand wall); the dead man with his son behind him and his wife in front of him (left hand wall).
Tomb of Aku
Beyond the small chamber are the Tomb of Aku (No. 32), with a niche containing a representation of the dead man with his wife and son seated at a meal in an arbor; the Tomb of Khui (sanded up); and the Tomb of Khunes (No. 34; sixth Dynasty), an eight pillared chamber containing fine representations of various craftsmen (bakers, potters, metalworkers beside a furnace, leather workers, etc.). The two last named tombs were later occupied by Coptic monks, who left a variety of inscriptions. From the Tomb of Khunes a flight of steps leads to the Tomb of Setka (First Intermediate Period), with wall paintings, badly damaged but with astonishingly vivid colors, which are among the few surviving examples of the decorative art of this period.
Tomb of Harhuf
After the Tomb of Aku is the Tomb of Harhuf (No. 34n). On the outer wall, flanking the entrance, are figures of the dead man (depicted on the left leaning on a staff, with his son holding a censer), with important inscriptions recording four successful trading expeditions in Nubia, three of them during the reign of Merenre and the fourth (on which the goods he brought back included a dwarf) in the reign of Pepi II (sixth Dynasty).
Tomb of Pepinakht
Adjoining the Tomb of Harhuf is the small Tomb of Pepinakht (No. 35; sanded up), with inscriptions on either side of the entrance glorifying the dead man's exploits in campaigns against the Nubians and the inhabitants of the Eastern Desert during the reign of Pepi II (sixth Dynasty).
Tomb of Hekaib II
Adjoining the tomb of Pepinakht is the recently cleared Tomb of Hekaib II (No. 35d), whose mortuary temple has been found on the island of Elephantine. Constructed on an irregular plan, it has a large forecourt and vestibule. The tomb chamber itself is small and modestly decorated, but was notable for the quantity of grave goods and votive tablets found in it (now in the Aswan Museum).
Kubbet el-Hawa - Other Tombs
To the left of the forecourt are doorways leading to other tombs, including the Tomb of Sabni II, son of Hekaib II.
Tomb of Prince Sarenput I
Finally we come to the Tomb of Prince Sarenput I (No. 36), son of Satseni, who lived in the reign of Sesostris I (12th Dynasty). A doorway of fine limestone with figures of the dead man leads into the court, with six pillars, formerly supporting the roof of a colonnade, bearing inscriptions and representations of the dead man. Rear wall, to the left of the door: a large figure of the dead man followed by his sandalbearer and two dogs; cattle are brought to the dead man (note particularly the enraged bulls); Sarenput in a boat spearing fish. To the right of the door: a large figure of the dead man, followed by his bow-bearer, a dog and his three sons; above, the dead man seated in a colonnade, with four women in front of him holding flowers. The paintings, on stucco, are badly damaged. A vaulted passage, now closed by a modern wall, leads into a second chamber, with four pillars, from which another passage continues into a small chamber with two pillars and a cult niche. Here, too, there are many scenes of everyday life, much damaged, on the walls and pillars.
Tomb of Kakemet
To the northeast of the Tomb of Prince Sarenput I is the Tomb of Kakemet (reign of Amenophis III), with fine ceiling paintings (flying birds, spirals with bulls' heads). On the pillars the dead man is shown before Osiris and the Hathor cow. Excavations still in progress have brought a third row of tombs to light. Above the necropolis are the remains of a Coptic Monastery.
View from Kubbet el-Hawa
It is worth the effort of climbing to the top of the hill, with the small sheikh's tomb known as the Kubbet el-Hawa, for the sake of the fine view. From here a 45-minute camel or donkey ride brings the visitor to St Simeon's Monastery.
Map of Aswan Attractions