El-Kab (Ruins of Ancient Nekhab)
The remains of El-Kab, the ancient Nekhab, lie on the east bank of the Nile between the railroad and the river. In Pre-Dynastic and Early Dynastic times Nekhab was capital of the kingdom of Upper Egypt, and it continued to be one of the country's leading cities; in the Ptolemai period it was capital of the third nome of Upper Egypt, later the Latopolita nome. The town goddess was Nekh bet, who was represented either as a vulture or as a woman with the crown of Upper Egypt. Corresponding to the cobra goddess Uto of Lower Egypt, she was the protective deity of the kingdom, the principal goddess of Upper Egypt and the goddess of childbirth. The Greeks, therefore, identified her with their goddess Eileithyia and named the town Eileithyiaspolis.
Useful tips: ACCESS. By road from Edfu (121mi/20km south) Luxor (53mi/85km north) or Esna (19mi/30km north). By rail to El-Mahamid Station, then 1.5-5 k southeast. Nile cruise ships.
Ruins of Ancient Nekhab
The ruins of ancient Nekhab, lying close to the Nile, are surrounded by a massive enclosure wall of sun dried bricks, probably dating from the Middle Kingdom, which has been destroyed by the river only on the southwest side. The walls, of remarkable thickness (38ft/11.50m), enclose a rectangular area measuring 590yd/540m by 625yd/570m, with gates, approached by ramps, on the east, north and south sides. The wall on the north side cuts across an ancient necropolis. Within this enclosure, occupying only about a quarter of its area, is a smaller rectangular enclosure, also surrounded by a double wall (the line of which can be easily traced), containing the principal temples. Within the outer enclosure are a number of other temples, including the Temple of Nekhbet, which was frequently altered and rebuilt down to the time of the 28th Dynasty, together with a birth house and a sacred lake, as well as temples of Tuthmosis III, Amenophis II and Ramesses II.
Chapel of Ramesses II
Outside the east gate in the outer wall are the remains of a small chapel built of sandstone which is ascribed to Nectanebo I or II. From here a path leads east (30minute walk) to a ruined Chapel of Ramesses II, known locally as El-Hammam, "The Bath". This was built by Setaw, Governor of Nubia, who is depicted on the entrance doorway and on the interior walls on each side of the entrance. On the side walls Ramesses II is seen in the presence of Thoth and Horus; on the rear wall are baboons (animals sacred to Thoth) and the figures of men in the attitude of prayer.
Temple of Amenophis III
Farther east, roughly half way between the Chapel of Ramesses and the Temple of Amenophis, which soon comes into view, two rocks rear up out of the plain. They bear many inscriptions and figures of animals, most of which are thought to date from the sixth Dynasty and were probably the work of priests. Some 15 minutes' walk farther east is the charming little Temple of Amenophis III, just over 50ft/16m long, which is dedicated to Nekhbet, "mistress of the entrance to the valley". It consists of a vestibule of the Ptolemaic period (now destroyed) and the main chamber, the roof of which was borne on four 16 sided columns with Hathor heads. The names of Amenophis III, Amun and Nekhbet and several figures of gods were defaced in the reign of Amenophis IV and restored under Sethos I; many of them were again renewed in the Ptolemaic period.On the doorway into the main chamber are a votive inscription and a figure of Amenophis III. The outer walls bear only a few later inscriptions and representations of ships. To the right of the door is Khaemweset, Ramesses II's son, in the presence of his father, commemorating the King's fifth Jubilee, in the 41st year of his reign. A modern hieroglyphic inscription is dated in the "13th year of his majesty, the lord of the world, Napoleon III"; and even later is an inscription in the name of the Comte de Chambord, Pretender to the French throne (d. 1883). On the paving are representations of footprints scratched by pilgrims.The coloring of the scenes inside the chamber is well preserved. To left and right of the door Amenophis III and his father Tuthmosis IV are seen seated at table. Left hand wall: Amenophis III making offerings to the sacred boat, which is decorated with falcons' heads; Amenophis offering incense and water to Nekhbet; Amun (blue) embracing the King and holding the hieroglyph for "life" to his nostrils. Rear wall, to the left and right of the niche: Amenophis III making offerings to Nekhbet. Right hand wall: the falcon headed Horus presenting the hieroglyph for "life" to the King, who stands in front of him; the King offering two jars to Nekhbet; the King sacrificing to the sacred boat. Beside these scenes are demotic inscriptions in red, written by visitors to the temple. The frieze and the decoration of the architraves consist of Amenophis's names alternating with heads of Hathor. At the base of the walls are bulls in a marsh.
From the Temple of Amenophis it is a 15minute walk in the direction of the Nile to the Rock Temple on the right hand side of the valley, recognizable from a distance by the long flight of steps leading up to it. The temple, also dedicated to Nekhbet, was built in the reign of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II and decorated with reliefs and inscriptions in the reign of Ptolemy IX Soter II. The staircase has 41 steps hewn from the rock, flanked on each side by a massive balustrade.From the platform at the top of the steps we pass through adoorway intoa vestibule just under 33ft/10m wide, the roof of which was supported on columns with elaborate floral capitals. From here a door, the right-hand side of which is still standing, leads into a smaller hall 20ft/6m wide, which also had columns with screens between them; the floor is littered with fragments of stone. Beyond this is the rock chapel, originally a tomb chamber of the New Kingdom. It has a vaulted roof, in the middle of which are vultures hovering, Round the top of the walls runs a frieze consisting of the name of Ptolemy IX Soter II between heads of Hathor; below this are inscriptions and reliefs (largely destroyed) depicting the King and Queen in the presence of various deities.
Some 550yd/500m north of the site of Nekhab area number of important rock tombs, mostly dating from the early 18th Dynasty, which are of particular interest for their excellently executed reliefs depicting scenes of everyday life. Altogether there are 31 tombs, situated close together on the south side of the hill, but only six of them repay a visit.
Tomb of Pahery
The Tomb of Pahery, Nomarch of El-Kab, is recognizable from a distance by its wide entrance. It dates from the reign of Tuthmosis III, and is notable for the well preserved coloring of the reliefs, which depict scenes from the life of the dead man. The faces of all the figures have been chiseled out.In the platform in front of the entrance is a deep mummy shaft. A badly ruined doorway leads into the tomb chamber. Entrance wall, to the left: the dead man with a long staff; above, a sailing-ship. Left hand wall: (above) the dead man watching harvesting operations (plowing, sowing, mowing with sickles, collecting and binding the sheaves, oxen treading out the corn, winnowing the grain, bringing in the crop in sacks); (below) the dead man inspecting his livestock (cattle, donkeys, etc.) and superintending the weighing of gold rings and the shipping of his grain; (beyond this, above) Pahery holding on his lap the young Prince Wedjmose, whose tutor he was; Pahery and his wife sitting in a kiosk receiving flowers and fruit; (above this) vintage scenes; (below) Pahery watching his fowlers and fishermen; the birds and fish being prepared for a meal; mending of the nets; (farther right, in five rows) burial of Pahery and funeral rites. In the rear wall is a niche, with seated figures of Pahery with his wife and mother; on the side walls of the niche are various persons at table. Right hand wall: Pahery and his wife at a banquet (below the chair, a tame monkey), with their son officiating as a priest; opposite them, relatives, also at table; (bottom row) a female harpist and flute player; (farther right) Pahery and his wife praying and making offerings. In this wall is a later door opening into two other chambers.
Tomb of Ahmose Pennekhbet
To the right of Pahery's tomb is the Tomb of Ahmose Pennekhbet, who had a distinguished military career in the reigns of the first kings of the New Kingdom, from Amosis to Tuthmosis III. It consists of a single vaulted chamber, all the reliefs in which have been destroyed. In the doorway is an inscription giving the dead man's biography.
Tomb of Setaw
To the left of Pahery's tomb is the Tomb of Setaw, a High Priest of Nekhbet. It dates from the reign of Ramesses IX (20th Dynasty), and is thus 400 years later than the other tombs, though constructed on the same pattern and decorated in the same style as the others.The left hand wall is much damaged: nothing can now be distinguished but four sacred boats, apparently sailing to a royal festival. Right hand wall, to the left: Setaw and his wife at a meal; below the bench is a monkey; in front of them their son-in-law, in a panther skin, officiating as priest; opposite them, in rows, their relatives at table; below, the painter himself, identifiable by his palette. Part of this scene has been destroyed by a later door opening into a side chamber. Farther right, Setaw and his wife making offerings. On the rear wall is a badly damaged stela.
Tomb of Ahmose
Farther to the left of the Tomb of Pahery is the Tomb of Ahmose, an Admiral, which is notable for a long inscription recording the dead man's exploits, in particular the part he played in the war of liberation against the Hyksos.The tomb consists of a rectangular chamber with a vaulted roof and a side chamber, entered by a door in the right hand wall, which contains the mummy shaft. Main chamber, right hand wall: the dead man, with staff and scepter, accompanied by his grandson Pahery, a painter, who constructed the tomb. In front of them is the inscription, which is continued on the entrance wall. The scenes on the left hand wall are unfinished: note the grid of red lines used by the artist in setting out his work. The rear wall, with the dead man and his wife seated at a meal on the right and rows of relatives on the left, is badly damaged.
Tomb of Reni
Farther westof the Tomb of Pahery is the Tomb of Reni, a Nomarch and High Priest of the early 18th Dynasty. The reliefs are similar to those in Pahery's tomb but less finely executed.Left hand wall: harvest scenes; the dead man supervising the counting of livestock in his nome (including pigs curiously, since the Egyptians abhorred pork); the dead man and his wife at a meal, with relatives opposite them. Right hand wall: burial of Reni and funeral rites. In the rear wall is a niche with a seated figure of the dead man, now totally destroyed.
Still farther to the left of the Tomb of Pahery, at the west end of the necropolis, are three tombs which probably date from before the New Kingdom. One of them, badly damaged, belonged to Ahnofru, a lady attached to the royal harem, and her husband. The second, a chamber with a vaulted roof, belonged to a man named Bebi and his wife, who was also attached to the harem. The third, consisting of a vaulted main chamber with a finely decorated roof and a subsidiary chamber containing the mummy shaft, dates from the reign of Sobkhotep II (13th Dynasty).
Temple of Tuthmosis III
A short distance west of the hill containing the tombs is a small Temple of Tuthmosis III, now completely ruined.
Opposite El-Kab on the west bank of the Nile is the site of Hieraconpoli.