Travel to Amarna – Discover the Story of Heretical Akhenaten
Thebes was the centre of the Amun cult for centuries, but in the 14th century BCE Akhenaten abandoned it and created a new capital at Amarna, 405 km north. No comparison in Western history can compare with this schism, save perhaps the split between the Eastern and Western churches in Byzantine times.
For 14 short but turbulent years Amarna was the capital of Egypt under Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti. Akhenaten was the son of Ahmenhotep III and only adopted this name when he rejected the traditional cult of Amun at Karnak and moved his court north to Amarna. His reign was short and chaotic and no-one can be sure how he died. We do know that after his death his successor was Smenkhkare, his son-in-law, who, after a very short time was himself succeeded by Akhenaten half-brother, the famous Tutankhamun who returned the capital to Thebes and restored the old order.
The site we see today was occupied for no more than 25 short years and as such provides an important window into the Amarna Period. Consisting of the Northern and Southern Tombs, the city remains and what is termed the Northern Palace the site is huge and requires transport to get around it (available on-site). Whilst relatively little remains compared to some sites the Northern Tombs are interesting being a necropolis of nobles whose interiors are decorated with imagery and stories of the life not of the occupant, but of Akhenaten.
Allow a half day if you can to see the site an exploration of which should be undertaken with a local guide. Most people visit as part of a guided tour which includes other nile Valley sites.
As everywhere in Egypt at Amarna you’ll no doubt be approached by someone selling cold drinks. Even though there is little at the site in the form of places to sit and relax, grab a drink and find a shady spot as wandering the site can be hot work.
Given its location visitors will be seeing Amarna as part of a north to south itinerary, staying overnight at either Assiut or Minya. From either Assiut or Minya take a taxi to the site. If you are travelling with your own vehicle and guide access is easy and convenient from either city
- Explore the Northern Tombs to see scenes from Akhenaten life
- See the well preserved Tomb of Mahu, Akhenaten’s ‘Security Chief’, in the Southern group
- Don’t miss the best preserved tomb, that of Ay, who was eventually buried in Thebes