Travel to Beni Hassan – Remote Rock-Cut Tombs Overlooking the Nile
Pharaonic tombs depict religious rights and spells to ensure the pharaoh’s successful entry into the afterlife. The well-preserved tombs at Beni Hassan are of regional rulers and military commanders and in contrast to those of pharaohs show a variety of intriguing depictions of daily life, giving a important window into the past.
Beni Hassan’s 39 tombs date from the Middle Kingdom, 1980-1801BCE, and are the necropolis of local rulers, military chiefs and important personages, rather than those of great pharaohs. As a result the tombs, whilst not as extensive of as extravagant as those in the Valley of the Kings, are revealing – their interiors have finely carved fluted columns and wonderful paintings of Egyptian life and society at the time.
Of the 39 tombs at the time of writing 4 are open to the public. Baqet III was a governor of the 11th Dynasty and his simple tomb contains well-preserved scenes of a desert hunt and wrestling. Kheti was Baqet son and his tomb is supported by 6 lotus-columns and contains painted scenes of wrestling along with those of farmers, people playing board games, dancing, gymnastics and even barbers.
Amenemhat ruled the region for Senusert between 1971-1928BCE and made incursions south into the land of Kush, northern Sudan and these campaigns are recorded inside the door of his tomb. The paintings inside are very fine showing cooking scenes, hunting and military campaigns. The last tomb belongs to Khnumhotep, Amenemhat’s successor, with tomb paintings showing ploughing, harvesting, hunting and the arrival of a trade mission thought to be from Asia.
Allow and hour and a half to see Beni Hassan’s tombs which realistically must be visited with your own transport. Most people visit as part of a wider itinerary encompassing other Nile Valley sites.
Grab a cold drink for the ferry ride across the Nile en route for the tombs.
Beni Hassan lies 20km south of el-Minya and is difficult to get to – this being a sensitive area public buses are not allowed to carry foreigners. It may be possible to get here from Minya by taxi, however by far the easiest way is to arrange a driver and guide and visited on a guided tour; in all likelihood however you travel to Beni Hassan you will have the presence of an armed guide. You will almost certainly have the site entirely to yourself.
- Well-preserved Nile-side rock tombs
- Tomb decoration show amazingly detailed scenes of everyday life
- A remote site – discover it alone