There are many hidden treasures in the land of the Nile that are usually missed especially by the tourists visiting Egypt for the first time. Among these are the monuments of the city of El Minya that is far less visited by travelers spending their vacation in Egypt than other destinations in Egypt like Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan.
El Minya, situated around 245 kilometers to the South of Cairo, is featured with some remarkable historical sites. This includes the ancient tombs of Beni Hassan, Tell El Amarna, the capital of Akhenaton, the famous Pharaoh who modified the multi system gods of Egypt into the worship of one god; Aten.
There is also the ancient city of Khmnu or Hermopolis as the Ptolemies called later on. This historical site is now called El Ashmonien in reference to the village located nearby that was once the cult of the worship of the god Thoth, the god of wisdom in the Pharaonic times.
Geographical Location of the Al Ashmonien
The ancient city of Hermopolis is located on the West Bank of the River Nile, near the small town of El Ashmonien located about 11 kilometers to the North West of the center of the city of El Minya.
El Minya is situated around 245 kilometers to the South of Cairo, 400 kilometers to the North of Luxor, 600 kilometers to the north of Aswan, and only 140 kilometers to the South East of El Fayoum.
The Name and the history of Al Ashmonien or Hermopolis
There is a relationship in fact between the ancient name Khmnu and the recent name Ashmonien. The city was originally named Khunum that mean eight in the ancient Egyptian language as the priests of this city thought the universe consists of eight elements.
The name was later on modified to be Shemon that was in modified in return to become El Ashmonien that Egyptians use today.
Since the city consisted of two sections; the Eastern Khmnu that was located in the East Bank of the Nile and it was the city of the living and Western Khmnu, situated in the West Bank of the Nile and it was the city of the dead, the same as many other cities in ancient Egypt, the two sections of the city was called El Ashmonien later on.
The name Khmnu was actually associated in ancient Egypt with the name Wunno that was the name of the Fifth province of ancient Egypt.
There are no clear evidences concerning when exactly this ancient city of Khmnu was first established. However, all the historians and scholars assert that it was during the reign of the Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt.
The city of Khmnu was dedicated to the worship of the god, Thoth, the god of wisdom and magic in ancient Egypt. However, this was not the only place in the land of the Nile where this god was worshiped as he had other temples in Abydos and some other regions in Egypt.
The city of Khmnu played important roles in the religious and political life of ancient Egypt in different sections of history. This is why it hosts ruins from different periods today. There actually a number of ruins dating to the Middle and the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt.
The Description of Al Ashmonien
Less visited by tourists spending their vacation in Egypt than many other historical sites in cities like Luxor and Aswan, still some travelers who are really fond of ancient Egyptian history and architecture visit the ruins of Hermopolis today.
The Temple of Thoth
The Temple of Thoth was one of the most important religious temples in Khmnu as it was the temple where the god of wisdom was once worshiped.
The façade of the Temple of Thoth in El Ashmonien used to host a huge colossus of Ramses II that is now put on display in the Egyptian Museum in Egypt. The northern section of the façade has some wall carvings of the king presenting offerings to the gods Thoth and Seth.
The Southern section of the entrance to the temple has some presentations of the king; Seti II taking the key of life from different gods including Thoth of course and Amun Ra. The Northern section has some similar scenes of the king presenting offerings to the gods.
During the reign of the New Kingdom in ancient Egypt, many modifications and sections were added to the Temple of Thoth in Hermopolis. This includes the hypostyle hall of Hor Moheb and the hypostyle hall of the king Ramses II.
The Temple of Ramses II
Although this temple is now mostly ruined except for some bases of some statues, it must have been quite impressive in ancient times.
The establisher of this temple was Ramses II in the 13th century BC. Moreover, other kings including Merenptah added other sections to the temple during their ruling periods. However, all what we can see today are some statues and eight columns.
The Roman Basilica
The sections of the ruins of the Roman Basilica in El Ashmonien are certainly the most impressive elements that survived until today from the ancient city of Khmnu. It consists of a number of charming granite columns.
This structure is believed to be constructed during the early Coptic period in Egypt in the 3rd or 4th centuries BC.
The Open-Air Museum of Al Ashmonien
Situated near the famous large statues of the baboons, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities has established an open-air museum to host the most important findings discovered in the Al Ashmonien and in the area around it.
The displays in this open-air museum includes a head of a statue that dates probably to the Roman period, some stone bases of columns that date to the Ptolemaic period, and many other interesting displays.