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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Minya: Egypt’s most beautiful corniche

Ahram Online takes a look back at Minya's twentieth-century golden age

Ola R. Seif, Friday 20 Mar 2015
Views: 4977
Views: 4977

While the best Nile view is undoubtedly found in Aswan and the most archaeological monuments are in Luxor, the most beautiful Nile-side corniche road is in the city of Minya.

The Minya corniche is a long strip that overlooks a unique Nile view. From the road, a melange of greenery between the blue water of the Nile and the yellow mountains greets the eye.

The historic site of Tell El-Amarna is close by, and many artefacts associated with the site are now located in Mallawi Museum in the city of Mallawi, just south of Minya.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century Minia was scarcely mentioned in the guidebooks as it was not a highlight on the tourist itinerary. But the city's golden age came in the first half of the twentieth century when it became popular as a winter resort for Cairenes who were heading to their nearby farms.

It is also as one of the few Upper Egyptian towns with a strong legacy of twentieth century architectural heritage.

Minya 1

(Minya's corniche in the early twentieth century and the El-Fouli Mosque which dates back to 1857)

Minya's economic importance in this period was generated by the production of cotton and sugar cane in its fertile soil.

Most of its small towns such as Abu Qurqas, Mallawi, Maghagha, Beni Mazar, Mattay, Samalout, Deir Muwas grew up around private ezba (farms) of dignitaries and aristocrats for example the Adib Wahba mansion in Abu Qurqas, the El-Masry Pacha house in Maghagha, the villa of Abdel-Razik Pasha in Abu Girg, the palace of Abdel-Meguid Seif El-Nasr in Mallawi, and the palace of Hayat El-Nufus in Mallawi.

The owners of these houses were almost never permanent residents of their sumptuous farmhouses, although they frequented the area for extended stays during the cotton harvest season, on weekends, and during festivals.

A number of well-known figures were raised in the governorate, including feminist Hoda Shaarawi, author Taha Hussein, military leader Abdel-Hakim Amer who headed the Egyptian army in the late 1960s, and actress Mervat Amin.

As a result of the agricultural prosperity in its periphery, the town of Minya proper was urbanised starting from the first decade of the twentieth century. A railway track was laid and its first station was inaugurated around 1907.

Although it was replaced a few decades later by a neo-Pharaonic building the architectural style of the earliest station was a trademark of contemporaneous stations introduced by the British colonisers.

As in many Upper Egyptian towns, there is a street named after the railway station, namely Sharia Al-Mahatta. In the case of Minya it was surrounded by several small twentieth century hotels which serviced its economic boom. Several are recorded in vintage photographs.

Minya 2

(4. Grand Hotel Minya and the Mustafa Pacha Hotel)

Minya 3

(2. Minya's Mustafa Pacha Hotel)

The Mustafa Pacha Hotel was owned by a Greek, Kosman Sotiri.

Minya 4

(Minya's Sharia Al-Mahatta)

Although Sharia Al-Mahatta still exists bearing the same name, none of these hotels is operational anymore.

Many of the neighbouring houses, although modest, are characterised by the Rumi style common in the nineteenth century, with protruding hybrid mashrabiyas decorating the balustrades of their balconies.

In the thirties, the development of Minya saw the building of a national courthouse, a splendid governorate headquarters overlooking its corniche and small branches of banks operated by the developing middle class.

The city featured a diverse mix of ethnic and national groups such as Greeks and Armenians, who gradually left in the fifties and the sixties in the aftermath of the dramatic change of regime.

The governorate celebrates a national day on 18 March.

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