Egyptian cities and markets: What's behind a name? Part II

Sherry El-Gergawi, Thursday 12 Jul 2012

Hurghada, Al-Fayyoum, Qena, Al-Menya are landmarks that date back centuries. Ahram Online looks at the stories behind the names of Egypt's towns and famous markets

Sinai (Picture: courtesy of Ahl Misr Zaman on facebook)

Some of the names we use today for our streets, neighbourhoods, markets, and towns, go centuries back.

The following information is culled from Salah Shaarawi’s book, Tales and Anecdotes from Egyptian History (Qesas wa Taraef min El-Tarikh El-Masri).

Sinai: The pharaonic name of it was Khasit Mafcat and sometimes they called it Domifcat, which means Turquoise strips.

Menoufiya: The name of this Delta city was originally Men-Nefer, which means “good land” in ancient Egyptian.

Hurghada: This Red Sea city, known as Ghardaqah in Arabic, was called Hur Ghada or “Desert Oasis” in ancient times.

Al-Menya: The pharaonic name of the city was Manaat, reportedly the name of the wet nurse of King Khufu.

Domyat: The name of this Mediterranean city, known in English as Damietta, was originally Damat-Ptah-Tinen, which means “The City of the God Ptah” in ancient Egyptian.

Domyat (Picture: courtesy of Ahl Misr Zaman on facebook)

Banha: The pharaonic name of this Delta town, Birneha, was changed by the Arabs to Banha al-Asal, due to its plentiful production of asal, or honey.

Qena: The pharaonic name of the south Egyptian city was Shabt, and the Coptic name Quta.

Al-Mahallah Al-Kobra: The pharaonic name was Didosia, which means hemp or flax. In the Coptic period, the name was changed to Mahallat Dekla.

Matobas: The name of the Delta town, situated close to Kafr Al-Sheikh, used to be Matobas Al-Roman, or the Roman Fort.

Tala: The Roman name of this city in Menoufia was Tasnan, a reference to its location on a hill (or tall).

Abu Suweir: The pharaonic name of this town near Ismailia was Bar Atom, or House of the god Atom.

Abu Suweir
Abu Suweir (Picture: courtesy of Ahl Misr Zaman on facebook)

Itay Al-Barud: The name of this city in Beheira was Etay in Coptic. The second half of the name was added later on when the city acquired a gunpowder (or barud) factory.

Tel Al-Amarna: The famous city near Menya was known as Akhetaton during the life of its founder, Akhenaton.

Al-Fayyoum: It used to be called Bar Soubek, or House of Soubek in pharaonic times. Al-Fayyoum had many crocodiles at the time, and therefore it was named after Soubek, the crocodile deity.

Tur: The name of this ancient city in Sinai comes from the Aramaic work for mountain, Tur.

Tur (Picture: courtesy of Ahl Misr Zaman on facebook)

Rashid: The name of this Mediterranean coastal town was Rakhit in ancient times and Rashit in Coptic times.

Sakha: The name of this town near Kafr Al-Sheikh used to be Pikha Esus, or foot of Jesus, a reference to a stone that is widely believed to carry the foot imprint of baby Jesus.

Suq Al-Gamalon: It was where cotton and linen fabrics were sold.

Suq al-Gamalon
Suq al-Gamalon (Picture: courtesy of Ahl Misr Zaman on facebook)

Suq Al-Fostat: It was where pottery products were sold.

Suq al-Fostat
Suq al-Fostat (Picture: courtesy of Ahl Misr Zaman on facebook)

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