Aten Museum underway

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 1 Mar 2022

Work is in full swing at the long-awaited Aten Museum in Minya before its official opening

Museum in Minya before its official opening
Museum in Minya before its official opening

On the east bank of the Nile in Minya stands the pyramid-shaped edifice of the Aten Museum waiting for the completion of its final phase writes Nevine El-Aref.

The museum is a gift from Germany and was started in 1998 according to a partnership agreement between the Aten Museum and the Hildesheim Museum in Germany.

The building was modified by the late Egyptian architect Gamal Bakri. Museums consultant Mahmoud Mabrouk designed the grounds to provide a suitable landscape for outdoor exhibitions.

The grounds, which overlook the Nile, take up 25 feddans. The building is made up of five floors and features 14 exhibition halls, a large conference hall, a scientific library, an open-air theatre, a museum for children, a restoration laboratory, a food court, and a 600-metre boulevard along the Nile Corniche.

The idea of establishing the Aten Museum began in 1979 after a twinning agreement was signed between the city of Minya and the German city of Hildesheim. It was designed to be a major facility in presenting the ancient town of Akhenaten to modern visitors, also telling the history of the Minya governorate and the capital of Egypt at the time.

The construction of the museum began in 2002, but due to various reasons, it is still unfinished today. Nonetheless, with its elegant form, it has already become a landmark of the city of Minya. It was built over three phases, and the basic shape was finalised in 2010. The construction was halted in 2011 due to the 25 January Revolution, and then again for the lack of a budget. The work resumed in 2015.

Moemen Othman, head of the Museums Sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly that work on the final phase of the museum is now at full swing with a view to completing the museum and opening it to the public.

The Supreme Council of Museums embarked on a tour early this week to inspect the work and the exhibition scenario of the museum, which will put on display a large collection of artefacts relating to the history of Minya from prehistoric times right through to the Graeco-Roman era.

The exhibition will include sections on the history of ancient Amarna, which once stood on the site of Minya and was the capital of Egypt during the reign of the monotheistic king Akhenaten. He aimed to stabilise the Aten religion at Amarna, and important art techniques were used in the city to carve royal statues and build temples, including talatat stones, blocks of a standardised size that were used to construct temples to the god Aten.

The exhibition also explores recent discoveries made in Minya and Egypt’s relations with its neighbours in the ancient period by displaying diplomatic archives from the reign of Akhenaten. Objects relating to Akhenaten’s wife queen Nefertiti, as well as his father, king Amenhotep III, and his mother queen Tye, unearthed at Amarna will also be on show.

Othman said that the museum has been installed with showcases to the highest international standards highlighting the beauty of the objects and each with an appropriate lighting system.

Akhenaten was an 18th-Dynasty ancient Egyptian king who during the fifth year of his reign changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten and changed Egypt’s official major deity from Amun to Aten. 

He moved his capital to Tel Al-Amarna in Minya some 200 miles north of Thebes, now called Luxor, and named it Akhetaten. At the time, it was a virgin site on the east bank of the Nile and a large desert embayment enclosed by limestone cliffs in which a series of boundary stelae were carved.

The boundary texts dated to the fifth, sixth, and eighth years of his rule and describe the planned city in some detail, revealing Akhenaten’s intention to construct a city dedicated to the worship of Aten and separate from already established cults.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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