Minya Museum work continues

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 17 Jan 2023

Work is in full swing at the long-awaited Aten Museum in Minya, with the inauguration date expected soon

Minya Museum
Minya Museum


On the east bank of the Nile in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya stands the pyramid-shaped edifice of the Aten Museum waiting for the completion of its final phase.

The construction of the museum started as early as 1998, and the building was later modified by late Egyptian architect Gamal Bakri. Museums consultant Mahmoud Mabrouk designed the grounds, 25 feddans overlooking the Nile, to provide a suitable landscape for outdoor exhibitions.

The museum 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.

The idea of establishing the Aten Museum came 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 presenting the capital city of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten to modern visitors while also telling the story of the Minya governorate.

While the museum is unfinished within, its elegant form soon became a Minya landmark. Built over three phases, the shape of the museum was finalised in 2010, but construction was halted in 2011 due to the 25 January Revolution and budgetary problems.

Work resumed in 2015 and is continuing with walls being finished together with floors and ceilings, lighting and air-conditioning systems being installed, and landscaping completed.

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 in full swing with a view to opening it to the public soon.

The Supreme Committee for Exhibition Scenarios, headed by Ali Omar, a former dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels at Helwan University, embarked on a tour early this week to inspect the work being done and the exhibition design of the Museum. This will feature a large collection of artefacts relating to the history of Minya from prehistoric times to the Graeco-Roman era.

Omar said that the exhibition will include sections on the history of the ancient city of Amarna, which once stood on the site of Minya today and was the capital of Egypt during the reign of the monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten.

 The latter aimed to make the city a centre of the new Aten religion, and important art techniques were used 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 regarding Egypt’s relations with its neighbours during ancient times by displaying diplomatic archives from the reign of Akhenaten. Objects relating to Akhenaten’s wife queen Nefertiti, as well as to his father Amenhotep III and his mother queen Tye, that were unearthed at Amarna will also be on show.

Othman said the museum has been installed with showcases to the highest international standards, these highlighting the beauty of the objects displayed through the use of a dedicated 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 Amarna, now the site of 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 with a large desert embayment enclosed by limestone cliffs in which a series of boundary stelae were carved.

The boundary texts date to the fifth, sixth, and eighth years of Akhenaten’s rule and describe the planned city in some detail, revealing this 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 19 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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