The best place for a base in Middle Egypt is the city of Al Minya, untouristed until now. Its name has varied only slightly through the millennia, and always with an interesting story attached. At one time, it was called Minat Khufu, meaning "Favorite of Khufu" (he who built the Great Pyramid of Giza). In more recent centuries, it got the nickname of Minya al-Fuli because of a Yemeni bean-trader who liked the city so well he decided to make it his home (fuul is Egyptian for "beans"). The town returned the honor by erecting a mosque that bears the al-Fuli name. Nowadays Al Minya calls itself the Bride of Upper Egypt and has named Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak the Nefertiti of Minya, because her family hails from these parts.
The city has a different feel to it from others on the Nile, perhaps because it is located on the river’s West Bank. Several pleasant parks and tea gardens line its Downtown waterfront. Across the river, though, on the East Bank, the town’s future is under construction. Housing developments are going up. A new museum for the Pharaoh Akhenaton is nearing completion. An international airport is on the drawing board. And local tourism officials are hoping that security and navigation improvements will soon allow Nile cruise boats to come this way again.