This magnificent cemetery site is on the East Bank of the Nile. Beni Hasan is generally approached from the West Bank by ferry, which shows the site to its best advantage: a narrow, vibrant strip of green bordering the river that suddenly ends in dramatically sloping limestone cliffs that stand out starkly against an intense blue sky. Tombs (39) of local rulers that date to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1640 BC) pierce the cliffs. Generally only four or five are open to
visitors at any time.
On the climb up the stairs, you pass shaft tombs (closed) for the less important people. The tombs of the wealthy and more important folk are in the upper portions of the cliff. There are three basic tomb types on the cliff, aside from the shaft tombs. The first has a plain facade and is single-chambered (11th Dynasty); the second (11th and 12th Dynasties) is plain on the outside, but its chamber is columned; and the third type (12th Dynasty) has a portico in front and a columned chamber.
You can never be sure of which tombs will be open, but the ones listed here usually are accessible. The lighting in the tombs varies greatly, so bring a flashlight. A café at the base of the cliff offers cold drinks, but you should bring your own packed lunch.
Tomb of Amenemhat (No. 2), 12th Dynasty. Not only was the tomb owner a nomarch, or governor, but he also was the military commander in chief of the area. This tomb has some entertaining scenes of musicians, knife makers, and leather workers, in addition to the usual daily-life scenes.
Tomb of Bakht III (No. 15), 11th Dynasty. Built for a governor of the Oryx Nome, this tomb contains seven shafts, which suggests that members of his family were buried with him. The wall paintings show hunting in the marshes and desert, weavers, counting livestock, potters, metalworkers, wrestlers, and offerings bearers. The desert hunt scenes are particularly interesting because they show some very bizarre mythological animals.
Tomb of Kheti (No. 17), 11th Dynasty. Kheti was the governor of the Oryx Nome. Scenes on the walls show hunting, offerings, daily activities, and the wrestlers that are typical of Beni Hasan. An attack on a fortress is also depicted.
Tomb of Khnumhotep (No. 3), 12th Dynasty. This large tomb, entered between two proto-Doric columns, belonged to Khnumhotep, a governor of the Oryx Nome as well as a prince. It is famous for its hunt scenes and depictions of foreign visitors to Egypt. Carved in the back wall is a statue of the deceased, and the color of the paintings is much better preserved in this tomb than in any of the others.
Beni Hasan, Egypt
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