Minya, a Middle Egyptian governorate located south of Cairo on the western bank of the Nile, has history that dates back to the Predynastic Period (before 3100 BC).
It will celebrate the opening of the long-awaited museum highlighting its history and the philosophy of monotheism in ancient Egypt.
Ahmed Hemeida, director of the Akhenaten Museum, told Majalla that the idea of establishing the museum came after an agreement signed in 1979 between the German city of Hildesheim and Minya.
“The site for establishing it was selected in the 1990s. By 2003, the Supreme Council of Antiquities in cooperation with Arab Contractors - a massive Egyptian regional construction company – began work on the museum with Egyptian funding and German engineering designs,” Hemeida said.
He explained that the museum was about to be opened in 2012, but because of the January 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak, the works stopped for the lack of funding.
“Since this January, the work has continued and the museum will be inaugurated by next year,” he added.
The museum was dedicated to Amenhotep IV, also known as Akhenaten (reigned 1353–1336). He was the 10th king of the 18th Dynasty (spanning the period from 1550/1549 to 1292 BC) who built Akhetaten or Tell El Amarna, an archeological site and popular tourist attraction in Minya.
Tell El Amarna still contains the remains of his capital city.
AKHENATEN AND NEW RELIGION
Akhenaten tried to unite the gods of ancient Egypt, including the god Amun-Ra, in the form of the one god Aten, the sun god. Hence although most Pharaoh kings ruled from Thebes (now Luxor), he moved the capital from there to his new capital in Minya.
Realistic art appeared in the new capital, especially in sculpture and painting, and a new literature appeared characterized by chants for the new god Aten. King Akhenaten was preoccupied with his religious reforms and disregarded foreign policy and the management of an empire that extended to the upper Euphrates in the north and Nubia in the south.
To spread the new cult in the country, he ordered the destruction of the statues of Amon and the erasure of his name from the inscriptions, and canceled his titles and all the attributes he was given which expressed the belief in his protection of the royal throne.
He faced strong opposition by the priests of the temples, who were the most affected by the unification of worship.
When Akhenaten died, people abandoned worshipping Aten and migrated from Tell El-Amarna back to Thebes and announced the return of worshipping Amun.
The Akhenaten Museum covers everything related to the history of Tell Amarna, of Akhenaton and the philosophy of monotheism in ancient Egypt.
Hemeida said that the museum covers an area of 25 feddan (acres), adding that it is the third mega archaeological project in the country after the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Old Cairo which was opened last year and the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza which is due to be open by the end of this year.
The Akhenaten Museum consists of three buildings. The first is unique in design as it resembles the refraction of sunlight, depending on the Aten god whose symbol is the sun's disk and the rays extending from it. The building consists of 14 exhibition halls, a cinema, a theater, a conference hall accommodating 800 people as well as a library for archaeological studies.
“There is a hall about Minya through ages, then a hall for the ancient history of Tell El Amarna and its arts such as engraving, sculpting and painting. Statues of Akhenaten and his wife Queen Nefertiti, will be on display in addition to artefacts. It also houses excavations from various archaeological sites in Minya including Tuna El-Gebel, Beni Hasan, Deir El Bersha and Al Bahnasa,” Hemeida explained.
The second building houses a center for maintenance, restoration and storage. The third building contains a number of bazaars, while the fourth houses a cafeteria.
The most dazzling feature in the museum is its 650-meter walkway along the Nile.
Hemeida said that the museum is very important for locals and foreigners alike.
“It is very important for Minya residents to know their city’s history, as it plays a major role in raising their cultural awareness.
“It is very important also for foreigners because when they visit the museum, they will be encouraged and excited to visit other archaeological sites in Minya,” he added.