Guided Tour of Abydos

Welcome! We've been working hard to build our city. We are very proud of our city and our history and are happy to show you the sights.

Our walled town is built on the edge of the cultivated land. You will have already noticed our many one- and two-story houses of mudbrick, built with or without small windows. Every town has those, but our tour will start at our temple, in the heart of the city.

The temple

For any foreigners among you who do not know the importance we attach to temples, let me tell you what temples mean to us. Temples and tombs are the only buildings made to last because they are very important. They are not only places for the gods, they are models of our country and of the universe. There are many types of temples. Some honor the gods, some are mortuary monuments for the kings, ensuring their eternal comfort. Others also have administrative functions. Learned priests also make temples a place of research. In our temples, the gods are fed and clothed.

Our temple is on a hill in north Abydos (Kom el-Sultan). It is dedicated to Khentiamentiu, "Foremost of the Westerners" (or ruler over the dead). Abydos has been a cult center for Khentiamentiu for a long time. We have begun honoring Osiris only since the Fifth Dynasty, and by the Sixth, some call him Lord of Abydos. Some people have made predictions about the future of Abydos' relationship with Osiris. The temple is made out of mudbrick, but a few sections, like the doorways, are made out of stone. Like most temples, it has a brick wall around it, and then a gateway for flags. Before the temple is a court. Isn't our temple great?


The Storehouse of Dates

Now we will walk northwest to where the Storehouse of Dates used to be, (Shunet el-Zib in Arabic). It was built in the Second Dynasty. It is two complexes, and it has large, inner walls, and outer, mudbrick walls.


The mayor's house

If you will follow me to the southeast of the city, we can rest at the mayor's house. She is away at the moment, but her servants would be happy to wash your feet and give you bread and beer. Her house is quite large, with rooms for offices besides her living quarters. Behind her house is her large granary.


Shunet ez Zebib/Shunet el Zebib

Going south, you can see our huge, 40-foot high wall of stones covered with white plaster. Some call it a worthy predecessor to Djoser's work in Saqqara.


The tombs

Now let's go south, outside the city, where the famous cenotaphs and tombs of honored ancestors are (Um el-Ga'ab). Watch out for the broken votive offerings. We have so many around here, future generations may call this place "Mother of Pots" if we aren't careful! [Um el-Ga'ab means "Mother of Pots."] Notice how big Djer's tomb is. It is so big, some jokingly call it worthy of being Osiris' tomb! We think that's in poor taste. Each of the king's tombs are surrounded by smaller tombs of people from the king's court. Before each tomb are two pillars or tablets with inscriptions. Future Greeks will call them stelae, but we call them wedj or aha. Since the early eras, wedj have been made out of wood, but some make them out of stone. Many people have dedicated wedj to the god to celebrate the Festival of Osiris and to participate in the festival in the afterlife.

A mile from the tombs of the kings of the revered First Dynasty are walled funerary structures that were places for the shemsu-her to gather. The shemsu-her are the "entourage of Horus," and they were associated with the king as Horus. The large, rectangular brick walls enclosed buildings with niches in three of the four sides. In their open courts is a sacred mound, which was a symbol of the primordial creation mound. The shemsu-her play a part in the Sed festival.

Well, let's walk back to the temple, where we started our tour. Thank you for coming to our fine city. We hope you enjoyed it.

Note: Please excuse our tour director. For some reason, she keeps on spouting futuristic Arabic terms. We of course speak Egyptian around here!

Predictions: By the Middle Kingdom, Abydos was the most important religious center for Osiris. Khentiamentiu's temple becomes Osiris' temple in the Twelfth Dynasty. Also, Abydos becomes famous for the Osireion, which was built after the Old Kingdom and was to the east of the city.

Go back to the text.

Osiris' tomb: Djer's tomb does get mistaken for Osiris' tomb by at least the Twelfth Dynasty.

Go back to the text.


Bower, Bruce. (1999, Aug. 28). Hey, Pharaoh, make way for the mayor. Science News, 156, (9), starts p. 139. Note: This describes the mayor of Middle Kingdom Abydos, but this is as close as I have been able to get!

Bunson, Margaret. (1991). A Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press.

David. Rosalie. (1998). Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press.

Haanen, Paul. (2000, Oct. 17). Email response to my question about Old Kingdom Abydos. He's done archaeological work in Egypt and he was listed in AllExperts, a question-and-answer service on the Web.

Kees, Hermann (author), James, T.G.H. (ed.). (Year?). Ancient Egypt: A Cultural Topography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Manley, Bill. (1996). The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt. New York: Penguin Books.

"Situation Map of Abydos." Accessed Feb. 21, 2000. Available at:

Wilkinson, Richard H. (2000). The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt. New York: Thames & Hudson.

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