Asyut Travel Guide
About The City Of Asyut
Asyut is the capital of the modern Asyut Governorate in Egypt, which has one of the largest Coptic Catholic bishopric churches in the country; the ancient city of the same name, which is situated nearby. The modern city is located at 27°11′00″N 31°10′00″E / 27.18333°N 31.16667°E, while the ancient city is located at 27°10′00″N 31°08′00″E / 27.16667°N 31.13333°E.
Asyut was for long considered the most alien place for a foreigner to visit in Egypt, being an Islamist stronghold. Not that anything ever happened, but police and the military was high on alert when a Westerner came passing by.
Asyut, 375 km south of Cairo, was settled during Pharaonic times on a broad fertile plain bordering the west bank of the Nile and has preserved an echo of antiquity in its name. As Swaty, it was the ancient capital of the 13th nome of Upper Egypt.
Surrounded by rich agricultural land and sitting at the end of one of Africa’s great caravan routes, from sub-Saharan Africa and Sudan to Asyut via Al-Kharga Oasis, it has always been important commercially, if not politically.
For centuries one of the main commodities traded here was slaves: caravans stopped here for quarantine before being traded, a period in which slaves used to prepare some of their male slaves for the harem. Much of modern Asyut is an agglomeration of high-rises that carry no trace or reminder of the ancient Egyptian entrepôt. In the late 1980s, this was one of the earliest centuries of Islamist fomentation.
In the summer and autumn of 2000, it was also the scene of an apparition in which the Virgin Mary appeared to Copts and Muslims, in the words of one witness, ‘with ﬂ ashes of heavenly lights and spiritual doves’. The choice of hotels and transport links make it the best overnight stopover between Minya and Luxor, as does its reputation for fruit and juices. And at least some of its citizens heed the governor’s call that ‘cleanliness is civilized behavior.