History Of Esna
In Upper Egypt, along the west bank of Nile River, where Esna is located at 55 km south of LUXOR city. Esna is a city that demonstrates how archaeological layers build up over time; it is a homeland of treasures of world-renowned Greek – Roman monuments.
From ancient Egyptian to Greek – Roman era, followed by Fatimid era, then Ottoman and finally the era of Mohamed Ali pasha. They represent some of the finest examples of mankind’s early civilization and it is ranked among its greatest cultural achievements.
This unique cultural heritage continues to attract visitors from all over the world in ever-growing numbers. Nevertheless, Esna today is somehow a trade and farming town, with a weaving industry, it suffers from severe dreadful conditions of the physical environment and basic services for inhabitants.
Furthermore, the high level of subterranean water at Esna was caused by the construction of the Esna barrages, which raise water levels behind them. The water has slightly affected the walls and foundation of the khnum temple which belong to the Greek – Roman era.
Moreover, because of the ground level of the city of Esna which is nine meters higher than the level of the temple, the absence of a drainage system in the city had also added to the rising subterranean water level .. Therefore, it’s worth aiming to develop Esna city via exploiting its special location and create tourists attractions which leads to increasing employment opportunities, initiating to higher rates of quality of life for inhabitants. Taking into consideration that such development procedures will be environment-friendly.
In order to respond to these trends, the Ministry of Housing, General Organization of Physical Planning and Luxor Governorate had nominated our firm to participate in such development plan in 2010, for the study of a Comprehensive Development Plan for the City of Esna The Structure Plan, Heritage Plan and Investment Projects produced as components of the project address ways to accommodate the projected growth in population, tourism and agriculture, while preserving and enhancing the antiquities.
FROM GREEK TO ROMAN
The Egyptian city of Esna, known to the ancient Egyptians as Ta-senet (from which the Coptic Sne and Arabic Esna derive). It is the site of a major temple was built during the reign of Thutmose III and dedicated to the ram-god Khnum that was worshipped throughout this area and who fashioned mankind from mud of the Nile on his potter’s wheel. Besides Khnum, the temple was dedicated to several other deities, the most prominent of whom were Neith and Heka.
All the texts mention that the temple of Esna was built on the site of a temple that may have been constructed as early as the reign of Thutmose III. Some blocks of the earlier 18th Dynasty structure are preserved. The present structure dates to the Greek and Roman periods and is one of the latest temples to have been built by the ancient Egyptians.
The ceiling of the hypostyle shows Egyptian astronomical figures on the northern half and Roman signs of the zodiac on the southern half. The temple façade is constructed in the style of the period with the usual screen walls inset with columns. The reliefs show the Roman Emperors named by their cartouches, before many of the Upper Egyptian deities. There is a frieze of Nile gods along the base of the façade. The hypostyle hall “was excavated by Auguste Mariette” is well preserved, Other remains of the temple lie buried beneath the surrounding buildings of the modern town. The back wall of the hypostyle hall is the oldest part of this construct, having been the facade of the old Ptolemaic (Greek) temple. It has depictions of both Ptolemy VI Philometer and Ptolemy VIII. The remainder of the building was built by the Romans (Claudius through Decius) and some of its decorations date as late as the third century AD.
THE ISLAMIC PERIOD
Esna was also famous during the times of Fatimid ruler Al-Mustansir Biallah. According to the historian Al-Maqrizi, it was during this time that a great famine scorched Egypt, and even then Esna was described as having many buildings and green gardens, with waters that didn’t ebb and with rich agriculture which helped the country in facing the crisis.
From the Fatimid era, the Emari Minaret had remained as one of the oldest minarets in Egypt which can be traced back to Badreddin El-Gamali, who built the walls of Cairo, and which escaped the mosque’s demolition in 1960.
During the Ottoman era the city’s commercial centre was built. Wekalet Al-Gedawi stands north of Esna Temple, and owes its name to its chief merchant and owner Shahbandar Al-Toggar Al-Sayed Hassan Al-Gedawi. Merchants from Sudan, central Africa, Somalia and Kenya were just some of those travelling through the Aswan road to stay in the second floor of the Wekala.
They stored their goods in the first floor until they could display them at the market that was regularly held in the Wekala’s courtyard. The Berber sold baskets and other items made of dyed palm leaves. Other star products arriving to Esna by caravan were Arab glue, ostrich feathers and elephant tusks.
If the Wekala was the place to find imported goods, the Kaysariya, consisting of shops arranged in a long alley covered with wooden ceiling, was the local city market. During the era of Mohamed Ali, Esna was one of the governorates of Egypt. It ran from Gerga on the north to the Shalalat waterfalls south, including Aswan and other cities. Ali Pasha Mubarak also discussed the beauty of its houses, its antiquity treasures and the growth of its population. There used to be a well famed tarboush factory back then.