While Egypt is well-known for being the land of the pharaohs and pyramids, not many people (including locals) realize just how old some of Egypt’s fully-modern cities are.
So the next time you’re in one of these places listed below, try to ignore the cars zipping past and the blaring TVs for a moment, and soak in the fact that you’re standing in the same Ancient Egyptian city that stood on that very same spot more than 5,000 years ago.
1. Fayoum (7,000+ years old)
Ancient Egyptian name: Shedet
Greek name: Crocodilopolis
While the ancient Egyptian city of Shedet (modern-day Fayoum) is around 6,000 years old, archaeologists have found evidence of hunter and gatherer societies based in Fayoum from the Epipalaeolithic age.
Shedet was called Crocodilopolis by the Greeks due to it being the main cult center of the crocodile god Sobek.
2. El Qoseir (~5,000 years old)
Greek name: Leucus Limen
The small modern Red Sea city of El Qoseir has been populated for about 5,000 years, and the ancient Greeks called it “Leucus Limen”, which translates to ‘white port’ or ‘white harbor’.
El Qoseir was used as a starting point for many ancient expeditions into foreign lands, the most famous one being Hatshepsut’s expedition to Punt (believed to be modern-day Ethiopia) in 1493 AD to buy ebony, ivory, exotic animals and frankincense and myrrh. This expedition was recorded in her mortuary temple at Deir el Bahari, that still stands in modern-day Luxor.
3. Rashid/Rosetta (~5,000 years old)
Ancient Egyptian name: Khito
Greek name: Bolbitine
This modern-day Mediterranean port city is known for being where the world-famous Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799, allowing Egyptologists to decipher the then-impenetrable hieroglyphics for the first time.
Rashid/Rosetta was inhabited throughout all of Ancient Egyptian history, and named ‘Khito’, which meant ‘populace’, during Menas’ (Mena in Arabic) rule.
During Ptolemaic times, Khito was renamed to Bolbitine, which was one of the seven mouths of the Nile according to Herodotus.
4. Ain Shams (~5,000 - 6,000 years old)
Ancient Egyptian name: Iunu
Greek name: Heliopolis
While technically Ain Shams is now part of modern-day Cairo, the original city Iunu is one of Ancient Egypt’s oldest cities, occupied since the Predynastic times (Menas or Mena is considered the first pharaoh and marks the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period around 5,000 years ago).
Iunu/Heliopolis was known to be a cult center for the sun god Atum, who was then identified as Ra and then Horus. It also became famous for being a learning center during the Greek times, before it was eclipsed by Alexandria around 2,000 years ago.
The name Heliopolis lives on as Cairo’s eastern suburb, near the original city of Ain Shams/Iunu.
5. Elephantine in Aswan (more than 5,000 years old)
Ancient Egyptian name: Abu
Greek name: Elephantine
This island in modern-day Aswan used to be the Ancient Egyptian city of Abu, which translated to ‘elephant’. The first temple built on the island was around 3,200 BC (around 5,200 years ago), and it was a temple for Satet, a goddess personified as the Nile inundation.
Elephantine was also known in the Ancient Egyptian religion as being the home of Khnum, the ram god who watched over and controlled the Nile waters.
Around 3,500 years ago Elephantine became a fort that marked the southern border of Egypt.
6. Luxor (~ 5,200 years old)
Ancient Egyptian name: Waset
Greek name: Thebes
Probably the most famous ancient city in the world, Luxor’s Ancient Egyptian name, Waset, meant ‘city of the scepter of the pharaohs’.
Waset was first inhabited around 3,200 BC and was a small trading post while the Ancient Egyptian capital and royal residence at the time was Memphis.
Its proximity to Nubia and the Eastern desert made Waset/Thebes a growingly-important trading center, and became the official capital of Ancient Egypt during the Middle and New Kingdoms.
Waset/Thebes was built on both banks of the Nile, and until this day is known for its necropolises.
7. Assyut (more than ~5,100 years old)
Ancient Egyptian name: Zawty
Greek name: Lykopolis
Ancient Assyut was the capital of the 13th Nome of Upper Egypt (a nome was a territorial division in Ancient Egypt) around 5,100 years ago. Its importance declined after a conflict with the more southern nomes, ending with Thebes as the victor.
While there are no awe-inspiring ruins left in Assyut like there are in Luxor, there remains a necropolis with tombs and their accompanying treasures, and mummies of wolves were also found.
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