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Of ancient agricultural origin, the city of Minya is without a shadow of a doubt the one that, over the centuries, has most distinguished itself as the lady of Egyptian cotton.
The words of Ibn Battuta
“City far superior to the others in Upper Egypt, which extends over a vast area on the banks of the Nile and is home to madrasas, mausoleums, zawiya and mosques.”
From Ancient Egypt to Byzantium
The city was founded even in the pre-dynastic period, so much so that it will only be with the first pharaoh Narmer that this place will actually enter the Kingdom of Egypt, being then renamed Men’at Khufu, in honor of Khufu, known by us as Cheops, the builder of the great pyramid. With the collapse ofthe Ancient Kingdom, the city and its surroundings steadily increased in importance, to the point of becoming the tip of the balance when, during the clash between Thebes and Heracleopolis in the first intermediate period, these took the sides of the first, allowing Mentuhotep to win the victory, thus moving the capital to his city. This alliance made the fortunes of Men’at Khufu, never allowing her to aspire to the rank of absolute band, but allowing her to stand as the richest “non-capital” of her. An example of such ease is undoubtedly the necropolis of Beni Hassan which, although it is not comparable to the sumptuous tombs of the pharaohs, still represents a great work of engineering, certainly not within everyone’s reach. During the Second Intermediate Period, Minya not only fell under the blows of the Hyksos, but even became one of their main centers, so much so that, according to many historians, most of the battles were fought right here. From this period it will never recover, always becoming above all a center linked to agricultural production.
In the Greek and Roman period this area was densely repopulated by Greeks and the emperor Hadrian founded Antinopoli in the memory of Antinous, his young eromenos who lost his life here. During the Byzantine period, about twenty kilometers away a Greek Orthodox monastery was built directly by the Empress Elena, the mother of Constantine the Great, as it was believed that the family of Jesus passed through here during the Flight into Egypt; this immediately attracted many faithful, to the point that even today it is one of the cities with the highest presence of Copts ever.
Minya, from the Arabs to the present day
With the arrival of the Arabs the city experienced a complete and total rebirth to the point that when Ibn Battuta arrived here, he could only be fascinated by the wonder he found himself in front of. However, it will be with the advent of Muhammad Ali and his son Ismail that Minya really became an economic center of international level, thanks to its precious production: cotton. The precious fiber saw its main center right here, causing more and more noble and powerful locals to move here, building sumptuous villas in classical and Rococo style that still impress travelers.
Precisely by virtue of its economic system, strongly linked to landowners, the city suffered a slight economic decline following the Revolution of 1952, remaining however among the most important cities in the country.
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