Sohag is a city in Egypt that lies on the west bank of the Nile, also located about 72 miles south of Assuit, It has been the capital of Sohag Governorate since 1960. Prior to that, the capital was the city of Girga and the name of the governorate was Girga Governorate.
It is also a major Coptic Christian center for Upper Egypt. There is little here other than the White and Red Monasteries just outside town. Of somewhat more interest is the town of Akhmin just across the river. Most tourists visit this area as a day trip.
History of Sohag
Until the 19th century there was only a village located in the area. In 1960, the capital of the province of Sohag Girga transferred to this location and the city was renamed accordingly.
It is unclear how long this site has been inhabited. There are several mummies here that date to Roman times, the village. In Coptic times, there was a community of monks living at the White Monastery in the area.
The 10th of April is the national day of the governorate to celebrate the victory of the Egyptian national resistance troops on the French troops in Johaina Battle in 1799.
Geography of Sohag
Sohag lies on the western bank of the Nile on a fertile agricultural plain, approximately 6 kilometers southwest of Akhmim. In addition, the city includes two islands, Karaman-ez-Zahur Island, which is larger and uninhabited, and ez-Zahur Island which has some homes.
The city Sohag of itself encloses only a few archaeological sites, hence tourism represents but a small portion of the city’s income. Other sources of income include trade, small industries of carpets, furniture, spinning and weaving and sugar. Administrative and educational services are two big sectors of income as a small university employs a majority of residents.
Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as hot desert (BWh). Luxor, Minya, Sohag, Qena and Asyut have the widest difference of temperatures between days and nights of any city in Egypt, with almost 16 °C (29 °F) difference. Sohag is one of the warmest places in Egypt due to its place in the east side of Sahara in North Africa. Sohag is ranked the 5th driest place in Egypt and the 9th globally. Also ranked 4th warmest place in Egypt and 296th globally.
What to visit in Sohag?
The Red Monastery
What is notable about Sohag Egypt? It is usually not included on budget tours in Egypt but is still a popular location among luxury tours. Sohag’s two greatest features for tourism include the Church of the Red Monastery, called Deir el-Ahmar, which is a Christian church dating back to the 6th century. Indeed, Sohag has a great population of Coptic Christians.
Interestingly, though the Red Monastery is one of the most famous Christian monasteries in the entire country, very little is actually known about its history. (Many of the details that are presumed come from corroborating evidence from the White Monastery) Its name comes from the color of the construction material, which is made from red or burnt brick. The monastery is believed to have been built in about the fifth century A.D.
What makes the Red Monastery unique is its collection of age-old architecture, sculpture, and paint, which were presumably from the late antique period, and possibly contains some of the oldest surviving artifacts of its kind. Inside the monastery you can find the Church of Saint Pshoi situated in the northeastern corner. The Church of the Holy Virgin Mary in the southwestern corner of the building is a very antiquated church as well as an ancient well just to the west.
The White Monastery
The White Monastery, named for its limestone walls. Its design is similar to that of a Pharaonic temple and was grandly conceived. It is believed that at one point over 4,000 monks used the temple, considering that it was one that covered well over 12,000 acres.
Visitors to Sohag Egypt can still see some evidence of old facilities of the monastery like kitchens, storehouses, cells and a second church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Not a lot is left of the glory of the original White Monastery, and most of what you will see is actually considered the jewel section of the original monastery. One of the best features of the White Monastery is the impressive dimensions of the building; it standing at 172 feet long and 76 feet wide.
It should be noted that one of the best features of the ruins, the church’s beautiful interior murals, are currently going under restoration work by permission of two organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the American Research Center in Egypt.
Sohag Egypt may not have the luxury tours feel that you might expect from other Egypt hot spots, however, if you enjoy learning about history and culture then this capital is a must-see destination.
In the city there are two important churches erected in the 20th century:
The Church of the Holy Virgin
The Church of the Holy Virgin . The church is located in the north of the bazaar (souq Qaiṣarīya). It consists of five naves. There are three sanctuaries for Saint George (left), the Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael at the ends of the middle three naves. All sanctuaries are completely screened by a wooden iconostasis. On both sides of the entrances to the sanctuaries are wooden icons of the Holy Virgin and Jesus (see Iconostasis). The Lord’s Last Supper and the crosses are located above the iconstasis. The presentation in the central nave is framed by a fish and a pigeon, the other ones are framed by angels and a dove. Galleries are located above the aisles and the entrance. On the walls, there are paintings of saints and scenes from the life of Jesus.
The Church of St. George
Church of St. George is the cathedral of the diocese of Sohag . The church is located 300 meters north of the Opera (Midan Obira) or Culture Square (Midan eth-Thaqafa). Church of the Archangel Michael. The church is located in the Railway Station Street (El-Mahatta St.), on the east side of the railway tracks.
The Museum of Sohag
The Sohag Museum contains about 5000 artifacts gathered from around the Sohag governorate, including items stretching from the Middle Kingdom to Greco-Roman times.
The City of Abydos
The city of Abydos one of the most ancient cities of Upper Egypt, and also of the eight Upper Nome of which it was the capital city. It also Considered one of the most important archaeological sites of Ancient Egypt, the sacred city of Abydos was the site of many ancient temples, including a Umm el-Qa’ab, a royal necropolis where early pharaohs were entombed.
Temple of Abydos
About one third of a kilometer to the northwest of Seti I’s well known temple at Abydos, on the western edge of the village of Beni Mansur, Rameses II built a temple for himself, which while not completely preserved, retains the details of its plan and many of its brightly painted reliefs that are possibly the finest in any monument ever built by Ramesses II.
Indeed, this temple, with its pink and black granite door frames, sandstone pillars and a sanctuary of alabaster, must have been the most beautiful and richest among the temples that Ramesses II built.
Judging from the quality of the scenes in low relief comparable to the quality of those found in the temple of Seti I, it seem unquestionable that the artists must have come from this earlier generation.
This temple was also dedicated mainly to Osiris though, while built when Ramesses II was still co-ruler with Seti I, it retained a more conventional design patterned after contemporary mortuary temples at Thebes. The walls of the temple, made of limestone, are very reduced, now standing only about two meters (6 feet 6 inches) high.
The city of Akhmim
Akhmim has several mosques and two Coptic churches, maintains a weekly market, and manufactures cotton goods, notably the blue shirts and check shawls with silk fringes worn by the poorer classes of Egypt.
Just across the river from Sohag on the east bank of the Nile lies the town of Akhmim. It is an ancient town, known as Ipu or Khent-Menu to the early Egyptians and Panopolis to the Greeks. Panopolis was named for the principal god of the city, Min, who was Pan to the Greeks and the god of fertility and master of the deserts between the Nile and the Red Sea. Plutarch states that, “The pans and Satyris who live near Chemmis (Akhmim) were the first to learn of the death of Osiris and spread the news. This was how the sudden fear that grips a multitude became known as panic.
A recently discovered statue of Meryetamun (Beloved of the God Amun), the tallest statue of an ancient queen, now stands in the middle of town. She was one of the consort of Rameses II after the death of Nefertari, as well as a priestess of the Temple of Min. As a side note, near the statue is a weaving factory where one may purchase bolts of silk and Egyptian cotton.
The main attraction here is the Necropolis of El-Hawawish, where the governors of the area were buried from the 4th to the 11th Dynasties and at the El-Salamuni Promontory where rock cut tombs of the Greco-Roman period can be found. Nearby is the gate to the Grotto of Pan, the temple dedicated to Min and Amun-Re. It was built by Ay who succeeded Tutankhamun, and is one of the few temples attributable to him.
El-Hawawish the ancient necropolis (cemetery) for the city of Akhmim.
El-Salamuni comprises a rock-cut chapel dedicated to the god Min.
The Meritamen statue in east Akhmim.
Beit Khallaf Outside the village are two very large brick mastabas from the Third Dynasty.
Athribis The city is the site of a temple built for the goddess Repyt (Triphis) by Ptolemy XV Caesarion and subsequent Roman Emperors.