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Author's Preface

Akhmim - The Tale of a Lost City


This publication is based on an original piece of work intended for a postgraduate degree research project, where the initial title was recorded as; The Akhmim Project The Analytical Catalogue of Material from the Late Period Cemeteries of Akhmim in Upper Egypt.
While researching this intriguing location, it became apparent that Akhmim, not only being an extremely important province in ancient Egypt, but began revealing intriguing discoveries. As the layers were peeled back so to were the shrouds of time and mystery surrounding 'lost or forgotten artefacts. Egyptologists of the late 19th century and their discoveries in situations that read more like detective novels, the ancient art of tomb robbing, plundering and selling on the Black Market and much more. There is even an intriguing mysterious connection with Ay, the man who married Tutankhamun's widow under highly suspicious circumstances!

Many of the artefacts that derived from this site disappeared only to turn up at various auction houses or museum collections around the world. A trail is followed from the earliest times right up to modern day, a trail often shrouded in intrigue, dead ends and cover ups.

It was because of these most interesting facets that I considered it essential to bring into the public domain the story behind the acquisition of these artefacts, thus offering an insight towards a better understanding of our knowledge of ancient Egypt. In addition, I feel it demonstrates that we are merely shuffling around the surface sands of a very deep archaeological sandpit. One that may ultimately help to solve the many riddles and mysteries surrounding lost and forgotten treasures thus revealing our very origins on this planet.

One of the main problems of investigating such a site is its actual geographical position, and although Akhmim is considered to be officially in Upper Egypt (South) it is in fact physically more in Middle/Lower (North). Therein lies the problem, at least in modern times. This particular part of Egypt, north of Abydos, is rife with terrorist strongholds, and therefore an area where one is ill advised to frequent, to say the least. In fact, in the late 1980s a village in this area was flattened by Egyptian authorities due to the fact that locals were hiding terrorists.
Tourism provides 90 percent of Egypts revenue, so the authorities are highly aware of the necessity to keep Egypt free of such activities. Unfortunately this has not always been the case, and in 1997 Egypt suffered two major incidents involvingterrorism which affected the tourist industry and thereby ultimately denying access to such sites as Akhmim.

One incident involved the bombing of tourist coaches outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, while a second incident involved the extremely serious and fatal shooting of over 50 tourists on November 17th at Deir el-Bahri, the temple of Queen Hatshepshut. I remember this date well, as not only is it my birthday, but I should have been in Luxor that particular week, and it was purely by a fluke that I never managed to make Egypt at that time.

However, I returned in July the following year with intentions of spending a few days at Akhmim while staying at Luxor, approximately 150 kilometres South of Akhmim. Initially my idea was to hire a motorbike and zoom off into the sunset, or rather prior to sunrise, avoiding the local taxi drivers, who drive without lights and without mercy! I must say however, they are not as bad as the Kama-Khazi drivers in Cairo! Unfortunately because of the previous terrorist activities, and because of the location I intended on going to, I was advised not to bother. In fact, the police advised that they would physically prevent me from arriving anywhere near that location.

My next contact was with a local taxi driver I had befriended previously, and who I often have the proverbial cup of tea with at his house in Karnak, Luxor. He was keen to help me out, however, as he also worked for the Luxor City Council he was afraid he would be made unemployed if he assisted me in anyway. In addition, he advised me that if he or anyone of his colleagues was found driving me into that area they would be heavily fined or even imprisoned.

I was by now beginning to wonder whether anyone would assist, when I bumped into a tour operator guide I had met on a previous trip. It transpired that the journey could be feasible if I were to hire a driver and coach that they used locally. This being on the pretence that it would be a tourist group visit, and be police escorted, me being the sole occupier of the coach was neither here or there.
However, after being produced with the total cost of the operation and the fact that the driver would only drive me officially to Abydos, I began to get the feeling that this visit at this time was an ill fated venture.

It was then that we hit on an alternate idea, yes you would think that I should
have given up by now but you dont trek all the way to Egypt and miss out on a few kilometres, no matter how dubious.
It was suggested that my partner and I take a mornings Nile boat trip to Dendera, on the way to Abydos, where a coach would make the 20 minute trip, police escorted, to the Temple of Dendera. While the main tourist group visited the Temple, the coach would be free for two hours, whereupon I could pay the driver and shoot off north.
Well, we arrived at Dendera Temple with no problem, however, the driver indicated that not only would we have only 30 minutes in Akhmim, the police escort insisted that the coach stayed in Dendera anyway where they could keep an eye on it.

So there we have it, a great day out on the Nile and at Dendera Temple which we enjoyed very much, but unfortunately no visit to Akhmim. What I would call the Domino effect.

Fortunately, events seem to have quietened down somewhat these days and tourists are flocking back in their hordes, so perhaps one day soon I may make that visit.

The Journey begins.

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