Assiut is the largest town in Upper Egypt and lies about 234 miles south of Cairo. It is an old city which was first settled in pharaonic times, then the capital of the Thirteenth Nome of Upper Egypt and named Syut. Later, the Greeks renamed it Lycopolis which means 'city of the wolf'. This was due to the importance of the Jackal gods Wepwawet (Opener of Ways) and Anubis. Although the city was of considerable strategic value in its position between Upper and Lower Egypt, it somehow managed to stay clear of national importance as a capital.
Sunset at Assiut Two very important people we know of were born in the Greek city of Lycopolis. Probably the best know saint of Christian Egypt, John of Lycopolis was a carpenter who withdrew to the desert of the nearby mountains. He was a prophet who for example, predicted Theodosius, the Roman emperor's victory over Maximus and Eugenius. He died in 394 AD. Less known is Plotinus, who was a neo-Platonist who studied under the founder of that movement, Ammonius. He was born here in 205 AD. Later he moved to Rome where he taught a doctrine based on the 'union of the soul with God through ecstasy and contemplation'.
In more recent times, it was the end of the road for camel caravans that traveled up the 40 Day Road from Darfur in the Sudan, and as late as the 1850's it had the largest slave market in Egypt.
Today Assiut is the capital of the Said (Upper Egypt) governorate, has a large Christian community and is the region's most important agricultural center, dealing in cotton and grain. It also has some carpet manufacturing industry. It is also the home of the third largest university in Egypt.
Besides the ancient attractions near Assiut, there is also Banana Island, which is a nice place to relax. On the north edge of the City you will find the 19th century English barrage, which was built to control the Nile by regulating the flow of water into the Ibrahimiyya Canal. This Canal is an important source of irrigation water though out the region.
Also notable is the Lillian Trasher Orphanage. The founder of the Orphanage was born in Jacksonville, Florida but came to Egypt in 1910 and died there in 1961. The orphanage is a source of pride to the large, local Coptic population.
Of ancient interest is the Necropolis of Assiut. Here, tombs of many regional leaders may be found which document the area's historical significance.
Last Updated: June 27th, 2011
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