El Kab (Nekheb) and Kom el-Ahmar (Nekhbet), along with the Temple of Thoth in Egypt

El Kab and El Ahmar

In general, this area is called El Kab but it is really the two ancient cities of Nekheb El Kab on the east bank of the Nile River and the older Nekhen, now known as Kom el Ahmar (the Red Mound) on the opposite bank. Both cities were religious centers that date from the pre-Dynastic period.

Nekheb was the Greek city of Eileithyiapolis. The City was very important prior the building of Memphis, and was later the capital of the local nome. It was the birthplace of the nobles of the Middle Empire who retook Egypt from the Hyksos invasion. The city was protected by the goddess Nekhbet (the white goddess).

There are actually two sections to Nekheb, which lies on a plain situated at the mouth of a wadi. The first is the ancient city, which is surrounded by a huge (1740 feet square), thick (38 feet thick) wall, where visitors enter from a west gate. Within lies a Roman temple and a sacred lake, which is a depression to the east of the town. In a smaller enclosure is the Temple of Nekhbet (attached to a Temple dedicated to Thoth), with its several pylons, hypostyle hall in front, a mamissi (birth house) dedicated to Nekhbet (the embodiment of Hathor). The temple was begun around 2700 BC, and enlarged in by later pharaohs of the 18th through 30th dynasties, including Tuthmosis III, Amenophis II, and the Ramessids The second part of the ruins is the necropolis, which is situated on a rocky outcrop. There, the most important tombs are those of Ahmose, Renni, Paheri and Se, which date from the 18th Dynasty and the Ramesside period.

About 1 1/2 miles away at the entrance to Wadi Hellal at a place which is locally known as El-Hammam (the bath) is the Temple of Thoth. The chapel here was built by Setau, viceroy of Nubia during the rule of Ramesses II, restored by the Ptolemies, and dedicated to a number of deities. There is also a cave-temple up a nearby flight of rock hewn steps dedicated to Nekhbet, who became the lioness Hathor-Tefnut. Here there are two vestibules which finally lead into a vaulted chamber. In the early Christian period, this was converted into a Coptic monastery. Beyond this speos deeper into the wadi is a rock outcrop known as Vulture Rock which has drawings and inscriptions dating as for back as pre-Dynastic times. Further on is the Temple of Amenhotep III, which was built by him and Tuthmosis IV, dedicated to Nekhbet-Hathor. The portico is gone, but inside are reliefs that were largely destroyed by Amenhotep IV but restored by Seti I. North of here are several rock-cut tombs with good reliefs.

Nekhen, also called Kom el-Ahmar, which was the Greek city of Hieraconpolis, lies on the other side of the Nile (west bank). Nekhen predates Nekhbet as the capital of the Nome. Here, there is a vast necropolis which dates from pre-Dynastic times and stretches for miles as well as the ruins of the ancient city itself. In the nearby wadis there are tombs from the Middle and New Kingdom. Nekheny, in the form of the falcon with long plumes on his head and who was associated with Horus was worshipped as the local god.