The site of El-Kab, known in ancient times as Nekheb, is located 32km (20 miles) south of Esna on the Nile’s east bank. Activity at the site spans the entirety of ancient Egyptian history and beyond, from the Predynastic period to the Coptic era. El-Kab was the cult home of Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt, who was traditionally paired with the cobra goddess of Lower Egypt, Wadjet.

El-Kab is littered with remains of temples, settlements, cemeteries, and rock-cut tombs, but the most impressive feature still visible is a massive mud brick town wall, which dates to the 30th Dynasty. Nekhbet’s principal temple at the site is found within a large mud brick enclosure wall along with additional structures, including a New Kingdom temple dedicated to Thoth, the remains of a birth house, and a small temple of Roman date, as well as a sacred lake.

Tombs of El-Kab:

The cliffs at the edge of El-Kab are filled with rock-cut tombs from various periods. The most impressive of these date to the Second Intermediate Period through the early part of the New Kingdom, and include the tomb of Ahmose, son of Ibana, and the tomb of Ahmose Pennekhebt . Both tombs contain important biographical accounts regarding the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt by the first king of the dynasty. Further tombs of note are those of Pahery and Renni, which date to the reign of Thutmose III. The decoration inside the tombs is amongst the most beautiful at El-Kab. The tomb of Pahery is especially well-known for its agricultural, boating, and funerary scenes, which include female-mourners.

El-Kab was strategically located at the mouth of the Wadi Hellal. The cliffs known as the “Cliff of the Vulture” of this wadi are covered with petroglyphs and inscriptions dating from the prehistoric era through the Late Period, attesting to its importance as a route from the Nile Valley into the Eastern Desert. Located within this wadi is a temple to Hathor and Nekhbet built by Amenhotep III as well as a smaller stone chapel erected by Setau, Viceroy of Kush under Ramesses II, probably dedicated to Re-Horakhty, Hathor, Amun, and Ramesses II. Both temples were restored during the Ptolemaic Period.