Upper Egypt

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Upper Egypt

Unknown–c. 3150 BC
Map of Upper Egypt showing important sites that were occupied during Naqada III (clickable map)
Capital Thinis
Common languages Ancient Egyptian
Ancient Egyptian religion
Government Monarchy
Unknown (first)
 c. 3150 BC
Narmer (last)
c. 3150 BC
Succeeded by
Early Dynastic Period (Egypt) Blank.png
Today part ofFlag of Egypt.svg  Egypt

Upper Egypt (Arabic : صعيد مصرṢaʿīd Miṣr, shortened to الصعيدEgyptian Arabic pronunciation:  [es.sˤe.ˈʕiːd] , locally:[es.sˤɑ.ˈʕiːd], Coptic : ⲙⲁⲣⲏⲥ) is the strip of land on both sides of the Nile that extends between Nubia and downriver (northwards) to Lower Egypt.

Coptic language Latest stage of the Egyptian language

Coptic or Coptic Egyptian, is the latest stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century as an official language. Egyptian began to be written in the Coptic alphabet, an adaptation of the Greek alphabet with the addition of six or seven signs from Demotic to represent Egyptian sounds the Greek language did not have, in the 2nd century BC.

Nile River in Africa and the longest river in the world

The Nile is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa, and is the longest river in Africa and the disputed longest river in the world, as the Brazilian government claims that the Amazon River is longer than the Nile. The Nile, which is about 6,650 km (4,130 mi) long, is an "international" river as its drainage basin covers eleven countries, namely, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Republic of the Sudan and Egypt. In particular, the Nile is the primary water source of Egypt and Sudan.

Nubia region along the Nile river, which is located in northern Sudan and southern Egypt

Nubia is a region along the Nile river encompassing the area between Aswan in southern Egypt and Khartoum in central Sudan. It was the seat of one of the earliest civilizations of ancient Africa, with a history that can be traced from at least 2500 BC onward with the Kerma culture. The latter was conquered by the New Kingdom of Egypt under pharaoh Thutmose I around 1500 BC. Nubia was home to several empires, most prominently the kingdom of Kush, which conquered Egypt during the 8th century BC during the reign of Piye and ruled the country as its Twenty-fifth Dynasty.



Upper Egypt is between the Cataracts of the Nile above modern-day Aswan, downriver (northwards) to the area of El-Ayait, [1] which places modern-day Cairo in Lower Egypt. The northern (downriver) part of Upper Egypt, between Sohag and El-Ayait, is also known as Middle Egypt.

Cataracts of the Nile rapid

The Cataracts of the Nile are shallow lengths of the Nile River, between Aswan and Khartoum, where the surface of the water is broken by many small boulders and stones jutting out of the river bed, as well as many rocky islets. In some places, these stretches are punctuated by whitewater, while at others the water flow is smoother, but still shallow.

Aswan City in Egypt

Aswan is a city in the south of Egypt, and is the capital of the Aswan Governorate.

Cairo Capital and largest city of Egypt

Cairo is the capital of Egypt. The city's metropolitan area is one of the largest in Africa, the largest in the Middle East and 15th-largest in the world, and is associated with ancient Egypt, as the famous Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis are located in its geographical area. Located near the Nile Delta, modern Cairo was founded in 969 AD by the Fatimid dynasty, but the land composing the present-day city was the site of ancient national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life, and is titled "the city of a thousand minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture. Cairo is considered a World City with a "Beta +" classification according to GaWC.

In Arabic, inhabitants of Upper Egypt are known as Sa'idis and they generally speak Sai'idi Egyptian Arabic.

Arabic Central Semitic language

Arabic is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE. It is now the lingua franca of the Arab world. It is named after the Arabs, a term initially used to describe peoples living in the area bounded by Mesopotamia in the east and the Anti-Lebanon mountains in the west, in Northwestern Arabia and in the Sinai Peninsula. The ISO assigns language codes to thirty varieties of Arabic, including its standard form, Modern Standard Arabic, which is modernized Classical Arabic. This distinction exists primarily among Western linguists; Arabic speakers themselves generally do not distinguish between Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic, but rather refer to both as al-ʻArabīyat ul-fuṣḥá.

A Ṣa‘īdi is a person from Upper Egypt. Approximately 40% of Egyptians live in Upper Egypt, and "80% of Egypt's poverty is concentrated in Upper Egypt". Millions of Upper Egyptians have migrated to Lower Egypt for work opportunities.

In ancient Egypt, Upper Egypt was known as tꜣ šmꜣw, [2] literally "the Land of Reeds" or "the Sedgeland" [3] It was divided into twenty-two districts called nomes. [4] The first nome was roughly where modern-day Aswan is and the twenty-second was at modern Atfih just to the south of Cairo.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Cyperaceae family of plants

The Cyperaceae are a family of graminoid (grass-like), monocotyledonous flowering plants known as sedges, which superficially resemble the closely related rushes and the more distantly related grasses. The family is large, with some 5,500 known species described in about 90 genera, the largest being the "true sedges" genus Carex with over 2,000 species. These species are widely distributed, with the centers of diversity for the group occurring in tropical Asia and tropical South America. While sedges may be found growing in almost all environments, many are associated with wetlands, or with poor soils. Ecological communities dominated by sedges are known as sedgelands.

A nome was a territorial division in ancient Egypt.


Hedjet, the White Crown of Upper Egypt Hedjet.svg
Hedjet, the White Crown of Upper Egypt

Predynastic Egypt

The main city of prehistoric Upper Egypt was Nekhen, [5] whose patron deity was the vulture goddess Nekhbet. [6]

Prehistoric Egypt period of earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt

The prehistory of Egypt spans the period from the earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period around 3100 BC, starting with the first Pharaoh, Narmer for some Egyptologists, Hor-Aha for others, with the name Menes also possibly used for one of these kings. This Predynastic era is traditionally equivalent to the final part of the Neolithic period beginning c. 6000 BC and ends in the Naqada III period c. 3000 BC.

Nekhen Religious and political capital of Upper Egypt in Ancient Egypt

Nekhen or Hierakonpolis was the religious and political capital of Upper Egypt at the end of prehistoric Egypt and probably also during the Early Dynastic Period.

Nekhbet Egyptian deity

Nekhbet was an early predynastic local goddess in Egyptian mythology, who was the patron of the city of Nekheb. Ultimately, she became the patron of Upper Egypt and one of the two patron deities for all of Ancient Egypt when it was unified.

By about 3600 BC, Neolithic Egyptian societies along the Nile had based their culture on the raising of crops and the domestication of animals. [7] Shortly after 3600 BC, Egyptian society began to grow and increase in complexity. [8] A new and distinctive pottery, which was related to the Levantine ceramics, appeared during this time. Extensive use of copper became common during this time. [8] The Mesopotamian process of sun-drying adobe and architectural principles—including the use of the arch and recessed walls for decorative effect—became popular during this time. [8]

Mesopotamia Historical region within the Tigris–Euphrates river system

Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.

Adobe Building material made from earth and organic materials

Adobe is a building material made from earth and organic materials. Adobe is Spanish for mudbrick, but in some English-speaking regions of Spanish heritage, the term is used to refer to any kind of earth construction. Most adobe buildings are similar in appearance to cob and rammed earth buildings. Adobe is among the earliest building materials, and is used throughout the world.

Concurrent with these cultural advances, a process of unification of the societies and towns of the upper Nile River, or Upper Egypt, occurred. At the same time the societies of the Nile Delta, or Lower Egypt also underwent a unification process. [8] Warfare between Upper and Lower Egypt occurred often. [8] During his reign in Upper Egypt, King Narmer defeated his enemies on the Delta and merged both the Kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt under his single rule. [9]

Dynastic Egypt

For most of pharaonic Egypt's history, Thebes was the administrative center of Upper Egypt. After its devastation by the Assyrians, its importance declined. Under the Ptolemies, Ptolemais Hermiou took over the role of Upper Egypt's capital city. [10] Upper Egypt was represented by the tall White Crown Hedjet , and its symbols were the flowering lotus and the sedge.

Medieval Egypt

In the 11th century, large numbers of pastoralists, known as Hilalians, fled Upper Egypt and moved westward into Libya and as far as Tunis. [11] It is believed that degraded grazing conditions in Upper Egypt, associated with the beginning of the Medieval Warm Period, were the root cause of the migration. [12]

20th-century Egypt

In the 20th-century Egypt, the title Prince of the Sa'id (meaning Prince of Upper Egypt) was used by the heir apparent to the Egyptian throne. [Note 1]

Although the Kingdom of Egypt was abolished after the Egyptian revolution of 1952, the title continues to be used by Muhammad Ali, Prince of the Sa'id.

List of rulers of prehistoric Upper Egypt

The following list may not be complete (there are many more of uncertain existence):

Elephant End of 4th millennium BC
Bull 4th millennium BC
Scorpion I Oldest tomb at Umm el-Qa'ab had scorpion insigniac. 3200 BC?
Iry Hor name.jpg
Possibly the immediate predecessor of Ka.c. 3150 BC?
Ka [14] [15]
Ka vessel.JPG
May be read Sekhen rather than Ka. Possibly the immediate predecessor of Narmer.c. 3100 BC
Scorpion II
Potentially read Serqet; possibly the same person as Narmer.c. 3150 BC
The king who combined Upper and Lower Egypt. [16] c. 3150 BC

List of nomes

Map of Ancient Egypt with its historical nomes. "Upper Egypt" is in the lower portion of the map. Upper Egypt Nomes.png
Map of Ancient Egypt with its historical nomes. "Upper Egypt" is in the lower portion of the map.
NumberAncient NameCapitalModern CapitalTranslation
1 Ta-khentit Abu / Yebu (Elephantine) Aswan The Frontier/Land of the Bow
2 Wetjes-Hor Djeba (Apollonopolis Magna) Edfu Throne of Horus
3 Nekhen Nekhen (Hierakon polis)al-KabShrine
4 Waset Niwt-rst / Waset (Thebes) Karnak Sceptre
5 Harawî Gebtu (Coptos) Qift Two Falcons
6 Aa-ta Iunet / Tantere (Tentyra) Dendera Crocodile
7 Seshesh Seshesh (Diospolis Parva) Hu Sistrum
8 Abdju Abdju (Abydos)al-BirbaGreat Land
9 Min Apu / Khen-min (Panopolis) Akhmim Min
10 Wadjet Djew-qa / Tjebu (Aphroditopolis) Edfu Cobra
11 Set Shashotep (Hypselis)Shutb Set animal
12 Tu-ph Hut-Sekhem-Senusret (Antaeopolis) Qaw al-Kebir Viper Mountain
13 Atef-Khent z3wj-tj (Lycopolis) Asyut Upper Sycamore and Viper
14 Atef-Pehu Qesy (Cusae)al-QusiyaLower Sycamore and Viper
15 Wenet Khemenu (Hermopolis) Hermopolis Hare [17]
16 Ma-hedj Herwer?Hur? Oryx [17]
17 Anpu Saka (Cynopolis) al-Kais Anubis
18 Sep Teudjoi / Hutnesut (Alabastronopolis) el-Hiba Set
19 Uab Per-Medjed (Oxyrhynchus)el-BahnasaTwo Sceptres
20 Atef-Khent Henen-nesut (Heracleopolis Magna)Ihnasiyyah al-MadinahSouthern Sycamore
21 Atef-Pehu Shenakhen / Semenuhor (Crocodilopolis, Arsinoë) Faiyum Northern Sycamore
22 Maten Tepihu (Aphroditopolis) Atfih Knife

See also

Further reading


  1. The title was first used by Prince Farouk, the son and heir of King Fouad I. Prince Farouk was officially named Prince of the Sa'id on 12 December 1933. [13]

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Middle Kingdom of Egypt period in the history of ancient Egypt between about 2000 BC and 1700 BC

The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt following a period of political division known as the First Intermediate Period. The Middle Kingdom lasted from around 2050 BC to around 1710 BC, stretching from the reunification of Egypt under the reign of Mentuhotep II of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty. The Eleventh Dynasty ruled from Thebes and the Twelfth Dynasty ruled from el-Lisht. Some scholars also include the Thirteenth Dynasty of Egypt wholly into this period as well, in which case the Middle Kingdom would finish around 1650 BC, while others only include it until Merneferre Ay around 1700 BC, last king of this dynasty to be attested in both Upper and Lower Egypt. During the Middle Kingdom period, Osiris became the most important deity in popular religion. The Middle Kingdom was followed by the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, another period of division that involved foreign invasions of the country by the Hyksos of West Asia.

History of ancient Egypt aspect of history

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Early Dynastic Period (Egypt) period of Ancient Egypt immediately follows the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt

The Archaic or Early Dynastic Period of Egypt is the era immediately following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt c. 3100 BC. It is generally taken to include the First and Second Dynasties, lasting from the end of the Naqada III archaeological period until about 2686 BC, or the beginning of the Old Kingdom. With the First Dynasty, the capital moved from Thinis to Memphis with a unified Egypt ruled by an Egyptian god-king. Abydos remained the major holy land in the south. The hallmarks of ancient Egyptian civilization, such as art, architecture and many aspects of religion, took shape during the Early Dynastic period.

Intef II Egyptian Pharaoh

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Merimde culture archaeological culture

The Merimde culture was a Neolithic culture in the West Nile Delta in Lower Egypt, which corresponds in its later phase to the Faiyum A culture and the Badari culture in Predynastic Egypt. It is estimated that the culture evolved between 4800 and 4300 BC. Merimde also refers to the archaeological site of the same name.

Thinis Lost city in Nome VIII of Upper Egypt, Ancient Egypt

Thinis or This was the capital city of the first dynasties of ancient Egypt. Thinis is, as yet, undiscovered but well attested by ancient writers, including the classical historian Manetho, who cites it as the centre of the Thinite Confederacy, a tribal confederation whose leader, Menes, united Egypt and was its first pharaoh. Thinis began a steep decline in importance from Dynasty III, when the capital was relocated to Memphis, which was thought to be the first true and stable capital after unification of old Egypt by Menes. Thinis's location on the border of the competing Heracleopolitan and Theban dynasties of the First Intermediate Period and its proximity to certain oases of possible military importance ensured Thinis some continued significance in the Old and New Kingdoms. This was a brief respite and Thinis eventually lost its position as a regional administrative centre by the Roman period.


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El Sheikh Said Place in Minya, Egypt

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Ptolemais Hermiou Place in Sohag, Egypt

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Ṣaʽīdi Arabic, also known as Upper Egyptian Arabic, is a variety of Arabic spoken by the Ṣaʽīdi people south of Cairo, Egypt, to the border of Sudan. It shares linguistic features with both Egyptian Arabic and the Quran's Classical Arabic. Dialects include Middle and Upper Egyptian Arabic.

Oryx nome

The Oryx nome was one of the 42 nomoi in ancient Egypt. More precisely, it was the 16th nome of Upper Egypt. It was named after the Scimitar oryx, and was roughly located in the territories surrounding the modern city of Minya in Middle Egypt.

Hare nome ancient Egyptian nome

The Hare nome, also called the Hermopolite nome was one of the 42 nomoi in ancient Egypt; more precisely, it was the 15th nome of Upper Egypt.


  1. See list of nomes. Maten (Knife land) is the furthest north nome of Upper Egypt on the right bank, while Atef-Pehu (Northern Sycamore land) is the northernmost on the left bank. Brugsch, Heinrich Karl (2015). A History of Egypt under the Pharaohs. 1. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p.  487., originally published in 1876 in German.
  2. Ermann & Grapow 1982, Wb 5, 227.4-14.
  3. Ermann & Grapow (1982) , Wb 4, 477.9-11
  4. The Encyclopedia Americana Grolier Incorporated, 1988, p.34
  5. Bard & Shubert (1999) , p. 371
  6. David (1975) , p. 149
  7. Roebuck (1966) , p. 51
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Roebuck (1966) , pp. 52–53
  9. Roebuck (1966) , p. 53
  10. Chauveau (2000) , p. 68
  11. Ballais (2000) , p. 133
  12. Ballais (2000) , p. 134
  13. Brice (1981), p. 299
  14. Rice 1999, p. 86.
  15. Wilkinson 1999, p. 57f.
  16. Shaw 2000, p. 196.
  17. 1 2 Grajetzki (2006) , pp. 109–111


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