Abydos was one of the most important cultural and sacred sites in ancient Egypt. It was located in upper Egypt, west of the Nile River and served as a pilgrimage site for affluent Egyptians who desired to be buried close to the tombs of their predecessors and more importantly, near the tomb of Osiris. Osiris, the god of the Dead and the Underworld was worshiped at Abydos and was depicted as Upuatu, the jackal god. Osiris’s head was said to have been preserved at his tomb in Abydos.
How You’ll Get There:
You can reach Abydos by sailing west from the Nile along manmade canals. Upon approaching you will be able to see the ancient fortress-like brick enclosures of the many royal temple complexes constructed along the edge of the desert. The desert sands beyond these temples contained numerous memorial structures and tombs spread out through the area of all those who chose to be buried in Abydos. You will also be able to see many of the royal stone shrines and chapels that were utilized as waystations along the major processional routes. (1)
Who You’ll Meet:
When traveling to Abydos you can expect to rub elbows with both pharaohs and commoners. Abydos was a bustling tourist location that attracted visitors from all parts of Egypt. Because of the religious importance of the city, a vast majority of groups made pilgrimages to Abydos in order to fulfill their religious obligations. The residents of Abydos were thought to have typically worked by supporting tourism along the temple complexes. Others lived as “accountants, priests, farmers, brewers, bakers, and craftsmen supporting the daily functioning of the enormous temple complexes erected to celebrate the relationships between rulers and the gods.” (Harvey, 2001)
What You’ll See:
Temple of Seti I
This temple is considered the Great Temple of Abydos and is one of the most impressive religious structures in Egypt. The L shaped structure was constructed of limestone and sandstone and was mostly constructed during Seti I’s reign, and later finished by his son Ramesses II. The temple contained seven chapels dedicated to the king Seti I himself and the other principal gods: Ptah, Re-Horakhty, Amun, Osiris, Isis and Horus.(2) The Temple of Seti I contains on its walls the infamous “Kings List” known as the Abydos Table which lists the names of Egyptian kings through rows of cartouches. Located at the temple’s rear is the Osireion which served as a subterranean cenotaph, where many Egyptians believed served as the burial place of Osiris.
Umm el Qaab, “Mother of Pots.”
The necropolis of Umm el Qa’ab was believed to be burial grounds for kings from the 1st and 2nd dynasties. It is called Umm el Qa’ab, meaning The Mother of Pots in Arabic due to the amount of pottery found at the site.
During the month of Khoiak, there was festival that took place in Abydos which honored Osiris. During Khoiak, which was from mid-October to mid-November, Osiris was said to have been brought from his temple and moved to his tomb. This festival brought travelers from all parts of Egypt to take part in the procession. This performance was done to ensure the sucessful rebirth of the god Osiris and the land of Egypt. (3)