El-Siririya, on the east bank of the Nile, to the north of el-Minya, is a vast area of ancient limestone quarries. The quarries are still in use today as one of the major sources of limestone blocks for building in the country – a fact which is obvious from the dazzling white dust which covers the land and everything on it for miles around. There are many galleries of quarries at el-Siririya where the cutting technique can be seen, some with ancient builders marks on the faces of the rock.

Speos of Hathor at El-Siririya

Amidst the quarried galleries there is a rock-cut speos (rock-shrine) on a steep rise, which may have been, at one time, cut from a cliff face, but now stands alone. The speos was decorated by Merenptah during Dynasty XIX and dedicated to Hathor ‘Lady of the Two Infernos’ – a fiery aspect of the goddess well suited to this parched site.

The shrine has a single doorway with a badly worn hieroglyphic text incised on the jambs. Inside is a single chamber with a vaulted ceiling, once carved and painted but now poorly preserved, although remains of the paint can still be seen. At the rear of the chapel, three statues are carved from the rock in high relief, including one of the goddess Hathor on the right-hand side.

Reliefs in the Hathor Chapel and on the Ramesside Stele

Below the speos on the western side, a stela is carved into the rock, now quite worn and with the lower part completely gone. The stela depicts a king named in two cartouches of (probably) Rameses II, offering to a god who is difficult to identify, but could be Sobek. Hathor stands behind the king with a hand on his shoulder.

How to get there

El-Siririya is reached across the main Nile bridge at el-Minya. On the east bank, follow the road north along the river valley. This is a pretty drive through small villages with the high limestone gebel reaching right down to the road. Many small limestone industries can be seen along the sides of the road. You know when you have reached el-Siririya by the white landscape and the large cement factory and the quarry sites which surround the village. There is a helicopter pad near the entrance to the village with a sign announcing ‘Entry Forbidden’ – park here and cross the sandy desert in a south-easterly direction to the speos, with the old quarries behind to the north-east.

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