Pilgrimage to Tomb of Sheikh ‘abd al Qurna, “Servant of the Mountain”

The tomb of Sheikh ‘Abd al Qurna gives its name to a steep hill rising to 170m. It is also the name of the village that once stood here on the Tombs of the Nobles. There were one or two “Tomb Houses” – once occupied by two early “archaeologists” and collectors, most notable “Yanni” or “Anastasi”, famous as the source of the London-Leiden magical papyri, recently given complete publication by H D Betz as “The Greek Magical Papyrus in Translation, including demotic spells” (Chicago 1986).


The whole area is dotted with the tombs of local Shayakh.
‘abn Qurna’s name appears on 1914 printed maps. I was told his name actually means “servant of the mountain” – some sources say he lived 150 years ago and was a local guide – but this has yet to be confirmed. It’s a moot point as to how old the qurnawis community actually is. Locals say they have lived here since the times of the first Arab invasion more than a 1000 years ago. Can this be confirmed?

On a late afternoon walk, I visited the wonderful pharaonic tombs of Senefer & Rekmire. Afterward we retraced the old path to the top of the hill and made our own pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Sheikh. The controversial demolition of the village, including in a sneak rear guard action to destroy two famous tomb houses mentioned above, one of which housed the Qurna Life exhibit. Before all this, Ayman still remembers local women making this same pilgrimage on the eve of their weddings to seek a blessing at the Sheikh’s tomb. The path was steep and a little treaterous but we made it. We removed our shoes and entered the shrine, still well maintained and cared for although it has fewer visitors these days. ‘Iman rehearsed me through the traditional valediction.

Pictures below:





(Above) We walked past the TT71 – the “upper tomb” of Viser Senenmut (see Dahr al Bahri picture essay for more about him). The archaeological report is unclear as to whether it was ever used although the remains of his sarcophagus were found under the rubble of an extensive roof collapse. Winlock thought there was evidence that the tomb had been desecrated by Hatsheptsut’s vengeful son Totmoses III – but the final report is less certain, thinking that most of the damage was down to natural causes.










The view from the shrine, north-east across to the temple of Hatshepsut (Mecca is south-east from here)




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