QAL‘AT AL-BABAYN ( of the two gates)

A medieval fortress on the east bank of the Nile (some 12 miles [19 km] south of Idfu), at which a few sturdy fortification walls with towers and numerous domestic buildings remain. The unusual, hook-shaped ground plan is determined by the lie of the land. The fortress falls into two parts divided by a middle wall, of which the eastern part is regarded as younger. Both parts have a gate on the intermediate slope.

The buildings within consist in the western section predominantly of single-story, two-roomed houses, which are set into the mountainside one above the other. In the eastern section, building development is less dense and runs parallel to the course of the wall.

The lower area accommodates several buildings with large rooms, among them a church, although only parts of the sanctuary remain. It consists of an apse with two rectangular side rooms, the spatial dimensions of which are similar to those of the Nubian churches of the tenth century from the Faras region. Furthermore, remains of the gallery floor above the two side rooms have been preserved.

One can only speculate about the date of the fortress. From the layout, it can hardly be dated to the late period. The existence of a in it disproves an origin in the Islamic period. There has been no lack of support for the attempt to set it in the period of the Nubian Christian occupation of Upper Egypt (Monneret de Villard, 1938, p. 124). In that case it would go back to the first half of the tenth century.


  • Grossmann, P., and H. Jaritz. “ Besuch in der Festung von Qal‘at al-Baben in Oberägypten.” Mitteilungen des deutschen archäologischen Instituts—Abteilung Kairo 30 (1974):199-214.
  • Monneret de Villard, U. Storia della Nubia Cristiana. Rome, 1938.