Tombs of the Nobles located in Qubbet el-Hawa which is the high cliffs opposite Aswan, north of Kitchener's Island, with tombs of the governors, the keepers of the Gate of the South, and other dignitaries of ancient Elephantine. Though more modest than those a Beni Hasan, the tombs are similar in style, and like them date mostly from the end of the Old Kingdom through the first Intermediate Period and the Middle kingdom.
They can be reached by ferry from near the tourist Office or as part of a felucca cruise. They can also reached by camel or an foot from St. Simon's Monastery. A slog up a sandy path from the landing stage brings you to the line of tombs cut into the cliff face.
The tombs were originally approached by those steep ramps you see etched into the hillside, with steps on either side or a channel at the centre for dragging up the sarcophagi. Those ramps that are exposed are nevertheless sometimes partly sanded over; the more nimble visitor can afterwards pick and slalom his way back down to the Nile pretty quickly.
The tombs are numbered in ascending order from south to north. The path brings you up to the northern (high numbered) tombs; after working you way south you can then zip down a ramp, or otherwise retrace your steps and return to the river by the path.
Tomb 36 This is the tomb of Sirenput I. it is about 60years older than that of his namesake in tomb 31, though both are XII Dynasty. These are the two finest tombs. Sirenput I was governor and overseer of the priests of Khnum and Satet. A limestone doorway leads to a six-columned courtyards decorated with the making of a contented afterlife : a large figure of the deceased followed by his sandal bearer and two dogs; another of his bow bearer, dog and three sons; and other paintings of fishing, women bringng flowers and two men gambling.
Tomb 31 This tomb of Sirenput II, who was also governor, is one of the largest and best preserved. It was constructed at the apogee of the Middle Kingdom, when Egypt extended its power beyond the Second Cataract. Beyond a six-pillared hall without decoration is a corridor with three niches on either side with Osiris statues of the deceased cut from the rock. The dead man appears with his son in a brightly coloured painting to the left of the first niche; he appears again on each of the four pillars in the small hall beyond, the artist's grid lines for setting out the pictures still visible on some.
At the back of this hall is a recess with good paintings on stucco and very fine hieroglyphics. On the left wall Sirenput is shown with his wife and son; on the right wall his mother sits at a table while he stands to the right. On the centre wall Sirenput sits at a table and his son stands before him clutching flowers. Notice the wonderfully coloured and detailed hieroglyphics here, particularly of birds and animals, including (upper left) an elephant.
Tombs 25 and 26 These tombs of Mekhu and his son Sabni date from the VI Dynasty, a period of decline, and are crude both in construction and decoration. It is the entrance of Tomb 26 that is noteworthy, for an inscription on it states that Sabni, governor of the south, mounted an expedition against the Nubian who had killed his father; that he recovered the body which was then mummified by embalmers sent by the Pharaoh; and that Sabni went to Memphis to thank him and offer presents.
A part from instancing an occasion of yebu's military role on Egypt's southern border, the inscription shows how much importance was attached to the outpost by Memphis. The summit of the hill is crowned with Kubbet El Hewa, the shrine of a local sheikh and holy man, and commands a magnificent view of the Nile Valley, the cataract and the desert that more than compensates for the difficult climb.