Home to a big temple of the wisdom god Thoth, it was known in the Ancient Egyptian language as ḫmnw Khemenu, the "city of the Eight Gods", and in Greek as Hermopolis Magna, "the City of Hermes". It was a place of great resort and opulence, ranking second to Thebes alone.
A provincial capital since the Old Kingdom of Egypt, Hermopolis developed into a major city of Roman Egypt, and an early Christian center from the third century. It was abandoned after the Muslim conquest but was restored as both a Latin Catholic (meanwhile suppressed) and a Coptic Orthodox titular see.
- 1 Hermopolis Magna archaeological site. The only remnant of the temple is the portico, consisting of a double row of pillars, six in each row. There is a small open-air museum in which stand two massive statues of Thoth as a baboon worshipping the sun, and a few carved blocks of masonry. Outside the temple complex stand the remains of a basilica, built in the 5th century over earlier buildings.
- 2 Hermopolis Magna's necropolis (12 km west at Tuna el-Gebel). Its oldest monument is one of the Boundary Stelae of Akhetaten, up in the cliffs, protected by glass, which makes it quite difficult to see properly, but prevents further erosion. The tomb of the 4th century BC high priest Petosiris is famous since antiquity. A collective tomb of senior officials and high priests of Thoth was discovered in January, 2020.