Was Prophet Abraham the Desert Chief Ibsha?
By Dr. Zahi Hawass
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Let us return to what I said in my previous article
[Egypt: A Meeting Place for Prophets and Messengers] on Prophet Abraham - the
Father of the Prophets - and his arrival in Egypt, which is something mentioned
in the Torah. In order to confirm this, we should look at ancient Egyptian
stories and legends to see if we can find any evidence of Prophet Abraham's
presence in Egypt.
As I mentioned previously, the Holy Books do not include specific times and
dates, therefore it is up to the researchers to discover the facts of a
situation surrounding an event, such as by way of the geographical description
of a location, the products that the land produces, and even the climate. All
of these can be used to put forward hypotheses and theories. However until
concrete facts and evidence can be found to verify these hypotheses and
theories, these are all mere speculation.
Some researchers have linked a well known image from ancient Egypt to Prophet
Abraham's arrival in the country. This image was found in the tomb of Khamoum
Hateb II, the ruler of the al-Minya province. The grave of Khanoum Hateb II is
considered to be one of the most important graves found in the Beni Hassan
graveyard cemetery in the al-Minya governorate. This grave dates back to King
Senusert II of the Middle Kingdom, approximately 3,900 years ago.
There are a number of images in this tomb that portray daily life in the Middle
Kingdom, as well as a number of images of soldiers performing a variety of
actions. These images are portrayed in a free style which we believed was
unique until similar images were found in the tomb of King Sahure, the second
King of the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, who ruled nearly 4,500 years ago.
As for the image linked to Prophet Abraham, this can be seen on the northern
wall of the tomb. In this scene we see a group of male and female Bedouin in
colorful dress; the men are depicted with short beards, and the women are
depicted with long hair. The group is comprised of eight men, four women, and
three children, accompanied by two donkeys, a deer, and an ibex. One of the
donkeys is carrying mining tools. An Egyptian official is standing at the front
of the image while standing next to him is the chief of the tribe. Written in
hieroglyphics next to the image of the tribal chief is the title "Ruler of the
The image shows Ibsha and the man standing next to him presenting the desert
animals to King Khanoum Hateb II. The men accompanying Ibsha are also carrying
weapons, while another is carrying an asymmetrical harp. To the right of this
image is another image of King Khanoum Hateb II, standing before him is a clerk
holding a message announcing the arrival of the Asian delegation.
Some researchers have linked this image to Prophet Abraham's arrival in Egypt.
Some researchers have also attempted to compare the name "Ibsha" with that of
"Abram" which is the Aramaic name of our Prophet Abraham. As I mentioned
before, any attempts to link the image portrayed upon the walls of King Khanoum
Hateb II's tomb and what was mentioned in the Torah with regards to Prophet
Abraham's arrival in Egypt is merely speculation, and there is no way to
I must also emphasize that since the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, regional
rulers gained a great deal of independence from central rule and therefore
enjoyed considerable influence. This enabled regional rulers to establish
direct relations with, and receive foreign delegations from, other countries
and regions, most usually due to trade. Rulers of regions in central Egypt were
therefore in direct contact with Bedouin and foreign nations by way of the
trade routes across the Red Sea and Sinai.
Therefore the question remains unanswered; was Prophet Abraham the tribal chief