Zawyet bet Khalil


Zawaya of Qurna      


This building is a zawyeh (and zawyet, when mentioned with owner’s name, plural zawaya).  On the hillside, in addition to family houses there were family-owned, single storey buildings, often with balconies and verandahs and with the entrance almost always on the long wall.  These were ‘zawyeh’.  Zawaya are not specific to Qurna, they exist all over country-side in Egypt.  They have different names from village to village: mandara, kheyma (ie. tent) and in this region, zawyeh.

A zawyeh is a large room used as a family meeting and guest house, for gatherings such as weddings and funerals, and also for religious purposes connected with Sufism such as zikr (group prayer with movement often leading to a trance-like state).  Some zawaya here were still in use until the families moved recently, others, where the family moved away some time ago, were used as workshops or for storage, and some were in ruins.


Every family collects money and buys the furniture for the zawyeh – mainly dekka (long wooden sofas) with colourful cushions and covers.  When there is a very big party, or a family festival or funeral, they borrow from each other. Often the family hires large colourful tent-like structures (siwaan) which are erected outside. 


Some of the zawaya as seen 1997-9  (all illustrated)


Zawyet el Sheikh Abd er Rahman – Nobles area

Zawyet Abd er RahmanDra abul Naga area

Zawyet el Khatib

Zawyet Abd er Rasul

Zawyet el Batlaneen

Zawyet bet Sayed

Zawyet al Ba’areer

Zawyet el Hashasheen

Zawyet Hussein abu Azzuz

Zawyet Lazim

Zawyet Ali Awad – belonged to the Katib family

Zawyet Sayed Hassan Mansour and family – lower

Zawyet Ahmed el Zani and family - upper


Zawyet bet Khalil  (the one the visitor is standing in)


The extended family members that built this zawyeh were rich farmers who owned a lot of land.  Omda Lazim, mentioned in 19th century travellers’ journals, was the Omda (mayor) at that time, and the builders Daramalli and Khalil were a part of the larger Lazim family.  Khalil was the first owner and had many children and descendants.  This zawyeh was in use until the family moved in February 2007.


Bawabet Khalil


Seven families had their houses at the back, up against and in the hillside.  They wished to have an impressive entrance to the extended family area and so built the wide passage entrance.  The big wooden door was also made at this time.


A contemporary lithograph based on a photo taken in 1855 does not show the zawyeh and bawaba. 


By 1895 there are buildings on the site, but not the zawyeh and bawaba that we can see clearly on the photo of 1910. 


The Daramalli and Khalil families previously lived in the old village of Qurna which was in the courtyard of Seti 1 temple.  The façade of the zawyeh and bawaba looks very much like the front of the temple they would have seen every day.



Photo of small Old Qurna village house and Seti 1 temple by Francis Frith 1859.



Photo by Joseph Grafton Milne, 1895.  Egypt Exploration Society, London.