Place names in the Region: The situation on the ground and in Egyptology
There is considerable confusion in Egyptology concerning the names of the ancient sites in the region. The British Egyptologists working in the region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century coined two names, both of which have remained very popular in the discipline. The main site, where they recorded the tombs of the Middle Kingdom nomarchs, they designated as El Bersheh, whereas the site of the Old Kingdom nomarch tombs was designated as Sheikh Saïd.
These names would probably suggest to most readers that the archaeological sites are named after villages or towns in the neighbourhood. However, the second name does not correspond to a settlement at all. It instead refers to the tomb of a local muslim saint (or shaykh) by the name of Sa'id. This now ruined domed structure is only a flimsy affair, that is moreover located at quite a distance from the tombs concerned. The nearest settlement, which lies two kilometers to the north is called البرشا or a al-Barshā. Therefore the tombs of Sheikh Saïd (according to Egyptological parlance) are always linked by modern inhabitants of the region to al-Barshā. This is also the place name used by the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The scientific transcription al-Barshā (with a horizontal stroke over the last a) means that all vowels are pronounced short, except the last, which is long. For this website we will reproduce the scientific phonetic sign ā simply as a. However, doing so makes it easy to misunderstand the word al-Barsha, for words ending in short '-a' are in Arabic mostly feminine words. According to some methods of transcription, this latter ending can also be rendered as '-ah', while a hundred years ago, the reading '-eh' was also popular. The transcription 'El Bersheh' is the result of this misunderstanding. The place name is in reality not a feminine form, and 'Bersheh' is simply wrong. The same holds true for many other variants that have been current, like Bircheh.
We have now eliminated one error: the rock tombs of al-Shaykh Sa'id are actually located near al-Barsha (formerly called 'Bersheh'). But this leads to the new problem that most Egyptologists link the Middle Kingdom tombs to a village with the same name. This is also an error. al-Barsha is the largest village in the region, but to its north are two others with similar names. First comes Nazlat al-Barsha (or "the village of al-Barsha"), and then Dayr al-Barsha (or"the monastery of al-Barsha"). The famous Middle Kingdom cemetery is located about one kilometre east of this last village, and about four kilometers north of al-Barsha. Therefore the designation 'al-Barsha' for this cemetery should be abandoned, and Dayr al-Barsha should be used.
Various writings of the placename Dayr al-Barsha in Egyptological literature:
Deir el Bircheh