Rena Effendi

Egypt's First Revolutionary
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Nationality: Azerbaijan
Biography: Rena Effendi’s early work focused on oil industry’s effects on people’s lives.  As a result, she followed a 1,700 km oil pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, collecting stories along the way. This work was published in 2009 in... read on
Public Story
Egypt's First Revolutionary
Credits: rena effendi
Date of Work: 04/15/14 - 01/05/16
Updated: 04/17/18
Archived as: 

Akhenaten, the pharaoh that ruled Egypt in 1300 BC and in his reign enforced the worshiping of one god - Aten – the sun disc is considered the first revolutionary in human history, but because of his radical views on religion his successors destroyed most physical evidence of his legacy, which today is more imaginative than monumental. 

In order to establish new religious practices and fully abandon the old, Akhenaten built a new capital in the desert, about 36 miles south of Minya on the southern banks of the Nile. Akhetaten city was hastily constructed in mud-brick within an approximately 5-year period and covered an area of about 8 miles on the east bank of the Nile River. Within a few years, the previously unoccupied desert became home to Akhenaten’s royal court and an estimated thirty thousand people followed him into the desert. The modern-day rural town of Tel-Amarna lies in immediate vicinity to Akhenaten’s ancient city with the population mostly engaged in agriculture. Akhenaten was the father of Tutankhamun and the husband of Nefertiti, he had the power and vision to move thousands of people to an inhospitable place of no natural value. However, his city was abandoned shortly after his death, because of its desert location, where drinking water had to be brought in from the river. 

Despite of him being eviscerated from the Egyptian landscape over 3000 years ago, this project examines parallels between Akhenaten – the revolutionary, founder of monotheism and the modern day Egypt, especially in light of the country’s most recent events and political changes. The ways in which Akhenaten and other great pharaohs of his dynasty expressed their power are often similar to what we see in the personality cult of today’s Egypt. Much like in Akhenaten’s era, his high-class subjects built shrines to the pharaoh in their homes and gardens, on the eve of the elections street vendors in Cairo put up large-scale posters of Sisi all over the city. The pharaohs were often depicted with their powerful forefathers. In a similar way, Sisi's profile was photo-montaged next to Egypt's previous rulers Nasser and Sadaat. 


By Rena Effendi —


A Five Day War

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We Are Here

By Rena Effendi — Liquid Land is co-authored with my father Rustam Effendi, a dissident scientist and entomologist who..

Chernobyl: Still Life in the Zone

By Rena Effendi — The first signs of the Chernobyl nuclear accident of April 26, 1986 were detected in Sweden   two days..

Khinaliq Village

By Rena Effendi — I first came to Khinaliq to document life in Azerbaijan’s highest inhabited village in 2003. Archeological..

We Are Here

By Rena Effendi / Egypt — Coptic Christians in Egypt number more than 10,000,000, making them the largest (religious) minority group..


By Rena Effendi — This story portrays Mahatma Gandhi and his enduring legacy in modern-day India trailing across the..


By Rena Effendi — For centuries, the small villages in Transylvania have preserved their hay meadows, raised cattle and..

Cairo: Urban Decay

By Rena Effendi — In 2015, just a year after winning the election, Egypt’s president Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi announced his plan..

Courage in the Congo

By Rena Effendi — Ravaged by a never-ending war between various militias, rebels groups, and criminal combatants, the..

Bengali Weddings

By Rena Effendi — This project documents a wide spectrum of wedding culture and traditions in Bangladesh. From luxurious..

The Crossing Point

By Rena Effendi — In a small Greek town of Idomeni in 2015, a long and slow trail of people shuffled across fields and..

Caspian Mystique

By Rena Effendi — Text extract from the National Geographic Traveler, by: Bruce Shoenfeld Baku has always been at the..
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