A hidden wonder of the ancient world is to be unveiled in Egypt after excavation of the first stretch of a two-mile avenue lined with hundreds of carved sphinxes.
Built more than 3,000 years ago, the so-called Avenue of Sphinxes linked two giant temples and was used once a year for a religious procession. It was gradually buried by silt and built over after falling out of use in the 5th century AD.
Now it is being uncovered and the first part is expected to open within weeks. Visitors will have the chance to stroll under the imperious gaze of the sphinxes — mythological creatures with the body of a lion and head of a human or ram.
The remainder of the buried avenue, 75 yards wide and flanked originally by an estimated 1,350 sphinxes, will be opened in the next few years.
“It is the longest processional avenue in the world,” said Jihane Zaki, a government Egyptologist. Its restoration, he said, would return “dignity and glory” to Luxor, in what was once the ancient city of Thebes.
Controversy has surrounded the project, not least because of the speed of the excavation in which bulldozers have cut a 100-yard trench through some of the densely populated districts of Luxor…
The dispute has drawn in Unesco, which has responsibility for world heritage sites such as the Luxor and Karnak temples at each end of the avenue. It accused Egypt of bulldozing potentially significant ruins in a rush to get the job done…
Golly. I wonder where they might have learned that kind of behavior?
Restoration of the avenue and its sphinxes will pay rich dividends to the city on the Nile that already draws crowds. The work is part of an ambitious reorganisation of Luxor that involves turning it, in the words of Samir Farag, the governor, into a “living museum” with “tourist villages” and the reenactment of ancient processions among the sphinxes…
Amenhotep III, who ruled about 3,400 years ago, built the avenue to connect the two temples. Sphinxes were carved on either side of the road next to chapels stocked with offerings for the gods. Workers have so far found 650 of the sphinxes.
Another piece of history worth visiting.