Sunday, March 14, 2010

More re the Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor

The Times (Matthew Campbell)

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.

Foreign archeologists say historical buildings have been demolished to make way for a lucrative new attraction.

“The whole thing is a disgrace,” said an American archeologist, who declined to be named because of fears of reprisals from Egyptian officials. “The work is being done in a big rush to get the place ready for tourism. Several very special buildings have been destroyed on purpose. They’re murdering the soul of the place.”

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.

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