Mubarak and Berlusconi to inaugurate Luxor’s Sphinx Avenue

President Hosni Mubarak and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi will inaugurate the Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor on 20 February following its restoration, Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni announced.

Hosni, speaking on a tour with reporters, Zahi Hawass, Governor of Luxor and Secretary-General for the Supreme Council for Antiquities, said that restoration teams have already completed 80 percent of their work.

The restoration/excavation team has uncovered 420 sphinxes, which have the head of a king and the body of a lion, of 890 total. The sphinxes stand on both sides of a 2700 meters-long and 76 meters-wide avenue.

Close to Karnak temple, another sphinx avenue was uncovered a few weeks ago. According to Hawass, the avenue was used for religious ceremonies at Karnak temple for the pharaonic god Ammon and his wife.

The Egyptian team also found other relics belonging to the Roman era as well as the remains of a church that dates back to the fifth century AC.

Among other relics found is a cartouche that carries the name of Queen Cleopatra, which provides evidence that the world-famous queen visited Luxor and its temples.  

The project has cost LE120 million, a figure which includes compensation for the demolition of more than 560 residential buildings, shops, public institutions and places of worship, according to the Supreme Council for Antiquities.

Several residents of the city and Safwat Samaan, chairperson of Nation Without Borders, a center for human development, say the human cost of the restoration has turned tourism into a curse, with too many buildings being demolished–6500 buildings, the residents say, as opposed to the 560 quoted by officials–and owners not adequately compensated.

Luxor is proud to restore its ancient monuments, said Samaan, but restoration should not come at the expense of residents. He called for fair compensation to those affected by the demolitions.

Luxor Governor Samir Farag told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he does not have accurate statistics on the number of buildings demolished but added that compensation has been given to those who qualify.

For restoration to be complete, another 220 homes–or 300, according to residents–will have to be demolished.

Remaining restoration and excavation is unlikely to be carried out at the moment, however, due to inadequate funds, said Farag.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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