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A weekly round up of the Ancient Egypt News stories that made the headlines

Ancient Egypt News 22 – 28 November 2021 – Avenue of the Sphinxes

Welcome to the latest Ancient Egypt stories that made the headlines over the fourth week of November. And this week it is all about the reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes.

 

 

On Thursday, November 25th, Luxor's touristic ambitions reached an indisputable crescendo with the grand reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes, and the spectacular ceremony that accompanied it  . And to ensure that nobody would need to miss it, hotels across Luxor are going to display the full ceremony on giant screens. These screenings will be held in accordance with all precautionary measures against COVID-19.

 

 

Celebrating the renovations that have been performed on the Avenue, as well as the Karnak and Luxor Temples on either end of it, Thursday's showcase recreated an ancient Egyptian ceremony called the 'Opet Festival', which took place every year to represent the connection between the gods and the people of Egypt.

 

 

In accordance with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s directives to increase the number of quarantine workers in all entry points to the country, Abdel Ghaffar inspected the quarantine facilities at Luxor International Airport, to determine the readiness within the medical insurance plan to receive the participants in the historical event that Egypt was to witness.

 

 

He stressed the readiness of the medical clinic, the availability of a sufficient stock of emergency medicines and medical supplies, and the efficiency of medical devices, to receive emergency cases at the airport and provide the best medical services for them. 

 

 

The minister also inspected the three ambulances stationed at Luxor International Airport, including a self-sterilizing ambulance, to transfer any suspected cases of infectious diseases.

 

 

Archaeological expert Ahmed Amer, who specializes in Egyptology, said that the King’s Festivities Road, wrongly known as the "Rams Road", dates back 5,000 years.

 

 

The road was built for the purpose of witnessing the annual celebrations of the Opet Festival, feasts and special occasions, as well as the coronation of kings, with processions that extended from Karnak Temples to Luxor Temple.

 

 

The King’s Festivities Road hosts statues of the Great Sphinx or rams along its length of 2,700 metres from the Luxor Temple to Karnak Temples. In the Pharaonic eras, the number of rams in the two rows was 1,300  , but currently there are only about 300 of the original rams. The rest of the rams were destroyed in the eras that followed the Pharaonic era.

 

 

According to Amer, the construction of this road began in the rule of King Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty, who started the construction of the Luxor Temple.

 

 

However, the largest share of the road’s implementation was completed during the reign of King Nectanebo I, founder of the 30th Dynasty.

 

 

The Rams in the road symbolize the god Amun, and the Ancient Egyptians called it "Wat-nTr", meaning the Path of God. These statues were carved from a single block of sandstone and inscribed with the king's name and titles. 

 

 

The celebration of the Opet Festival, according to ancient Egyptian texts, began during the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, and there is evidence that it continued until the Ptolemaic period.

 

 

Amer further explained that the ancient Egyptians attached great importance to the Opet Festival, which was held annually in Thebes [Luxor currently] during the era of the New Kingdom and beyond, precisely during the second month of the season of Akhet, the flooding season of the Nile.

 

 

 

Saadi Zaki, director general of the restoration of Al-Kebbash Road, said that the restoration of the road began after removing the houses that were in the area. 

 

 

Zaki noted that some artifacts were found and extracted; then restoration, cleaning and removing black cement and old red bricks began.

 

 

Zaki added that the Nagaa Abu Asab area is witnessing extensive restoration operations, explaining that only a part of the road will be inaugurated, and stressing that restoration will be ongoing after the opening. 

 

 

Amira Fawzy, an antiquities inspector at Karnak Temples, stated that she had the honor to participate in the restoration works of the Rams Road, pointing out that the excavations began in 1949 when  a total of 8 rams were discovered. As the excavations proceeded, it became clear that this is the road of the great rams.

 

 

She emphasized that a large team of archaeologists and workers are exerting massive efforts to restore the 2,700-meter Rams Road, praising everyone who worked in this project, and expressing her pride in Luxor’s Sphinx Avenue grand event that will take place on Thursday.

 

 

The road is divided into 3 main parts:

 

 

The first part starts from the tenth pylon of the Karnak Temples and heads south for a distance of 300 metres to the gate of the Mut Temple. This road was built in the era of King Tutankhamun, and is considered the oldest part of the road visible so far. This part of the road is lined with sphinx-shaped statues with a lion's body and a ram's head. They are huge statues, sitting on bases with inscriptions. The weight of the statue ranges between 5 and 7 tons; its length reaches 3 met res, and its width is a metre and a quarter.

 

 

The statues embrace the statue of Ramses II [A symbol of protection], as the ram expresses the deity Amun-Ra.

 

 

The second part extends in front of the Temple of Khonsu, one of the Karnak Temples, and dates back to the era of Amenhotep III, who started the construction of the Luxor Temple. The statues in this part take the form of a full ram. The second part’s current location is not its original location, which was in one of the funerary temples on the western mainland in Thebes. It was brought to this place during the reign of King Herihor, one of the kings of Dynasty 21.

 

 

The third part is the Rams Road that extends from the Temple of Mut towards the west or towards the Nile for a distance of about 200 metres and then deviates to the south in one direction with a length of 2000 meters until it reaches the Luxor Temple.

 

 

This is what was built by King Nectanebo I, founder of the 30th Dynasty, the last of the dynasties of the era of the pharaohs. The statues in this part are smaller than the previous two parts, taking the form of a lion's body and a human head and bearing the features of King Nectanebo I.

 

 

The main source for the Opet Festival is the eastern and western walls in the great colonnade of the Luxor Temple. They date back to the reign of King Tutankhamun. The two walls explain the details of the celebration of the Opet Festival.

 

In addition, some inscriptions were found in the Temple of Khonsu in the Karnak Temples area. This is in addition to the scenes recorded by the artists of Queen Hatshepsut in her red chapel at Karnak.

 

Some drawings of the festivities can also be seen in the Ramesseum Temple in Edfu, the Temple of Medinet Habu, and the tombs of the nobles on the west bank.

 

 

 

When it came down to it, the ceremony was flawless, and incredibly moving, with the parade leaving Karnak temple,crossing to Deir el-Bahri, and an incredible dance sequence on the sacred lake at Karnak. A steel stage was lowered into the lake with a dance floor positioned on top, so that the dancers appeared to be dancing on the lake’s surface. Another highlight were the lit boats on the Nile featuring their own troupe of dancers. The Opet procession moved south to Luxor Temple where President Abdul Fatah el Sisi  and his wife , and other dignitaries were waiting.  As the music reached its crescendo; Luxor’s skyline was lit up by a tremendous fireworks display.

 

 

A big salute to all the unknown soldiers at the opening ceremony of the procession road for the design of the solar boats that formed part of the procession, for making the sculptures participated in the ceremony, including boats, statues and masks and costumes.

And the technical manager, engineer Mohamed Attia and his team.

 

 

There were 160 musicians supporting the show, including the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Also many other professionals, Egyptologists, Hieroglyphs Linguists, Musicians and Technicians made it all work.

150 TV stations transmitted the event to the world, with over a billion viewers, as Luxor announced itself as the largest open-air museum on earth.

 

 

And that’s it for this week.    

 

This weekly round-up is sourced from public sites on the internet and do not necessarily reflect the views of GnT Tours. Please feel free to contact us regarding these and any other stories posted here.