RELIVE: Egypt reopens Luxor’s Avenue of Sphinxes in spellbinding ceremony

Ahram Online , Friday 26 Nov 2021

Our live coverage for Egypt’s historic reopening of the 2.7km-long ancient Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor has concluded.

Rams Road reopening ceremony
Fireworks light the sky during the official ceremony reopening the Avenue of Sphinxes outside the pylon and remaining obelisk at the entrance of the Temple of Luxor (built around 1400 BC) in Egypt's city of Luxor on November 25, 2021. AFP

9:30 pm The ceremony for the reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes concludes.

9:20 pm Young Egyptian singer Haidy Moussa performed a song about Queen Hatshepsut, and Wael El-Fashni performed the Reda Troupe's renowned folk song 'Luxor, our town,' (Luxor Baladna in Arabic).

9:15 pm The ceremony saw a re-enactment of the ancient Opet festival, with dozens of performers wearing ancient Egyptian-style clothes and treading the Great Processional Path while carrying three golden, boat-shaped shrines to the deities Amun-Re, Mut, and Khonsu.

The festival was accompanied by a lively musical performance.

This picture taken on November 25, 2021 shows a general view of the official ceremony opening the "Rams Road" outside the pylon at the entrance of the Temple of Luxor (built around 1400 BC) in Egypt's southern city of the same name. AFP

8:50 pm Minister El-Enani said the newly restored Avenue of Sphinxes links the temples of Luxor and Karnak for the first time since ancient times, qualifying the city of Luxor city as the largest open-air museum in the world.

In his speech during the ceremony, the minister noted that archaeological work on the avenue is not yet complete and will last for several years to search for more statues.

Archaeologists could discover 250 ram-headed and 807 man-headed sphinxes as well as plinths, El-Enani said.

The statues that have already been unearthed are only one-third of the original number of statues on the avenue, El-Enani said, noting that 10 statue heads have already been discovered in recent days.

8:30 pm A documentary directed by Tamer Morsi was screened during the ceremony, showcasing the beauty and heritage of Luxor.

The film explored Luxor's awe-inspiring monuments, its dazzling Nile, charming traditional markets, and horse-drawn carriages.

The documentary also honored Egyptian archaeologists for their efforts to preserve Egypt's cultural and archaeological heritage.

The film also covered the rituals associated with the Opet festival, which are detailed on the walls of Luxor Temple, where “inscriptions reveal many features of the feast, including music, dance, military marches, offerings, and horse shows.”

Remnants of the ancient festival can still be witnessed in Luxor, not least in the celebration of Moulid Sidi Abul-Haggag. Abul-Haggag was a 13th-century Sufi sheikh whose mosque was built next to a Coptic church, both of which lie within the confines of Luxor Temple.

8:20 pm Egyptian pop star Mohamed Hamaki and singer Lara introduced a prerecorded video clip showing a song and dance show at Luxor Temple. The two singers then gave a live performance.


8:10 pm President El-Sisi met with Manal Shawqi Abuldahab, a young female restorer from Luxor who worked on the restoration of the Great Hypostyle hall at Karnak.

8:00 pm President El-Sisi and Minister El-Enani walked along the 3,000-year-old walkway with illuminated man-headed sphinxes on both sides. The minister briefed the president on the stages of restoration work on the avenue as well as the walkway's history and that of nearby temples.

The 2,700-metre-long Great Processional Path links Karnak and Luxor temples and has 1,057 statues, including 309 complete or partial human-headed sphinxes on both sides, as well as 748 bases without statues.

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (L) walks with Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany (2nd-L) as they walk between the human-headed sphinxes at a section along the 2700-metre-long "Avenue of Sphinxes", leading from the Temple of Luxor (built around 1400 BC) to the Karnak Temple further north, in Egypt's southern city of the same name on November 25, 2021. AFP

7:50 pm The awaited ceremony to reopen the Avenue of Sphinxes kicks off.

The ceremony is being attended by President El-Sisi, First Lady Entissar Amer, and a number of ministers and state officials including Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Enani.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has said that the ceremony is in accordance with a branding strategy prepared by the British-Canadian Expert House after the COVID-19 pandemic. The strategy involves presenting Egypt as a safe, lively and vibrant tourist destination through several campaigns, including holding a number of events throughout the year at tourist sites.

7:10 pm The Egyptian Authority for Promoting Tourism has started a livestream on YouTube covering the ceremony.

This picture taken on November 25, 2021 shows a view of the human-headed sphinxes along the 2700-metre-long "Avenue of Sphinxes" leading from the Temple of Luxor (built around 1400 BC) to the Karnak Temple further north, in Egypt's southern city. AFP

6:25 pm In preparation for the much-awaited reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes, students from the faculty of Fine Arts at Luxor University have made 28 murals telling stories from ancient Egypt.

Among the stories depicted are the history of the ancient Egyptians, their burial traditions, ceremonies, and musical instruments.

5:45 pm For the first time since its debut in the 1967 classic film Gharam Fel Karnak, the renowned folkloric Reda Troupe’s song 'Luxor, our town,' (Luxor Baladna in Arabic) will be performed during the grand reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes.

Wael El-Fashni will perform the song, which was originally sung by the late Mohamed El-Ezaby under maestro Nader Abbasi, who is the music director of today’s event. Abbasi also led the orchestra in the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in April.

5:00 pm Preventive measures against COVID-19 have been taken ahead of the ceremony, including PCR tests for the attendees, the Luxor health directorate said.

The paths along which President El-Sisi and the guests will walk have all been disinfected and social distancing will be maintained, the health directorate said.

04:45 pm Around 200 accredited foreign media correspondents will attend the ceremony, the State Information Service (SIS) said. 

A live streaming link has also been sent to 1,200 foreign media correspondents as well as media offices in the US, UK, Germany, Russia, France, and South Africa to follow the event, the SIS said.

Journalists wait by the pylon and remaining obelisk at the entrance of the Temple of Luxor (built around 1400 BC), in Egypt's Luxor city, on November 25, 2021, before the start of the “Avenue of Sphinxes” ceremony. AFP

4:30 pm All of Luxor's hotels are fully booked for the first time in more than 10 years in light of the reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes today, according to the president of Luxor's city council, Tarek Lotfy. 

Lotfy indicated that all hotels in the city, which have around 3,500 hotel rooms, are fully booked for the coming six weeks.

4:00 pm On the occasion of tonight’s opening, the SURA Project platform published an old photo taken by Jean Capart of a man walking between statues of ram-headed sphinxes in Luxor along the avenue connecting the ancient quay along the Nile with the first pylon of the Karnak Temple.

The photo,taken sometime between 1910 and 1925, shows a Decauville railway that served to cart off rubble as part of restoration work at Karnak.

SURA is a project launched by the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels in the memory of Capart, the first curator of the Egyptian department at the RMAH.

Egypt is gearing up to host the awe-inspiring event in the ancient city of Thebes, home to one-third of the world’s antiquities, to mark the launch of a major campaign promoting the city as the world’s greatest open-air museum.

The ceremony will see the inauguration of the 3,000-year-old ancient walkway of the Avenue of Sphinxes in which the re-enactment of the ancient Egyptian Opet festival will take place. 

During the annual Opet festival, priests trod the 2,700-metre-long Great Processional Path, known as the Avenue of Sphinxes, from Karnak to Luxor temples, bearing a wooden bark holding the shrine of the triad of deities: Amun-Re, Mut, and Khonsu.

Through the ancient walkway that has nearly 1,057 human-headed sphinxes lined up on both sides, priests, royalty, and the pious walked in procession to celebrate the Opet festival.

309 statues have been excavated in good condition so far, Dr. Mustafa Al-Saghir, director general of the Karnak monuments, told CBS News, but that number may increase as excavation work continues.

The walkway was built during the reign of Pharaoh Nectanebo I of the 13th-Dynasty. It replaced one built in the 18th Dynasty, as queen Hatshepsut (1502-1482 BC) recorded on the walls of her Red Chapel in Karnak Temple.

Hatshepsut built six chapels dedicated to the god Amun-Re on the route of the avenue during her reign, demonstrating its longevity as a place of religious significance.

Today’s ceremony is planned to start with a gradual panoramic illumination of Luxor Temple and the Avenue of Sphinxes. The ceremony will be celebrated from air, land, and the River Nile from hot air balloons, feluccas (sail boats), and youth parades in Pharaonic clothes.

At the beginning of the procession, a musical concert will be held under the leadership of maestro Nader Abbasi, who is also the music director. The music is composed by Ahmed El-Mougy and Abbasi.

The concert will be performed by the United Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir featuring the soloists Shahd Ezz in The First Call, Haidy Moussa in Hatshepsut, Ezz El-Ostoul in Amon Ra, and Wael El-Fashni in 'Luxor, our town.'

Some160 musicians are taking part in the event, in addition to dozens of professionals, technicians, Egyptologists, Hieroglyphics specialists, among others.

Sound engineer Mofti Thabet is in charge of the recording of the United Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. Maysara Abdalla helped choose the poems used in the event. The texts drawn from songs and hymns are linked to the ancient Egyptian Opet festival written on the walls of temples.

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