Egypt's antiquities and tourism Khaled Al-Anany (Al-Ahram)
Egypt's Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled El-Enany has defended a decision to transfer four ram-headed sphinxes from Luxor's Karnak Temple to Tahrir Square in Cairo, after an urgent statement by a parliamentarian inquiring about the move.
Ahmed Idris, a MP affiliated with the opposition Wafd party and representing a Luxor district, directed an "urgent statement" to Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, inquiring about the government's decision to transfer an obelisk and four ram-headed sphinxes from the famous pharaonic site.
In response, El-Enany said that "Karnak's obelisk was stationed in an isolated part of the temple, and the four ram-headed sphinxes are not part of the landmark ones placed at the front of the temple."
"When we go to European capitals like Rome or Paris or London, and also Washington, we see that they use Egyptian obelisks in decorating their major tourist squares, so why do we not do the same?" said El-Enany, adding that "Karnak temple's obelisk is under restoration now and will be placed on high ground in the middle of Tahrir Square to give it historical value.
"We also want to turn Tahrir Square into a major tourist destination in Cairo and in one month all the decoration works for this international place will be completed," said El-Enany.
"Whenever we take moves to make use of our historical heritage we face attacks, and I don't see any reason for this.
The decoration of Tahrir Square in 2020 will be in tandem with other promotion of tourism measures, such as the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum near the pyramids, the renovation of Baron palace in Heliopolis, and the restoration of the synagogue at Alexandria, the minister added.
Idris, the deputy chairman of parliament's tourism committee, claims that the people of Luxor were angered when they found out that the artefacts were being transferred to Cairo to Tahrir Square.
"This transfer operation violates all international rules regulating the preservation of antiquities and historical buildings," he said.
"The transfer operation also violates the Egyptian antiquities law which forbids the use of antiquities in decoration works that might harm their historical value.
"The obelisk and the sphinxes will be subject to pollution and radical climate change that will surely harm their value," said Idris, arguing that "it would be better if the ministry first consulted the citizens of Luxor or organised a competition for the best designs of Tahrir Square.
“The Ministry could also have asked Egyptian sculptors to design replicas of the obelisk and the four ram-headed sphinxes instead of transferring the original ones," he added.