This picture taken on November 25, 2021 shows a view of the human-headed sphinxes along the 2700-metre-long Rams Road leading from the Temple of Luxor (background) to the Karnak Temple (unseen) further north, in Egypt s southern city of the same name. AFP
The long-awaited inauguration was attended by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, First Lady Entissar Amer, 20 ministers including Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Enani, and 35 foreign ambassadors.
The inauguration of the avenue, which connects an ancient quay on the Nile with the first pylon of Karnak Temple, marked the launch of a major campaign to promote Luxor as one of the world’s largest open-air museums.
The Avenue of Sphinxes was built during the reign of King Nectanebo I, the founder of the 30th and last native dynasty of Egypt, about 2,400 years ago.
At sunset, the ceremony started with lighting up the 2,700-metre-long ancient walkway, unveiling the recently restored sphinxes that adorn the walkway on both flanks.
As many as 1,057 ram-headed and man-headed sphinxes appeared sitting on sandstone plinths opposite one another along the course of the ceremonial route. Many of the statues were recently restored after centuries spent under the desert sands.
However, the archaeological work on the avenue is not yet complete and will last for several years to search for more statues, according to Minister El-Enani, who delivered a speech explaining the restoration process.
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.
The ceremony also 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.
Thursday’s festival was accompanied by a lively musical performance by the United Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir under maestro Nader Abbasi, who also led the orchestra during the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in April.
Some 160 musicians took part in the event, in addition to dozens of technicians, Egyptologists, and experts on hieroglyphics.
Egyptian pop star Mohamed Hamaki and singer Lara introduced a pre-recorded video clip showing a song and dance show at Luxor Temple. The two singers then gave a live performance. Also, young Egyptian singer Haidy Moussa performed a song about Queen Hatshepsut.
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) was performed during the grand reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes by Wael El-Fashni.
The event, which led to full bookings in Luxor for the first time in more than 10 years, was covered by some 200 accredited foreign media correspondents, and thousands of viewers watched the event online.
Egypt hopes the reopening of the avenue will help revitalise tourism, a primary source of foreign currency for the country.
In the first half of 2021, Egypt received 3.5 million tourists who brought in revenues of between $3.5 and $4 billion, according to Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
Before the pandemic started in early 2020, Egypt’s tourism revenues had drastically improved, recording $13 billion in 2019.