Egypt: Grand opening for Luxor’s ‘Avenue of the Sphinxes’

Egypt opened the 3000-year-old Avenue of Sphinxes to the public in November in an extravagant ceremony in the southern city of Luxor that follows decades of excavation efforts.

The ancient walkway, nearly two miles long and about 250 feet wide, was once named “The Path of God.” It connects the Temple of Luxor with the Temple of Karnak, just up the Nile river to the north. Pharaonic chariots and hundreds of performers featured in a lavish ceremony to mark the opening.

It’s taken decades to excavate ancient walkway, which is nearly 3km long and connects two of the city’s greatest temples.

The ceremony incorporated elements of the ancient festival which travelled the route each year. It also included music inspired by stories written on the walls of the temples in hieroglyphics. Egypt hopes the event will boost its ailing tourism sector, battered by political turmoil and the pandemic.

Also known as ‘Rams Road’, a long development journey that began 72 years ago with the discovery of the road by Egyptian archaeologists and efforts intensified in the last three years to complete the development and restoration processes.

There are numerous sights in the city, but the Avenue of the Sphinxes is without a doubt one of the “must-see” attractions. This is part of the massive Karnak Temple complex, which stretches along the river’s eastern bank. Pharaoh Sesostris I began the complex during the “Middle Kingdom” period, but it was regularly developed all the way through the Ptolemaic period, which was the last of the Pharaonic era.

The Sphinxes Avenue stretches for around 2700 metres between the temples of Karnak and Luxor. There is evidence that the Eighteenth Dynasty’s Queen Hatshepsut was the first to construct this processional avenue, complete with sphinxes in her likeness. The sphinx-lined avenue between the 10th pylon of Karnak Temple and the precinct of Mut Temple, as well as to the south of Khonsu temple at Karnak, was first established by Amenhotep III. The project was then put on hold during the reign of Akhnaten but was resumed by King Tutankhamun, even though the sphinxes had been usurped, altered and moved numerous times by subsequent kings.

The first phases of the Avenue of Sphinxes, which included the construction of seven chapels, began during Queen Hatshepsut’s reign. Sadly, none of the chapels are still standing today. Pharaoh Nectanebo I chose to enlarge the original complex some years later and built a 2.7-kilometer “pathway” lined on both sides by hundreds of stone sphinxes. Some of the sphinxes have ram’s heads instead of the regular human head, which is a unique trait.

While one might expect that a big and important landmark like the Avenue of the Sphinxes would be always visible, it was instead engulfed and concealed by Luxor’s unrelenting urban growth. Thankfully, in late 2011, the Egyptian government stated that the Avenue of Sphinxes had been restored and that it would be reopened to the public in an official ceremony.

Come and enjoy this Egyptian highlight in all its glory with one of Egypt Escapes tours.

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