Avenue of the Sphinxes: Egypt holds lavish ceremony to mark reopening of 3000-year-old walkway

Egypt has held a jaw-droppingly extravagant parade to celebrate the reopening of a 3000-year-old avenue, after decades of excavation.

Egypt has celebrated the public reopening of an ancient walkway once used by the pharaohs with an extravagant revival of a cultural tradition not seen for thousands of years.

Following decades of excavation and restoration, the country officially reopened the Avenue of the Sphinxes on Thursday with a lavish parade featuring dancers in traditional dress, light displays, an orchestra, horse-drawn carriages and boats on the Nile.

The ancient walkway, once named “The Path of God”, is 2700 metres long and nearly 80 metres wide. It connects the Temple of Luxor with the Temple of Karnak to the north.

Efforts to excavate the road have persisted through more than seven decades of political upheaval, since the first of the sphinx statues were discovered under the sand outside Luxor Temple by Egyptian archaeologist Mohammed Zakaria Ghoneim in 1949.

The Avenue of the Sphinxes, which is lined on either side with more than 600 ram-headed and traditional sphinx statues, is believed to have been built to mark the Opet Festival, an annual event at which the pharaoh would undergo a ritual marriage ceremony with the deity Amun.

The ceremony would involve a ritual procession carrying ceremonial statues of the gods from Karnak Temple to Luxor Temple, where the marriage ceremony would take place.

“The Opet Festival will be held, as it was in the past at the time of the Pharaohs,” Ali Abu Dashish, an Egyptian archaeologist and member of the Archaeological Union, told NBC News ahead of the event.

Mr Dashish said it should send a message to the world that, “We preserve and restore antiquities.”

Thursday’s televised ceremony, which was attended by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, kicked off after nightfall and proceeded along the length of the avenue, culminating in a massive fireworks display.

The vast open-air complex is Egypt’s second-most visited heritage site after the Giza Pyramids.

Egyptian officials are attempting to reinvigorate the country’s tourism sector, battered over the past few years by the coronavirus pandemic and terror attacks.

Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist who worked on the restoration from 2005 until work was halted by the 2011 uprising, told NBC that Thursday’s festival sent a message to the world that, “Egypt is safe and we invite everyone to come back to Egypt.”


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