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Luxor Times: 3 Jul 2011

Luxor Times

Sunday 3 July 2011

Sphinx Avenue or Sphinx rubbish dumps??? The current status of the Sphinx Avenue, Luxor

The press release from the Ministry state of Antiquities and the announcements were made by Governor of Luxor in the past few weeks about the Grand opening of the Sphinx Avenue after restoration.
During the reign of Dr. Samir Farag (Former governor of Luxor) hundreds of families were forced to leave their homes in order to start the excavation work to retrieve the Sphinx Avenue and few dates were set for the Grand opening starting when Hosni Mubarak (Former President) was on a visit to Luxor in December 2009 and said that he will come in March for the opening and the newspapers and media sources spread the news and the work was going on almost 24 hours a day in 3 sectors of the avenue that was divided into 5 phases. When the former President had to fly to Germany for medical treatment around the same time he was supposed to visit Luxor so the work stopped or slow down big time as the need to finish for the show was not there. Also another problem arose which Dr. Mansour Boraik talked about in his lecture about the ongoing work at the Mummification museum in December 2009/January 2010, when he said that Telecom Egypt was asking for 7 million Egyptian pounds to move the cables so the SCA could commence their work on the Sphinx Avenue in that sector. At that time many people couldn’t understand or see any sense that Telecom Egypt asking for that money and the SCA as Dr. Mansour Boraik couldn’t afford to pay them while they are moving premises anyway and Telecom Egypt is a national company which 80 % of its share owned by the Egyptian government (Check here)so it seemed like the Egyptian government asking the Egyptian government for money to be able to continue working on an Egyptian project on Egyptian soil that would benefit the Egyptian tourism industry as it was announced by the Egyptian officials. Does it make sense? Anyway,

Few months later the work was going on again as the former Prime Minister was coming to Luxor then slowed down again then it was announced that the President will visit Luxor for the Grand Opening of the massive project with the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi and dignitaries from all over the world in February 2011 so of course work was on again till the recent turmoil in Egypt.
Lately the new governor of Luxor announced in a couple of occasions in May 2011 that the Sphinx Avenue will be opened in September then he said October without any referring to the Ministry of Antiquities that is actually responsible for the work, of course in co-operation with Luxor governorate but the technical work is the MSA responsibility. Well, it doesn’t matter who announce what but wait a minute .... In their press release, the MSA stated that the grand opening will be in October by the current Egyptian Prime Minister, Esam Sharaf. There is supposed to be Parliamentary elections in Egypt in September and the majority will be obligated to form a new government so the current Prime Minister might not be in office but someone would say this is just a technicality and we shouldn’t stop at it.
Since the work started on the Avenue and the sector behind Mubarak Library is the base where all officials go to stand there and see the fine work that has been done on the Avenue in that area and the new discovery of the Greco-Roman wine making station and take the photos for the media coverage. Is this why the president of the Sound and Light Company of Egypt stated that “The company will use a new, advanced type of lighting to focus on the avenue and additional archaeological discoveries, such as workshops and wine factories dating to the Greco-Roman period.”
We are not against any person here or the idea of promoting for Luxor and commencing more archaeological projects all over Egypt ... But at least can the officials be reasonable and accurate in their announcements if there is a work plan with specific and defined objectives?
The other issue here is the status of the Sphinx Avenue as of Today. The pictures below and the video were taken only hours earlier will show the status of the Avenue and the non going work there.
Does this look like a project waiting for a Grand opening in 3 months time? Even so ... how it was left to get to that state? Children ride on top on the Sphinx (unfortunately, there is no picture here to prove it) and people dumping their rubbish there. Could anyone think about how families who used to live for years in their homes there would feel now seeing a historical site of over 4000 years old and what used to be their home location used as a rubbish dump?  Where is the security?
All that work and expenses while other sites needs immediate intervention to move a road few meters to allow the excavation work to complete or so.
One of the examples about the conflict in the ideas between different parties involved in such a project when the former governor’s idea to solve the problem of how people would get from one side to the other of the avenue by planning for bridges over the avenue with a circular shape and eye of Horus in the middle, an official from the SCA said in a different occasion that it is a silly idea without referring to whom idea it was.
Where are the site management master plans? Would it have been better if there was a plan with exact date for the work from beginning? If there was any so what happened to it? Who did put those plans?
Why the complete comprehensive master plans like KV masterplan which were produced by experts like Dr. Kent Weeks and Theban Mapping project team(Check Here), not to be considered as a base with other master plans and put together after discussions between different teams to put a master plan by people who have hands- on projects in the area not to pay to a foreign company to come and make a plan of an area they know nothing about and with no consideration of the potential threats(archaeologically and socially).

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