Friday, 17 December 2010

The Sphinx-less Avenue, Fabricated Luxor

We have to congratulate Samir Farag, the Governor of Luxor, for his tremendous work in creating Disney-Luxor. I was there just about 2 weeks ago and was lucky enough to be able to walk along the newly uncovered 3 km sphinx-less avenue that connects the Luxor temple in the south, to the Karnak temple further north. Here are some of the photos I took:

The paving and sphinxes are all reconstructions; they were not there last year

Not a single sphinx appearing in this hole; Luxor temple in the background

Bases of the sphinxes are visible in this hole, but no sphinxes (this is actually what the whole avenue looked like when it was uncovered); 100-yr old church in the background earmarked for demolition

This entire empty space used to be a residential area. All the houses were demolished.

Another stretch of the avenue being rebuilt (notice the non-existent sphinxes) after everything in its way was destroyed. You can see the doomed church and the Luxor temple in the background

More reconstructed sphinxes can be seen in this photo, and we actually have some original paving. You can make out the Luxor temple in the background, but can you imagine walking along this avenue in the summer heat? bad idea.

This is the final stretch of the avenue. You can make out the Karnak temple in the background where there is a crane.

And finally a view of the whole avenue looking towards the Luxor temple, with my back to the Karnak temple. The number of houses that were destroyed for Disney-Luxor must have been quite significant to say the least.

This ludricious undertaking, spear-headed by Samir Farag, is all part of his open-air museum vision for the city of Luxor - a vision that I find to be extremely harmful to Egypt's rich heritage and which also has had negative effects on the city's local residents. From an archaeological point of view, this project is a disaster. No clean and proper archaeological methods were used to uncover the avenue - the governor prefered to use bulldozers and in the process successfully destroyed an enormous amount of archaeological data that would have undoubtedly added to our knowledge of the city's history. Not to mention of course the amount of damage the bulldozers must have done to the sphinxes themselves.

In addition, to this, there has also been a systematic removal of the city's 19th century architecture. I myself saw the destruction of several beautiful mudbrick houses that dared to be in the way of the avenue, and which were torn down without any hesitation on the part of the authorities. These houses in themselves represent a significant part of the history of the city and it's local architecture - they cannot just be removed without even proper documentation. More and more of these old houses and villas will most certainly be destroyed, until a significance part of Luxor's history will just have been effectively erased. An early 20th c. mosque was removed, and a church will be next.

The local residents themselves are being thrown out of their own city. Those who were unfortunate enough to live in the area where the avenue runs have lost their homes and have been forced to move to areas at the city's outskirts. It is no surprise that the governor wants to hide the 'offending' locals from the poor tourist who is only here to see ancient things.

The fact that none of the sphinxes, or the avenue itself has even survived, makes this endevour even more ridiculous. There is nothing there to preserve in the first place! I would have maybe understood if a small part of the avenue was exposed and preserved as an example of what had existed before, but to uncover 3 km of a completely destroyed avenue and have it completely rebuilt, is essentially what people in Disney-land do - it shouldn't be happening here. Plus, what is the use of the avenue now? So people can walk along it and suffer sun-stroke? In antiquity, it had a purpose - a religious one, and there was therefore a need for it. What kind of purpose will it serve now?

What is happening in Luxor today is a massacre of it's history - a history that has been manipulated and fabricated by those who believe that history ends with the end of the ancient Egyptians. But this is not and will never be the case. One individual with absurd and fantastical ideas should not have sole power or authority to reconstruct a city's history according to his own vision. May god save us from any of his future visions.


Ahmed Tawfik said...

What do you think about what happened in Luxor, Do you think he is a governor or ?

Ali said...

I agree. Having once been a tourist in Luxor myself, I don't see the prospect of walking 3km in the sun as being very appealing. It will probably bomb.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. Do you mind if I ask what your source is for this information?

Jennifer said...

Thank you for posting this. This was a good perspective of what's going on. I would like to see if I can connect with you personally, I am writing an article on the effects Egyptomania has had on the modern culture, some of which includes the open air museum on the West side of the Nile by Hatsheput's mortuary temple. I am looking for further photographs that demonstrate this affect.

Anonymous said...

Excellent photos and very well reported. Thank you. If Jennifer (post of Feb 17th) wants photos of the West Bank she is welcome to contact me through the Qurna website,