Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Re-Opening, Giza: Great Sphinx of Giza's courtyard to reopen

Tourists will soon be able to enter the courtyard of the Great Sphinx of Giza following its lengthy restoration, officials have said.  
The area surrounding the statue has been closed for almost four years to 
allow for repairs Photo: GETTY
The area surrounding the colossal limestone statue, thought to have been built during the reign of Pharaoh Khafra (2558-2532BC), has been closed for almost four years to allow for damage caused by water and air pollution to be repaired.

“The Sphinx courtyard will be opened for the first time since the restoration of the monument [began]”, Mohammed al-Damati, Egypt’s antiquities minister, told AFP. "Once the courtyard is opened, tourists can walk around the Sphinx.”

The restoration of the monument, found on the outskirts of Cairo, alongside the three Great Pyramids of Giza, involved replacing slabs on the left side of the statue – “where there were cracks” – and adding a coating to the front to prevent further erosion.

With Egypt’s peak winter season approaching, the news will provide encouragement for the country’s tourism industry, which has suffered numerous setbacks in recent years.

Visitor numbers have tumbled since the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011, with violent protests twice prompting the Foreign Office to advise Britons against visiting the Cairo, and other major cities (first in February 2011 and again late last year). A deadly hot air balloon accident in Luxor in February 2013, bomb blasts in Cairo and Taba this year, and skirmishes between Egyptian troops and terrorist groups in the Sinai, have further deterred travellers.

Richard Spencer visited for Telegraph Travel earlier this year, however, and suggested that Egypt is largely safe for holidaymakers – and terrific value for money. “We paid less than £100 a night for a beautiful double room at the Old Cataract, perhaps Egypt’s most famous hotel, once host to Agatha Christie (Death on the Nile), Lord Mountbatten and other notables from Egypt’s semicolonial heyday,” he wrote. “The crowds are far fewer. Part of the glory of the temples of the Nile Valley is their romantic atmosphere, as you watch the shadows lengthen on these extraordinary historical survivals in their glorious settings. They are much easier to appreciate when not overrun by tour parties.”

The Foreign Office still advises against all travel to the North Sinai, and all but essential travel to the South Sinai, “with the exception of the area within the Sharm el Sheikh perimeter barrier, which includes the airport and the areas of Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq.”

The largest monolith statue in the world, and the oldest known monumental sculpture, the Great Sphinx of Giza is 241 feet (73.5m) long and stands more than 66 feet (20m) tall. After the abandonment of the Giza Necropolis, it became buried up to its shoulders in sand. After numerous excavations it was fully uncovered in 1936.

One myth purports that its nose was broken off by a cannonball fired by Napoleon’s troops. However, sketches that predate the French leader’s birth show it with the nose already absent.

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