Thursday, May 26, 2016

Short Story: Honours for Luxor

Four New Kingdom tombs at Deir Al-Medina have been opened in Luxor, chosen as the International Tourism Capital for 2016, reports Nevine El-Aref.

Luxor, the ancient city of Thebes, the capital of Egypt during the ancient New Kingdom and the glorious city of Amun, is thriving today. Four New Kingdom tombs were inaugurated on Friday on the west bank of the Nile after restoration. It coincided with the 103rd meeting of the executive council of the UN World Tourism Organisation, held in Malaga in Spain last week, where Luxor was designated as the 2016 Capital of International Tourism.

The city was selected by the 50 countries of the council to host the organisation’s 104th meeting, planned to take place at the end of October. Luxor will also host the Fifth Summit on City Tourism from 1-3 November, which observers expect will be attended by even more participants than those who attended the Malaga meeting.

The 103rd session saw the participation of more than 50 countries and representatives from over 500 travel agencies and tourism organisations from 130 countries. Under the title of “Tourism and Security: Towards a Framework for Safe, Secure and Seamless Travel,” Minister of Tourism Yehia Rashed led the session and said that Egypt is ready to provide all security measures to guarantee the safety of tourists.

Egypt’s efforts to stand against international terrorism are a model to countries around the globe, he said. A source at the ministry said that the designation of Luxor as the Capital of International Tourism is “a triumph for Egypt’s tourism and a positive change in the image promoted in some of the international media of a negative impact on Egypt’s tourism industry”.

He said that Egypt is now reaping the fruits of the wise policies being implemented by the ministries of tourism and foreign affairs, which are working jointly on the tourism portfolio. Luxor Governor Mohamed Badr was particularly happy at the designation and said that he will exert every effort to make Luxor a city with efficient tourism services.

Also this week, Badr, with Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al-Enany, inaugurated four New Kingdom tombs on Luxor’s west bank. The first is located in the Sheikh Abdel-Qurna area and belongs to Djehuty, the royal butler of Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty. The other three belong to members of one family who shared were servants in the Palace of Truth during the reign of Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty.

Al-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly that the opening of the tombs came within the framework of ministry efforts to protect Egypt’s ancient Egyptian shrines and to provide new tourist attractions. He said the Djehuty tomb restoration project was carried out in collaboration with the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE) and funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

US Ambassador R Stephen Beecroft and USAID director Sherry Carlin attended the inauguration. The tomb is very distinguished as its paintings depict both Ramses II and his successor, Thutmosis III, as Djehuty served as a royal herald during the reign of Thutmosis.

Mahmoud Afifi, from the ministry, explained that the tomb is T-shaped, which was typical of the 18th Dynasty, and that it had been heavily damaged by smoke and heat that had caused the oxidisation of its wall paintings.

Time had taken its toll on the tomb, the structure had become unstable and parts of the wall paintings had begun to flake off. The pillared hall, Afifi continued, was full of debris that had filled and covered the burial shaft of the tomb, which was generally in a very bad condition.

Conservation work started in 2012, and concentrated on documentation. Concrete restoration started in 2013 when all the debris covering the entrance was removed and the walls, ceiling and columns consolidated. Restoration of the paintings was also completed. A new lighting system was installed.

As for the three tombs from the reign of Ramses II located at Deir Al-Medina, these belong to the members of one family: Imn Nakht, the father; Nebenmaat, the eldest son; and Khaaemteri, the youngest son. The restoration work was carried out in collaboration with the French Institute for Oriental Studies (IFAO).

Afifi said the tombs shared the same entrance, corridor and ante-chamber, which leads to three burial chambers with a mud-brick chapel in each. The tomb of the father follows the multi-coloured design prevailing in most of the Deir Al-Medina tombs, while the tombs of the sons follow a single-coloured design.

The entrance was cleaned, the iron door at the entrance repainted, and a new wooden floor installed to protect the tomb’s original floor and facilitate movement for visitors. A guide panel was erected in front of the tomb’s entrance and a new lighting system has been installed.

Meanwhile in Aswan, the city saw the completion of the Edfu Temple groundwater project this week, carried out in collaboration with ARCE and a fund of LE25.5 million provided by USAID. “It is a very important project because it has constructed a drainage system to lower the groundwater level that threatened the walls of the Edfu Temple,” Al-Enany said.

He said that the project had started in August 2013 in two phases. The first phase was completed in June 2014, while the second ended last September. Waadalla Abu Al-Ela, head of the projects sector at the ministry, said that a power control unit was set up to monitor the work minute by minute. Eight wells were dug to a depth of eight metres to collect the groundwater and pump it out of the temple.

Nasr Salama, head of Aswan Antiquities, told Ahram Online that during the work, carried out at the earthen dump located in front of the temple, archaeologists had discovered a collection of pots and pans dating to the Old Kingdom and the Late Period, as well as a collection of coffins and human remains.

The Edfu Temple is one of the best-preserved in Egypt and was built during the Ptolemaic era to worship the falcon god Horus. Its walls and pylons are decorated with scenes and inscriptions that have provided important information on language, myth and religion during the Graeco-Roman period.

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