A grand opening is due to take place in October 2011 to celebrate the newly restored Avenue of Sphinxes.
Dr. Zahi Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities, made the announcement following a meeting attended by Major General Khalid Fouda, Governor of Luxor, Dr. Mohamed Abdel Maksoud, Undersecretary of State for the Minister’s Office, Dr. Mohamed Shikha, Head of Projects, at Luxor and Mansour Boraik, Director of Antiquities in Luxor
The attendees have agreed to organize a festival during the month of October to open the project and attract international tourism to Luxor. The important event will be opened by the Prime Minister of Egypt, Essam Sharaf, and is to bring together various government ministries such as the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Culture.
Lined with sphinxes, the 2.7km route that connects the grand temples of Luxor and Karnak will be lit by the Sound and Light Company of Egypt. Company president, Essam Abd El Hady, made it clear that the sophisticated lighting design would be appropriate to the archaeological importance and beauty of the site. 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.
For the last 5 years, the restoration project has focused on excavation, conservation, treatment of the water table, and the establishment of protective walls and entrances for tourist. The 120million LE project also involved relocating houses and removing roads, with full compensation paid to all those affected by the development.
The impressive avenue has long been a place of religious significance. In her red chapel in Karnak, Queen Hatshepsut (1502-1482 BC) recorded that she built six chapels dedicated to the god Amun-Re on the route. Successive construction and restoration work commenced during the reigns of Akhenaten (1353-1336 BC), Tutankhamun (1336-1327 BC) and Horemheb (1323-1295 BC).
King Nectanebo I (380-362 BC) of the 30th Dynasty constructed the Avenue of Sphinxes on the older path. It was used for religious ceremonies and processions, marking the annual journey of the sacred boat of Amun on the god’s visit to his wife, Mut, at Luxor temple. An inscription from this time reads “I have built a beautiful road for my father Amun-Re surrounded by walls and decorated with flowers for the journey to the temple of Luxor”. Another inscription bears a cartouche for Queen Cleopatra. It is most likely to be from her visit to the avenue during a Nile trip with Mark Anthony.