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Egypt to announce opening of world’s largest open museum in Luxor governorate

As part of Egypt’s efforts to boost tourism, the Ministry of Antiquities bets on the restoration of El-Kebash Road in Luxor, which is one of the biggest open-air archaeological sites in the world.
Tourists visit the Karnak Temple Complex, Luxor, Egypt, March 10, 2020.

Egypt is putting the final touch to the opening ceremony of the Great Processional Way (El-Kebash Road), which will be held in Luxor in November. It will be the world's largest open-air museum, according to the Egyptian government.

On Aug. 24, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly visited El-Kebash Road in Luxor governorate to inspect the preparations for the grand opening in November.

This was not Madbouly’s first visit to El-Kebash Road. On July 6, he visited Luxor to follow up on the restoration works of the ancient road and the Karnak and Luxor temples. Madbouly said that the development and restoration project is among the most important antiquities-related projects that Egypt is currently working on and aims to make Luxor the largest open-air museum in the world.

According to Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani, El-Kebash is about 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) long, and stretches from the Karnak Temple, through the Temple of Mut, to the Luxor Temple. He noted that it consists of a sandstone walkway with sphinx statues on both sides, in addition to other architectural elements dating back to different periods.

Egypt plans for a festival to celebrate the inauguration. Mustafa el-Saghir, director of Karnak Temples and general supervisor of the Grand Processional Way project, said Aug. 25, “It is going to be a big opening ceremony befitting the event. Experts inspected the road and the Karnak and Luxor temples to develop a final vision for the opening that will bring the world’s attention to Egypt. The ceremony will revive the Grand Processional Way, by celebrating an important feast in ancient Egypt. Celebrations will also be held on the Nile River and will be attended by the locals and anyone interested in archaeology.”

Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, said that 98% of the works related to the Pharaonic road have been completed, and that the final touches will be made in the coming weeks in preparation for the big festival that befits Luxor and Egypt.

Waziri told the press Aug. 27 that the Grand Processional Way project serves as an open-air museum that will attract tourists to Egypt.

He explained that the Grand Processional Way festival involves a parade and ornamented Nile boat show, with banners celebrating El-Kebash Road and the Egyptian civilization. At dawn on the day of the ceremony, hot air balloons carrying Egyptian flags, photos of the road [and those in charge of the mega-project in Luxor will be flying.”

He added, “What makes this project so special is that since its inception it has been 100% Egyptian.”

The construction of the Great Processional Way took nearly 1,000 years, and served as a center for celebrations in ancient Egypt. Called the "Avenue of Sphinxes," it has many more types of statues among its 1,200 statues, including many bearing ram features. The importance of the road decreased with time, and some of the statues’ head were broken; churches and mosques were also build alongside the road.

The history of excavation work on the Great Processional Way began in 1949, with Egyptian archaeologist Zakaria Ghoneim who discovered the beginning of the road in the 1950s. In the 1960s, Egyptian archaeologist Mohammad Abdel Razzak discovered the remains of the road at Luxor Temple. Other remains of the road were discovered in front of the temple and at its center, and next to Karnak Temple in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 2005, the project to turn Luxor governorate into the biggest open-air museum in the world was announced. As the project to restore the road was completed, the state decided to remove the mosques and churches that were built alongside the road.

The project was halted once more due to the January 25 Revolution in 2011, when 70% of the works had been completed. In 2017, the state decided to resume the project.

During the excavation works, there were recent discoveries, including a nilometer dating back to the 25th Pharaonic dynasty’s rule, wine presses, flower planters and a number of manufacturing sites. 

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gives great attention to the project. He had a meeting with the prime minister in May, along with other ministers, to discuss the latest news on the development of the ancient road.

Abdel Rahim Rihan, director general of the Department of Research, Archaeological Studies and Academic Publication in South Sinai at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told Al-Monitor, “The world awaits the big festival that will be held for the first time in history at the Great Processional Way, following the inauguration and the revival of the celebration of Opet.”

He said, “The Opet Festival was a major event in ancient Egypt. It was an annual celebration held in Thebes [Luxor] from the modern era onward.”

Rihan concluded, “The city of Luxor where the festival will be held is the ancient city of Thebes. It is one of the most important cities in ancient Egypt and the city that has the most Pharaonic antiquities. Thebes was the religious and political capital of the country for a long period of time in Egypt’s history.”

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