Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cultural feast in Luxor - Al-Ahram Weekly
08-11-2016 11:12AM ET

Cultural feast in Luxor

The Upper Egyptian city of Luxor saw a feast of cultural heritage events this week

The Upper Egyptian city of Luxor, the world’s largest open air museum of ancient Egyptian civilisation, is in the limelight again. Not only has it been selected by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as 2016 World Tourism Capital, but it is also hosting a feast of heritage events, reports Nevine El-Aref.

Luxor was the stage for numerous celebrations this week. On 4 November, the city celebrated the 94th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun by welcoming visitors who had obtained the newly launched “Luxor Pass.”

The Pass allows entry to all the archaeological sites and museums in Luxor and is available at the Tourism Information Centre adjacent to the city’s railway station and at the Misr Public Library on the west side of the Avenue of the Sphinxes.

The pass costs $200 for foreigners and $100 for students if it includes the Nefertari and Seti I Tombs. Without the Tombs, it costs $100 for foreigners and $50 for students.

“The pass is important because it helps promote tourism and facilitate itineraries for tourists during their stay in Luxor by providing a single pass for all sites and museums,” said Mostafa Al-Saghir of the Ministry of Antiquities technical office.

The ministry has also launched an annual pass for all archaeological sites and museums in Egypt for Egyptians, Arabs and foreigners resident in Egypt.

“The Luxor Pass has been very useful,” commented Jane de Carnille, a French visitor who had come to Luxor to attend the 104th session of the UNWTO Executive Council. She said that during her three-day stay in Luxor she had been able to visit the majority of the city’s monuments.

“I was able to visit the Seti I Tomb twice with the Luxor Pass as I did not have time to see everything in one visit,” de Carnille told the Weekly.

At the Luxor Museum, French and Egyptian archaeologists and media figures also gathered for the inauguration of an exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of Franco-Egyptian cooperation at the Ramesseum this week.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, Luxor governor Mohamed Badr and French Ambassador to Egypt André Parant inaugurated the exhibition which puts on show a collection of 22 artefacts unearthed during excavation work carried out at Ramses II’s mortuary temple called the Ramesseum.

El-Enany described the exhibition as “befitting the long history of cultural and archaeological cooperation between Egypt and France.” He said the objects on show had been carefully selected from the finds of the mission and kept in storage since their discovery in order to highlight 25 years of work at the Ramesseum.

During the opening ceremony, El-Enany honoured the French and Egyptian archaeologists and restorers for their devotion over the last 25 years in excavating and restoring one of Egypt’s most distinguished monuments.

“I am delighted that we are celebrating together both the achievements of the past and the future successful archaeological relationship between Egypt and France,” El-Enany told the attendees, expressing his gratitude to archaeologist Christian Leblanc, the mission’s field director, for his work at the Ramesseum.

Leblanc said it had been difficult to select only 22 objects to relate the long history of the Ramesseum because many discoveries had been made and the long chronology of the temple started at the beginning of Ramses II’s reign who had built his mortuary temple as the “mansion of a million years.” 

Some of the objects highlighted the period before the construction of the temple, he said, being funerary items from the necropolis of the Late Period and the beginning of the New Kingdom. Other objects were from artisan structures that occupied a part of the area during the 18th Dynasty.

Artefacts unearthed in the area where the kitchens, silos, bakeries and workshops were located are also on show, as well as those found on the processional pathways that surrounded the building on three sides. Objects from the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period after the desecration and abandonment of the temple, are also on display.

Hisham Al-Leithi, director of the Ancient Egypt Documentation Centre in Luxor, told the Weekly that among the items on show was a necklace with ten scarabs found in front of the Ramesseum in 2002.

The necklace was unearthed in the tomb of a teenager from the Second Intermediate Period and is composed of ten scarabs, three scaraboides and a small tubular silver clasp.

A terracotta bed with concubine and a cat playing the lute are other items on show, found in the east chamber of the tomb. A collection of ostraca showing hieroglyphic writing practices and sculpture exercises are also on show, along with canopic jars with animals and bird-shaped lids.

The Ramesseum was built by Ramses II as his funerary temple dedicated to the god Ra. The temple is in a poor state of conservation, and its entrance once had two pylons that have now collapsed. Its first courtyard has only the remains of a colonnaded hall. 

Many other pharaohs later superimposed monuments in the Ramesseum, such as Mernptah and Ramses III. During the Graeco-Roman era, the temple was dedicated to the Greek god Memnonium.

The eastern pylon was the main entrance of the temple and was once decorated with scenes of the Battle of Kadesh. The pylon’s right wing is engraved with inscriptions that represent the 118 cities that Ramses III conquered during his military campaigns as well as scenes of the prisoners taken to him.

On the left wing, there are scenes of the famous battle between Ramses II and the Hittites. In the great hypostyle hall there are 29 columns still standing, and a much older temple, built by Seti I and dedicated to the god Amun Ra, is on the right side.

The second courtyard is decorated with two rows of Osiris columns representing Ramses II. Further south, there is another small hypostyle hall that once had eight papyrus-bud columns. The hall of astronomy is also located here, in which the first 12th-month calendar known is illustrated.

This hall is decorated with scenes of offerings and the sacred boat of Amon Ra. On the western wall a scene of Ramses II sitting under the tree of life can be seen, with the god Thoth and the goddess Seshat recording his name in the leaves of a tree for long life.

To the south of the Temple, Ramses II built a great mudbrick palace where he stayed during his visits to the site. There is also the Temple of Mernptah, the successor of Ramses II.

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