Tourists flock to see sunlight phenomenon in Egypt temple
Crowds of tourists gathered on Wednesday to see the sunrise illuminate the statue inside the temple of Ramesses II, a biannual event that officials say is helping to bring more tourists to Egypt.
The temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel, which dates back to the 13th century BC, is considered one of the country’s main archaeological attractions.
The day’s first rays of sunlight run a long corridor in the temple, striking a statue of the ruler, on every February 22 and October 22.
The government has helped turn the event into a local festival, with music concerts and officials visiting the far southern area of the country.
The country’s tourism industry has suffered since the 2011 popular uprising, which removed President Hosni Mubarak from power.
Periods of unrest and violence since then have kept the numbers of tourists lower than previously, but officials and vendors say this year they’re seeing an upturn in interest and visitors.
Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anani said that Wednesday’s event had drawn 4,000 people, among them visitors from 20 countries.
In the 1960’s, archaeologists undertook a massive reconstruction and relocation project, moving the temple out of the line of floods created by the Aswan Dam.
There are conflicting theories about when and how the sun phenomenon would have taken place at the temple’s previous location, but some archaeologists believe the two dates mark Ramesses’ coronation day and birthday.
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