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Monday, December 28, 2015

Feature: Egypt marks solar phenomenon at Luxor's Karnak Temple to promote tourism - Xinhua |

Feature: Egypt marks solar phenomenon at Luxor's Karnak Temple to promote tourism   2015-12-23 04:29:12

by Ahmed Shafiq, Ahmed Afyouni, Mahmoud Fouly

LUXOR, Egypt, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- As the golden sun started to rise, hundreds of foreign tourists and local residents gathered on Tuesday at Karnak Temple in Upper Egypt's Luxor city to witness the winter solstice sunrise, marking the beginning of the shortest day of the year.

The solar phenomenon is an astronomical event that occurs in the northern hemisphere marking the longest night and shortest day of the year.

"It is amazing. It is really breathtaking seeing the sunrise between the pillars through the gateway and it is really a magical experience," Alison Jowett, a tourist from Britain, told Xinhua as she observed the sun rays illuminating the usually dark temple.

"It is my second time in Luxor, but it is the first time to see the sunrise. I will definitely want to come back again, it is beautiful," she said with smile.

Michael Hawkins, another tourist from Canada, said it is a very special privilege for him to enjoy this special occasion.

"It is very fantastic. It is the first time to witness winter solstice," he said.

The extraordinary solar phenomenon at Karnak did not only amaze foreign eyes, but it also attracted local Egyptian visitors to take a look.

"I came here today to watch the excellence of ancient Egyptians in astronomy and architecture and also to promote tourism in my country," Ahmed al-Sayed, a young man who came from southern Sohag province, told Xinhua.

Every year almost at the same time, the temple is aligned to the winter solstice sunrise. On this day, the sun appears between the left and right walls of the entrance then the rays light up through other parts of the temple.

Constructed by ancient Egyptians some 3,500 years ago, the Karnak Temple is designed to receive sunbeam into its sanctuary at the dawn of the winter solstice. Ancient Egyptians believed the winter solstice was the embodiment of the process of creation.

Governor of Luxor Mohamed Badran, who also attended the event at the temple, told Xinhua that the government seizes such occasions to promote the already-frail tourism industry.

"I hope that the occurrence of the winter solstice would be well covered by international media. We are working to add this important annual event to the international tourism agenda," he said.

He added that the government is taking a series of measures to breathe life into tourism after a Russian airplane crashed over North Sinai in October.

The plane crash added more recession to Egypt's tourism sector as it eventually led some countries, including Britain and Russia, to suspend their flights to Egypt's renowned Red Sea resort Sharm el-Sheikh and to evacuate their nationals from there over security concerns.

To beef up airport security and attract more tourists, the Egyptian government announced Tuesday to hire Britain-based Control Risks corporation to monitor security measures in the country's airports.

Such news sounds pleasant to both foreign and local people who are investing in the Egyptian tourism sector.

Philip Breckner, a representative of "Discover Egypt" British tourism group, said that reviving tourism needs positive marketing.

"It needs pictures, press releases and media to tell the world that Luxor is open for business ... hopefully Egypt will get over this crisis and more people will come to the country," he told Xinhua.

Despite the travel bans to Egypt from a number of countries for security reasons, many foreign tourists ignored the security warnings and made a travel to the North African country.

"Egypt is very safe, but people in Spain do not know this. I can tell that it is secure here and I can see many foreign tourists around," said Spanish visitor Natalia Gonzalvo.

Despite the current recession in tourism industry, the presence of foreign visitors at Egyptian touristic cities sends a glimmer of hope to local tourist workers and investors who are worried about their declining business.

"Today's event is a good step towards promoting and improving tourism in the whole country," Ramadan Haggag, an Egyptian investor in tourism sector, said.

"Tourism in Egypt might get ill, but it never dies," he added.

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