Egypt is struggling. First came years of political turmoil after a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Lately, the trouble has been recovering economically from effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Now Egyptian authorities have unveiled a renovated ancient promenade in the city of Luxor—with hopes of reviving the city’s flagging tourism industry.
Most years, travelers from all around the globe visit Luxor’s remarkable monuments. Those tourist dollars help the modern city of Luxor to survive economically.
Luxor’s boulevard, known as the “Avenue of the Sphinxes,” dates back 3,000 years. The walkway is also called the “Way of the Rams” and the “Path of the Gods.” It connects the famous Karnak and Luxor temples in what was the city of Thebes, which was Egypt’s capital in ancient times. It is believed to have been the path that pilgrims trod to visit the temples and pay tribute to their deities.
Lined with statues of rams and sphinxes on pedestals, the ancient road in Luxor sits on the banks of the Nile River and is located about 400 miles south of Cairo. It stretches for several miles and has been under excavation for more than 50 years. The entire area is dotted with monuments, temples, and tombs, including both the Valley of the Kings (burial sites of ancient pharaohs) and Valley of the Queens (burial sites of pharaohs’ wives).
Mohamed Abd el-Badei, a top Egyptian archaeology official, says the oldest ruins along the pathway are six structures built by Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only female pharaoh. The buildings date to 1400 B.C.
He says that according to hieroglyphics on the walls of one of the temples, an ancient holiday known as “Opet” was marked by parades and dancers. They turned out in celebration of the bounty that the Nile’s annual flooding brought to the fields. There was also a flotilla of boats that made their way to the temple, according to the hieroglyphic transcripts.
President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi, along with other senior officials, attended a late evening ceremony last week that nodded to the ancient holiday.
Ancient Egyptians looked at natural events—birth, death, flood, and famine—as signs from their unpredictable gods, who constantly needed to be appeased. To satisfy them, Egyptians made offerings through festivals like Opet. During Opet, the pharaoh floated on a boat to be married to a god and reinstated as the “divine” ruler for another year.
Thankfully, the God of the universe “does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)
The Opet event is the second glitzy ceremony this year to honor Egypt’s heritage. In April, the government hosted a procession to mark the transfer of some of the famous mummies from the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo to the newly built museum south of the Egyptian capital.
The Avenue of the Sphinxes renovation is the latest government project undertaken to highlight the country’s myriad archaeological treasures.
(A view of the entrance of the Temple of Luxor ahead of the reopening ceremony of the Avenue of the Sphinxes commonly known as El Kebbash Road on November 25, 2021, in Luxor, Egypt. AP/Mohamed El-Shahed)