While the world celebrated Thanksgiving with fanfare after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, Egypt, over 6,000 miles away, reintroduced a totally different cultural custom that was lost for millennia. Following decades of excavation operations, Egypt unveiled the 3,000-year-old Avenue of Sphinxes to the public on November 25.
The unveiling took place in an opulent ceremony in the southern city of Luxor. The roughly two-mile-long and 250-foot-wide ancient pathway was previously known as “The Path of God”. It connects the Luxor Temple to the Temple of Karnak, which is located just north of the Nile.
About the Unveiling of the Avenue of Sphinxes
A magnificent procession took place throughout the length of the road, which is flanked on either side by over 600 ram-headed sculptures and typical sphinxes, and statues with a lion’s body and a human’s head. The procession began after dark in Egypt (around midday ET).
The lavish march featured pharaonic costumes, a symphony orchestra, lighting effects, professional dancers, Nile boats, horse-drawn carriages, and more. Egypt’s President, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was present at the city-wide event.
For decades, the route remained buried under sand until Egyptian archaeologist Zakaria Ghineim uncovered the first eight sphinx statues in front of Luxor Temple in 1949. Several attempts to excavate the site continued for the following seven decades. However, these attempts failed due to political upheavals. One of such pivotal upheavals was the 2011 Arab Spring movement that toppled Egypt’s longstanding authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak and sparked years of civil strife.
Reactions to the Unveiling of the Avenue of Sphinxes
Before the event, a Luxor tour guide, Ahmed Hammam, told NBC News, “Tonight I will watch one of the biggest occurrences that has ever transpired in my lifetime”. Witnessing the restoration of the Avenue of Sphinxes after years of struggle was “like a dream” for Hammam, 47. “Today will be a day we will remember for a hundred years,” Hammam said. “I hope everyone enjoys it. Not just in my hometown, but throughout Egypt and the rest of the globe”.
The road was constructed to commemorate the annual Opet Festival at Thebes, now known as Luxor. The event emphasized fertility and featured a procession from Karnak Temple to Luxor Temple that carried a statue of ceremonial gods.
“The Opet festival will take place like it did in the past during the reign of the Pharaohs,” said Ali Abu Dashish, an Egyptian archaeologist and member of the Archaeological Union, ahead of the event on Thursday. “We maintain and restore antiquities,” Dashish said Egypt should send a message to the rest of the globe.
The celebrations on Thursday were part of an ongoing campaign to publicize archeological findings as Egypt attempts to restore its ailing tourist economy. A part of that effort has been the staging of magnificent public events, such as the one held at the Avenue of Sphinxes.
In April, Cairo staged the Golden Parade, an extravagant procession around the metropolis to transport 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies to a new museum. The Luxor site, according to Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, is “the world’s greatest open [air] museum, the world’s largest archeological site,” telling the narrative of Egypt from 2,000 BC until the Roman Period.
Reactions on Social Media
Observers, lovers of archaeology, and friends of Egypt took to Twitter to celebrate the procession at the Avenue of Sphinxes. Here are some of the comments:
لحظات مثيرة من موكب افتتاح شارع أبو الهول في الأقصر ، مصر
المطرب عز الأسطول يغني باللغة القديمة عند المصريين ترنيمة للإله آمون رع.
Exciting moments of the inaugural procession of the Avenue of the Sphinxes in Luxor, Egypt pic.twitter.com/E3TPeHHyOL
— Dr . Almasry🇪🇬🇮🇹 (@Allllmasry2) November 26, 2021
Mabrouk! 🎉👏🙌 Egypt put on a marvellous display of history for the reopening of the avenue of the sphinxes! The tourism potential and variety of Egypt is remarkable! Bravo to all the dymanic performers and organisers! 🇨🇦😊👍🇪🇬 #Egypt #AvenueofSphinxes https://t.co/Wunmbaxu8A
— Louis Dumas (@Louis_Dumas9) November 27, 2021
Wonder how @kylejanderson became Professor @SUNYOldWestbury ? with superior credentials he didn't notice he is writing in #Qatari Intelligent media outlet 🕵️♀️😄! he ignored a world full of perils & summoned all history demons to criticize #Egyptian celebrating #AvenueofSphinxes ! https://t.co/TNMa25UUwe
— Adel Asaad (@Adel1945) November 27, 2021
The Parade of the Avenue of the Sphinxes revive the festivities of Egyptians on OPET day celebrations since 6263 years ago.Did you get how many years before Moses & Jesus .Egypt existed before history, protected prophets & taught the world “civilization.” Be proud of being there
— Menes Guirguis (@HeliopolisMRG) November 27, 2021
PSA to my brothers and sisters down the nile from us:
3,400-year-old Avenue of the Sphinxes prolly something to leave closed…
— 5enok, Debtera (@he_negash) November 26, 2021
How will the Country Benefit from the Avenue of Sphinxes Opening?
With the re-opening of the Avenue of Sphinxes, several analysts believe that Egypt will be at advantage. Some of the benefits include highlighted include;
1. Tourist attraction
As a key site for cultural heritage, the Avenue of Sphinxes is sure to become a tourist hotspot if properly maintained. Egyptologists, Archaeologists, fans of hieroglyphics, and general sight-seers are some tourists that the country will expect. This will help the country to boost its foreign exchange earnings.
2. Employment opportunities
Local residents are aware of, and in most of the parts thrive on, the economic benefits of tourism. Also of significant importance is providing new jobs and commercial opportunities that align with the avenue as a tourist magnet.
3. Foreign direct investment
Furthermore, with the opening of the Avenue of Sphinxes, there will be an influx of foreign investments such as hotels, restaurants, and clubs to suit the tourist population.
As Egypt re-opens the Avenue of Sphinxes, there is a lot of great things to come for the nation. As the country basks in its euphoric mood, the rest of the continent celebrates with the people of Egypt. With good use, the Avenue od sphinxes can be a springboard for the appreciation of ancient African cultural heritage.