Ancient “Avenue of the Sphinx” reopened centuries after Egypt held a parade for the gods

avenue of the sphinx
The Avenue of the Sphinx, surrounded by statues of the Sphinx and Rama, connects the temples of Luxor and Karnak in Egypt.

Getty/iStockphoto


Cairo — As Americans look forward to the time-honored tradition of the Thanksgiving Day parade, some 6,000 miles away, Egypt was hoping to revive a tradition of its own that might not have been seen in a few thousand years. Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities was to hold a grand ceremony on Thursday evening to mark the reopening of the ancient avenue of the Sphinx in Luxor City.



The sacred road, once named “The Path of God”, connects the temples of Karnak in the north with Luxor in the south. Paved in blocks of sandstone, the 1.7-mile-long road is lined with statues of more than 1,050 sphinxes and rams on either side. They have spent centuries buried under the sands of the desert, but slowly, over many years, famous Egyptian archaeologists are bringing them back to daylight.

Dr. Mustafa Al-Saghir, director general of Karnak Monuments, told CBS News that 309 statues have been excavated so far in good condition, but that number may increase as excavation work continues.



Avenue of the Sphinx (Luxor, Egypt)
The Ancient Avenue of the Sphinx is seen in Luxor, Egypt.

Getty/iStockphoto


who made this?

Like the ancient world, the Avenue of the Sphinx has not given up all its secrets.

It is not certain who started the construction of the road. Some scientists have suggested that it may date as far back as Queen Hatshepsut, about 3,500 years ago, but Dr. Al-Sagir says that researchers have “found no archaeological evidence on the road to back this theory.”



Others believe it was built two hundred years later under King Amenhotep III, but Dr al-Saghir says that artifacts on the road belonging to that pharaoh were moved there later. They believe it may be Egypt’s most famous ancient ruler, having ascended the throne some 3,000 years ago, beginning the Avenue of the Sphinx.

He told CBS News, “The oldest monument we have discovered about the road is that of King Tutankhamun, who built the first 300 meters from the 10th pylon of the Karnak temple to the gate of the Mat temple.”



Entrance to the Temple of Luxor, Luxor, Egypt
Avenue of the Sphinx leads to the ancient Egyptian Colossi at the entrance to the court of Ramses II, Luxor Temple, Luxor, Nile Valley, Egypt.

getty


Whoever initiated the project, there is widespread agreement that most of the road, about 2,400 yards long, was built around 2,400 years ago during the reign of King Nectanebo I, the founder of the 30th and last native dynasty in Egypt.

parade route

Every year, the ancient Egyptians held a festival called “Opet” in the second month of the flood season of the Nile to celebrate the fertility of the gods and pharaohs. The priests carried three divine boats on their shoulders, carrying the idols of the Theban Triad – the god of Amun-Re, his wife Mut and their son Khonsu – from Karnak to Luxor.

The journey was done on foot along the avenue of the Sphinx, or sometimes by boat along the Nile.

The festival lasted for days to weeks, depending on the ruler of the time, and the idols were then taken back to Karnak.

Over time the road was abandoned and buried under sand. But in 1949, the first eight Sphinx statues were discovered in front of the Luxor Temple by the Egyptian archaeologist Dr. Zakaria Ghonim.

Excavations have continued over the years, and archaeologists have uncovered and mapped the ancient road. They had to demolish some of the buildings, including mosques, a church, and several houses, which emerged along the route in the coming millennia.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities was praised for the spectacle held last April, when the Royal mummies paraded on a street To house a new museum, and the government is hoping to hold a ceremony of the same scale on Thursday to promote the city of Luxor as one of the largest open museums in the world.

The event will seek to recreate the spirit of the ancient Opet festival, and will include music, dance and light shows.

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