Egypt to open Sphinx to public after years of restoration

Prime minister pays visit to site

10 November, 17:34

    (by Laurence Figà-Talamanca) (ANSAmed) - CAIRO, NOVEMBER 10 - Wrapped in mystery and legend, the Great Sphinx in Giza will soon be opened to tourists again after years of restoration. The public will thus soon be able to walk between the paws of the statue depicting a lion's body and a human head and to physically touch it. ''We have many challenges ahead of us. The government, through its tourism and antiquities ministries, has a plan to safeguard Egypt's heritage. And this is what happened today in Giza,'' said Egyptian prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab on a visit Sunday to the area filled with local and international journalists. Tourists were not allowed in the area due to the tight security required by the visit, which the ministers Hishaam Zazou and Mamdouh Eldamaty also took part in. No date has been set yet for the opening. ''We are ready,'' said the supervisor of the area in which the Sphinx is located, Mohamed El-Saidey, who kept a close eye on the restoration as it was being carried out. An enigmatic response was given to the question of how many years the restoration had taken: ''the restoration has been ongoing since the initial excavations. It is ongoing.'' Saidey said that the recent works - lasting about 4 years - were mostly on the left side of the statue, where erosion from time, sand storms and the calcareous material of the monument had led to cracks. Other restoration work was done on the neck and the chest of the statue.

    The temple of Amenhotep II in front of the Sphinx has also been restored and the Pyramid of Menkaure was reopened on Sunday. The Pyramid of Khefre was instead closed for restoration as part of a rotation system.

    Egypt, which is suffering from a severe economic crisis, is focusing on its archaeological heritage to bolster its weakened tourism sector after the uprising against Hosni Mubarak's regime and street protests.

    After the reopening of the Hanging Church in Cairo's Coptic neighborhood and of other museums in the country, the prime minister has announced that works will soon be initiated on the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. (ANSAmed).

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