Herodotus Returns


Renovation of Avenue of Sphinxes for tourists means injustice to locals
February 25, 2010, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Egypt | Tags: , ,

This article about the current renovation of the Avenue of Sphinxes, an ancient Egyptian processional route linking the Luxor and Karnak temples in ancient Thebes, is stomach-turning. In order to clear out the route for tourists – they plan to create a whole new attraction by 2030 – officials have had to demolish a number of densely populated local villages. The government is offering the locals new flats, or stipends of $13,500. But the new flats have been oftentimes in the middle of the desert and the stipends are insufficient when they are paid at all. This makes me ill. I spent two weeks in Luxor last year and met a number of people who had been removed with their families from their homes a few years before in a similar situation due to the renovation of the Tombs of the Nobles. They were as bitter as you might imagine, having been moved from land owned by their families for generations to cheap government-issued cinder block-houses in the hills. Of course, this a double-edged sword. The families’ homes were situated directly on top of the Tombs of the Nobles, some of the most remarkable monuments in all of Egypt (not to mention the tombs I was there to study). Had the families not been relocated, the Tombs of the Nobles would not have been accessible – to tourists and scholars alike. So, what takes priority – access to some of the most remarkable pieces of world culture or the homes of a dozen Egyptian families? It’s not a call I would want to make, but I think the answer has to be the monuments. Not just for the profits of tourism (which, of course, are important to Egpyt), but for scholarship. BUT, if it comes to relocation, please, use some tact, be delicate, and let the families keep their dignity! The article about the Avenue of Sphinxes cites families being denied their promised stipend, or being shipped to undersized (sometimes unfinished) flats in remote areas. It’s inhumane. The most telling figure: the government will make an additional $50 million a year from the Avenue of the Sphinxes; they have only allocated $5 million to relocation and compensation of the displaced locals.

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