The Destructive Power of Luxor and Karnak

IPS has an interesting article on Luxor and Karnak. In many ways it reminded me of this post on the destructive power of the Parthenon (hence the title of this post). A couple of quotes will reveal why:

Hundreds of low-income families have lost their homes since Luxor city officials approved a controversial plan to excavate an ancient processional route and develop it as a key tourist attraction. Buried for centuries under soil and houses, the 2.7-kilometer ‘Avenue of Sphinxes’ once connected the temples of Luxor and Karnak in what was then the ancient city of Thebes.


Few doubted that archaeological treasures would be found in the process. Excavators have already uncovered ancient chapels, a Roman wine factory, and 620 sphinx statues, some in remarkably good condition. But critics say the supercharged tourism project has resulted in sloppy archaeology and unacceptable social costs.

“You don’t do archaeology with a bulldozer,” said one foreign archaeologist, who preferred to remain anonymous. “It can take years to excavate and record a site. Work on the sphinx avenue is being rushed to get it ready for tourism, and several historical buildings have been deliberately destroyed.”

Just as the history of the Parthenon is being purified, so too are the sites of monumental architecture in Egypt being purified. Sadly, the purification of the past comes at the expense of those in the present who need help. Of course they don’t own the past, they don’t own Luxor and Karnak, they don’t own the history that has accumulated since the time of Luxor and Karnak. Apparently, they don’t even own their own houses.

When completed, the sphinx avenue will generate tourism revenue through ticket sales, tour fees and increased hotel guest spending. While officials are reluctant to put a figure on it, one tourism expert estimates the new attraction should bring in at least 50 million dollars a year.

By contrast, the government has allocated just over 5 million dollars for one-time compensations to relocated families.

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