Ancient city gets ready for Tutankhamen's anniversary

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 1994, 12:00am

THE city of the hundred gates, later known as Luxor, or city of palaces, is being prepared by Egyptian tourism authorities to host an historic occasion.

In November, this ancient city renowned for its colossal monuments, will host Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida as a part of a festival arranged to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Royal Opera House.

The festival will also commemorate the 70th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb.

At a recent press conference, Egypt's Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, said the opera would be performed on November 26 by the Italian Vittorio Rossi troupe and the Cairo Symphony Orchestra.

Tourism Minister Mamdouh el-Beltagui described the staging of the opera in the ancient city as a ''dream come true'' and dismissed fears that any harm would be caused to the antiquities.

He said hundreds of individuals were expected to attend the performances in Luxor, located less than an hour away by air from Cairo. National carrier Egypt Air operates daily flights to the city.

Travellers can get to the city by train (about 12 hours), Nile cruisers or air-conditioned buses. The Hilton and Sheraton operate luxury hotels in Luxor. There are also several floating hotels.

Tourism Minister el-Beltagui said the festival would reflect positively on Egypt's tourism industry, a major foreign exchange-earner for the country.

In recent years, the industry has taken a beating from Muslim militants who are waging a violent campaign in the country.

The government, seeing the need to protect the valuable industry, has responded firmly to contain attacks by militants and the damage caused by them has subsided.

An information and promotional campaign has been launched to draw visitors for the festival in Luxor.

Monuments that dwarf humans, are on the east and west banks of the Nile in Luxor.

The Temple of Luxor, built by the pharaohs, Amenhotep III and Ramses II, is located on the east bank. It was dedicated to Amun-Ra whose marriage to Mut was celebrated every year, when the sacred procession moved by boat from Karnak to the Temple of Luxor.

At the entrance to the temple, there are two huge statues of the king, Ramses II. Part of the temple was built by Amenhotep III.

The Avenue of the Rams leads to the temple of Karnak. This temple includes smaller shrines dedicated to the Amun, his wife Mut and son Khonsu, the deity of the moon.

Small statues of Ramses II are carved beneath the heads of the rams.

At the Karnak temple, a sound and light show is held twice daily. The programme is presented in Arabic, English, French and German.

On the west bank, visitors can see ruins of a temple commemorating Amenhotep III. They are known as the colossi of Memnon and are more than 19 metres tall.

Tutankhamen's tombs are also located on the west bank of the Nile. These tombs are in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.

The main tomb in the Valley of the Queens is that of Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses II. It is now closed for restoration.

There are several other temples and tombs in the area. Deir el-Bahari, Ramesseum and Madinet Habu are the temples built to mark various historical events.

There are also some landmarks in Luxor. The Abul Haggag Mosque, situated inside the compound of the Temple of Luxor, and the Coptic Church, located next to the mosque inside the temple, are known historic buildings.

The Egyptian Tourist Authority and Egypt Air have offices in the city. The National Bank of Egypt has a branch.

Historians say Luxor is a city that reflects the grandeur of ancient Egyptians several thousand years ago.