The Nile Valley’s Sphinxes are getting a much-needed revival in the wake of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s declaration that the ancient monuments will be back in business by the end of this year.
The decision to reopen the Avenue of the Sphinxes, which runs from Dakahlia to al-Khouhid, was largely borne out of economic necessity. Construction on a bridge across the river had set back construction of the monuments by 15 years. When it reopened, the narrow, convoluted streets of al-Seahy to al-Hora will provide easier access to the monuments.
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced the restoration in October during an international visit by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In 2015, the tour guides at Egypt’s Akrama Fayoum Sinai museum found a pharaonic arsenal hidden under the village’s dirt streets. The weaponry included projectile devices, spear points, sword sheaths, daggers, and a set of twin elephants carved with hieroglyphs and bronze heads.
Before the Islamic conquest of Egypt in 610, Akrama Fayoum Sinai were a thriving population. Their ancient community covered most of the central peninsula, but with the ascent of Islam, the ancient people were forced to flee to the desert and live underground as oases, so intense was their Muslim dominance. This action, known as khasas, is where the Sphinxes of Shubra and Fayoum are located.
Authoritarian rule by Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi and, to a lesser extent, by the Muslim Brotherhood following his overthrow in 2013 had serious economic and security implications. Within three years, 90 percent of Egypt’s foreign loans had dried up. The country is now hoping this move will help to reverse that trend.
The Sphinxes were first documented in the 6th Century BC by an Egyptian astronomer, Bahman.