Historic sand path opens for tourists to see Egypt’s pharaonic monuments

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption It is the first time the public will be able to walk down a concrete road outside of the Valley of the Kings since 1952 An Egyptian city…

Historic sand path opens for tourists to see Egypt's pharaonic monuments

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption It is the first time the public will be able to walk down a concrete road outside of the Valley of the Kings since 1952

An Egyptian city famous for its pharaonic monuments has unveiled a much-anticipated avenue lined with sand-dune-like sculptures that it hopes will bring tourists back to the region.

Khafre Island, off the country’s south coast, was the last of Cairo’s seven ancient cities to be restored following the 1952 military coup that brought Gen Gamal Abdel Nasser to power.

The street made of sand was a highlight of the project.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The palace of Tutankhamun has been relocated to the new road

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The excavation to make the street started in 1974

Rescued from a Saudi oil tanker, the 133m (430ft) road was taken apart and rebuilt with cement pavers made from sand cut from the sea.

Renaissance sculptures appear at one end, and circular pharaonic altars in the middle, complete with an alcove for a crèche.

The three-kilometre (one-mile) path had been closed to the public since 1952, as the surrounding sites have since become a popular tourist destination.

The question of why it had been closed has been debated for decades. Some have questioned whether it was related to anti-government riots in 1952.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Workers are still trying to attract tourists back to the ancient site

In 1970, a year after King Farouk was toppled by Gen Nasser, the city centre was abandoned and was sold to the United Arab Emirates.

In 2016, UNESCO awarded it World Heritage status. At the time, Cairo had spent about £700m (£530m) restoring the Egypt ruins across a valley known as the Valley of the Kings.

The announcement of the new road did not appear to have impressed tourists on the first full day of its opening.

“It’s much too high up,” said a visitor to the street. “I doubt many people are going to be able to walk the distance.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A recent review of the pharaonic site said visitors had had “unfortunate experiences”

Egypt has benefited from an uptick in tourism since the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, in late August 2015.

This saw thousands of Egyptians begin to visit Gaza in the expectation that the Rafah crossing could be reopened.

But the tourist industry there has suffered in recent years, with thousands of families still trapped in dire poverty.

The BBC’s Jim Waterson, who is in Egypt, said conditions for Palestinian residents in Gaza were “more desperate than ever”, and medical facilities there were “far below” what would be expected in a developed country.

After spending an hour on the new sand avenue, BBC reporter Hattie Beveridge said it was a “remarkable sight”.

The corridor and the other restoration work on the site “has been truly remarkable”, she added.

Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism said it had been busy trying to attract tourists to the new road, and said 1,000 people would be able to walk it on its first full day.

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