Written by Staff Writer
(CNN) — Egypt has marked the reopening of the Avenue of the Sphinxes, as a nearly 4,000-year-old parking lot has been converted into one of the country’s first indoor public attractions.
Completed in 100 BCE, the site was once a narrow two-lane avenue leading to the world-famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Originally meant to carry livestock from the necropolis of Deir el-Sultan — home to the Statue of Alexander the Great and king Tutankhamun — the area became the luxury home of the Egyptian State.
Part of a network of avenues for priests and nobility to be transported between monasteries and cities in the country, the Avenue was paved with the bricks of sugar cane, served as a road for travelers and plowed with soil.
The Avenue of the Sphinxes was closed in 1965 and locked away in the Egyptian National Library on Merah Adde Street until its recent resurfacing and reopening.
Ancient parking lot
The initiative to raise its profile came in the wake of a period of unrest and political turmoil in the country.
Park manager Robert Weshew said the development of museums is common among ancient societies.
“The ancient Egyptian Society built out its collections in close proximity to the palaces of its subjects and gave them some space to breathe,” he says.
There are often gaps in the archeological record when royal museums were placed in the public domain, leading to people’s misunderstandings of Egyptian heritage.
“Modern museums exist because government men came out of the tomb rooms one day and told people what had been lost,” Weshew says.
Still, the Arabian peninsula’s deserts and erratic climate delayed the construction of Egypt’s wealth of treasures, and prehistoric tombs were erected before the first great temple temples were found.
But according to Egyptian antiquities chief Mamdouh Shaheen, progress is on the way.
“You go down to Port Said and you will find past remaining sites such as the Ramses II Mosque and Temple of Isis and you will find tons of facades in the Neolithic Age,” he says.