Bulldozers overhaul Luxor, city of pashas and pharaohs

Thu Apr 1, 2010 5:21pm EDT
 
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By Alexander Dziadosz

LUXOR, Egypt (Reuters) - In the dusty streets behind the pasha's grand villa, bulldozers and forklifts are tearing into the city where Agatha Christie found inspiration and Howard Carter unearthed Tutankhamun.

Egypt has already cleared out Luxor's old bazaar, demolished thousands of homes and dozens of Belle Epoque buildings in a push to transform the site of the ancient capital Thebes into a huge open-air museum.

Officials say the project will preserve temples and draw more tourists, but the work has outraged archaeologists and architects who say it has gutted Luxor's more recent heritage.

"They basically want to tear the whole thing down," said one foreigner who lives in Luxor part of the year, agreeing to speak only if his name was not used.

"They want it to be all asphalt and strip malls and shopping centres. That's their idea of modern and progressive."

He pointed to the destruction of the 19th-century house of French archaeologist Georges Legrain, demolished to make way for a plaza outside Karnak temple, and plans to knock down the 150-year-old Pasha Andraos villa on the Nile boardwalk.

While known mostly for temples and tombs, Luxor's Victorian-era buildings and dusty alleyways have drawn Egyptologists, statesmen and writers for decades.

Samir Farag, a former Egyptian general who now heads the billion-dollar plan to reinvent Luxor, dismisses the criticism. Improvements to the city had reduced traffic and brought top-notch education and healthcare.   Continued...

 
<p>A tourist examines Queen Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor, southern Egypt, November 9, 2009. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic</p>