Egypt opens ancient necropolis to tourists following renovation
The Serapeum of Saqqara has been reopened following an 11-year renovation project
There may need to be a new stop to be added to Egypt tour itineraries after the country's government reopened an ancient underground necropolis on Thursday (September 20th).
The vast Serapeum of Saqqara, located to the south of Egypt's capital Cairo is now once again open to the public after being closed for some 11 years.
The Serapeum, whose origin dates back to around 1400 BC, was closed in 2001 because of water seepage and earth movements.
But an extensive renovation programme was finally completed earlier this year, meaning the historic pharaonic site can once again be explored by visitors.
Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Mohammed Ibrahim said that the monument was being reopened in time for the new tourism season to boost tourism numbers to the country and "to show that Egypt is a safe country and awaits millions of visitors and lovers of its antiquities and heritage".
He also promised that the government will open up other previously closed off sites in the future, reports AFP.
The Serapeum of Saqqara, discovered in 1851 by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, is dedicated to the bulls of Apis, which were worshipped as deities in ancient Egypt.
An impressive sight for visitors, the necropolis contains huge subterranean galleries containing the large tombs of some 30 sacred bulls, accompanied by steles bearing inscriptions providing information on the reigns under which the animals lived.
It follows the news earlier this year that the government has reopened a section of the famous Avenue of Sphinxes following an extensive $11 million (£7 million) restoration project.
The 2.7km path once linked the great temples of Luxor and Karnak temples and was originally lined with over 1,000 sphinx statues.
However, many of the statues were removed during the Roman period and Middle Ages and a large number are believed to be buried under the houses of modern Luxor, while a proportion of the remaining statues have been damaged through air pollution.
Having begun in 2004, the restoration project saw the remaining sphinxes restored to their former glory, while some of those buried along the route were unearthed.