Luxor has long been Egypt's prize possession. It was here that the ancient Egyptians at one time built their capital of Thebes; where Pharoahs dedicated massive temples to their gods; and where Howard Carter unearthed the world-famous boy King, Tutankhamen, in his tomb full of riches in 1922. "It has been one of the biggest and most famous tourist attractions for at least 200 years."says Francesco Bandarin, the head of the World Heritage Center at UNESCO. Adds Mansour Boraik, who oversees Upper Egypt for for the country's Supreme Council of Antiquities, "30% of world monuments lie in Luxor, and 70% of the monuments in Egypt are in Luxor."
In an effort to preserve the riches — and beef up the number of tourists they attract — local authorities have been pressing an ambitious project to reinvent and revive Luxor; rehabilitating tombs, and expanding the city's tourist infrastructure at a dizzying pace to the tune of hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars. Egyptian authorities are in the process of excavating an ancient "Avenue of the Sphinxes," a 2.7 kilometer pathway once lined with the human-headed lion statues from the pharaonic past; after it has been resurrected, the avenue will link the Luxor Temple on one end to the colossal Karnak temple on the other. The plan is to turn the city into an open air museum by the year 2030. "Luxor needs a pioneer project like this to preserve it for the new generation," says Boraik of the ongoing work.
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