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Newly Opened Sites for Tourism at Mut Temple and Deir El Shelwit

Newly Opened Sites for Tourism at Mut Temple and Deir El Shelwit

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Newly Opened Sites for Tourism at Mut Temple and Deir El Shelwit

In early January 2014, the United Nations World Tourism Organization held a conference in Luxor to focus attention on boosting this crucial aspect of the Egyptian economy. A highlight of the conference included the opening of two ARCE projects: Deir el Shelwit, including the newly conserved Isis Temple on Luxor’s west bank, and the Mut Temple Precinct, part of the larger Karnak Temple complex on the east bank. These two sites, which were among a number of sites visited by governors and officials from five ministries as well as foreign dignitaries, diplomats and members of the press, were prepared in collaboration with the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Khadija Adam, ARCE Conservation Manager (c) describes conservation techniques at Mut Temple to (r. to l.) Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, Minister of Antiquities, Ibrahim Soliman, MSA General Director of Luxor, Tharwat Agamy, Chairman of Luxor's Tourism Chamber, Ahmed Araby, Chief Inspector for Mut Temple, and Dr. Mohamed El Shekha, Director of MSA Engineering.  Photo: ARCE

After the opening of the sites, the Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim Ali Sayed, expressed his enthusiasm for the projects to the assembled government officials and tourism industry representatives. John Shearman, ARCE Associate Director for Luxor, then addressed the crowd and explained the job creation goals for both areas. He emphasized ARCE’s focus on knowledge transfer and capacity building for the local, Luxor population through practical and theoretical training. He also addressed the sustainability practices that guide ARCE’s site improvement works on the east and west banks, including the reuse, recycling and local sourcing of materials that require minimal maintenance.

ARCE’s focus on sustainability is a novel approach to site improvement and was evident in numerous applications at the site of Deir el Shelwit including the reuse of limestone chips from its Qurna project in constructing a parking area and pathways; the reuse of mud brick debris from Qurna in the production of new mud brick for capping and protecting the ancient ground level enclosure wall; and the reuse of sandstone scrap from a Chicago House masonry project as ground cover and a façade for a small building constructed to house the tafteesh (local MSA office), night guards and a visitors’ restroom.

New construction at Deir el Shelwit advanced the reuse and recycling of materials, including sandstone as paving and on the facade. Photo: ARCE

According to Shearman, the majority of all products used at Deir el Shelwit and Mut Temple are inexpensive, purchased in Egypt and easily maintained. “These sites have been transformed,” says Shearman. He then went on to explain how ARCE has utilized solar technology as a cost-effective, efficient way of lighting their projects. “We’ve installed solar-powered, security lighting at both of the sites that remains on during power outages. In addition, light sensors trigger exterior lights and motion sensors trigger lights for the interior of the Isis Temple at Deir el Shelwit. This assures savings on electricity from the grid.” He noted that when ARCE Engineer, Magdy Mokhtar first designed the solar lighting system he met with some resistance. However, many have now become true advocates for low maintenance solar power after seeing the benefits of a few unobtrusive solar panels.

Field school conservation trainees clean the north facade of Isis Temple at Deir el Shelwit. Photo: ARCE.

ARCE’s job creation initiatives began in Luxor with the signing of a grant agreement, known as the Annual Program Statement (APS), with USAID in 2011. The APS was designed in response to the tourism-related economic downturn following the 2011 Revolution and focuses on creating jobs, increasing skills, promoting tourism, alleviating poverty, and improving economic development. Over the duration of the 19-month projects, 75 people were employed at Deir el Shelwit and 120 people at Mut Temple. Although these projects have ended, an additional 500 workers are still employed as part of the Qurna Site Improvement project.

In addition to site improvement initiatives, ARCE ran a conservation field school in the Isis Temple at Deir el Shelwit from 2011-2013 that provided basic training and instruction to MSA conservators. More about this is published in ARCE Conservation 2013, a member publication. Students were instructed in practical, theoretical and ethical issues related to the field of conservation, in addition to administrative skills of time management and organization.

Multiple levels of scaffolding enabled field school trainees to accomplish Isis Temple conservation in record time. Photo: ARCE

While the training was rigorous, students at the field school responded well to the pace set by ARCE. Multiple levels of scaffolding were erected inside the temple to maximize productivity and the conservators could be found patching, cleaning and documenting their work under the watchful eye of active, ARCE conservation supervisors and management.

It is ARCE’s hope that the valuable, practical skills and knowledge that have been shared will benefit not only the trained individuals but the larger community as well. Although ARCE’s projects in Luxor will come to a close in July 2014, the seeds of knowledge sown amongst the Egyptian engineers, archaeologists, conservators, contractors and laborers will continue to reap rewards for years to come.

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