Mar 7, 2023 - World

Discovery frenzy could draw more tourists to Egypt

Archeologist unearths a statue of the sphinx

Archeologist unearths a statue of the sphinx near the Dendera Temple. Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/Facebook

An archaeological frenzy leading to a slew of ancient discoveries in Egypt could bolster the country's tourism industry.

Why it matters: Egypt's multi-billion-dollar tourism industry — which was devastated by the pandemic — accounts for a significant portion of the Egyptian economy.

The latest: Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a sphinx-like statue of a Roman emperor — complete with a smile and dimples — the country's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced on Monday.

  • The artifacts were found in a two-level tomb at a site near the temple of Dendera.
  • A preliminary examination indicated that it could be of the Roman Emperor Claudius, Mamdouh Damati, a former minister of archaeology and professor of archaeology at Ain Shams University, said in the press release.
  • A Roman-era stone slab with demotic and hieroglyphic inscriptions and a basin from the Byzantine era were also discovered at the site.

Worth noting: The discoveries were the result of the first Egyptian mission to the site at Dendera and could significantly add to what we know about the history of Egyptian civilization in the Greek and Roman ages, Mahmoud El-Metini, President of Ain Shams University, said in a press release.

State of play: This is the latest in a series of discoveries Egypt has announced this year.

  • Last week, Egypt announced the discovery of a 30 foot corridor inside the Pyramid of Khufu, one of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
  • In January, an excavation near the Saqqara pyramids led to the discovery of what authorities said could be the oldest mummy ever found in the country.
  • Last year, Egypt hailed the discovery of a trove of 150 bronze statues and 250 mummies, as well as a newly rediscovered "lost golden city."

The intrigue: “In my estimation, we’ve only found about 30 percent of Egyptian monuments,” Zahi Hawass, one of the country's top archeologists, told the Wall Street Journal last year. “Seventy percent are still buried under the ground.”

  • Egypt has also pushed for the repatriation of its ancient artifacts from around the world. Last September, the Manhattan District Attorney's office announced that the U.S. would return 16 items to Egypt, six of which came from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Zoom out: Egypt's tourism sector raked in $10.75 billion in the financial year ending in June 2022, up from $4.86 billion the year before, Reuters reported.

  • The Egyptian government aims to grow tourism by up to 30% annually over the next several years, reaching about to 30 million visitors by 2028. It also hopes to increase its flight and hotel capacity.
  • Before the pandemic, Egypt's tourism sector — which had suffered in the wake of the Arab Spring — had recovered to 13 million annual visitors by 2019, per the Wall Street Journal.

What to watch: Egypt is also set to open its Grand Egyptian Museum this year. Though the opening has been repeatedly delayed, the museum is expected to be home to some of Egypt's greatest artifacts.

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