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Ramses returns
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 04 - 2019

Luxor has witnessed the announcement of many great discoveries recently, as well as of the restoration of great monuments that will be the subject of this column. Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli even attended one of these gripping events.
I was lucky enough to attend the inauguration of the restored statue of the Pharaoh Ramses II that used to stand in front of the Temple of Luxor. Many people attended this event that marked an important moment in the history of the statue, including Madbouli, Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, Minister of Culture Ines Abdel-Dayem, Minister of Tourism Rania Al-Mashat, some members of parliament, and others.
El-Enany asked me to deliver a speech on Egypt's celebration of World Heritage Day marked annually on 18 April. I said that the present event had been the first I had ever been to at which a prime minister had attended. I added that we, as scholars in the field of archaeology, should thank President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for his support for the monuments of Egypt, especially the great projects on the Pyramids Plateau and the Great Egyptian Museum (GEM).
Madbouli was also providing enormous support for the field of antiquities, I said, and I took the opportunity to thank the prime minister by giving him a copy of my book Life in Paradise about the tombs of the nobles on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor as well as of my famous hat.
El-Enany then unveiled the restored statue of Ramses II in front of the temple's first pylon. The two seated statues had never been seen before together with the four others and the accompanying obelisk. The Ministry of Antiquities had already been able to restore the one to the west, the one beside it was already there, as was the one to the east.
The newly restored statue is 12 metres high and weighs about 60 tons. It is made of red granite. It has elicited a lot of controversy, with some critics saying that because the statue is shown in the position of the god Osiris this means that it does not belong in front of the temple façade. However, the statue was found on site by archaeologist Mohamed Abdel-Kader between 1958 and 1960 after it and others had been destroyed in an earthquake. Abdel-Kader was able to collect the pieces and put each statue on a wooden base to ensure its preservation.
We know that the original plan of the temple has two seated statues and two obelisks at the first pylon. One obelisk still stands, and the other is in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The four standing statues were added later, but we do not know exactly when this happened.
There are inscriptions in the first court of the temple showing six statues, two seated and four standing. The style of sculpting used here is different from that elsewhere, which could mean that these are additions from a later period. Moreover, a scene inscribed on the southwestern wall of the court of Ramses II illustrates the first pylon preceded by two sitting statues, four statues shown striding with left foot forward, and two obelisks. It is stylistically different from reliefs adjacent to it on the same wall. This inscription dates to the reign of Ramses II.
There is a similar example in the Temple of Medinet Habu built by Ramses III. He built the façade, and then Ramses IV added more scenes, but the style of carving of these is different. The Osiride style of the statue of Ramses II at Luxor should not come as a surprise because on the west entrance of the temple we can see the upper and lower parts of Ramses statues made of red granite, which are also in Osiride style.
Perhaps some people are keen to keep a record of any mistakes made by the ministry. Instead of gratitude for its efforts, there have been criticisms, but these should be ignored since for the first time we can now view the façade of the first pylon of the Temple of Luxor with its two seated and four standing statues. We still do not know by whom or when the four standing statues were erected.
This may also be a good time to invite France to return the obelisk from the Place de la Concorde to Egypt so that it can stand in front of the Temple of Luxor once more. The reason I say this is because the obelisk has been neglected in its present location and earlier this year French President Emmanuel Macron promised to return artefacts now in France to their countries of origin.
He said that artefacts taken from Africa countries during the period of European colonisation should be returned. If the French do return the obelisk to Luxor, the whole world will celebrate the gesture, recording France's name in gold and ensuring that the decision goes down in history.


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