Seven Egyptian tombs will open to visitors

The Associated Press

LUXOR, Egypt Egypt plans to open seven elaborate tombs next month on Luxor's West Bank in yet another endeavor aimed at boosting tourism.

The tombs, six of which had been off-limits to tourists, offer a bouquet of history and art. Three were for ancient royals, including one belonging to Ay, an official in King Tut's court who followed him as pharoah.

Until two years ago, Luxor, southern Egypt's tourist capital, had little trouble luring visitors. Blessed with abundant ancient temples and tombs, the town boomed with tourist money.

But a violent anti-government campaign by Muslim militants has left 425 dead since 1992. Tour ism literally suffered a deadly blow: six foreigners were among the victims.

In Luxor, the impact has been catastrophic and slow to heal.

Only a few years ago up to 6,000 people flocked daily to Luxor's West Bank and the tomb of the boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun. Today, the number is below 1,500 and even that is a dramatic improvement from six months ago.

Come November, Luxor officials hope to turn the trickle of tourists into a steady stream.

The tombs being opened to visitors include Ay's, hewn in a remote valley outside the main royal burial sites; Ramses VII's, near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings; and Siptah's, in the heart of the Valley of the Kings, its walls lined with vivid reliefs and paintings of gods and kings.

Four other tombs, smaller than the royal ones, were for nobles and their wives. They contain beautiful paintings of the West Bank, scenes of the fishing, farming and feasting of everyday life. Many colors, especially the blues and greens, look as fresh as yesterday although painted more than 3,000 years ago.

Luxor's antiquities chief, Mohammed el-Saghir, said they'll be an important addition to about two dozen tombs now open to tourists on Luxor's West Bank of the Nile. He said the tombs not only will offer tourists more options but will let antiquities officials close tombs needing repair or a respite from visitors.

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