Egypt reopens historic Saqqara necropolis

A general view shows the main corridor inside the Serapuem tomb, near Saqqara, south of Cairo. (Reuters)

In Saqqara-- considered as the richest archeological city in Egypt, the Serapeum, also known as the Apis bull was reopened on Thursday after it was renovated. It is a long corridor with granite or basalt tombs on both sides where Egyptians used to bury the sacred Apis bull.

The Serapeum, whose origin dates back to around 1400 BC, was discovered in 1851 by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, founder of the first department of Egyptian antiquities.

They used to perform embalmment rituals that were actually performed for kings. Some of the tombs were engraved with symbols characterizing the daily life of ancient Egypt.

It was closed temporarily in 2001 because of water seepage and earth movements.

The renovation project cost around twelve million Egyptian pounds and included strengthening the foundations of the rooms and fixing dismantled walls, in addition to designing ventilation, lighting and surveillance system.

The site contains huge subterranean galleries in which are contained the large tombs of some 30 sacred bulls, accompanied by steles bearing inscriptions providing information on the reigns under which the animals lived.

“This archeological site is linked to very old beliefs regarding ancient Egypt, when they declared the sacred Apis Bull to represent the responsibility of Egypt’s ruler that was to guarantee the fertility of the land and its animals,” Mohammed Ibrahim, the secretary of state for antiquities said.

In addition to the Serapeum, two tombs were inaugurated: Ptahhotep, the visior in the fifth dynasty, and Mereruka the son in law of King Teti. It is the largest individual tombs in the ancient Egypt era.

Ibrahim said Egypt was working to open to the public other Pharaonic sites in a bid to revive tourism which has been hit by political instability for more than 18 months.

“Egypt has not stopped working after the revolution” that ended the regime of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, he told reporters, adding that “this opening must be followed by others.”

“We hope that this will help revive domestic and international tourism in Egypt,” he added.

After more than ten years of renovations, the Apis Bull tombs, also known as the Serapeum are now opened to the public. This tomb was discovered in the mid of the nineteenth century. This discovery and its registration was the first of its kind in Egyptology.

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