SPECTACULAR MERENPTAH TOMB RE-OPENS
TO LURE TOURISTS BACK TO EGYPT
AFTER three years of restoration, the tomb of Ramses the Great's beloved son, Pharaoh Merenptah, has re-opened in an attempt to revive Egypt's tourism industry, which has ground to a standstill since since the 2011 January revolution
The walls were reinforced, cracks removed, reliefs and colors restored. New wooden stairways, flooring, lighting and special ventilation systems have been installed. Glass barriers that cover the tomb reliefs were cleaned or replaced.
Merenptah's tomb (dubbed "KV8" by Egyptologists) is one of the most impressive royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings not only for its length, which reached 164.5 metres, but for its exquisite reliefs and the biggest granite sarcophagus ever found in the Valley.
Priest Hernestus has visited all the accessible tombs in the Valley of the Kings and says he was more impressed by Merenptah's tomb than with Tutankhamun's.
While Tutankhamun was buried in a cramped space the size of a New York City one-bedroom flat, Merenptah was interred in virtually a subterranean Versailles featuring a grand staircase and chambers so big they needed pillars to support the ceiling.
The tomb was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1903. It consists of three slopping corridors; the first one lead to the ritual shaft and the pillared hall with two pillar annex. The second corridor has a stairway.
The tomb is decorated with scenes from the Litany of Ra, Book of Gates, Imydwat, Book of the Dead, and scenes depicting the deceased, opening of the mouth rituals, along with several deities and members of his family.
It has also a stunningly beautiful ceiling painted with golden stars on a blue background and the columns of the burial chamber are decorated with fine religious scenes.
At the formal re-opening ceremonies at the entrance to the tomb, Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of State for Antiquities, told Ahram Online that although he ruled Egypt for only a decade after the death of his father King Ramses II, Merenptah is a very important king.
He protected Egypt's borders from an invasion by the mysterious "Sea People" (possibly Phoenicians) as well as by the Libyans.
Merenptah is the only king's name mentioned in association with Israel. On display at the Egyptian museum in Tahrir, Ibrahim continued, there is the famous "Stelae of Victory." Its text reads, "Israel has been destroyed and their women no longer conceive."
"This is the only ancient Egyptian artifact that mentions the word 'Israel'," asserted Ibrahim.
Mansour Boreih, head of Luxor antiquities, said that the sarcophagus has been also restored and put on show for the first time at the burial chamber inside the tomb.
He pointed out that when the tomb was discovered the mummy of the king was not inside it. However in 1898, the mummy was found among the mummies discovered inside the tomb of King Amenhotep II.