Monday, October 8, 2012



ANTINOUS and Hadrian were visiting the Ancient Egyptian capital city of Memphis (Mennefer) in October of the year 130 AD and one of the highlights was the Serapeum underground labyrinth of tombs of the Sacred Apis Bulls.

As sacred synchronicity would have it, the Serapeum has reopened to the public for the first time since 1986, when it was closed for safety reasons. 

Now it is finally open again following 10 years of renovations to shore up the crumbling subterranean labyrinth which has mystified and impressed visitors for thousands of years.

Priest Hernestus was among the last visitors who wandered awe-struck through the Serapeum before it was deemed too unsafe for tourists. 

He remembers it as one of the most magically mysterious places in all of Egypt, not least of all because he had been warned it could cave in at any moment.

The enormous burial site at Saqqara, just south of Cairo, dates back to 1400 BC and is the burial place of 30 Sacred Apis Bulls, animals considered to be holy by Pharaohs.

The labyrinth, lighted in ancient times by torches and today by electric lighting, was lined with tomb niches for the Apis Bulls. Each niche contained a giant granite sarcophagus weighing between 60 and 70 tons. 

Experts over the centuries have been puzzled as to how the Ancient Egyptians were able to carve out this underground labyrinth and place such enormous granite sarcophagus coffins (each containing a mummified bull) into the tight confines of the narrow niches.

The site was discovered in 1851 by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette - who blasted it open with dynamite - but closed in the late 20th Century because the rising water table following construction of the Aswan High Dam was eating away at the masonry holding up the arched passageways.

It has has now been fully renovated at a cost of $15 million (£1.2 million).

The foundations of the tomb have been reinforced, walls mended and lighting, ventilation and surveillance installed.

The tombs of the bulls lie in massive granite coffins along the complex labyrinth of underground galleries, connected by long dark passageways.

"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, told AL ARABIYA NEWS.

Egypt is in the throes of political turbulence not seen since the times of the pharaohs. 

The tourism industry has taken as nosedive as foreigners avoid traveling to Egypt.

Ibrahim hopes that sites such as the Serapeum will help to draw visitors back.

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