Diana Craig Patch and Janice Kamrin
On Wednesday afternoon, our team was treated to a spectacular tour of new work in the precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak. Our guide was Dr. Mustafa Waziri, Director General of Luxor, whose energy, enthusiasm, and ability to get things done is truly remarkable. We have known Dr. Mustafa for many years now. In 2008,when Zahi Hawass, then head of the antiquities department, agreed that building a wall to protect Malqata was an essential task, Dr. Mustafa supervised and directed the work. As we have said before, this wall saved Malqata!
Karnak is a wonderful site, with remains dating from the Middle Kingdom through to the end of the Pharaonic period and beyond. For more than a century, various institutions and missions from Egypt and abroad have carried out excavation, reconstruction, and conservation work at different monuments within this vast enclosure, but there is still much to be done. In recent years, Dr. Mustafa and his team have made enormous progress, accomplishing an incredible amount in a short time on a shoestring budget. The Governor of Luxor has been a great help, always forthcoming with materials, and Dr. Mustafa expressed his gratitude to the American Research Center in Egypt (especially the Luxor director, John Shearman), which has also provided some of the much-needed supplies.
One important initiative, now well underway, is the replacement of old cement with new, good quality mortar in the columns and walls of the Festival Hall (Akh-menu) of Thutmose III. This project should be finished in the near future.
We then walked down a newly created and paved path – excellent as a guide for visitors, both to help them know where to go and to keep them off the more vulnerable parts of the site—to the Eastern Gate, where some of the most impressive work has been done.
There is a Temple of the Hearing Ear built by Ramesses II that has now been reconstructed and cleared of the halfa grass that made it inaccessible to visitors. This opens up a new vista to the west, and adds greatly to the visitor experience. This was not an easy task, and according to Dr. Mustafa’s description of the work, it seems there were many scorpions lurking among the fallen blocks that sent more than one workman to the hospital!
Dr. Mustafa then left us in the hands of his Chief Workman, Mr. Farouk, who is in charge of all the workmen on the East Bank; his brothers also hold important positions in the antiquities department. The Farouk family has done these jobs for several generations now, and are rightfully proud of their heritage. Mr. Farouk showed us his ongoing reconstruction of a colossal statue of Ramesses II that had been discovered first by his father in the area where the village east of the precinct once drew their water. Most of the statue had been buried for millennia, with the exposed parts used by the local population for a variety of purposes, including as a whetstone and as a pumice stone to soften their calloused feet.
Mr. Farouk with the colossal statue of Ramesses II
Dr. Mustafa is also supervising the reconstruction of a colossal statue of Amun at the Luxor Temple. We only have a few days left to finish our work here, but we are hoping we can find time to go and see this important initiative.