The Transfer of Four Sandstone Sphinxes to Tahrir Square in Cairo Causes Furore

Officials from Egypt’s antiquities ministry recently announced that the ram-headed sphinxes had been taken from the Karnak temple in Luxor to the capital’s busy traffic roundabout, where they have joined a pink granite obelisk. The sphinxes are being stored in wooden crates until an unveiling ceremony, for which a date has not been set. “When we go to European capitals, like Rome or Paris or London, and also Washington, we see that they use Egyptian obelisks in decorating their major tourist squares, so why do we not do the same?” Khaled El-Enany, Egypt’s minister of antiquities, told Al Ahram newspaper. The 90-tonne obelisk from the period of Ramses II, which was moved to Tahir Square in 2019, will be mounted high to “give it historical value” and attract tourists, he added. Monica Hanna, an Egyptologist, said the sphinxes were being endangered. “We oppose this because of concerns over the objects’ safety in the pollution of Tahrir Square and [the threat to] the historical integrity of Karnak temple,” she said. A group including an Egyptian MP filed a lawsuit against Enany and prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, over the transfer.