by Mahmoud Fouly, Ahmed Afiouni
LUXOR, Egypt, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- In an atmosphere of cultural and tourist festivities, crowds of Egyptians and foreigners have gathered since the early hours of Saturday at two ancient temples in the governorates of Luxor and Fayoum, south of the capital Cairo, to witness a rare annual solar event in which the sun illuminates the interiors of Karnak Temple in Luxor and Qasr Qarun Temple in Fayoum.
In Luxor, the event has been attended by a number of officials including the governor, Egyptologists, archeologists, astronomers, reporters and hundreds of Egyptian and foreign visitors.
"We have arranged the event to be part of the govrnorate's efforts to promote tourism that has witnessed recession due to the country's political turmoil," Luxor Governor Tarek Saad Eddin told Xinhua.
"The tourism field started to gradually recover after a number of countries lifted the warnings of their citizens to travel to Egypt," the governor added, expecting more flocks of tourists in 2014.
Right after the sun rose on the interior of the temple and completely shone its inner sanctuary of King Amun-Re and then brighten the obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut, excited visitors left to the eastern gate of Karnak to see the sunlight gradually moving through its gates until it vanishes.
Ana, a 52-year-old British tourist, told Xinhua that she covered the distance to Egypt to attend such "a unique and admirable event."
"It shows how ancient Egyptians mastered the fields of architecture and astronomy thousands of years ago," the lady said, noting Luxor is safe for tourists unlike what she heard in some media outlets regarding instability in Egypt.
Afterwards, the visitors enjoyed watching the performances of two Egyptian folkloric bands with their traditional clothes, music and dances.
"The event marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere known among astronomers as winter solstice," said Ahmed Abdel-Qader, an archeologist and discoverer of the solar rare phenomenon at Karnak.
"I worked in Karnak since 1992 and I saw several solar and lunar unique events in here," he told Xinhua, noting such interesting phenomena could promote the deteriorating tourism field in Egypt.
Similarly, in Fayoum, hundreds of visitors, including several top officials, celebrated the sunrise illuminating Qasr Qarun Temple a few hours after an overnight festival has been staged outside the temple for the event.
Overviewing attractive Qarun Lake, the well-preserved temple was built in the Ptolemaic era in the ancient town of Dionysias and was dedicated to worship the god Sobek-Re, whose symbol is the crocodile.
The sun illuminated the whole crocodile god engraved on the opposite wall of the sanctuary.
Minister of Tourism Hesham Zazou said that the event is "a reflection of how the ancient Egyptians had this advanced architectural and astronomical capabilities in erecting their temples."
He said his ministry set a plan to make best use of such events in boosting tourism, stressing that the country is completely safe for tourists who are not targets in the current political turmoil.
"I would like to thank the Chinese government because it lifted the travel advisory, enabling Chinese tourists to come back again to Egypt," Zazou told Xinhua.
"The security situation is very good. Zazou continued, telling all tourists across the world "from Egypt and from Fayoum, I tell you we are waiting for you."
The minister pointed out that his ministry is preparing for a strong start in 2014 to promote tourism, reassuring that the country has become more stable that led 26 states give up their warnings to their citizens against visiting Egypt.
Tourism, one of the main sources of national income in Egypt, has been severely hit following January 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruler Hosni Mubarak due to security deterioration.
In 2010 alone, tourism brough Egypt 13 billion U.S. dollars.
Interview: Egypt's Luxor Islamist governor pledges to protect tourists
CAIRO, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's newly-appointed governor of Luxor, an Upper Egyptian governorate that relies heavily on tourism for revenues but suffers from deteriorating security, said Friday that his "first priority" is to boost tourism to compensate losses in the past two years.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Adel Assad Al-Khayat said that the government is responsible for the tourists' security and wellbeing," stressing that "Luxor is open to all tourists from all over the world." Full story