On Sunday, Egypt officials announced the reopening of the courtyard in front of the Great Sphinx of Giza, the largest monolith statue in the world. The statement release follows a four-year-long restoration project for the monument.
Standing at 66.34 feet high, 63 feet wide, and 241 feet long, the Sphinx is carved from a single ridge of limestone, making it one of the most famous and visited attractions in the world. As such, it has regularly had to undergo restoration due to air pollution and underground water damage.
“The Sphinx courtyard will be opened for the first time since the restoration [began],” Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Mohammad al-Damati said to reporters on a visit of the site, which rests on a quarry below the level of the plateau where the pyramids of Giza sit on the edges of Cairo.
Mohammad al-Saidi, who oversaw the restoration, reported that it involved replacing some slabs on the left side of the statue “where there were crack[s],” as well as the renovation of the statue’s chest and neck with a new coating to prevent further abrasion.
“Once the courtyard is opened, tourists can walk around the Sphinx,” he said.
The Sphinx was built in the 4th dynasty – speculated date of 2500 BC – by and for the pharaoh Khafre, known as Chephren by the Greeks, the builder of the Second Pyramid at Giza. It is believed that the mythical half-man half-lion represents the face of Khafra. Yet, to date, archaeologists are still perplexed over its exact purpose, with many suspecting it was built for religious and astronomical reasons.
Al-Damati added that the Menkaure (the son of Khafra) pyramid – the smallest of the three Great Pyramids of Giza – would be reinstated on Monday after three years of restoration work, which included salinity treatment of its internal walls, new lighting, and ventilation of the foyers and chambers.
In addition, a small temple built by the Sphinx by pharaoh Amenhotep II of the 18th dynasty would also be opened to visitors for the first time.
As Egypt’s pinnacle winter season approaches, news of the monuments’ openings heartens the country’s tourism industry, which has notably declined in recent years.
An official date for the Sphinx’s reopening has not yet been released.