Egypt has opened the doors of an ornate 4,000-year-old tomb to the public, in an effort to convince tourists that the country is safe for visitors.
The Tomb of Mehu, in the Saqqara necropolis near Giza, features dozens of vibrant paintings from Egypt’s sixth dynasty, dating back approximately four millennia. The Egyptian government opened the tomb to visitors on Saturday.
Mehu, a top official under King Pepi I, is buried in the tomb, along with his son, Meren Ra, and grandson Heteb Kha, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.
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“He was a vizier, the chief of the judges and the director of the palace at the time of King Pepi, the first king of the sixth dynasty,” archeologist and Egyptologist Zahi Hawass told Reuters on Saturday.
The tomb includes two chambers with wall inscriptions that depict Mehu hunting, gathering a bountiful harvest and dancing acrobatically.
It also lists Mehu’s 48 titles as pictures on the walls.
Hawass says the tomb contains several unique images from the sixth dynasty, including a portrait of two crocodiles getting married.
The Tomb of Mehu was first discovered by Egyptologist Zaki Saad in 1940, but remained off-limits to the public until this month.
Egypt opened the tomb up to the public as part of a larger effort to attract tourists to the region, according to Khaled El Anany, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities.
“We opened this previously discovered tomb to invite ambassadors and show the media that Egypt is safe,” he told Reuters in Arabic.
Visitors lined up to get a first glimpse of the tomb on Saturday.
Egypt’s tourism industry has struggled in the wake of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, which was followed by a string of terrorist incidents. The country dipped from 14 million international tourist arrivals in 2010 to 5.3 million arrivals in 2016, according to statistics from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Egypt’s tourism numbers rebounded in 2017, when they jumped up to 8.2 million foreign tourist arrivals, the UNWTO data shows.
Egypt was the top Middle-East destination for tourists in 2010, but has since been eclipsed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The two countries each welcomed approximately 16 million visitors last year, the UNWTO says.
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The Canadian government recommends avoiding all non-essential travel to Egypt “due to the unpredictable security situation.” It also recommends avoiding all travel to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Western desert, the Libyan border area and the Ismailia and Suez region.
The United States says visitors should “exercise increased caution in Egypt due to terrorism. Some areas have increased risk.”
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press