Africa tourism

Egypt exhibits newly discovered ancient tombs at Saqqara

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt on Saturday displayed newly discovered and well-decorated ancient tombs at a pharaonic necropolis just outside the capital Cairo.

The five tombs, discovered earlier this month, date back to the Old Kingdom (1570 BC and 1069 BC) and the First Intermediate Period which spanned more than a century after the collapse of the ‘Old Kingdom, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Egyptian archaeologists began excavating the site in September. The tombs, he said, were for high officials, including regional rulers and palace supervisors in ancient Egypt.

“These five tombs are all well painted, well decorated. The excavations did not stop. We plan to continue our excavations. We think we can find more graves in this area,” he told reporters on the site.

The tombs were discovered near the step pyramid of Djoser in the Saqqara necropolis, 24 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of Cairo.

Images shared on the ministry’s social media pages showed burial shafts leading to the graves. The walls have been seen decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions and images of sacred animals and afterlife objects used by the ancient Egyptians.

The site of Saqqara is part of a sprawling necropolis in the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis which includes the famous pyramids at Giza as well as smaller pyramids at Abu Sir, Dahshur and Abu Ruwaysh. The ruins of Memphis were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1970s.

In recent years, Egypt has heavily promoted new archaeological finds to the media and international diplomats in hopes of attracting more tourists to the country.

The vital tourism sector, a major source of foreign exchange for Egypt, has suffered from years of political unrest and violence following the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The sector has recently begun to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, but has again been hit by the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Along with Russia, Ukraine is a major source of tourists visiting the Middle Eastern nation.