In wake of crash, Egypt opens tombs to spur tourist interest

Luxor: Egypt opened three tombs in the ancient city of Luxor to the public for the first time today, hoping to spur interest in tourism despite the shadow of last weekend’s airline crash in the Sinai Peninsula.

The most significant tomb was that of Huy, Viceroy of Kush under the famed King Tutankhamun. Inside the tomb, wall paintings depict a great festival with southerners from Nubia paying tribute, confirming Egypt’s domination and the authority of local rulers.

“The tomb also shows Huy receiving the seal of his office, and other unparalleled details regarding the administration of Egypt’s most important foreign holdings,” said John Darnell of Yale University.

“In many ways the tomb of Huy gives us one of the most detailed and colorful glimpses into the interactions of Egyptians and Nubians during the high noon of imperial Egypt.”

Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty said the newly opened tombs, in the Qurnat Marey area of Luxor, are among the most important ones built for nobles of the New Kingdom period, which ended over 3,000 years ago.

The opening, planned before the airline disaster, is part of government plans to highlight new archaeological sites to encourage tourism.

The cause of Saturday’s crash of a Metrojet flight packed with Russian vacationers returning home from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is under investigation, but the Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility and British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “more likely than not” that a bomb brought down the flight. All 224 on board were killed.

Cameron has grounded all British flights to and from Sinai, stranding thousands of tourists, citing “intelligence and information.” Germany’s Lufthansa Group said later Thursday it was also suspending flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.

“It is very sad what happened, but we have to wait or the result of the investigation,” Eldamaty said before descending into Huy’s tomb. “It was not a terror act, it was an accident,” he said, voicing the official narrative that many Egyptians in tourism-dependent areas have come to espouse with a sometimes desperate hopefulness.