Rafat Samir, the head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights office in Luxor, disclosed that the Luxor municipality seized a plot of land of an area of two feddans (almost two acres) and 16 kirats that belong to the church to establish a public garden bearing the name of Suzanne Mubarak. He said that the compensation to the church was estimated at 1,750 pounds per meter whereas the meter is valued at 30, 000 pounds, said Al Dustur’s Hani Samir.
Samir added that he has information that the governorate intends to demolish the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese in the Nile Corniche Street as a part of the government’s plan for developing the Corniche Road running alongside the River Nile. He further referred to other buildings belonging to the Coptic Orthodox church and to other churches that the Luxor governorate seized or intends to seize, without compensation being paid so far.
Luxor locals are angered by the news; however, they could not do much to fight the state — the land is going to the second strongest power in the country.
Mamdouh Salim, a top Coptic businessman managing the church in Luxor during the absence of its bishop Bishop Ammonius, stressed that the state has not seized a single centimeter of the church land. Samir however responded that the church land was seized according to resolution number 1028 for the year 2009 issued by the prime minister, and resolution number 439 for the year 2007 on establishing a public garden, and resolution number 1725 for the year 2008 on developing the Corniche.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, last June, the Al Watani International said that at the Imam Abu-Haggag Luxor mosque and shrine, built on top of the open courtyard of Ramesses II in the Luxor Temple, the Supreme Council of Antiquities had launched a renovation project which, apart from repairing the damage from the fire, yielded some surprising finds. During restoration work the restorers came upon the remains of a Coptic church and some rare pharaonic inscriptions, the most remarkable of which were engravings picturing the erection of the two obelisks built by Ramesses II outside the Luxor Temple itself. The church and the mosque, said Sana Farouq.
The Haggag mosque, which is situated in the northern eastern part of the Luxor Temple, was built during the middle Fatimid era in the 10th century and is very similar in its design to other Fatimid mosques, although it was given some additions during the Ayyubid era some 100 years later. The entrance to the mosque, which is 12 metres high, is covered in marble and ceramic cladding. Adjoined to it is a shrine where Haggag’s body is laid. The 14-meter-high minaret rests on a base built of mud brick and wood on four granite pillars.Early on during the renovation and cleaning of the mosque’s walls it was declared that engravings had been found, as well as pillars pertaining to the Ramesses II courtyard at the north-eastern part of the temple. The surprise, however, came with revelations as work went on that a Coptic church, built during the Roman era, had been discovered underneath the mosque. According to Mohamed Assem, head of Upper Egypt Antiquities, a mihrab (niche) was found underneath one of the courtyard’s pillars beside two other pillars, on top of which were crowns sculptured in the Corinthian style. Mansour al-Berek, General Manager of Luxor Antiquities, said remains of another church had been discovered at the temple but had been demolished in 1954 in order to preserve the pharaonic temple. That church had then been no longer used for prayers.
Until the new findings were made, the reading of the inscriptions left by Ramesses II on the eastern part of the courtyard was incomplete. The newly-found inscriptions, which vary from bas-reliefs to vertical hieroglyphics and were hidden behind the mosque walls, comprise very rare passages and scenes. The scene of Ramesses II presenting the two obelisks to Amun Ra temple is among the most important. One of the two obelisks still stands outside Luxor Temple, while the other was presented by Egypt in the 19th century to France, where it stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Also found were engravings relating to battles fought by Ramesses II, as well as one of an elephant, which indicates that Egyptian life in Ramesses II’s era was influenced by Nubian culture.