Photo exhibition Sites in the City

30 September 2011 until 19 February 2012

Exhibition Sites in the CityExhibition Sites in the City
Luxor City East (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)Luxor City East (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)
Luxor City East (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)Luxor City East (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)
Luxor City East (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)Luxor City East (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)
Karnak (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)Karnak (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)
Luxor City East (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)Luxor City East (photo: Yarko Kobylecky)
The village of Gurna (foto: Yarko Kobylecky)The village of Gurna (foto: Yarko Kobylecky)
Luxor, excavation Sphinx Road (photo: Sue Lezon)Luxor, excavation Sphinx Road (photo: Sue Lezon)

Sites in the City presents photographs of streets and buildings in the Egyptian city of Luxor and the nearby village of Qurna. They show that the cultural heritage of recent centuries has had to make way for pharaonic heritage and new tourist facilities. The photographers Sue Lezon and Yarko Kobylecky captured as many Coptic churches, mosques, old mansions, and other buildings as possible on film before they disappeared forever.

< Click on the photographs for enlarged versions

Luxor, built on the remains of Thebes

All over the world, our modern way of life places ancient monuments at risk. A case in point is Luxor, a southern Egyptian city with more than 400,000 inhabitants. Luxor was built on top of one of the highest concentrations of archaeological material in the world: the remains of Thebes, the ancient Egyptian capital.

Protection and accessibility

Climate change, population growth, and rising numbers of tourists pose a serious threat to Egypt's cultural heritage. Local authorities have responded with a plan to redevelop the ancient landscape around Luxor, transforming it into one enormous open-air museum. Their objective is to protect the heritage of pharaonic times and open it up to large-scale tourism.

Heritage displaces heritage

s part of this sweeping development plan, the heritage of more recent times - such as Coptic churches, mosques, and old mansions - has been cleared away to make space for pharaonic sites. Several villages on the western bank of the Nile near the ancient city of Thebes (modern-day Luxor) have been removed entirely to make way for tourism and for the restoration of the area as it appeared in pharaonic times. One such village is Qurna, founded more than two hundred years ago above the ancient Egyptian burial ground for the administrative elite from the days of the pharaohs.

Photographs by Sue Lezon and Yarko Kobylecky

Sue Lezon and Yarko Kobylecky, two photographers on the University of Chicago's Epigraphic Survey team in Luxor, captured as many buildings and streets in Luxor and Qurna as possible on film before these sites disappeared forever. Their photographic archive is the only remaining documentation of these parts of Luxor and Qurna. Sites in the City presents the results of their work.

Focusing on heritage issues
Through this photographic exhibition and an accompanying symposium (on 9 January 2012), the National Museum of Antiquities seeks to focus attention on this situation and similar heritage issues in other modern cities.