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Thursday, May 28 2020 @ 06:52 AM CDT

Pharaoh's splendour online

Pyramid Mysteries

Too busy at the office, Nader Habib decided to take a virtual tour of Luxor on a new website. But is this a good substitute for the real thing?

Once, it was a dream to find a website in Egypt showcasing the country's tourist services or tourist destinations. The Higher Council for Luxor City (HCLC) was able to make this dream come true, even before it became Egypt's 29th governorate, rich with heritage and antiquities covering centuries of history. The city's governing body restored the city's magnificence and age-old brilliance, which is home to 30 per cent of the world's ancient relics. In fact, it is referred to as "the world's greatest open air museum".

Located 670km south of Cairo, Luxor was known as Wasset (City of the Sceptre) in the past, and is the site of the ancient city of Thebes which was the great capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom. It was a large city with many gates, which earned it the name "City of 100 Gates" by Greek historians, and boasts the grandeur of ancient Egypt and the 18th Dynasty. On its West Bank lies the tomb of Tutankhamun which has mesmerised the world.

In the beginning, Thebes was a collection of dispersed housing clusters and small villages. When it became the power centre of Pharaoh, the villages converged to become one metropolis extending from Luxor Temple until the temple at Karnak. The first spark of independence was in Thebes, and as the glorious city of the God Amun-Re, the ancient Egyptians relied on him to sanctify their war against the Hyksos. After that, successive rulers went to battle under the banner of Amun and credited him with their victories. Armies departed from his courtyard and returned victorious under his standard, laden with loot from the lands of the ancient world.

As part of development plans for modern-day Luxor, tourist services recently went online. The project implements the February 2005 cooperation protocol between the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and HCLC to build the IT infrastructure needed to promote tourism in Luxor. Online services include virtual tours and a digital map of Luxor at, and are an effort by the government to boost and develop the tourism industry. In fact, the website has become the official gateway to tourism in Luxor.

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tareq Kamel said that the website gives Egyptian tourism a boost by using IT tools to promote all the services available to tourists in a digital format, especially a first-time digital map which allows visitors to take a virtual tour of Luxor and provides them with e-services that enable them to easily access information about the city and its historic sites. Visitors can move around the city and visit landmark locations through interactive virtual pictures, and read detailed information about tourist sites from the comfort of their homes.

The virtual tours aim to entice visitors to travel in real time and tour the sites in person. The website also provides contact information for tourism companies in the city.

Samir Farag, who formerly was the head of Luxor City and is now its first governor, believes that the development and modernisation of Luxor's technology infrastructure is a priority. It is part of a comprehensive plan to develop the city and activate cooperation between local governing bodies and all ministries, to develop and improve services for local residents. It will also assist in organising and coordinating tours for visitors, and inform tourists about Egyptian heritage in Luxor. Developing the city's IT infrastructure is also a first step in building a comprehensive database about Luxor's tourism, cultural, economic, infrastructure and social dimensions.

According to Hoda Baraka, deputy minister for communications and IT, the digital map of Luxor includes detailed data about the city, with pictures of landmarks and streets using GIS mapping software. The data includes information on hospitals, clinics, hotels, restaurants, tourism and services companies, such as locations of train reservations, train and plane schedules, bank and ATM locations, and other landmarks which are important to tourists. The website also has a large photo archive of Luxor.

Luxor's website offers a brief history of the city, its culture and the most important festivals which take place there. It also highlights all the activities which could be of interest to any visitor to the city, such as safari trips, Nile cruises, air balloon excursions, the Sound and Light shows at various temples, among others.

After the virtual tour, visitors can plan their trip to Luxor, decide on the sites they wish to visit, organise a schedule for the trip and print their schedule. Visitors need only register online and download Microsoft Silverlight to ensure optimum performance on the site, while the search engine enables them to hone in on their target topics. As Luxor continues to modernise itself and promote the splendour of the Pharaohs, the website also is continuously developing and reinventing itself.

Luxor's online venture has gone beyond the scope of MCIT's digital content project to provide Egyptian, Arab and foreign users an added wealth of information. It aims at increasing tourism revenues by showcasing historic and tourist destinations in Egypt to the world.

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