CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – The giant statute of Pharaoh Ramses II moved Friday from a congested downtown square to its new home near the more peaceful Great Pyramids.
Contractors moved the more than 3,200-year-old statute from Ramses Square in an effort to save it from exhaust fumes and other environmental hazards that were causing the 83-ton structure to deteriorate.
Onlookers crowded along the street around the statue, which was surrounded by a convoy including 1,500 soldiers, during the final leg of its journey.
The trip took about 10 hours from Ramses Square, its home early 1950s when it was taken from a temple at the site of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, to its new location about two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the pyramids near the site of the future Grand Museum of Egypt.
“I think that today if Ramses could talk, he would say ‘Thank you for moving me,”‘ antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told state-run television.
Engineers constructed a cage around the statue as two flatbed trucks carried it upright during the journey that took it across the Nile River.
Officials discussed moving the statute for more than a decade as experts bickered over where it should go before deciding on the Grand Museum.
The statue will be renovated and wait for its new home to be built. The museum, which also will house King Tut’s mummy and other treasures, is not expected to open for at least five years, officials have said.
Ramses II was a warrior king who is credited with bringing Egypt unprecedented power and splendor during his 67-year reign. He died in 1225 B.C.