Egypt moves sphinxes to Tahrir Square despite controversy

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian authorities said yesterday they have relocated four ancient sphinxes to Tahrir Square, the congested traffic circle in the heart of Cairo.

Archaeologists and others have criticised the move, expressing fear that the city’s notoriously high air pollution could damage the artefacts. A lawsuit to stop the move is making its way through the courts.

The Head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri said the sphinxes would remain inside wooden boxes until the official unveiling of the renovations, without saying when that would take place.

Tahrir Square was the epicentre of Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Protests have been banned and the square has been under heavy police surveillance since 2013, when the military overthrew an elected president amid mass protests against his rule.

An obelisk unearthed in the Nile Delta north of Cairo was moved to the square last year. The ram-headed sphinxes were transported to Cairo from the southern city of Luxor for renovations.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who rose to power in 2013, has defended the move, pointing to the fact that obelisks and other artefacts adorn central squares in Western cities.