The discovery – hailed by Egypt’s antiquities ministry as one of the most important ever – was made near the ruins of Ramses II’s temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis, located in the eastern part of modern-day Cairo. “Last Tuesday they called me to announce the big discovery of a colossus of a king, most probably Ramses II, made out of quartzite,” the antiquities minister, Khaled al-Anani, said at the site of the discovery.
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1818 sonnet Ozymandias – which contained the line “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” – was written soon after the British Museum acquired a large fragment of a statue of Ramses II from the 13th century BC.
“We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye,” Anani said of the new discovery.Archaeologists, officials, local residents and news media looked on as a massive forklift pulled the statue’s head out of the water. The joint Egyptian-German expedition also found the upper part of a life-sized limestone statue of Pharaoh Seti II, Ramses II’s grandson, measuring 80cm in length.
“The sun god created the world in Heliopolis, in Matariya,” he said. “That’s what I always tell the people here when they ask if there is anything important. According to the pharaonic belief, the world was created in Matariya. “That means everything had to be built here. Statues, temples, obelisks, everything. But … the king never lived in Matariya, because it was the sun god living here.”
The find could be a boon for Egypt’s tourism industry, which has suffered many setbacks since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but remains a vital source of foreign currency. The number of tourists visiting Egypt slumped to 9.8 million in 2011 from more than 14.7 million in 2010.
A bomb attack that brought down a Russian plane carrying 224 people from a Red Sea resort in October 2015 further hit arrivals, which dropped to 1.2 million in the first quarter of 2016 from 2.2 million a year earlier.