Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Egypt’s tourism industry, an important source of income for the nation, was severely affected after sixty-two people were killed by Islamic militants outside the Temple of Hatshepsut, a popular tourist destination located in Luxor.

Summary of Event

On the morning of November 17, 1997, terrorists armed with knifes and automatic weapons massacred sixty-two visitors who stood on the terrace of one of Egypt’s top tourist attractions, the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut. The spectacular temple is located at the archaeological site of Deir el-Bahri, near Luxor in the Valley of the Kings. Hatshepsut was the sixth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty and was one of only six women to rule ancient Egypt. Hatshepsut commissioned several large-scale building projects to celebrate her rule, and Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple, partly carved into a limestone cliff, is considered the finest of them all. The temple draws visitors from around the globe. The attack captured international headlines because of its savage nature and the large number of foreign visitors that were involved. The assailants, all of whom were killed in the aftermath, were members of the terrorist group known as Gamaat Islamiya (the Islamic Group). Islamic Group (Egypt) Luxor Temple Massacre Massacres;Temple of Hatshepsut Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre Terrorist acts [kw]Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre (Nov. 17, 1997) [kw]Hatshepsut Massacre, Temple of (Nov. 17, 1997) [kw]Massacre, Temple of Hatshepsut (Nov. 17, 1997) Luxor Temple Massacre Massacres;Temple of Hatshepsut Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre Terrorist acts [g]Africa;Nov. 17, 1997: Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre[09800] [g]Middle East;Nov. 17, 1997: Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre[09800] [g]Egypt;Nov. 17, 1997: Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre[09800] [c]Terrorism, atrocities, and war crimes;Nov. 17, 1997: Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre[09800] Hatshepsut Rahman, Midhat Muhammad Abd al- Mubārak, Hosnī

The attackers entered the temple complex after shooting the police guards stationed at the ticket booth. Eyewitnesses recounted how the armed men, wearing clothing similar to the winter uniforms of Egyptian police and security forces, descended on the Temple of Hatshepsut with no warning and sprayed the area with automatic gunfire. Most of the victims were trapped in the middle of the courtyard and fell instantly. The attackers then slit the throats of those who had fallen and continued to hunt down the tourists who tried to escape by hiding behind the large colonnades that line the back of the courtyard. The massacre was particularly gruesome and included disfigurement, disembowelment, and beheading.

The victims included three Egyptian police officers and one Egyptian tour guide; thirty-five Swiss citizens and a foreign resident of Switzerland; nine Japanese, including four couples on their honeymoons; six residents of Great Britain, including a mother and young child; four Germans; a Bulgarian; a Colombian; and a Frenchman. Several other tourists and employees of the site were wounded in the attack.

After a gun battle with Egyptian police, in which one of the terrorists was killed, the surviving assailants hijacked a tour bus that had dropped off Swiss visitors the previous hour at the base of the site. The terrorists forced the driver to take them to another place where they could continue their killing spree. In an effort to save lives, the driver, Hagag Nahas, drove around for almost an hour before being forced to stop at another tourist attraction. Nahas stopped near the entrance to the Valley of the Queens, near the Temple of Hatshepsut. Police caught up with the tourist bus and a gun battle ensued; one of the terrorists was killed. The remainder of the attackers fled into the mountains near the Valley of the Queens. Another exchange of gunfire took place between the terrorists and Egyptian police and military forces. It is unclear whether the remaining terrorists were killed in this battle or committed suicide; however, they were found dead at the scene. One of the dead was identified as Midhat Muhammad Abd al-Rahman, who had left Egypt in 1993 for military training in Pakistan and Sudan, where he became involved with Islamic Group leaders.

The militant fundamentalist organization al-Gama’a al-Islamiya claimed responsibility for the attack, and some pamphlets of this organization were found at the scene of the massacre. The group claimed that its representatives planned only to kidnap the tourists in order to secure the release of one of their spiritual leaders, Omar Abdel Rahman, Rahman, Omar Abdel who was serving a life sentence in the United States for masterminding the 1993 bombing of New York City’s World Trade Center. However, eyewitnesses claim that the attackers showed no intentions of anything other than a wholesale slaughter. The terrorists did not attempt to take hostages; rather, they chased the victims, made them get down on their knees, and systematically executed them.

Luxor, approximately 310 miles south of Cairo, had been spared attacks from Islamic militants until this point. Tourist sites had often been targets in Egypt since Islamic extremist groups took up arms in 1992 in an effort to topple the government and create an Islamic state.

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While visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut the day following the massacre, Egyptian President Hosnī Mubārak announced that stronger measures would be taken to protect foreign tourists. Security was increased at sites throughout Egypt. The country provided more armed police and soldiers to guard tourists, and there were more frequent helicopter patrols of the Nile River. For several months following the attacks, a curfew was imposed on Luxor; tour buses were not allowed south of Aswan. Those wanting to visit the famous Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel were forced to reach it by air. Mubārak called for an immediate crackdown on terrorism and fundamentalist Islamic groups operating within the country and fired Interior Minister General Hassan al-Alfi, Alfi, Hassan al- replacing him with Major General Habib al-Adly. Adly, Habib al- The Egyptian president also fired the police chief of Luxor and several other security officials on the grounds that they had failed to protect the tourist site and had ignored security warnings that sites in Luxor were potential terrorist targets.

The Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre severely damaged Egypt’s tourist industry. The attack came at the start of the winter tourism season in Luxor, an area that is economically dependent on the tourist industry. Approximately two million visitors pass through Luxor each year. Immediately after the attack, governments and travel agencies issued travel warnings and began bringing back tourists from Egypt. Great Britain’s largest travel company, Thomson Holidays, recalled thirteen hundred clients and canceled trips to the country for the remainder of November. Egypt’s tourism industry, an integral revenue source for the country, had a long road to recovery. Luxor Temple Massacre Massacres;Temple of Hatshepsut Temple of Hatshepsut Massacre Terrorist acts

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anderson, Sean K., and Stephen Sloan, eds. Historical Dictionary of Terrorism. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002. Includes a concise recap of the events of the Luxor Temple Massacre along with a discussion of the actions taken by Egypt following the attack.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hawass, Zahi. The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir El Bahari. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2003. Provides a history of the archaeology of the site and its role in international tourism. Filled with illustrations of the area.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kushner, Harvey W. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2003. Particularly useful for information on the Islamic Group in Egypt and Omar Abdel Rahman. Does not include a specific entry on the Luxor Temple Massacre, but does include a thorough discussion of Egypt.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mickolus, Edward F., and Susan L. Simmons. Terrorism, 1996-2001: A Chronology. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Detailed discussion of the attack. Includes eyewitness accounts and a follow-up of the trials and arrests relating to the attack.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shanty, Frank, and Raymond Picquet, eds. Encyclopedia of World Terrorism, 1962-2002. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 2003. Provides comprehensive information on terrorism in Egypt. Includes a breakdown of the relationships among, and the history of, the three main Egyptian-led terrorist groups: the Islamic Group, Islamic Jihad, and al-Takfir w’al-Hijra. Also contains a chronology of terrorist incidents related to Egypt since 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stock, Raymond. “The Dust Devils of Luxor.” Massachusetts Review 42 (Winter, 2001/2002): 689-695. Interesting personal account of a visit to the site just after the attacks. Includes a history of the violence in Egypt and a discussion of the country’s tourist industry. Also includes accounts by eyewitnesses and current residents of Luxor.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tyldesley, Joyce A. Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Provides a detailed biography of the female pharaoh whose mortuary temple was the scene of the attack.

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