MACHU PICCHU: French citizens Veronique and Arnaud pose for a photo under a door at Machu Picchu, the Inca citadel which has become the crown jewel of Peru’s tourist sites.—AFP
MACHU PICCHU: French citizens Veronique and Arnaud pose for a photo under a door at Machu Picchu, the Inca citadel which has become the crown jewel of Peru’s tourist sites.—AFP

MACHU PICCHU: The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the crown jewel of Peru’s tourist sites, reopened on Sunday with an ancient ritual after a nearly eight-month lockdown due to the pandemic.

For safety reasons, however, only 675 tourists will be able to visit the site per day, just 30 percent of the number of visitors pre-pandemic.

Under a fine drizzle and multicoloured lights, an Inca ritual was held in the evening to thank the gods for the citadel’s reopening.

“Today, Machu Picchu opens. It opens with (health and safety) protocols, it opens to say that we are reactivating ourselves but with responsibility and great prudence, because we see everything happening in the world” with the pandemic, Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Rocio Barrios said in a speech.

The first train of tourists had arrived in the morning at Machu Picchu Pueblo, the village closest to the citadel, after a 90-minute journey along the Urubamba River from the ancient Inca village of Ollantaytambo.

Opening Machu Picchu to the world shows “that we Peruvians are resilient”m Barrios said.

The number of coronavirus cases has been steadily decreasing in Peru, and tourists will be expected to maintain social distancing.

The coronavirus lockdown has been a body blow to the tens of thousands of people who make their living from the country’s tourism industry, especially those in the mountainous Cusco region where the stone citadel is located.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2020