Since antiquity Egypt could count on many “tourist attractions”, such as the speaking statue of Memnon in the Thebaid desert.
At that times, tombs were mostly in ruins and visitors could enter in them with no difficulties.
In front of the funerary temple of Amenhotep (Amenophis) III there were two colossal statues but one of them was defaced after an earthquake and from the rough stones came out strange sounds that led people call it Memnon.
Who was he?
Memnon son of Tithonus and Eos was an Ethiopian king and as warrior considered to be almost Achilles' equal in skill. Despite this he is slain by Achilles himself during the Trojan war, causing the glooming and the desperation of his mother Eos, goddess of Dawn, so that Zeus, moved by her tears, granted him immortality.
At dawn, when the first ray of desert sun spilled over the horizon, the shattered statue would sing. Its tune was more powerful than pleasant; a fleeting, otherworldly song that evoked mysterious thoughts of the divine.
Visitors thought sounds were Eos’ moans, crying for her dead son, or Memnon himself crying to his mother each morning.
But sounds were probably caused by rising temperatures during the transition from the cold of the night to the warmth of the day and the evaporation of dew inside the porous rock.
So it happened that many people came to see it, hoping to hear its arcane voice and instead of posting a geolocated photo on Instagram, they left on the statue inscriptions saying they had heard.
The statue reached its highest fame under the emperor Hadrian. The emperor himself with his entourage and the empress Sabina went to visit it in 130 A.D.
Giulia Balbilla was with them, a noble woman capable of compose poems even with the Sappho’s aeolic dialect. When she faced Memnon she got inspired by the muses and wrote four little poems that right after were graven on the statue: the first two about Hadrian and Sabina’s visit, the third about a skittish silence of Memnon and the fourth about the time Balbilla herself heard the statue “speaking”.