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With tourists scarce, Egypt struggles to maintain heritage


With a shaky economy following years of unrest and a huge drop in tourists, Egypt is struggling to preserve its fabled archaeological heritage.

With tourists scarce, Egypt struggles to maintain heritage
This file photo taken on October 22, 2016 shows security forces standing guard as tourists gather inside the temple 
of Abu Simbel, south of Aswan in upper Egypt, to witness the sun illuminate the statue of Ramses II. With a shaky 
economy following years of unrest and a huge drop in tourists, Egypt is struggling to preserve its 
fabled archaeological heritage [Credit: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP]
From Alexandria on the Mediterranean to the Great Pyramid of Giza -- the last of the Seven Wonders of the World -- and Aswan to the south, the North African country is home to impressive ancient monuments.

For years, the sites were able to rely on a steady stream of ticket sales to finance their upkeep.

But since Egypt's 2011 revolution, the number of tourists visiting the country has dwindled, leaving authorities scrambling to make up for lost revenues.

"Since January 2011, our revenues have fallen sharply, which had a strong effect on the state of Egyptian monuments," Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told AFP.

From more than 15 million in 2010, the number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped to 6.3 million in 2015.

Years of political tumult after the 2011 uprising that unseated strongman Hosni Mubarak and a jihadist insurgency following the army's 2013 overthrow of his Islamist successor Mohamed Morsi have discouraged many from visiting.

With tourists scarce, Egypt struggles to maintain heritage
A picture taken on December 27, 2016, shows the courtyard of a house in the historic village of Al-Qasr 
in the al-Dakhilah Oasis, some 560km west of Cairo [Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP]
Revenue from entrance tickets to historical sites dropped to about $38 million in 2015, from about $220 million in 2010.

"It's catastrophic," said Fayza Haikal, an Egyptologist and professor at the American University of Cairo.

Zahi Hawass, an archeologist and former antiquities minister, said the country's heritage has suffered as a result.

"With the lack of funding, you cannot restore anything. Look at the Cairo museum. It's dark," he said, referring to the famed Egyptian Museum in the capital's Tahrir Square.

'Antiquities deteriorating'

"And you cannot ask the government to support you because the economy is not that good. And antiquities are deteriorating everywhere," he said.

With tourists scarce, Egypt struggles to maintain heritage
From more than 15 million in 2010, the number of tourists visiting Egypt dropped to 6.3 million in 2015 
[Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP]
Administering the country's antiquities takes about 38,000 employees, including on-site workers, technicians, Egyptologists and inspectors, the ministry says.

The government has relied on foreign handouts since Morsi's overthrow, and finally decided to float the pound last year as part of an economic reform program connected to a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

An important part of an economic revival would include the return of tourism, a main hard currency earner for Egypt.

Until then, Enany is trying to limit the damage.

"I try to do extra activities to increase revenue," he said.

For example, the Egyptian Museum, home to the golden mask of Tutankhamun and mummies of pharaohs, now stays open into the night, he said.

With tourists scarce, Egypt struggles to maintain heritage
Revenue from entrance tickets to historical sites dropped to about $38 million in 2015,
 from about $220 million in 2010 [Credit: AFP]
Annual passes are also available to encourage Egyptians to visit the sites.

Patrons and archaeological missions still contribute to the preservation of Egypt's ancient heritage, but the funds cannot cover everything.

"Priority is given to restoration," said Haikal. "But there are excavations that have been stopped due to lack of funding."

The excavations "have waited for 5,000 years and can wait," she said, but important restoration work has also been delayed.

"At the very least we identify what needs restoration, and we do the minimum to keep them in a proper state."

Enany is also pushing for granting public access to more sites, as was done with the recently opened tombs of Nefertari and Seti I in Luxor.

With tourists scarce, Egypt struggles to maintain heritage
The Egyptian Museum, home to the golden mask of Tutankhamun and mummies of pharaohs, 
now stays open into the night [Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP]
The Malawi museum in the southern province of Minya has also been reopened, after a mob looted it during the bloody unrest following Morsi's overthrow.

The Grand Egyptian Museum near the Giza pyramids should also be opened, at least partially, in 2018.

On some projects, the ministry can get special funds, such as for recent work done on the synagogue of Alexandria and the Abu Mena church, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hawass, who advises Enany, says the minister needs more support and also for authorities to think beyond Egypt by undertaking exhibitions abroad.

"Why leave Tutankhamun in the Cairo museum, in a dark area. No one sees it," he said. "Tutankhamun can bring money!"

Author: Emmanuel Parisse | Source: AFP [January 04, 2017]
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2 comments :

  1. This is also thing, same than in syria, what is easy solve when dont have money and time to keep up heritage sites. Those can be filled under sand and dig up when time is right for that. More sand more protection.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Scientis are qute selfish think their own work and money when is more important things
    save lives and make economy rise so that science can continue. Admit that big public cant be interested same thing than archaeologist, commercialising cost and no quarantee that it would bring money back what is invested to comercialising achological sites, what mostly suck all what can be used to solve poblems whit poverty, and result is book, that book doesent give money back. Tourism simple cant be base for economy, it mostly is destructive to your living cultural heritage because it develops commercial direction, it shrinks whole thing of living culture. When i some day tra vel to Egypt i dont want to see european and west style Egypt, what it comes if you listen and serve only tourist, it means MaCDonlas and coca cola, but them who are living and keeping up African-Mediterian culture, architecture, dressing, eating, art, what all culure contains.

    ReplyDelete


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