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Egypt Struggles to Preserve Historic Sites amid Sharp Drop in Tourists | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A photographer is silhouetted against the historical site of the Giza Pyramids as they are illuminated with blue light, as part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, in Giza, just outside Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 (AP)

London– Egypt is struggling to preserve its archeological heritage in the wake of a significant drop in the number of tourists and the unprecedented economic crisis that followed the 2011 political uprising.

The North African and Middle Eastern country used to rely on a steady stream of ticket sales to finance the maintenance of its historical sites.

Today, with the sharp decline in the number of tourists, the Egyptian authorities are trying to counterweigh missing revenues in order to preserve the country’s legendary heritage, including the Great Pyramid of Giza – the last of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Egyptian Former Archeology Minister Zahi Hawass sounded the alarm on the “catastrophic situation” in the country’s tourism sector with the lack of financial revenues.

“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.

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

Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told AFP that tourism revenues started to decline in 2011.

“Since January 2011, our revenues have fallen sharply, which had a strong effect on the state of Egyptian monuments”, he said.

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

Revenue from entrance tickets to historical sites dropped to about US$38 million in 2015, from about US$220 million in 2010.

Fayza Haikal, an Egyptologist and professor at the American University of Cairo, also described the situation as “catastrophic”.

“Priority is given to restoration,” Haikal said, adding that some excavations 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”, the professor noted.