If the media are anything to go by, it’s exciting times on the Giza Plateau. As most visitors over the last few years won’t have been able to miss, a massive site management plan is underway, the most visible aspect of which is the network of walls and fences ringing the site, in an attempt to control access. Within the last few days, the first phase of this project, “went live” as modern parlance will have it. The SIS had this to say:
Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni accompanied with Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawwas, inaugurated Monday 11/8/2008 the first stage of the Giza pyramids plateau development project.
The project that will be implemented by the Ministry of Culture on three stages to develop the plateau and prepare it for tourist visits will cost LE 300 million.
Minister Farouk Hosni inspected the first stage works that included building electronic ports, 18 km long security siege with 199 TV cameras around the tourist area to monitor all the area.
The works included as well fixing sophisticated weapons and explosive detectors and magnetic tickets machines.
Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawwas said the council will sign a contract with a specialized company to operate electric transport vehicles to move tourists and visitors from the parking lots to the archeological sites of the area.
During the visit, Minister Farouk Hosni announced the start of the 2nd stage of the project. The 2nd stage will include lighting works and paving the roads.
The BBC has reported the cost as £14 million, which allowing for exchange rates is lower than the figure given by the SIS. The Daily Telegraph has reported £13 million.
Focus has been on the high degree of technology and sophistication in the systems employed, including motion detectors, CCTV, metal detectors and even infra red cameras mounted along the perimeter. New reporters who attended the opening commented on the contrast between the incessant and omnipresent hawkers of hte plateau as it was previously (which had become almost as famous as the pyramids themselves) and the calm on the opening day of the new systems
Hawkers — many from the nearby impoverished neighborhoods looking to benefit from the tourist dollar — have had free rein, and have become notorious.
Tourists undergo a constant barrage from peddlers selling mock-ups of pharaonic statues and scarabs, T-shirts and other trinkets, or are followed by men on camels selling rides or photos — and rarely taking no for an answer. Young men even try to force their way into taxi cabs carrying foreigners toward the pyramids, looking to steer them to nearby horse stables for a ride around the site…..
…..It was not clear whether the trinket dealers were pushed out just for the day or whether they would return in a more controlled fashion. Kamal Wahid, the site’s general director, said phasing out the hawkers will not be sudden or “unkind.”
“Two years from now, you won’t see them inside the site,” he said. He added that a special area nearby will be designated for horse and camel riding for tourists — with the pyramids serving as a dramatic backdrop for photos.
International Herald Tribune
“Unkind” or not, I do hope that Wahid’s assurances that the site will kept clear hold true. The previous situation was clearly unsustainable from all points of view. The site is extremely sensitive, and uncontrolled visitors, both tourists and hawkers, were essentially unsupervised. On my most recent visit to the site, earlier this year, I noticed many visitors climbing on the slopes of Khufu’s pyramid as well as other structures. In addition the amount of animal traffic on the site was extremely high, which is both destructive and dangerous, given the number of un-excavated structures and the crowds in the area.
I am glad to see the project has reached this milestone, and I hope it is carried through to it’s conclusion. The site is home to the greatest monuments of Egyptian civilization, to the tombs of some of the greatest rulers of the Old Kingdom, and is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. It is heartening to see that the infrastructure and polices be put in place so that visitors and traders alike begin to treat it as such.