Revolution: “One more reason to visit Egypt”
Pyramids at Giza, Sakkara virtually empty of tourists; Camel drivers, guides urge foreign visitors to return; Students clean monuments, say: "Egypt is Safe".
March 1, 2011 3:19 by Reuters
Camel drivers offering rides, teenagers with their trotting ponies and carriages, pushy guides and others selling postcards and plastic sphinxes at Giza all bemoaned the drying up of coach tours and organised visits. “Please mister, tell them come to the new Egypt,” said camel driver Mohammed, 27.
Instead of foreigners, groups of Cairenes, many carrying national flags, took advantage of cut-price tickets to which they are entitled and explored their nation’s rich heritage at Giza that dates back to 2,600 B.C..
The struggle to the top chamber of the main pyramid, made from 2-1/2 million limestone blocks, was made easier by the lack of visitors. There were no lines for tickets. At Cairo’s citadel, a spectacular mediaeval fortress of crenellated towers built to fortify the city against Crusaders and which towers over Egypt’s capital, patriotic student volunteers were cleaning ramparts and painting its hand-rails.
“We organised this by ourselves,” said 15-year-old Leila, whose school along with others across the nation remains closed. “It’s a message. This is the new Egypt,” she said, as an army of young people, keen to show their civic pride in a new democracy, also cleaned up in Tahrir Square, the nerve-centre of anti-Mubarak protest, and across the neighbourhoods of Cairo.
Some painted the pillars of overpasses in national colours.
For one of the few Westerners visiting the Citadel, barricades were raised and army soldiers surrounding a tank guarding the building, flicked V-for-victory signs and shouted: “Welcome to Egypt.”
Entering the turnstile of this usually crowded attraction, which has a spectacular view of Cairo and is the site of the Alabaster Mosque built by Mohammed Ali, one official said: “Two more visitors today, maybe 20 tomorrow.”
Dozens of tourists braved the revolution for the reopening of the world’s greatest collection of pharaonic treasures on Feb. 20 and were welcomed with roses, as craftsmen meticulously mended artefacts damaged by looting.
However, the usually busy galleries of the Egyptian Museum, which houses the golden death mask of boy king Tutankhamun, were virtually deserted after the doors opened and visitors have been coming back, but at a dribble.