“It is catastrophic,” alarm Fayza Haikal. The egyptologist, professor at the american university in Cairo, is concerned about the difficulties encountered by theEgypt in order to preserve its fabulous heritage. After the 2011 revolution, the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, then the islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the political instability and the threat of terrorism have scared away foreign visitors. However, the ministry of Antiquities is funded in part by the entrance tickets in the museums and historical sites, so by the tourists.
“Since January 2011, ( … ), our revenues have fallen sharply. And this has a strong impact on the state of the egyptian monuments “, recognizes that theAFP, the minister of Antiquities, Khaled El-Enany. The tickets have reported that 300 million pounds (38.4 million dollars) in 2015 compared to 1.3 billion in 2010 ($220 million), according to official figures. At the same time, the number of tourists has dropped from 15 to 6.3 million per year. A trend that is confirmed in 2016.
The pyramid of Giza – the only one of the seven wonders of the world that is still visible today – in the temples of Upper Egypt, passing by the churches and islamic buildings, the egyptian cultural heritage requires the conservation efforts permanent. “Antiques are deteriorating everywhere,” alarmed by the archaeologist Zahi Hawass, former minister of Antiquities. “With the lack of funds, nothing can restore. Take a look at the museum of Cairo as it is dark, ” grimace this luminary in the world of egyptology, for which the government, short of cash, is unable to compensate the fall of revenues.
As it is necessary to pay the approximately 38,000 employees of the administration of Antiquities, workers, technicians, egyptologists, and inspectors. The load is so heavy at the time where Egypt is experiencing a growth in bern, the spectacular inflation and shortages of various products.
“Tutankhamun can make money “
Waiting for the return of the tourists, Mr. El-Enany is trying to limit the damage. “To increase revenue, I am trying to conduct some additional activities “, he said, citing the opening night of the Cairo museum or the creation of new “pass” statements to attract more Egyptian archaeological sites. At the same time, patrons of art, archaeological missions, foreign or mixed, continue to contribute to the safeguard of a part of the heritage. But external aid can not cover everything.
On the ground, “the priority is for the restorations, but there are excavations which have been discontinued, due to lack of funding,” said Ms. Haikal, while acknowledging that ” the excavations which have been waiting for 5,000 years, can wait “. Most of the restorations, too, should wait. “At least we can see the buildings that are in need of restoration and we did the minimum to keep up with a restoration suitable “, she says.
Mr. El-Enany also advocates the exploitation of sites, like the tombs of Nefertari or seti I at Luxor that come from re-open to the public. The museum of Malawi, in the province of Minya, had been looted in 2013 at the height of political unrest, also welcomes new visitors. In addition, the Grand egyptian Museum (GEM), a flagship project which will house the collections of the pharaohs at the foot of the pyramids of Giza, must be open, at least partially, in 2018, with the support of the japanese cooperation.
On some projects, the department may also obtain special funds, such as this year for the synagogue of Alexandria and the church of Abu Mena world heritage of Unesco. “But all this will not replace the tourism “, said Mr. El-Enany. Waiting for an eventual resumption, Mr. Hawass is also advisor to the minister, advocated to increase the number of exhibitions abroad. “Why keep Tutankhamun in the Cairo museum in a dark corner ? Tutankhamun can earn money, “and, being lent to other countries, pay the salaries of the ministry” for 10 years, ” he says.