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Egypt's Tomb Raiders :(

Unreported World - Egypt's Tomb Raiders - Channel 4



Unreported World investigates the shocking effects Egypt's political unrest is having on the country's tourism industry and the unique archaeological heritage.

Reporter Aidan Hartley and director Alex Nott find ancient archaeological sites being plundered by armed looters; people who previously worked as guides trying to survive without money or food and the corpses of horses and camels that used to carry tourists lying in piles in the desert next to the pyramids.

Egypt's economy has always relied on tourism, but since the army toppled the Muslim Brotherhood in a bloody coup, tourism has collapsed. The Giza Plateau is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it used to have 10,000 tourists visiting every day. Now it's eerily quiet, with the average number of tourists more like 10 a day.

Emad Abu Zuba and Hima Abdurahman are tourist guides who offer camel rides at Giza. Before the crisis they did a brisk business but they can't remember when they last had a tourist client. Hima hasn't made any money for 14 days in a row and Emad says that people can't afford to feed their animals any more.

He takes the team into the desert near the pyramids to show them the results. They find several piles of up to 50 dead horses lying in the sand. Emad says: 'Today if you saw 1000 horses, maybe next month you'll see 2000 of them. The third month you will see 3000 of them. One horse can feed one family. If you are going to count how many horses that are dead, it means the whole of that family has no money to live now.'

The collapse of law and order, together with the collapse in tourism, is having a devastating effect on the country's archaeological treasures. The army and police have imposed a midnight curfew in Cairo, leaving the sites out in the desert unguarded.

At the most famous tourist site in the world, archaeologist Monica Hanna reveals how armed looters are now plundering the network of ancient and unexplored tombs and temples for treasure.

Every day brings a fresh discovery of looting. At the Pyramids at Darshur, which date back to 2600BC, she finds more evidence. 'This place has never been properly excavated,' she says. 'We have no clear record of what has been lost.'

The looters are using high-tech sonar and heavy machinery to get at the tombs and the team investigate how they are getting away with it. The team meet a man who admits to looting.

'I do this because I have no other option,' he says. 'There's no work. I need to support my family.' He also claims that there is co-ordination between looters and the authorities. 'I bribe them to let me dig,' he says.

As well as greed, religious prejudice is also at work. Early Christian frescos have been defaced at Ansana, and even the pyramids are not safe. Monica tells Hartley that some of the Muslim Brotherhood extremists want to blow up the pyramids and Sphinx: 'They said they are idols and they belong to a very bad civilisation and we have to blow it up,' she says.

Hartley talks to Tourist Minister Hisham Zazou, who accepts that looters have overrun the tourist sites. 'We are going to ensure that the security levels in these areas will be lifted and heightened and I believe this is a talk that is going between us, the Ministry of Antiquities, together with the Ministry of Interior,' he tells Hartley.

But it's clear that the looting is still carrying on. At Ansana, where 1700 years ago Coptic Christians cut an incredible network of churches into the rocks, there are clear signs of recent dynamite holes. 'This church may not be here next week,' Monica says. 'We could be the last people to take photographs of the place.'
 

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Well, could be worse, look at what has happened in Syria to their archeological sites, Iraq has also suffered greatly.

I was just in Hurghada earlier in the week, and must say the place was pretty dead. I did see a few bus loads of European tourists, so not completely deserted. At least law and order is coming back, hopefully the tourists will too.
 

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The one big advantage Egypt has,is that it is very unique with the pyramids and its other treasures.It was always on the top of alot of peoples vacation lists of places they would like to see before they die,because of these things.Hopefully as Canuck stated with law and order slowly creeping back it will bring with it the rise in the tourist trade for the future.Also when the new goverment gets settled in,the tourist trade should be on its top of the list,of things to do.Prehaps even getting air time in other countries...running commericals,giving discount rates...so forth.Well hopefully things will improve and people can get back to work,and put food back on the table...at the very least.
 
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