Egypt's economic crisis weighs heavily on heritage: minister

Thu Aug 25, 2016 8:39am EDT
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By Sameh Elkhatib and Ahmed Aboulenein

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt cannot afford to keep its museums open let alone search for ancient buried treasures because of the economic crisis, the antiquities minister says.

Tourism, a mainstay of the economy, has been hit hard since the 2011 revolution that overthrew veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak, with many of Egypt's renowned historical sites, from the pyramids at Giza to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, suffering a decline in foreign visitors.

"We have over 20 museums that have been closed down since the January 25 Revolution and we do not have the resources to run them," Khaled al-Anani told Reuters in an interview.

His ministry is meant to be self-sufficient and not supposed to receive funds from the state budget. In 2010 the ministry made 1.3 billion Egyptian pounds ($146.40 million) a year; in 2015 income was down to 275 million pounds.

"That's a little over 20 million pounds a month. I have to pay 80 million a month in salaries alone."

Anani says that without a revival in tourism none of his new projects, such as the introduction of year-long museums and heritage site passes or extending opening hours will have the desired effect.

Neither will reopening Pyramid Complex of Unas, built for Pharaoh Unas, the ninth and final king of the Fifth Dynasty in the mid 24th century B.C., which has been closed since 1998 for fear of overcrowding and which Anani reopened in May.

Still, Egypt plans to partially open the Grand Egyptian Museum, an ambitious planned museum of Ancient Egyptian artifacts that will be the world's largest archaeological museum, in 2017, said Anani, bringing forward the scheduled opening date by a year.   Continued...

Tourists look at pharaonic artefact inside the Egyptian Museum during the summer season in Cairo, Egypt, July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany