Our pyramid is collapsing – send for the Welsh!

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The Independent Online

The guardians of Egypt's oldest step pyramid have called for the help of an unlikely saviour: an engineering company from Newport, south Wales. Cintec, which helped to restore Windsor Castle after its 1992 fire, is to try to shore up a collapsing roof in the 4,650-year-old Pyramid of Djoser, on the Nile's west bank near Cairo.

The landmark, credited to the ancient architect Imhotep, was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1992, which led to the partial collapse of its burial chamber's ceiling. "[This] project is of particular importance to us as the entire structure could be destroyed at any point due to the damage caused by the earthquake," said Cintec's managing director, Peter James.

His specialists will hoist scaffolding into the structure's chamber before pumping up specially designed inflatables to support the ceiling. They will then insert special fabric "socks" into wall fissures which will be filled with grout. "It is a marvellous opportunity which we have worked long and hard for," said Mr James of the £1.8m project. "In Egypt, you need to prove yourself, undertake an apprenticeship, and if you deliver work on time, you get invited to deliver further projects. We are hoping to expand on this and are developing a number of historic projects across Cairo."

Cintec's other recent projects include strengthening a major bridge in Delhi last year ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

Pharaoh Djoser's pyramid dates from the 27th century BC and stands around 60m (200ft) tall. The pharaoh commissioned the structure for his burial in the then Egyptian capital of Memphis.

In recent years, the Egyptian authorities have been more outspoken in their attempts to prevent further damage to their spectacular heritage.

Last year, the country's Supreme Council for Antiquities decided to ban cars and buses from running their engines while waiting for tourists in the Saqqara area, where the step pyramid is located. And in August, engineers moved the giant statue of the 12th century BC pharaoh Ramses II away from a congested public square in central Cairo to a location a mile from the pyramids in an effort to save it from exhaust fumes.

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