Egypt threatened over roads `vandalism' near pyramids

The UN's culture and heritage arm is accusing the Egyptian government of vandalism and bad faith because of its treatment of the world's most famous ancient monuments, the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx.

Unless President Hosni Mubarak orders a complete re-think on the route of the Cairo ring road, Unesco will threaten to scratch the Great Pyramids and other nearby ruins off the list of World Heritage sites.

"That is the only sanction we have," Said Zulficar, a senior official with the organisation, told The Independent. Since these sole survivors of the seven ancient wonders of the world are the most august monuments on a list including Stonehenge and the Acropolis, the hope is that this threat will shame the Egyptians into action.

The 66-mile ring road is nearing completion. It runs right through the officially designated World Heritage site, less than two miles south of the three Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. The road's construction may already have covered tombs, and is attracting chaotic development which is likely to leave the pyramids encircled by urban sprawl by the year 2000.

President Mubarak has already ordered a suspension of construction work on the section of road nearest the 4,700-year-old pyramids. This followed a plea from Unesco's director-general after an article in The Independent last October which exposed the threat. But the authorities have now come up with an even worse solution, in Unesco's eyes: to route the road two miles further to the south.

There, it will still run right through the World Heritage site and threaten buried tombs and ruins around the Abu Syr and Zawiyat al Aryan pyramid fields. Although these pyramids are not as impressive as nearby Giza's they also date back to the Pharoahs'Old Kingdom, from 2,700 to 2,200 BC.

Last week Unesco's Spanish director general, Frederico Mayor, wrote to President Mubarak demanding that the ring road be re-routed north of the Great Pyramids.Unesco's World Heritage committee met in Thailand this month and passed a resolution voicing its concern. Egypt did not send a representative, but Professor Mohammed Nur El Din, chairman of the government's Supreme Antiquities Council, sent a letter suggesting that a tunnel under the site would solve the problem.

Dr Zulficar, Unesco's director of operations for heritage and an Egyptian, has paid four visits to the site this winter. "I was shocked and horrified at what I saw," he said. He found the dual-carriageway ring road was virtually complete. It is carried on a high embankment 200 yards wide. There were other, smaller new roads and two large rubbish dumps, one inside the World Heritage site and one just outside. He also found army camps and, in the "buffer zone" surrounding the site a new complex of flats for 15,000 people.

Development should be strictly controlled in the buffer zone and banned altogether inside the site, apart from the most exceptional circumstances. At the site's southern end, Dahshur, a military factory continuously belches out thick black smoke. Dr Zulficar believes this pollution threatens the mud bricks which make up the pyramids there. He said Egypt was in breach of the World Heritage convention, which underpins the listing of sites, and its own heritage law, passed in 1983. "You can't chop up thissite just as if it's a salami," he said.

But what upsets him most is what a young archaeologist from the Supreme Antiquities Council told him. In 1986 the SAC, statutory guardian of Egypt's heritage, gave its permission for construction of the ring road after salvage excavations had shown therewere no remains in the construction area.

Not so. The archaeologist, who Dr Zulficar will not name, said he had been told to make borings every 300 metres along the route, being given no labour and only one week in which to report his findings. So he simply said nothing had been found. And the SAC never told Unesco it had given permission. Subsequently two sarcophagi, mummies and pottery from Egypt's Roman period had been found close to the almost complete road. Dr Zulficar said the authorities were angry at Unesco's intervention, and complaine d that re-routing the road would cost an extra $50m (£32m).

Less than 20 years ago the Great Pyramids were well outside Cairo. Now the city presses up against their eastern and northern flanks, with blocks of flats a couple of hundred yards away. But to the south there is open desert. If the ring road is built tothe south the city's explosive population growth virtually guarantees the Great Pyramids will be engulfed.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on